Meeting Place

When I was growing up, our house was the one where all the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. It was a meeting place, a drop off spot for bikes, a checkpoint for organizing the next set of adventures, and a lounge for just relaxing. If my mother ever had a problem with the steady stream of scraped-kneed kids filing in and out of the front and back doors, she never said anything. Or if she did, it was never loud enough for us to hear at any rate. We just lived in a time and place where you could literally yell out the window for someone to come over and they’d be skipping up to the porch 30 seconds later.

Not quite the case when my kids were growing up. Their friends weren’t always in shouting distance. Sometimes a car was necessary to get them where they needed to go. But they did have a few neighborhood friends in walking distance, and for those few, I kept the same policy as my mother. They were always welcome in the house and could always return there after their daily shenanigans through our unsuspecting neighborhood were done.

It was important to me to let them know their friends were always welcome. I mean, so long as their friends weren’t mini drug-dealers-in-training or something…which they weren’t as far as I know.

I will say that there were ulterior motives to letting my house be a meeting spot. I could eavesdrop on the latest juicy gossip. Not only is gossip just fun to listen to, but it also gave me important insights in to my kids’ lives that they might not be comfortable sharing with me directly. Then, I could use these slivers of information to better my parenting. I could support them in ways where I might otherwise be lacking. There are so many pros here and very few cons. It wasn’t always cost-effective having an extra mouth or two or three to feed, but hey, the local dollar store always had cheap snacks and these were passed around to the crew while they were visiting so that everyone had a little something to keep them from starving.  It’s not like they needed a full buffet or 7-course lunch platter.

Not everyone shares this parenting outlook. I recently found an article written by a mother who is simply tired-tired-tired of having her kid’s friend over every day in the summer. Apparently, she feels taken advantage of for the “free babysitting.” Now I’m assuming this kid is not a toddler, I mean, he shows up at her house on his own in the middle of the day, which means he has to be old enough to navigate the neighborhood on his own – so I’m not really sure how much “drop everything I’m doing and watch the kids like a hawk” kind of babysitting this mom is really forced into doing. Oh sure, the kid may be taking up space in her house, but is he really taking up that much more of her undivided time?

When the doorbell rings, this put-upon mom claims her son looks at her funny because his friend is there yet again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the deer-in-the-headlights look from her son is because he knows his friend was just there and shouldn’t be there again today – I think it’s because he knows his mother is irritated because it’s likely she doesn’t hide her irritation well.  If you ask me, she’s the one feeding that energy, not the neighbor kid.  Or at least, that’s just my opinion (without knowing any of these people…just a wild guess, mind you).

And as the mother states herself, she wouldn’t even think of sending her kid to his friend’s house. My question is, why the hell not? I mean, flitting around the neighborhood, hitting up friends to see who is home, and hanging out is what summer vacation is all about. Plus, when he’s out of the house she would get a little time for R & R (which she so obviously needs if you ask me). Maybe when the friend comes over, she can say, hey, how about you guys go to YOUR house today? I bet they’d love that (so long as he’s not actually trying to escape his own house for some very real, very sad cause…in which case, all the more reason he should be allowed to hang out).

These kinds of spontaneous friendships are special. Instead of trying to squash them, we should be encouraging them.

 

Mourning the Loss of Wisdom

I would say I’m sorry for not posting in a couple of days, but frankly, I’m just too tired for guilt. Between working and my caregiver gig the past several days, my usually snarky self is just plain pooped. But this week’s experience has inspired me to write about a subject I’ve had an issue with for a while now. Aren’t ya’ll lucky?

We’ve all seen the posts and videos made of family and friends, all doped up on pain medication after a surgical procedure.  I may be in the minority here, but I’ve never found them funny, and this week it struck me exactly why I don’t.

My daughter had all four wisdom teeth removed this past week.  Hers wasn’t an easy extraction; the way her teeth were placed – she had roots growing into her sinuses among other serious problems – required an oral surgeon.  She was under the influence of some pretty heavy medications during the procedure, and is on more medications now.

My daughter wasn’t exceptionally loopy, just very chatty. Ironic, I know given her mouth was so sore. We had joked about it prior to the procedure – the video blogging I mean. But it didn’t even cross my mind to take footage of her discomfort.  I was too concerned over her wellbeing. Then, it dawned on me; what a spectacular invasion of privacy to video someone on medication and then publish the video.  Granted, my daughter knows I write about her in my blog, but we agree on what I can and cannot publish.

No matter how loopy or goofy she had been, my cell phone would have stayed right in my pocket.  Seriously; who DOES this?  She needed me the most at that moment in time.  She needed to know that she could count on me to take care of her and especially that I would never post anything embarrassing for the world to see, for her friends and complete strangers to make fun of, or even to look back on and remember how uncomfortable – how downright painful – the day had been for her.

I suppose some of the people in these trending videos may have given permission beforehand.  If they didn’t, though, what does that say about the person videotaping?  With friends like that, who needs enemies? What about the parents gleefully posting pics of their small children all doped up?  Is this cute, or creepy? Or worse, does it show an inherent meanstreak?

Now I certainly will make a mental note of my daughter’s ramblings, and maybe even bring them up at a future date to ensure compliance in some matter or the other. (Never said I was perfect, folks!) But to post a video of it on Facebook? No thanks. The only reason to post it would be for laughs or attention. I guess I don’t really find that sort of thing funny. In fact, I find it kind of mean.

What do you all think of the trend of posting these types of videos?  Feel free to comment; as for me, I need to go.  Good old Chipmunk Cheeks is asking for some soup.

Friendly Advice à la Facebook

So, to start out my New Year, Facebook, quite unsubtly I might add, broached the idea that perhaps I need to get out more, mingle more, or at the very least reach out and touch random strangers online. As I scrolled my News Feed, I came to the end – personally I didn’t realize there was an end to one’s News Feed – when lo and behold, an annoying helpful hint for bettering my life appeared.

“Add Friends to See More Stories.“  Now, apparently not content with just briefly assessing the situation and providing guidance, Facebook was determined to really drive the message home, so immediately following this statement, as in the very next sentence, was:  “You’ll have more stories in your News Feed if you add more friends.”

Now I have about 300 friends on Facebook – some of those people are in the animal advocacy world like myself and some are in-the-flesh people I actually know or better yet, I’m related to.  I think that’s plenty, thank you very much. Who the hell wants 1,000 friends they don’t know? Why on earth would I want to fill my friends’ list with people I don’t know or friends of friends of friends of that barista’s cousin (who made some damn fine coffee, but still…) who have no clue who I am or vice versa? Just so I can read more stories about Joe Blow’s wedding announcement fiasco, find out whose toddler just learned to open doors, or get pissed off at yet another stupid opinion on God knows what?  No thanks.

Besides, Facebook doesn’t know…maybe I just have boring friends who have no stories to share. Did you ever think of that Facebook??

Thanksgiving Preparations

There are certain staples for every Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Pumpkin pie? Check. Arguments with family members over politics? Check and check. Let’s face it, even though we know it’s a bad idea politics and Thanksgiving go hand in hand. Inevitably after a couple few several glasses of wine, we have our disagreements on where our country is heading, we re-evaluate what we thought we knew about our close relatives, maybe we lose a little respect for some family members, then dinner ends and we get on with our lives. This year, though…oy.

The discussions about what’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might get a little more heated than normal. To say that this past political season has been divisive is a bit of an understatement. Bring up the topic of gun control, abortion, or foreign policy and watch out. Your Robin turns into your Joker. Your Garfunkel morphs into your Axl Rose. Suddenly, the person you call family begins snarling, cursing your name, and sometimes just saying downright hateful things right in your face – viciously arguing their views. Don’t even get me started on the third-grade level name-calling. Ugh.

Thanksgiving is frustrating enough without politics, don’t you think? First off, the hours of intense cooking (often under harsh scrutiny by someone else at the table who thinks they’re mashed potato/stuffing/green bean casserole recipe is far better than yours) are for what? Ten minutes of actual eating? Or should I say inhaling? Then, there’s the cleanup. The mountains of dishes coated in congealed fat and butter take forever to clean. The “eating” part of the event is barely a blip compared to the pre-meal planning and post-meal de-cluttering. Which just doesn’t seem fair if you ask me. But then I love food more than I love just about anything. Yeah, I know. I need help.

This year I’m going to try to get a seat at the kid’s table where the conversation is sure to be light and I will no doubt learn a new joke about bodily functions for my ever-growing repertoire. Not to mention they don’t care if you’re a messy eater. Hell, they are too! AND they’re allowed to be picky about what they eat. Now that’s right up my alley. Plus, PLUS — they don’t know what wine is and won’t give you a side-eye when you keep guzzling the “happy juice.” Oh yeah. The kids’ table it is!

Complimentary Insults

Are you familiar with “blocking” on Facebook? It’s a special filter you can set up on your profile that can, as Facebook works it, “prevent them [certain people you choose] from seeing things you post on your profile, starting conversations with you or adding you as a friend.” Normally, blocking happens when someone gets super pissed off at someone else. It’s a pretty severe move.

I can count on two fingers just how many times I’ve been blocked on Facebook, which I do like to pat myself on the back for just a little. It means I’m “playing nice” for the most part, or at least not angering others enough that they starting trying to do social media’s version of Eternal Sunshine. Overall, it’s an indicator that you like me, you really, really like me…sorry, channeling a little Sally Field there a minute. At any rate, just so you know, I can play well with others (gasp! It’s a shock, I know.) and generally endeavor to do just that.

I found out that blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though. The first person who ever blocked me was a now ex-in-law who was really better off blocked anyway. That particular instance of childlike behavior (and not on my part) made for a very welcome respite in my life that I have enjoyed ever since.

But recently, I got blocked a second time and this one isn’t going down so smoothly. Oh, I won’t dwell on it for long and the so-called punishment is not likely to change my behavior. However, it did have me shaking my head.

The person who blocked me is someone I thought I knew well – as well as you can know someone you’re only friends with online (and yes, online friends are still friends). We were more than just casual acquaintances even if our conversations were limited to text and emails. In fact, I had supported her through numerous “life is crazier than fiction” issues over the past two years.  I was there for her through a neighborhood bullying problem that got so bad she had to move out of the home she had just moved into only a few months before. I gave her a shoulder to lean on when her pets died. More importantly I stayed true to her when she was blindsided with a completely unexpected divorce.

After being there for her through all that—personal turmoil, death, the disintegration of a marriage—this person blocked me on Facebook. Do you want to know why? The reason she blocked me was over…wait for it…rehoming fees for pets.

You heard me right. Rehoming fees. I’m not using slang that you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about rehoming fees as in “an amount asked for by a pet owner or rescuer when they are adopting or readopting a pet to a home.”

Before going any further, let me say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s what makes the world go round. But, is it too much to ask that opinions are formed after doing a decent amount of research and communicating with experts who have been in rescue or in the field doing investigations? I’m sorry but if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand why you have a certain stance, if you’re basing your opinion on nothing more than air, you put animals at risk and that frankly, is unacceptable. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Well, you would be wrong.

You might think that because I am a) pretty passionate about animal welfare and b) able to be a teensy bit hot-headed when I’m on a good rant, that I was rude or sarcastic when arguing my case to this former friend. Fair enough. But you’ll be happy to know that that wasn’t the case in this instance.

I coolly and calmly provided my friend with verified information, links, research, and encouraged the person to write her paper — which was her intent for this whole mess — on the truth, rather than simply stick to her baseless opinion out of stubbornness. I won’t even get into the fact that she started claiming industry experts were of the same opinion as her (not saying I’m always right, but…) which was purely and simply a falsehood.  I gave her a good out, but she didn’t take it. Instead, she labeled me an “activist” of the wood boring variety (because I came out of the woodwork just to argue – ha!)  and summarily blocked me, giving me no chance to respond to her ridiculous claims. Isn’t that always the way?

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Oh, I’m not an activist.  But I don’t necessarily consider it the horrendous and belittling insult she meant it as either.  What I am is an advocate.  Hell, I’m proud to be an advocate. Her attitude towards me doesn’t change the truth or skew any of the concrete facts. She can keep her faulty beliefs and maybe one day she’ll be unable to avoid the fact that she’s telling a lie. God help the animals who get hurt in the process though.

And seriously, in hindsight, maybe this whole “being nice” thing is just too damn overrated.

 

common sense

Checking in with Broken Hearts

I’m sure as many of you have heard, there was a mass shooting in Munich, Germany earlier today.  Because of my job, I spend some time online each day perusing the news and that was one story I did not need coming across my feed. Well, quite frankly, all of the stories that I find myself reading on a daily basis could just as well disappear into the journalistic ether if I was being completely honest.

This one in particular struck close to home because I have extended family and friends in Germany and one in particular who was likely in Munich at the time. I’m relieved to say that everyone I know is safe. Sadly, not everyone can say the same, and my heart breaks for the people who lost loved ones and friends.

I know my friends are safe a half a world away because of a simple (well, not so simple, as I have no doubt whatsoever that the coding to create it was amazingly intricate) Facebook App called “Safety Check.”  This genuinely useful application is activated in times of disaster, whether natural or man-made, and allows the Facebook user to “check-in” so his or her friends and family can rest easy and have some peace of mind, knowing they are safe.

While the app was originally created for use during earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and such when cell service likely wouldn’t be available due to downed towers, or when landlines might be rendered useless, (in fact, its development started after the Nepal earthquake), it has evolved into a much-needed and used service when mass shootings or terrorist attacks occur and cell towers are simply overloaded with people tracking down their loved ones.

And while I am so very grateful for the absolutely brilliant minds behind the creation of this genius app, and I’m glad it exists — for purely selfish reasons as well as on behalf of the millions (if not billions) of other people who surely benefit from its use — I wish, oh how I wish, it weren’t needed quite so much.

Missing Manners

I’m not sure what’s wrong with people these days. No-one has manners anymore. At least it seems that way sometimes.

A prime example just reared its ugly head this past weekend.  I walk out of my house to the smells of something incredibly yummy wafting on the breeze – and it’s obvious someone nearby is cooking out.  Do they not know the well-worn adage we all learned as small children:  No food allowed unless you have enough to share with everyone?

If you’re going to torture the neighborhood with delectable aromas, the least you can do is make enough for everyone. I mean, really.  Didn’t their mothers teach them anything?