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Ms. Maggie and My Free-Range Kids

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So this woman, Lenore Skenazy comes on the radio this week with talk show host Dennis Prager, and they’re talking about the insanity of government, health professionals and other lunatic fringes whose mission is either to suck all of the joy of a kid’s life, wrap them in a cocoon of bubble wrap, or turn us parents into bigger idiots than we already are.  I probably wouldn’t have remembered any of it except that Ms. Skenazy’s website is called Free-Range Kids, which stuck in my otherwise porous brain.  That and the fact my kids used to shit sand every time we went to the beach.  Both of them survived to adulthood, and while I escaped spousal and government punishment, I did deal with some pretty heavy diapers.

Anyway, the whole exchange made me think back upon my own childhood and the guiding lessons I learned through experience.  Importantly, a little wisdom I learned when I was fourteen from Ms. Maggie.

Like most folks my generation, I could write a book on the “abuse” we took from our parents.  The cars didn’t always have seat belts, much less child seats.  Our parents smoked in the car…with the windows up.  Air condition in the car, when it worked, was a luxury.  If felt carsick, they stopped the car, I took off running down some dark alley to avoid barfing in public, and they didn’t call in a missing child report when I didn’t come back to the car in 5 minutes.  If we stopped at some rest area out in the styx to have a picnic, they sent me into the filthy bathrooms barefoot and alone, let me eat my picnic in the sun with no sunscreen whilst drinking a Coke with yellow jackets buzzing around the lip of the can, and eating off a picnic table cleaned only by rain and ants.  And that was just the car.  If I think about the hazards like bicycles, the woods, any type of water, strangers, etc.; well, like I said, every kid of my generation could probably write the same book.

But this is really about Ms. Maggie and the two lessons she taught me when I was fourteen.  Ms. Maggie gave me my first job as a junior counselor at Camp Grasshopper, a day camp operating in the sunny southern city of Atlanta, Georgia.  About a week before camp started, we had a couple of days of training to learn the camp songs and what activities we would be leading, what the kids’ schedules would be, and the two important safety notices by which I would come to raise my kids.

The first was this.  Never help a kid climb up something (like a jungle gym or any other play structure).  If they can get up there on their own, they can figure out how to get down on their own.  If they need your help climbing, then they have no business up there in the first place.  A blinding flash of common sense, right?  But a great lesson in standing down that helped my kids gain self confidence, set goals for themselves, push their boundaries, learn how to stand on their own and fall down on their own.  My mom certainly didn’t have Ms. Maggie, but every pair of long pants I owned had patches on them, and my knees are scarred to this day.  I suppose my Mom somehow knew this rule and allowed me to be a free range kid.

The second rule Ms. Maggie taught me was this: Hot dogs can basically be eaten frozen.  The kids brought their own sack lunches every day but the last day of camp.  On the last day each counselor would march their assigned campers through the blistering hot sun, across the itchy field and into the woods for a cookout to celebrate a great week of camp.   Once at our “campsite” we would make a fire, roast hot dogs on sticks, make s’mores and basically have a big’ol time.  There was no safety instructions related being careful in the broiling sun, the danger of sharp sticks, matches,  keeping the kids from being roasted alive in the fire,  ground attacks by chiggers, trudging through poison ivy, eating cooked marsh mellows that might fall on the ground, or keeping the kids hydrated.  The counselors were all pretty smart, and I suppose Ms. Maggie figured we all had plenty of common sense or they wouldn’t have hired us.  What we did not know however, is that the average attention span of a five-year-old is about thirty seconds, and that was about how much time a five-year is willing to hold a compressed tube of snouts, ears, butts, tails and other associated chemicals impaled upon a sharp stick over a camp fire.  Hot dogs, as it turns out are basically pre-cooked.  This wisdom enabled us to focus on sharp sticks turned into sharp swords in the hands of five-year-olds rather than worry about the dangers of feeding them raw pork parts.

Thanks to these two rules and Ms. Maggie, I can happily report my children never died from uncooked pork or from playing on a playground.  And they never died on my wife’s watch either.  I can’t say my kids were truly “free-range” as the electric collars did a pretty good job of keeping them in the yard.  Other than that though, they had a pretty long leash.

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Not Just Another Sea Shanty – Random Randomness

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I don’t know if the crew was singing and dancing below decks, but there was definitely a lot going on above the waterline on my recent vacation.  Just got back from a 7 day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas which really should be renamed the Mother Ship of the Seas.  Ain’t no sea monsters ever gonna mess with that mother for sure.  Anyway, the cruise line did a wonderful job, the boat (yeah, I call it a boat) was spectacular, clean, had amenities on top of amenities, a crew so friendly it gives the Mouse a run for its money.  Definitely one of our top 10 family vacations.

I sound like an ad for RC right?  Hey they did a great job.  That said, with 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew on a boat that big I did make a few observations which alternatively disturbed, amused or left me scratching my head. Let’s talk a little bit about the people, the food, the boat, and politics.

THE POLITICS:

This was one of my favorite parts of the cruise.  Because I was too cheap to pay for wifi, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump were able to join me on my vacation.  I missed neither and picked right back up on my favorite soap opera upon my return.  Like I never left. Thanks RC for pricing your wifi so high that I was not even tempted to know what was going on outside your bubble.

THE PEOPLE:

There were three types of people on our ship.  The reasonably healthy, the chronically unhealthy, and the critically unhealthy.  About an hour after we set sail we had to turn around and go back to port to unload a “critically unhealthy” passenger. People were huffing an puffing all over the ship.  There were scooters everywhere.  With a helicopter pad above deck and a morgue below, the cruise lines make it a perfect vacation option for even the most unhealthy folks.

95% of bikini clad women on the Allure of the Seas really shouldn’t be wearing one, and 100% of bikini clad men should not be wearing one.  Modesty suggests we tuck it in or cover it up people!

The diversity of the passengers and crew was like a jar of jelly beans.  I liked that change from my daily bubble a lot.

While touring the ship, I stumbled into the Gym (hidden behind the Spa) where I saw a sign up sheet for an on board seminar entitled “The Secret of a Flat Stomach.” All I can think is the only way I’m getting a flat stomach is by laying face down on the deck with some critically unhealthy person standing on my back.  Apparently, the flat stomach is still a secret because no one signed up.

I saw a little narration Morgan Freeman did on a late night show on a guy with a selfie stick and was struck on my cruise by the role of the selfie stick on the cruise.  Is narcissism one of the seven deadly sins?  Apologies for going down this rat hole, but is it me or is there is something very dark about this whole thing?

And how about the Tattoos? There was more ink on that boat than squids in the sea.  I really don’t get it, but more power to the ladies and men who make a living off the canvas of skin.  For those thinking about it, just remember tattoos are NOT like fine wine.  They really don’t get better with age.

THE FOOD:

Ah, the food.  Guilty as charged.  I am not sure what is so compelling about what is basically cafeteria food, that one should be so inclined to binge upon it for 7 straight days.  I sent both my weight and cholesterol into the stratosphere.  With the exception of the lobster tails and the lamb chops, the mounds of food I ate were truly unexceptional.

The secret to cruise quisine, I suppose is in the gravy.  No matter the food, European, American, Asian, India, South American, Mexican, Canadian, Australian every cuisine from every country was smothered in its own gravy.  If you like the gravy and want it a la carte, just order the soup.  Light fare meant light colored gravy.  The only continents lacking their own gravies were the Arctics.  And the only arctic gravy was ice, and the only way to get that freely was to buy a beverage package.

Indeed, getting ice water on the Allure anywhere outside of a restaurant required either a paid beverage package, a great deal of charm, or a fare amount of sneakiness.  No lie, you can’t even get cold water out of the tap in your cabin because they pump in hot water through the cold tap just to keep you from drinking it.  Whenever I got ice out of the Freestyle Coke machine or charmed a bartender to spoon some over, I felt like I was practically stealing it.

They must have made the most amazing bulk purchase on asparagus prior to leaving Fort Lauderdale because for the several days it was asparagus at every meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love asparagus but after a few days, the ship’s pools and hot tubs started smelling like asparagus (actually, I am just kidding, but they did serve a lot of the stuff).

THE BOAT:

Scale.  Everything is huge.  With one exception.  Cabin bathrooms.  This is actually a good thing because it forces organization in the tiny space, discourages lingering, and the proximity of the toilet to the sink allows one to ship and shave at the same time for maximum bathroom efficiency.  Oh, and the showers were tubular.  Kind of like a human jimmy cap.  Not quite sure how that was working for some of my shipmates.

That’s about all I’ve got.  Happy sails!

Bereft as Background

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A couple weeks ago, I got a message from a casting director. It said they’d like me to come work as a background extra on a high profile upcoming TV show that’s currently filming their first season. Now, to preface this, you need to know that I am a recently graduated actress with a fancy degree and training coming out of my ears. Right now, I’m a post-grad with no job, so a little money and the opportunity to work on a real film set made me practically pee my pants with joy. Here’s a little rundown of how my day went.

5:15 AM: Wake up. Do my makeup and hair (trying to impress anyone important I might see. Naturally. Imagining people saying “Who’s that adorable extra?! We need to hire her as a series regular IMMEDIATELY simply based on her wicked good looks!!”)

6:00 AM: Leave my house. Drive a nice long drive in rush hour traffic to get to set early (I am perpetually the goody two shoes. Again, why not impress people?)

6:45 AM: Arrive at the sound stage. Feel important because a very nice worker in a large, fancy van picks me up at my car and drives me to base camp. Maybe getting up early wasn’t so bad.

6:50 AM: Get to check in. Immediately lose my newfound sense of importance. Feeling lost and confused, feeling like everyone’s staring at me because I’m clearly incompetent and have obviously NEVER done this before. Feeling like I’m making everyone (including myself) feel uncomfortable.

7:00 AM: Sit down next to a man and woman (early 40’s) who look like they know what they’re doing. I learn they’re extras all the time and have worked on every major project that’s filmed here. They’re making themselves sound important and all of a sudden my fancy degree is making me feel even more incompetent, since both say they didn’t go to college.

7:30 AM: Tentatively say, “Am I allowed to eat the food?”

7:31 AM: Get overwhelmed by the amount of nice food and end up getting scared and panicked and randomly selecting a dry cereal. Brilliant.

8:45 AM: FINALLY get to set! Eager to get started! Let’s make me a movie star!

8:46 AM: The production assistant leads us through the incredible set and into a horribly lit back area where we are instructed to sit in metal folding chairs and be quiet until someone comes to get us.

9:30 AM: Still sitting in this folding chair. The PA re-appears, tells us to continue to sit and to please be quiet. I am now feeling like an abandoned kindergartner and I’m getting antsy.

MANY HOURS GO BY. MANY, many hours. So many hours that I’m feeling like they’ve forgotten us. All of a sudden it’s lunch and we still haven’t done anything. I’m feeling confused and irritated, but the other perpetual extras don’t seem to mind. I drown my sorrows in a giant piece of Cheesecake that’s not very good.

3:30 PM: After 8 1/2 hours of waiting, we are fetched by the PA and led, like cattle, onto set. Our big moment has arrived!!! But wait…our big moment includes walking from one end of a hallway to another, over and over and over again. What? This is not what I signed up for. I cannot decide which is worse: The evil folding chair room or the sad, back and forth walking.

4:00 PM: I am somehow paired with an insanely annoying and slightly creepy boy, about my age, who keeps insisting on holding my waist while we do our incessant walking. Umm…can you not?! I don’t even know your name and you smell. Please go away and stop trying to get me to put my head on your shoulder. I’m not ACTUALLY a hospital patient and you are NOT my boyfriend. Goodbye.

4:45 PM: “BACKGROUND?! Can you NOT make so much noise with your shuffling feet?! Again, NO noise with your feet. Clear?”
…College degree certainly necessary for this job. Not.

5:00 PM: We are returned to our hell hole of a waiting room. My butt is no longer amused by this game, and is not enjoying the return to its awful folding chair. The lady I met back at 7 AM insists upon showing me picture after picture of her cats. I do not like cats and I certainly do not care about yours. Please desist.

7:00 PM: I am hungry. I am sleepy. I am starting to feel like an awful person for not keeping up a chipper attitude even though we’ve been here 12 hours.

9:30 PM: We are FINALLY released! Oh thank you, little baby Jesus! Unfortunately, I had to return the next day and do it all over again. Lesson learned: being an extra is essentially being a glorified prop. Actors not needed, just people with inordinate amounts of patience.

Hold Your Nose. Here Comes a TMD.

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I just got through trying to decipher a job description from an online job board that made me cry, then laugh, then cry.

The job description, laced with so many acronyms, was clearly written for internal candidates with little anticipation of an external hire.  Unless of course it was a test…for the restovus.  I read the thing and then spent the next 5 minutes ripping my hair out attempting to de-code it.  I think I made about a B+ on the test.

I got distracted by Urban Dictionary then tickled when looking up one of the acronyms.  The job description read as follows:

Write short and long term brand plans in support of TMD annual plans as well as lead the FSOP…”

Substituting Urban Dictionary definitions for “TMD” the job description might read as follows:

Write short and long term brand plans in support of Turds of Mass Destruction…..or,

Write short and long term brand plans in support of The Muslim Dream…..or,

Write short and long term brand plans in support of Too Much Drugs…..or,

Write short and long term brand plans in support of Touching My ________(not going to say it)….or

Write short and long term brand plans in support of Too Much Detail….or,

Write short and long term brand plans in support of Too Much Drama…..or,

Write short and long term brand plans in support of _______ing (not got to say it) My ______(not going to say it).

Anyway, I went ahead and applied for the job.  I hope it is not received like a TMD but in the meantime, I will HMN.

The Horror, The Horror…of Roadkill Breath

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A week or so ago I caught a bit of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel and got a huge laugh when Bear Grylls trapped, skinned, and then proceeded to eat skunk.  I laughed hard at the smell he had to endure and could not begin to imagine the horror of that smell.   A bit of Schadenfreude I suppose.

I had no idea what was soon to beset me.

This weekend I had to opportunity to go see the musical “110 in the Shade.”  A play, that looks at the day in the life of a town suffering through a miserable drought in the early part of last century.   It was a pretty good play, but the smell of skunk Bear Grylls had to endure, had nothing on the waft that beseeched my family as we sat there attempting to enjoy the play.    I have never smelled anything so gag inducing as the road kill breath that periodically drifted into our personal airspace.  It was so bad, that every few moments I found myself gagging and my face contorting to disfigurement that would make Jim Carey proud.  My body was convulsing in obvious distress.  I’m not sure if a pallet of Tic Tacs could have cut the bite of that breath.

I’m sitting there thinking in between convulsions, that roadkill baking in the road in the 110 heat of some hot Texas highway had nothing on that breath.  Then I was wondering if maybe a possum had died, and someone had flung it under my seat.  It was all I could do not to retch and vomit.

We had great seats, but at the first intermission we happily downgraded our seats to get away from that vile smell.   While the first act was certainly breathtaking, the second, undistracted, was far more breathmaking.

Man Up Obama.

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It is my observation that individuals who do not take responsibility, tend to have been in positions in their lives for which little responsibility has been required. 

Blame is something generally heaped on others whereas responsibility is something generally heaped upon oneself.  Blame is about dumping.  Responsibility is about seizing.  Blame is about taking care of oneself.  Responsibility is about taking care of others.  Blame is selfish.  Responsibility is selfless.

I have to say I am getting a bit weary of our President pointing the finger of blame.  Everyone knows that all the problems of America are not his fault.  Even if he didn’t remind us at every bend in the road.

 Do you think the President’s focus on blame is a function of his past?  A past in which he has had to take little responsibility?  

One of the big knocks on him during his campaign was his inexperience and how that might affect his ability to lead.   I think for the President, the first step in his quest to become a great leader is to yank the reins of responsibility.

The job’s not easy.  But didn’t anyone tell him that when he campaigned like a bad assed champion to get it?  When it comes to great leadership nobody cares who caused the problems.  They only care about the person willing to take responsibility, the person who will seize responsibility and get ‘em fixed.

…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”  Luke 12:48 (NIV)

Or if that does not compute, two words: Man Up!

Thoughts on Light Rail. Logical Mr. Spock?

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Not even in a 1960’s sci-fi television show.  Or should I say, “logical Mr. Barack?”

I would be the first person to admit, that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drer; Pancil in the pack; tool in the shaid; brightest bub in the lamp; you get the drift… but I can’t for the life of me figure out this light rail boondoggle I heard about the other night when I was flipping between the State of the Union address and the Hispanic Shopping Channel.

I live in Atlanta, Georgia where we have this little transportation outfit called MARTA which began rail service back in the 1970s; and which I think may still be operating from a 1970s strategic plan.  It is a government operation, and I’m pretty sure it has never been able to pay for itself through pure ridership, advertising, or pay toilets (if they have any). 

Last night, having arrived home from Newark, NJ, I headed to the MARTA station to catch the train home.   I waited 20 minutes in a dark dreary station for it to show up and then leave the station, was ithen nformed that I would have to transfer trains due to a reduced evening schedule, was pan handled on two separate occasions whilst snuggled up with about 100 bedraggled  strangers, and was ultimately deposited in another dreary station.   I was not left scratching my head as to some of the reasons why it is fiscally challenged. 

 I did notice a sign that said they were having a public meeting to solicit ideas on how to address some of their issues, and I could only imagine who might schlep down to their offices for that meeting to help solve all its problems.   My advice, “Go LOOK in the mirror people!” 

The problem with Mr. Obama and his Starfleet Command is their government approach to government.   Don’t you think that if some smart company or investor thought for a minute they could make a buck off of light rail, they wouldn’t have done it already??  Warren Buffet could scratch a check in a heartbeat if thought it was viable and add that to his choo choo collection.

I read that Obama wants to drop $8-$13 Billion to fund high-speed light rail, and I’m thinking for my family of 4 we spend $3,000 per year on a high deductible health plan with an HSA which includes well care.   A little quick math and I’m figuring $8B could cover the health care nut for about  2.6 million families or over 10 million lives.  Now, I’m not proposing the government buy health insurance for 10 million people; there are just better ways to piss away my borrowed tax dollars.

Obama’s government approach to government is kind of like when your mamma gives your kid a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart, and your kid promptly goes and blows it on $100 worth of Yugioh cards.  He then trys to convince you it’s a good investment!  The purchase feels pretty good for about 5 minutes and then the reality of stupidity begins to set in.  The only difference with government is that it can even rationalize reality.

Here’s an idea.  How about a little bit of Un-Government?  Now there’s a little change I could believe in.  If President Obama could grasp that concept, who knows where he could lead this country?  That might even be statue-worthy.  Definitely a cut above and installation at Madame Tussauds.

So what about this light rail thing?  Maybe I am living in a cocoon with my only perspective being a local public transportation system that has given me a jaded perspective.  But I don’t think I’m off by much.   Change?  My butt!  Simply a government approach to government.  Do you smell something funny?