Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Zombies are here

Not too long ago my two youngest daughters were complaining about their brothers and pointed out several things.

When my girls were young they played house, they ran and played outside. They made up games and entertained themselves for hours. While I’ll admit they got into a lot of trouble and scraps, they also learned a few things. Like closet shelves aren’t meant to hold that much weight. They also understood compromise.

Playing house none of them wanted to be the daddy. (They are girls after all.) And none wanted to be the baby. (I think it’s rather telling that my oldest always wanted to be a teenager, my middle daughter was always the mom and my youngest was either a dog or a cat.) So they had to negotiate, either house meant no daddy or baby or they took turns with the dreaded parts. Then my oldest son came along. While he couldn’t walk, they had a real baby to play with, as long as mom was nearby. When he could walk, he was elevated to the part of ‘daddy’, though he can’t remember any of it.

By the time my older boy was three, my girls had out grown playing house. They still spent time outside, but the imagining together stopped, gradually replaced by emersion in good books, emulating me.

I got my first computer when my youngest daughter was a baby, but I bought my first internet capable one when I was pregnant with my oldest son so my boys have never lived in a house without internet access.

Needless to say, they’re wired. Even my older son, who can and does read for pleasure and can write fiction, spends way too much time plugged in. Even time with friends includes computers.

I recently read a “The Kill Zone” blog post by James Scott Bell, in which he quoted Ray Bradbury. The article compared the horrors Bradbury saw as the decline of civilization, the mindless pumping of stimulation, music, into one’s mind without having to think or interact with anyone. Bell wondered what Bradbury would think of our world today, populated by people mindlessly on their tech and not interacting with anyone around them. I’ve also seen pictures tagged “The zombie apocalypse is here”, and it showed a group of people walking down the street while fully engrossed in their screens.

A decade ago when I had to go anywhere and sit and wait for an appointment I might see a few people reading a magazine or the rare book, but that didn’t deter conversations. Occasionally someone would have a phone and they might be in constant banter with someone who wasn’t there, but that was about it.

Nowadays when I have to wait somewhere it’s possible to have a whole waiting room full of people, even kids, so engrossed in their screens they don’t even realize what’s going on around them. Someone actually reading a book is rare and that includes the fact my daughters generally have a book with them. I’ve heard of people texting each other when they’re sitting side by side, or sitting in a restaurant texting other people instead of talking to their dinner companions.

We’re being overrun. In my house we have six laptops, three smartphones and one tablet for just six people. (I’ll admit I own the most, a laptop, a smartphone and the tablet.)

That’s the true apocalypse. Let’s put down the screens and engage, communicate, interact! Now! Stop the zombie take over!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Technology without teens

When Konnie wrote her blog about how attached to their gadgets people are, I couldn’t see the problem. When I drive around town, I don’t see lot of people walking around with their face glued to their screen. Okay, I don’t see a lot of people walking period, and only once did I see someone walking along talking on their phone.
It’s not as if I haven’t seen people answer their phone while shopping, I have. I’ve even done it, but I don’t see people so intent on their devices that they don’t see or interact with the people around them. This problem doesn’t seem to have hit around here.
Nowadays, I usually eat alone, even when I eat out. And the last time I did so, I saw three generations of a family enjoying each other’s company and a man sitting alone reading the paper, which seems to about normal from my experience.
I don’t even answer my phone when I’m driving. I do know people do. I have a friend who did that once when I was her passenger and she cut the call short when she noticed how panicked I was. Sorry, but I know that’s dangerous. It scares me.
Konnie talked about people not interacting with other humans, just focusing on their devises, she talked about people doing that sitting in waiting rooms. Well, okay, sometimes I do take my reader out, but other people are reading the magazines made available there. Other times, I strike up a conversation, if the person next to me isn’t reading something. And I do admit, I spend most of my days on my computer, but I am alone now, besides part of the time includes chatting in IM with Konnie or her daughters, or some other friend. Sometimes I even chat with several people at once in IM, but I am interacting with others!
Maybe I don’t see the problem because I don’t interact with that many young people (other than Konnie’s kids). I have friends who don’t have computers, let alone cell phones or readers. When I go out to lunch with my friends, we chat over the meal. When I go to visit my friends, we visit. I can only think of one person in all my recent visits who even had a computer, and she did leave it on, but she also turned her back to it to chat with me.
I do have friends with cell phones, but they don’t sit around sending messages instead of visiting. I’ve actually never seen any of them send a text message, not even those with one of those smart phones. Selfies? I barely even know what the word means, never witnessed it.
I do know there is a problem in some areas. Once our local news had deal about students at a university further east of here having problems with drivers hitting students who weren’t paying attention to where they were going because they had their faces glued to their screen. But they only mentioned it happening at university across the state, not at the one here in town, and honestly the last time I drove past there, I did see students walking, but none of them had their faces glued to their screens, not one.

And my hometown is bigger than the town where they have had a problem, so it can’t be size of the town. But maybe, just maybe there is hope for our future. At least the young people here aren’t glued to their screen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Lying

I’ve heard many people adhere to the principle of not lying to  their children and use this as the basis, as did the mother in “A Miracle on 34th Street” to not ‘lie’ about such things as Santa Claus and the Easter bunny.

I personally don’t lie to my kids. Don’t get me wrong. I have perpetuated the stories of all the magical characters that inhabit childhood and bring fun and pleasure to kids. I figure I exist, and as a mother I wear many hats. A few jobs designed to surprise, delight and maybe even mystify my kids is all the more fun for me. And my stature made it really easy for them to accept that I’m an elf.

Now to my point.

My youngest son is greatly opposed to the consumption of vegetables, more so than any of his other siblings. Doctors have told me his health issues would be alleviated if he would eat more vegetables. Meaning I’ve had to discover ways to get him to eat them, which hasn’t been easy.

One of our family’s favorite meals is tacos. Part of the reason we like it is because we can fix our taco how we like them. My son doesn’t eat tacos. You know the vegetable thing. He eats bean and cheese burritos. For some time now I’ve been making him eat some of the lettuce, just a few bites, with each burrito. But recently, something I heard years ago and our own fresh crop of them got me to try something else to get more vegetables in him. Zucchini.

He didn’t comment when I added it to the stroganoff or the first time I grated some and mixed it in with the refried beans. But the other night as we were eating supper he insisted someone put lettuce in the beans. I honestly told him, several times, “I did not put any lettuce in the beans.”

I didn’t lie. Zucchini is not lettuce.

I haven’t even tried it in cake, brownies or cookies yet. Though the very thought we might be hiding vegetables in the foods he does like has him promising he’s going to prepare all the food on his birthday so we can’t ruin any of it.

Well the boy does need to learn how to cook.

Now my sister tells me I lie by omission. I didn’t tell my kids I was all those magical characters, and I haven’t told my son (neither of them actually) what I did put in those beans. It’s not like I never told them, or that I never will.

Just as my kids all discovered the secret of Santa Claus, eventually they will know how to gets kids to eat their vegetables. I don’t see withholding information until they are capable of understanding all the reasons for it as lying.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Opposites Attract

In this month’s Reader’s Digest there is an article titled “He spoke my language,” by Jesse Ren Marshall about how she, a writer, fell in love with and married a grammatically challenged guy, and it got me thinking about a certain writer who married a dyslexic malaprop.
I should have realized there was a problem early in our courtship when he didn’t know the meaning of the word sibling. Honestly, I can see someone not knowing it if they have only sisters or only brothers, but he had both! Why didn’t he know the word?
But even then, I didn’t question dating him.
Then I left for college and at one point, he sent me a nice “missing you” card, but don’t ask me what he wrote. His handwriting looked more like scribbles. Talk about illegible. During our next phone conversation I even told him it was illegible, to which he asked me what I meant.
And I found myself yet again defining a word for him. It became quite a regular occurrence to the point that when one day he used a word I’d never heard before. (My excuse is husband spent a lot of his growing up years in the great outdoors, and I was very much a city girl.) The word he used was rutting. And if you don’t know it, I’m going to assume you’ve never been out in the woods in the fall.
But I soon found his lack of vocabulary extended to the point of making up words. I mean he was a malaprop, occasionally using the wrong word, but he more frequently made up words. (Where he was concerned, translate dough not as don’t and provoding as provoking.)
On top of that he tended to start a sentence talking about one person, but by the end of the sentence, he was talking about someone totally different (often saying the opposite of what he started saying) making following a conversation with him difficult at times.
And, as he was also dyslexic, once we were married, I took on balancing our checkbook and doing all our correspondence. Over the years, I updated his resume, filled out applications, and wrote all our letters, only allowing him to sign when needed.
And I learned not to try and correct him. There was no use changing him, after all, he was a fantastic man.

I guess it’s just one more case of opposites attract.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Judging Covers

Appearances can be deceiving, or never judge a book by its cover.

Recently Darlena Cunha (who writes for “The Huffington Post” and Thought Catalog) wrote about her experience driving to pick up her WIC vouchers in her husband’s Mercedes. The article itself is about how she felt doing it and considering the judgmental backlash she received, I can understand her consternation.

In finding this article, I also found an “Onion” article about an all knowing woman named Carol Gaither. The tongue in cheek piece details all the situations in which she knows those around her are making errors in judgment, most specifically her assessment of how people spend food stamps, including describing buying TV dinners instead of the stuff to make dinner from scratch.

I also saw a Facebook post about a campaign in Florida to put a different face on homelessness by having homeless people hold up cardboard signs saying something about themselves. They included college graduates, computer geeks, those fleeing abuse and the gainfully employed. All had a story how they ended up there, but not one you could see looking at them.

So now my opinion. You can’t judge a book by its cover and appearances can be deceiving.

Darlena admitted she’d used her husband’s car because her Honda wouldn’t start.  So next time you see someone at WIC or the welfare office driving a fancy or nice car, think it may be possible they’re borrowing a friend or family member’s automobile, the reason doesn’t matter.  And don’t judge Darlena’s husband for keeping the fancy auto. Consider how much more you’d spend each month with a car payment and the additional insurance required when you don’t fully own it. Personally, having a car costs me more each month than keeping a roof over my head, because I have a car payment.

I smiled at the “Onion” article. I’ve bought the pop, chips and TV dinners with food stamps. I’m no longer eligible for welfare, though I don’t buy such things anymore often. Not nearly enough to please my kids anyway. For all you people out there judging what others choose to spend their money, or food stamps on, try eating home cooked meals every single day, with little variety because you can’t afford much. Everybody needs a treat once in a while and Banquet TV dinners are less than a dollar each, plus each of my kids can have something they want without the daily argument over what’s for dinner. True, I’ve known people who bought all the highly processed, pre-prepared foods they could and then complained about not having enough to get through the month, nevertheless it doesn’t mean everyone who happens to buy those types of foods always purchases them.

And homeless?

I ended up between homes and in a shelter once. A situation beyond my control because we’d moved from one state to be closer to family and had difficulty locating housing. It didn’t last long, however you never know how or why someone ends up there.

So what you see in one brief encounter doesn’t give you the whole story. Seeing a homeless person on the corner doesn’t tell you anything more about them than they have no home. Noticing someone buying candy, pop or TV dinners with food stamps may tell you they don’t know how to budget, or maybe they can’t cook, or it might mean they’re tired or fed up and just need a treat or something fast and easy for dinner. That woman arriving to her WIC or welfare appointment in an expensive car may have borrowed it because she didn’t have one, or hers broke down. Or maybe, just maybe, she paid for it in full before her finances took a nosedive. Since you can’t judge a book by its cover, you don’t know the story and appearances can be deceiving.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dumb Question

Some time ago, I forget how long, in an issue of the Reader’s Digest there’s a comment about stupid questions. The guy is asking if there is no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask.
My first response was to repeat a quote from my high school trigonometry teacher, who said, “There are no stupid questions . . .”
Then I remembered an event during my junior high years.
My family had just moved to a house out in the country and it was our first day on the bus. My twin sister and I were sitting together when a high school boy sat on the seat in front of us, faced us, and said, “You two look a lot alike. Are you related?”
“We’re twins,” I said. Duh! We’re identical.
“Oh, really! Wow!” he said then looked me in the eye. “What’s your name?”
I gave both my sister’s name and mine, knowing she’d be uncomfortable answering, since everyone on the bus was paying attention by now, even the driver. The high school boy thought that over a second then, still addressing me, asked, “Where you born?”
I answered.
He then turned to Konnie and asked her the same question. She answered then he turned back to me and asking, “When’s your birthday?” while snickering started around us.
I answered again.
He again turned Konnie repeating his question. The snickers turned into giggling. Once she answered, he turned to me and asked, “How old are you?”
I answered yet again.
Then he again turned to my sister, opened his mouth, and asked, “And how old are you?”
I think he was glad the bus driver had pulled up to his stop at that point, because everyone broke out in loud guffaws. And I doubt he’s ever lived it down, since his sister was still laughing as she walked into their house.
I’d try to make him feel better by saying he’s not the only one, but I’m afraid, people are more apt to make the same stupid wisecrack about there being two of ME, than they are to launch into a ridiculously stupid duplicate third degree.
That isn’t too say I haven’t received other queries about my twin-ness, I’m just saying no one else has been so stupid as to query both us about our shared stats.
The most frequently asked question has always been, “What’s it like to be a twin?”
Unfortunately, they never like my answer, but that’s another topic. J
Anyway, maybe there’s only one person stupid enough to voice a stupid question, and I was present to witness his downfall. J

Or do you know of any others?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being Unique

Lately I feel like a broken record. “No two people are exactly alike.”

It’s an old saying. I’ve heard it since grade school, at least, which was a number of years ago. I know it’s true, from personal experience.

As our one time blind high school counselor pointed out, my sister and I walk and talk alike. Anyone looking at us can see we look the same. A fact I’m reminded of whenever I glance in a mirror. Physically, in more ways than not, we are identical.

Yet we’re not.

I’m not talking about the length of our hair, which has switched several times over the years, or the style of our clothes and glasses. I’m not even talking about our family situations, which are clearly polar opposites right now. I’m talking about who we are.

My clearly and completely right handed sister has little or no sense of humor and a hot temper. She always did well in English, however struggled with Math and don’t ask her about Biology (she never got mitosis and meiosis). She also aspired to be a lawyer. I think she’s persuasive enough she could have too.

I’m her mirror, therefore, I’m a lefty although raised in righty world I’m now ambidextrous. (Hence the mirror exercise she mentioned where our fingers touched, her right, and my left.) I always managed English and did fine in Math. I found Biology fairly easy. (Mitosis and meiosis, yeah I got it the first time.) Lawyer? Are you kidding? It requires talking, to lots of people. Never happening. I also have a sense of humor. As for the temper, well I have one. Considering how infrequently I explode, when I do, watch out!

We do both write, however even in that we’re different, our word choices, sentence lengths, and structure, all distinct. We both write romance with some similarities, yet she doesn’t do fantasy or sci-fi (unless you count the one story, but it’s more romance). She does poems, something I’ve never really mastered. Her writing’s been published before.

Some of our leisure time activities might be the same, or at least similar, though others are not.

Her late husband did Rendezvous reenacting, and she joined him, including hand beading his hat band for him. She made period clothes for them too. You’d never catch me camping, let alone doing so like the early frontiersmen, and trappers did in the American West. Considering her issues with math, I don’t think you’d find her doing Sudoku, something I enjoy.

Another old saying is “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

With people this is especially true.

They may look, talk, and walk alike, but under all of it, they’re not the same person. Every individual is unique and deserves to be recognized and accepted for their individuality. And perhaps that’s why I sound like a broken record, because I can remember being Jacki’s little sister’s twin.

Stand up. Be counted. Be unique. Be yourself. Because everybody’s different and this world would be a boring place if we weren’t.