Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father's Day

Photo by Winnond
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Last Sunday was Father's Day. We spent that weekend with a trip to visit my dad and a whirlwind trip to the Virginia mountains where Little Man was born. Since Husband and I are not good with the gift-hint thing, Husband is still deciding what he wants for Father's Day. When he decides, he'll tell me, and Little Man and I will go get it. Or if it's heavy, Husband will get it. It may sound cavalier that we pick our own gifts, but it's not. When we get it, we get exactly what we want. And, being *ahem* over 35, our romantic expectations are more realistic. Even though Husband would probably be proud of his wife for knowing exactly what power tool would be perfect, I would be a little creeped-out if he knew the perfect purse.

What Father's Day is, is the appreciation of fatherhood. Fathers are important. I know that my dad was, and is, very influential in my life and someone I know I can always turn to for advice, truth, and support. Love you Dad! There has been, it seems, a message since the 1970s at least, that fathers aren't necessary. I think that explains the number of single mothers increasing in number. Depending on the source you investigate, the statistics show that as much as one-third of the children in the U.S. are born to single mothers.

So, these are the questions that pop into my mind:
  • Where are the fathers of these children? Why don't they take responsibility for their offspring?
  • Why would any woman want to be a single mom? It's hard work made harder without support.
  • What is the impact of fatherlessness on the children?
I think a lot of nonsense has been spewed in recent years in the media and college campuses that try to equate male and female roles. "A woman can do anything a man can do." "Women are equal to men." "Men can be equally nurturing in child care as a woman." Blah, blah, blah. While I don't dispute the equality of men and women, I say out loud, we are not the same. Our abilities and skills are not the same. Our minds are not the same. Our bodies are not the same. So, equal and equally important, yes. The same? No! Duh.

I know that when Little Man feels tired, sick, hungry, lonely, uncomfortable, or scared he will cling to me. And when Little Man feels like exploring, learning to do something, being physical, or playing he wants his dad. Why? because I nurture, coo, hold, sing, comfort, and provide calm consistency. Husband, on the other hand, provides strength, confidence, and surety. Our equal but different qualities provide Little Man with all his emotional needs.

Shouldn't we as a culture be concerned about the children? I don't say society because we do that already. We provide subsidized housing, day care, medical care, school breakfast and lunch, free education, etc. As a society we do provide for the children. Our village does help support the children when the families cannot do it alone. But as a culture shouldn't we strive for more than just child support? Shouldn't we say, "Hey, fathers are important." "Intact families are important." Shouldn't we recognize that it takes two - a father and a mother - to make the child and thus raise the child with their equal albeit different strengths? Isn't the emotional stability of the child just as important as its financial stability?

I haven't even touched on discipline. Mothers discipline much differently than fathers. And how do you discipline and soothe at the same time? Father's make more head-way in instilling appropriate behavior by being stern. Will there be tears? Probably. That's when mom steps in as support to the discipline, wiping tears, explaining that the child is still loved but the behavior isn't, how to apologize, etc. It take two.

Anyway, Father's Day is a day to appreciate the fathers in our lives and to let them know they are loved and needed and respected. Happy Father's Day Dad and Husband! I love you both!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dumbing Down is Dumbing Down

I was a Language Arts teacher. That means I tried to instill in my students the art of language. What? Yes, the Art of Language. Language and the proper use thereof is an art; and not to be taken lightly. Our English language has structure, and rules, and exceptions to those rules, and syntax, and parts of speech, and vocabulary. When all of these come together correctly, we have the ability to express, either succinctly or verbosely, marvelous ideas and stories.

Our language, which is indeed a living, breathing thing, changes over time. Change is not necessarily bad because we can create new thoughts and ideas with new words. For example, 200 hundred years ago the word microwave was not in our everyday usage. Today, we just pop something in the microwave. There are a multitude of words, or combinations of words, that have come to be because of technology and growth and development that have enriched our lives. Who wouldn't want to x-ray their arm to see if it's broken? Who hasn't felt the thrill of watching the space shuttle launch?

Still, some change is not good. No, we no longer speak the English of Shakespeare but wouldn't it be nice if we could just bring back the accent mark? It's the difference between aged and ag├ęd. It's more poetic. And what of vocabulary? You don't feel nauseous, you feel nauseated. You didn't stop the road widening project, you thwarted it. Try using impetus instead of reason. And perhaps you aren't merely good, perhaps you are superb. Words have meaning and nuance and they should be used to bring life into what you are saying or writing. Structure is important too. You must precede a pronoun with an antecedent. And you did NOT go to the movies with Jimmy and I. You went with Jimmy and me.

All languages change and mutate which is why we speak American English and not British English or Australian English or South African English. But it doesn't have to change in the negative. What happens is slang and jargon take over and you'll see parents speaking incorrectly in the home and not correcting their children. Even teachers will speak "relaxed" language rather than setting an example. I don't know how many times my mother corrected us in our speech.

Worst of all is the adoption of text language in well, text. You know, typing "RUOK" rather than "are you okay." In a text, or tweet, this might be appropriate, but in a written (or typed) email or letter or essay, it is not OK. It does not make me LOL. Sadly, these short cuts have diminished our ability to spell, use grammar correctly, or to even convey the correct sentiment because of our dumbing down of vocabulary into abbreviations. Perhaps this is why students struggle so desperately with the SAT analogies section.

This is the great divide in our society. There are few successful businessmen or professionals who fail to use an advanced vocabulary, correct grammar, or put together coherent thoughts. You simply don't make it among that ilk without doing so. And you won't really be given the opportunity to prove yourself if you can't express yourself.

So, so don't dumb down, smarten up. Spell your words, use your vocabulary, learn a new word every day and use it in a sentence at least once. Stop using abbreviations and slang and keep the art in our language.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Under Dogs

It is the American tradition to route for the under dog. Why? Because we are the under dog. Who'd have thought that a rag-tag group of merchants and farmers could have held off one of the best armies in the world in the late 1700s? But we did. And we did it again in 1812. Who doesn't love a rags to riches story? The small-town kid making good? The guy building a multi-million/billion dollar business (Microsoft, Amazon, Apple) in his garage?

Last Saturday the Belmont Stakes was run. This year there was a chance at a Triple Crown winner in California Chrome. He won the Kentucky Derby and a few weeks later he won the Preakness. He was the under dog. He was bred by a mare no one wanted. His owners, who are blue-collar workers, scraped together from their savings and retirement $8,000 to purchase the mare and another $4,000 to breed her. And for a measly investment of $12,000 they produced a foal that had the spunk and fortitude to rise above his humble beginnings.
Image from bloodhorse.com

And rise he did. He came from nowhere; against all odds; against the careful, expensive, pedigree breeding done by those who have themselves been carefully bred into the equestrian world. Who'd have thought the blue-collar would win over the blue-bloods? America cheered for him when he won the Derby. America roared when he won the Preakness. America put money on him to win the Belmont. We wanted him to win, we needed him to win.

He didn't win. Our hopes were crushed. Our expectations unfulfilled. That happens sometimes. Remember, to be the under dog, you have to lose sometimes. With all the attention that California Chrome was getting, and the love he was receiving form the entire horse racing fandom, didn't that by definition make him no longer the under dog but now the favorite? Didn't that make every other horse that raced that day the under dog? So, with the win by Tonalist, didn't the under dog actually win?

Anyway, congratulations to Tonalist for a race well run. Congratulations to California Chrome for giving us hope and reviving the thrill of the race. As my Dad once told me, "we know who the real winner is."

Friday, June 6, 2014

So Much To Do

We are at the end of the first week of June and just getting into the swing of summer. The temperature is rising and the humidity is increasing. My favorite parts about summer are the sounds and smells. The sounds of sprinklers ch-ch-ch-ing in the mornings, evenings bring the buzz of lawn mowers. Everywhere is the sound of children squealing and laughing. We live close to our neighborhood pool and I can hear the splashing and giggles and life guard whistle. There is the smell of wild onions and chives and cut grass, and wafting through the air the aroma of meat on a grill. Fireflies and stars light up the nights, a bright sun lights up the day.

For us, June is a busy month. It is the first full month of summer and the "Summer of Fun." The Fun Bowl is still full of slips of paper with activities to be selected. The BIG ones - zoo, aquarium, children's museum - are still to be pulled out. This week we went berry picking, made an angel food cake, went swimming, went to a magic show, and attended a birthday party. This is on top of practicing making Little Man's bed and getting dressed himself.

And speaking of birthdays - this is my father's birthday month (happy birthday Dad!). Last year my siblings and I threw him a BIG party. This year he mentioned that he was looking forward to the 2nd annual birthday celebration. Ummmm... sorry, Dad. This year Little Man turns 4 and he told us in no uncertain terms that he wants a 4th of July Pirate Party. Well, who doesn't? So he gave me his invitation list, we made invitations and mailed them out. Now all we have to do is wait for the RSVPs to come rolling in. In the meantime, he has chosen three different cake styles he'd be happy with. Oh my.

June is also the month for Father's Day. And since Husband and I are not good hint givers/takers, Husband has told me what he wants for Father's Day. There are two items on his list and I get to choose which one to get. I think I know which it will be. Now to actually get it in time for Father's Day. Sometimes I lose track of time and forget to get cards and gifts on the correct date - I'm usually a day or two behind. I plan on being late to my funeral too.

Tomorrow is the Belmont Stakes. It is the third race in the Triple Crown and all I can say is GO CALIFORNIA CHROME!! I'll be watching and cheering. Will you?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bags

A while back, on a different blog, I wrote about my love of bags. I love bags, all sorts of bags - luggage, purses, canvas bags (the bigger the better), backpacks, diaper bags - you name it, I either have it, want it, or covet it. I referred to myself as a bag lady because at any given time there are bags all around my spaces in my house because I use them as organizational tools. I have a knitting bag that contains current projects. Each project has its own bag to keep them separated. I have a computer bag when I need to take my laptop with me. I have a writing bag that has binders and folders in it of ideas and scribblings. The pool/beach bag hangs on the coat rack at the ready stocked with towels, sunscreen, and toys. Wherever I go, I'm usually toting a bag (sometimes with more bags in it) that contains something to keep me busy.

There is one bag that gets more abuse and neglect than any other bag is my purse. I know women who change out their bags to match their outfits. I know women who *gasp* don't carry a purse. I know women who manage to have the same purse day in and day out, yet it rarely shows any wear and tear. I haven't been able to find a purse that suits my needs perfectly let alone several to match a number of different ensembles. My poor purse looks like it went three rounds in the gorilla cage - cracked leather, frayed seams, missing zipper pulls. And just who are these women that can carry the cute dainty purses? And no purse? These are not human women.

Swiss Gear SA1908
Image from www.amazon.com
I thought I'd prepare for summer and the "Summer of Fun" activities with Little Man and look for a backpack that could be a purse/carryall where I could carry my laptop/knitting/book/notebook/water/snacks/purse stuff/Little Man needs AND keep my hands free. Alas, that is not the case. I realized that such a contraption would be more of a piece of carry-on luggage. In fact, the closest thing I could find was a Swiss Gear SA1908. Heck, why not just keep carrying the diaper bag?

For the summer and the "Summer of Fun" activities, I have returned to an old stand-by backpack/purse I used in the old days when Husband and I would go on motorcycle trips. It's roomy but not too big. I wear it like a backpack and thus my hands are free. It's leather so it is durable and water-tight, at least in a quick rain shower. It does not hold my laptop, knitting, book, notebook, snacks, water bottles, or Little Man stuff. I still need an extra bag for those things. Sigh.
My current purse for the
Summer of Fun

And this is my problem. At the end of this "Summer of Fun" I will need to transition from the backpack purse to something more autumnal. Dressier perhaps. And right now I don't have anything in my closet that is suitable. The purse I just vacated is in no condition to return to.

Fortunately, I LOVE shopping for bags. Husband is sweet and offered to get me a purse for my birthday/anniversary/Christmas/Mother's Day/ just-because-I-love-you gift. However, a purse is personal and can't be a gift. I have to feel the purse for it to be right, the same way a man needs to feel right about a new wallet. A purse isn't just another bag, it's a part of me. I am a bag lady after all.

Update on the "Summer of Fun." We went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival last weekend and Little Man got to see knights, princes, kings, queens and all sorts of medievally-garbed people. It was also pirate day so there were a multitude of pirates, male and female, wandering about. There was one Roman soldier too; I don't know why. We have also attended a magic show which was exciting and this week we go berry picking and we will make strawberry shortcake. Little Man is having fun and keeping busy. I'm exhausted.