Altruism…maybe, maybe not

Ever since that horrible day in American history known as 9/11 there has been a noticeable and dramatic increase in the government asking the public to keep their eyes on their neighbors. Homeland Security and related agencies – transportation authorities, hospitality services, etc. – have been drilling into our heads over and over if you see something that doesn’t look right, make a call. Let someone know about that bag that’s been left behind. Call someone over about the ticking you hear in a nearby backpack. And that’s all well and good. The idea that we’re all looking out for each other is rather comforting.

But when does it go too far? When does a genuine concern over something you witness turn into a subconscious desire to bring someone else down?  Turning in drug dealers is great. If you notice that supposedly “abandoned” house at the end of the block getting visitors in and out at all hours of the night, please call the cops and see if they can find out what the blackout curtains are for. That’s fine by me, but this is a slippery slope that some people are just all too willing to slide down. It seems that some people feel it’s their civic duty to keep an eye and thumb on everything going down in their neighborhood.  Those are the ones who slid alllll the way down that slippery slope and gleefully landed in the sludge at the bottom.

Stalking someone simply because they have on a hoodie or calling the police or the local HOA because someone has parked their car on their own grass? (worth repeating…on their own grass). Not exactly what I would call looking out for the safety of the neighborhood. That’s just being a jerk. More examples? A hawk-eyed neighbor sees a mother having a simple birthday party for her kids in her backyard (paper plates, Dixie cups, a sparse amount of balloons, white paper napkins, home-made Duncan Hines cake) and reports her because they think that’s a misappropriation of her food stamp funds. Oh come on, they can’t use the food stamps to have fun people!!

Or someone sees the kids and Mom at a cheap matinée show and that must mean they’re living the high life and can obviously make some cuts to truly earn those government funds. Never mind that the mom might be working two jobs. Never mind the budgeting she does every evening in the hopes of finding an extra dollar here and there. Never mind that she might not have bought a new pair of shoes from Payless for herself in over two years. I figure if you can’t see into her home life, it’s best to reserve judgment and just let her be happy the few moments that she can. If she were chartering jets for the kids to go to school or is a regular at the Apple store buying stacks of iPads, maybe you should pick up the phone. But giving her kids a carton of Neapolitan ice cream isn’t what I would call an offensive use of money.

Then there are the people who receive disability or SSI benefits from the government. Some healthy individuals out there actually think that to be sick you must always look sick too. The symptoms of MS or PTSD or Lupus or Cancer (to name a few) can often be masked, but they’re real and viable and crippling afflictions. Yet without a visible limp or missing limb they are deemed unworthy of receiving assistance thereby filling some people with this uncontrollable need to call someone, anyone, to make sure that this atrocity is immediately halted.

It’s bad enough when strangers report other strangers out of anger or jealousy, but it happens amongst friends and neighbors too. It’s as if one person claiming they need financial help and the judgment by their “friend” that they don’t is an insult that can only be corrected by turning them in. The “friend” sneaks around taking pictures of the afflicted neighbor not hobbling down the sidewalk, or lifting a grocery bag that looks heavy. Notes are taken and an unofficial record of their activity is compiled through the help of some nifty new binoculars…all in the effort of making a strong claim that their side of the story is the correct one and the neighbor should cease receiving help immediately.  All I can think of is “wouldn’t their time be better spent elsewhere??”  I mean if they truly want to make the world a better place, couldn’t they use that energy to volunteer at a shelter or a community “clean-up” or I don’t know….actually helping their less fortunate neighbors?

I realize that welfare and disability fraud are unfair acts that ultimately cost all of the taxpayers (personally I think the hand-outs corporations get are a lot worse). And I know there are those who abuse the system. However, I question the motives of people who look for a reason to turn someone in and then claim they’re just doing their civic duty.  Especially when it’s a neighbor or worse yet, someone you previously called friend. Is this altruism in action?  Not likely.  More like spite.  Spite because for some reason they don’t like seeing a person receiving the assistance. Spite because as the unofficial neighborhood protector they feel like nothing should happen unless it’s approved by them. And when it comes to community affairs (like parking your car in your own yard or painting your house a certain color), what purpose could there be to turn this person in?  Certainly not altruistic.

 

what "neighborhood watch" looks like at my house

what “neighborhood watch” looks like at my house

Family Feud, where facts need not apply…

Sometimes the best way to win a game isn’t by swinging for the fences every time. Occasionally getting an answer “wrong” turns out to be the best way to the top of the leader board. It’s called strategy. Having trouble thinking of the kind of game that would reward not getting “correct” answers? I have one for you that my daughter and I would absolutely demolish if we ever got picked to participate.

Family Feud.

Not only are our minds deep, vast reservoirs of completely useless information, but we also understand how stupid the human population can really be. That’s really the key point that would give us an edge on the show. You see, Family Feud is not based on correct answers, it’s based on what other people think are correct answers.

If you’ve ever watched TV since the 1980s you’ve probably caught a show or two and know how it’s played. But just in case, here are the rules: 100 people are surveyed on pointless questions (If your house caught on fire what would be the one thing you’d save? What are the most relaxing things to do on vacation? When you get on a plane what is one of the first things you do? On a scale of 1 to 10 how pretty do you think you are without makeup?) On one episode I saw, five (yes, five) of the 100 people answered a question thinking Hawaii was a separate country. The question was this: Name an exotic country?

Now it bears repeating…five people (presumably Americans) out of 100 thought Hawaii was a country.

So you see how my daughter and I might etch out some wins. To succeed at Family Feud, you can’t simply give answers that make sense…because as it turns out, not all of them will. What you want to do is give answers based on what you think 100 people off the street might say. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just that someone said it. For instance, name an exotic country. Answer: Hawaii. Yeah, we know that’s not true, but according to the survey that doesn’t matter. A wrong answer can garner you $20,000 and a brand new car.

And this is our strategy for winning. Don’t presume that everyone roaming around out there isn’t grossly misinformed about the world they’re living in. Sad, but profitable.

E-Voyeurism at its Best…or Rather, Worst?

Sorry folks, time for a bit of a rant.  But hey, it has been a while! Soooo, this entry is about an issue that has been annoying me for some time now.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m behind the times (See? I admit it!).  But back in the good ol’ days voyeurs (a.k.a. creepers) had to put in some real elbow grease to leer over the private lives of others. There was no Facebook, no Google Images, no online profiles, smart searches, or mutual friends. If a voyeur wanted to drool over some stranger, they had to break out a Kodak Instamatic, hide in some bushes, and wait til the right moment. Not so much anymore.  It’s actually become disgustingly easy to accomplish.

I understand that online “stalking” is a common if not accepted new activity. Employers search for job applicants to make sure their FB page doesn’t have pictures of them doing body shots in Cabo or twerking at a wet t-shirt contest. They have to cover the company’s bottom line and that’s understandable. Or if a woman tells her friend she’s going out on an OKCupid date and can’t decide if the guy is a possible creep or not. That friend can do some online investigative work to see if the DJ with the soul patch is good people or a potential future “person of interest” in a sexual misconduct investigation.

So for research purposes the online check-up of people has its functions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This is the internet in case you’ve forgotten. This is the home of trolls, creepers, and shady individuals. In my opinion the stalking has simply gone too far. I’ve come to see just how far some men will go to check out pictures that they really have no business putting so much work into uncovering.

I’m not talking about slowly scrolling through pictures of celebrities. Men are visual creatures and lusting over a low-cut top Scarlett Johansson just wore on the red carpet I can understand, especially if it’s done discreetly and in moderation. It’s just who men are. It’s in their wonderfully twisted DNA. What I’m more concerned about is when men go on Facebook to check out friends of their friends or their family member’s friend, or even their friends’ wives in order to feed their lecherous appetite.

Like, as an example, Random Creepy Guy is at his son’s college graduation where he meets his son’s 20-year old bottle blonde girlfriend. When Creepy Guy gets home he goes on FB, goes to his son’s page, clicks on the girlfriend’s page, checks out whatever photos he can (oh, bikini pics with sorority sisters over spring break!), then starts clicking on the pages of her friends to see what pictures they might have public for his viewing. So in the end he’s feeding on images of strangers that he only found through a loose connection. They’re not Victoria’s Secret models who are paid to have people they don’t know look at them. And they’re not posting lewd photos that one would expect to garner attention. They’re just regular women. If you told them that a man they never met searched for them online and was checking out that shot of them in a pair of jean shorts and spaghetti strap pink top that was snapped at their nephew’s birthday party, wouldn’t that just be flat-out weird?

I’m a fan of moderation in just about everything. Diet, drinking, cursing…whatever. Even porn I can sort of understand since the “actors” (hahahaha) know they’ll be watched and are compensated for it. But this ogling of real-life strangers using the internet as a tool, I can’t condone any of it, especially after seeing how addicted some men can get to the salacious practice. They even go so far as to find out the name of a neighbor so they can eventually have access to their girlfriend’s Facebook information. A fake community friendship all with the strategic purpose of possibly leering at photos of a pretty girl who visits next door.

And it doesn’t stop there either. If Facebook doesn’t automatically give a treasure trove of tight-shirt pics, I’ve seen men up the ante quite considerably. Going through Advanced Searches. Name searches on Google.  Possibly going to the person’s alma mater’s page to gain info on their new married name or place of employment. Some men go through an exhaustive amount of time and energy scouring the internet to find any morsel of information on the pretty girl walking her dog down the street and might be named Betty.

Imagine what they might accomplish if they put that energy elsewhere!

I’m not naïve. I realize that Facebook is inherently a voyeuristic activity…but to me, since these are real people, wives of friends, friends of family members, and friends of friends, this degree of voyeurism borders on being flat-out perverse. I mean, I wonder if they’d have that same mind-set (of it being okay) if their viewing pleasures were public?

I’m certainly not advocating for voyeurs to go back to taking Polaroids of random girls at concerts (something else I’ve seen done which, yup, still creepy).  I see the allure of Facebook stalking because it is just so damn easy, but I wish these people would just consider more seriously what they’re doing. It’s the equivalent of hunkering down in the nook of a tree at midnight to see into someone’s bedroom. Just because it’s the internet (so you don’t have to don that black ski mask and wear latex gloves) doesn’t make it alright.

creeper

LIE-BRARY

A little while ago my daughter and I found ourselves roaming through a library we had never been to before.  We visit our own library weekly but sometimes we feel the need to branch out to adjacent counties to see what they have to offer. While the content of this one was surely the same, the layout and design made us feel as if we were discovering a new domain. My daughter is a teenager but as we were exploring the terrain, we gravitated towards the children’s section which began an impromptu trip down Memory Lane. We picked out some of the old favorites with glee and memories of reading these to her when she was a wee child came flooding back. The sense of nostalgia was intense as we thumbed through several of Jan Brett’s books like Hedgie’s Surprise, The Trouble with Trolls, The Hat, and Honey, Honey, Lion! just to name a few.

Running our hands up and down the pages my daughter and I thought it would be fun to recreate that feeling when I’d read to her as she drifted off to sleep. It’s silly I know, here we are in a public library, my daughter almost old enough to drive, but we (as always) felt confident in our silliness. We’re goofy that way. Making our way to the check-out counter with a stack of books in tow, we were chattering excitedly about our evening’s reading itinerary. Our giddy daze was abruptly halted when we got to the counter and were met face to face with the sobering reality of a very stern, lace collar wearing, bi-focaled librarian who looked down at my 15 year old daughter with annoyance. Maybe we had been laughing a bit loud for the environment…but I’m not sure why my daughter bore the brunt of “the look.” Thankfully, the librarian tried to put on a happy face as I handed her my brand spanking new library card.

Scanning through our stack she asked, “So are you teaching a unit on Jan Brett to your class?” Needless to say, the question threw me off. I was a little confused but using my ample reserve of cool-under-fire suaveness I said, “Whaaat?” The librarian responded, “You’re a teacher, right?  Teaching a unit on Jan Brett?”  That seemed like a pretty great (and normal) conclusion to come to, so rather than explain our goofiness to someone who didn’t look at all like she would understand such goofiness, I quite simply and seriously replied, “Why, yes. Yes I am.”  I’m sure there is a special place in hell for those of us who lie to stern, elderly librarians. But that’s okay. I’ve already been told my place there is a given…guess this just sealed the deal.

 

librarian we get

librarian we get

 

very cool librarian

librarian we want

Parenting Re-do

Whoever here is perfect raise your hands please? If any of you had a shot at the title before thinking otherwise and keeping your hand firmly planted, good for you. Correct answer: no one is perfect. I think we can all agree on that. If we follow these delectable bread crumbs of knowledge where does the path logically lead? To the fact that since we’re not perfect, that must mean that we make mistakes. That’s another truism in life: we all make mistakes.

Michelle Obama makes mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres makes mistakes. Even Kate Middleton makes mistakes. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or where you’re at now, you’re always going to make mistakes. I’m about to reveal one of mine that has been slightly harder to reconcile than a run-of-the-mill daily mistake like burning the toast or tripping up the steps.

Since we’ve already come to a consensus that every person makes mistakes, then that must mean that even parents err. Having a child doesn’t make us godly (even though we now have a tiny human looking at us as if we do hold all the answers). I would say that I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve made mistakes raising both my kids, but in reality, it’s something I stress over constantly. Probably more so as it pertains to my son. He’s the older of the two and kinda like the guinea pig to my attempt at what a mom should do. I’ll tell you what, steep learning curve with that one. Really, nothing prepares you to be a parent. You non-parents may think “oh yeah, we’ll I’ve raised dogs before” or “my garden is constantly thriving” and at this I laugh a big hearty cackle to your obliviousness. There is nothing like parenting.

So if there’s no other thing to really draw upon, how good should a first time mom or dad truly expect to be? Imagine that you’re really good at balancing on one foot in yoga class and then you’re supposed to walk a tightrope. Or you play a mean game of Duck Hunt and then someone hands you a double gauged Winchester. It’s sort of like that. Except with guilt.

My son is 22 today and he reigns as the absolute love of my life. I am more proud of him than I am ever able to adequately express, but man, what I wouldn’t give for a couple of redo cards for when he was growing up. Not redoing anything about him, but me…all me.  There never seems like there’s enough time, does there? With a wave of my magic redo card I would conjure up more time spent playing games and less time spent stressing over homework. I’d use another redo card to sit back and marvel at his amazing Lego talent (the kid was a freakin’ savant and could build virtually anything using just a picture in his head) and not fuss so much over the messy aftermath of his architectural achievements. There’d be more bedtime stories and laughter and less stringent time management to make sure he hit his curfew.

I feel like these are common complaints. I wish for more good times and less frustrating oversight, but would there ever be enough good? Probably not. I’d probably be greedy for more carefree times no matter how chocked full of them his youth had been… but I’ll never know and I can’t shake the fact that maybe there weren’t enough. I was too worried about maintaining the perfect house and the perfect family and having him get perfect grades when I should’ve been paying more attention to the perfect little boy that I had right in front of me.

Luckily, no matter what stumbles in my first experiment at parenting yielded, he’s still perfect in my eyes. And he’s a damn good man to boot.

Jake as baby

My Baby

Jake as a teen

Handsome Teen

Jake

His Paul Bunyan Impression

Mother’s Day

On this lovely Mother’s Day afternoon, I want to send my yearly shout-out to my own Mother — I will never be able to thank you enough for everything you have and continue to do for me.  I love you.

Oh, and as always I want to express my sincere admiration for the curse you flung at me so many years ago….the one condemning me to have children who act just like me. Bang up job there, thanks.

 

happymothersdaytitle

Gratitude Attitude

How many times now have I said on this blog how much I love my kids? I’ve lost count but it’s a lot. Why? Because I do. I love them like crazy. I love them more than words can say. But…

….I’m not always grateful. Grateful is totally different from love. Grateful means “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness.” I’m sorry but that sounds hard. To always be feeling appreciation or showing appreciation is like clenching a muscle. No matter how much I would love to do it, I can’t keep that muscle taut. It needs a break. And it’s not voluntary. It’s just that my mind focuses on other things that I really can’t muster gratefulness for.

For instance, when I’m suctioning out the toilet because someone used a whole roll of toilet paper? Not grateful.  When someone leaves a pizza box balanced shakily on top of the butter dish and a cup half full of leftover soda in the fridge so that when I open the door to get an egg the vibration is just enough to create a food avalanche that sends sugary ginger ale cascading down the inside of the fridge, onto the floor and splashing my shoes? Not grateful.  How about when I come across old, nearly mummified food that was buried somewhere in the house like some crazed chipmunk had been here storing snacks for a long winter? So not grateful.

I know some will say to be grateful that I have a toilet to plunge and food to spill…but somehow…while my hands are deep in a disgusting mess, I just can’t seem to muster up that level of gratitude.

Yes, yes, yes, we should be grateful for the time we have here on Earth and for being surrounded by family members who love us…which I am.  And while I love my family more than life itself, I admit it…I’m not exactly grateful for the times I have spent cleaning up the science experiment of leftover meatloaf that somehow made its way into my daughter’s room and quickly forgotten.  Yeah. I’m grateful for many things…but not everything.

 

gratitude rock