Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fantasy Football - a brief draft history at Paddy's Game Shoppe

We run a couple of Fantasy Football Leagues at the store.  We started the first football season that we were open. There were 10 of us. We were going to run a keeper league, so even this first draft was going to be important.  I went in feeling, well, unprepared. This wasn’t a completely new world for me. I’ve been playing ESPN’s fantasy games for years. The big difference being, none of those games were drafts where we were going to be competing for the same players! In the games I was playing, if everyone wanted Tom Brady for quarterback, you had him.

We had some white boards to write draft picks on. Which lasted about two rounds, and then they were full. Many times someone picked someone, only to find out they had not heard when someone else picked them. These days, we have Commish kits from Big graphs with our team names and logos (yes, we have logos!) and bright, color coded stickers with the players names on them. No more desperately trying to spell Houshmanzadah (?) or even BenJarvius Green-Ellis.  Troy who?? Pala –what-a? Now I just have to remember if he’s a wide receiver (white stickers) or a running back (green) only to sheepishly start digging through the yellow stickers to find him. Who takes a tight end in the 1st round??

Well that year, it was my Uncle Glen, and laugh at his strategy all you want. He took Jeremy Shockey in the first round of the expansion draft. I do have to admit that his next two picks, Tom Brady and Randy Moss, probably had more to do with his winning the championship that year than Jeremy Shockey did. But it stands in the league annals. The guy that took a tight end in the first round, won the championship.

In the six years the league has existed, we’ve never had a repeat championship. Five years, five winners and last year, it was me!  We have both An individual trophy and one that stays at the store. That way past winners have proof for their trash talking at the draft. Which is all part of the fun. The groans and moans and snickers as the draft continues. We actually have two of them. We have a Dynasty league and we have another league. That league has changed format and will be an interesting draft next year. Each person will be deciding how many they are keeping, but it’s only going to be revealed round by round.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out next year.

The end of the year, we have a party and watch the Big Game. You know which one I mean. The one in February, the one that comes with all the new commercials. We have snacks, and play games during the afternoon. We eat pizza and watch the game.  At half times, prizes and trophies are awarded. 

We have a lot of fun during the year. We chat online during the games. We sweat out scoring changes. We prowl the free agents. All for a silver trophy and our name on the plaque.  And the bragging rights. You can’t forget the bragging rights. Did I mention that I won last year?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sorrow and Joy

This has been one heck of a month.  It has had it’s ups and downs, and unfortunately, we are ending it the same way. We started the month with my getting hired for a full time work at home position. That was great! I’ve been unemployed since October and while I love being home with Finn, it was time for me to go back to work. Now I get to work at home, and see him on and off the bus every day!

Then we were burgled, burglarized? I’m not sure of the term. I know it’s not robbed, because we weren’t at the store. I’ve been informed that’s the difference. I’m not really hung up on the term right now. Someone broke in to our store and stole stuff. That’s what really mattered.

We had our Fantasy Football Draft on Saturday. That was a lot of fun. I got to spend the day with several members of my family, while the first draft happened. Then dinner with the family, and then I was in the second draft. I have to say I’m pretty happy with my draft. I was the league champion last year, and I think I had a pretty good draft.

But that was overshadowed by the worst news of the month. Our fellow card store owner, friend, and darn near mentor when we opened, Keven Schafer, was battling pancreatic cancer. We got the news on Friday, he was diagnosed last Monday. On Friday he was in the hospital and they were talking Hospice programs. To say we were stunned is an understatement. How could this be? Kevin encouraged us when we opened our store. He helped us find cases to hold the Magic cards. He helped us get shelves to hold the games. He helped us get a base of common and uncommon cards so that we had something to sell. He was always ready with advice and support. If you know Kevin, you know that came with a smile, a grin and a laugh.

Saturday night at dinner, Uncle Jerry got the call that they were going to take Kevin off life support.

That was it. Monday he was diagnosed, Thursday/Friday he went in to the hospital, and on Saturday, he was gone. I hate cancer. It was about fifteen years ago that my Grandfather H lost to stomach cancer. Five years ago, weeks before we found out I was pregnant, it claimed my father-in-law with colon cancer. Last year it took my cousin. A bright, beautiful, 17 year old young woman with her entire life in front of her. Colon cancer and brain cancer claimed her. I know it’s claimed many others, but those are the ones that stand out right now. And on Saturday, it claimed Kevin Schafer. Let me say it again, I hate cancer.

He was 54 years old. He loved sports. He was the most outgoing and friendly guy you’d ever meet. He remembered people and really seemed to enjoy everything he did.  He is going to be missed by everyone who’s life he touched.

In a month of up’s and downs, the last day of the month will be no different. Late Wednesday afternoon, we will go to open house for Finn’s preschool class. We’ll meet his new teacher, we’ll see his locker, and get excited about riding the bus again. We’ll rejoice as Finn is mainstreamed this year and we’ll anticipate the progress he’ll make this year. Then we’ll go to Kevin’s funeral and mourn the loss of our friend.  So ends August, joy and sorrow, as life should be. We’re just getting a closer look at those moments this month.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

They can afford it

I saw that comment recently. It was in regards to a large company and the feeling was because they were large, it didn't really matter if they lost money, because they could afford it. I've never particularly cared for that attitude. It seems to say that it's okay to take from someone if you think it won't impact their life. I ran into that feeling another time that same week. Only this time it was in regards to me.

Our store was robbed a few weeks ago. I wasn't at home, so I missed out on that 5 am phone call from the police. You know when the phone rings at that time, it's never going to be good. By the time I heard about it, the police had been and gone, the locksmith had been and gone, and everything looked normal.

But normal was gone. We spent time that weekend researching security systems. Don't get me wrong, we did have alarms and a monitoring system. The fact that it works well, the police station is 3 blocks from our store, and well, 5 am is kind of a slow time from them, all worked in our favor. We're fairly certain that it was about 4 minutes from the time the door was broken until the police showed up.

We also have assumed that the reason there was "only" the damage done was because of the quick response. So we looked at security systems, and then had to figure out the best place to put the camera's, so that we can at least have a chance of seeing who it is that cares so little about others they would break in and steal stuff.

There was an outpouring of support from regulars, friends, family and strangers that read about it in the paper. We had at least one person come in to make a purchase because they read about it in the paper. It was a wonderful feeling. and yet....

There is always someone, isn't there? There were a few comments such as, "well you have insurance don't you? so it's not like it really hurt you!" "it's not like you won't get that money back", (actually we won't. but thanks for your concern)

People make assumptions all the time. Some of them I don't understand. Everyone has insurance on their vehicle. They know about deductibles, but somehow they don't think about that with a business. We are out our entire deductible. That's money gone. We'll be able to claim it as a loss on our taxes, but it's not like we don't have to cover that expense. The product that was taken was already paid for, and we have to pay again to replace it. That's a big expense for a business. Your expenses are based on what you assume you're going to sell. To have to repurchase without selling throws that budget out of whack. Most small businesses don't have a huge cash flow. Money goes out just as fast as it comes in!

So we were out product, which means cash off the bottom line. We had to buy a security system and I'll answer another question here, this isn't something available for less than $100. We're not installing a web cam on a shelf. This is a serious system, but you can see for yourself at Sam's Club, they run from $250 - $1500. We had to get product on the shelf. The product that was stolen is the driving force of our sales. It's the reason a lot of people come in to the store. Not having product is the quickest way to drive people away. We needed it today. So that meant a trip to another store to purchase what they could share, and an emergency shipment from the distributor, with it's attendant costs.

Then we can add in the time. The 7 hours before we opened that day with no locking door before the locksmith got there. The hours we've spent with the police officers working on the case. I can only imagine what kind of time will be involved when they catch the person responsible.

And the other cost. The feeling of violation, the broken trust, someone that knew us, and knew the product (based on what they took, they knew exactly what they were doing) felt it was perfectly fine to take from us. The store isn't a hobby for us. It's profit isn't strictly for our entertainment. That profit pays our mortgage, it puts food on the table, and a couple of times a year, it's able to pay for some form of entertainment. We've lost those for a while.

I think people have an odd idea of how much money a business makes. I know I've encountered it before, we've had people ask what a good day was, asking if $75,000-80,000 was typical. I wanted to fall out of my chair in hysterics. I'll let you in a a little secret: a good day is less than 2% of that. Plus there is the minor detail that what comes in is not all profit. There are a lot of expenses that come out of that, and most days are not even "good" days. We don't expect them to be, it's not reasonable to think that all days are going to be high selling days.

So for us to lose most of a month's profit, yeah, it hurts. To have that denigrated because losing it means that we have to give up things, that hurts. I don't really expect people to "poor baby" us, but don't denigrate our loss. That's rude and frankly, a bit condescending. The sad part is those few rude comments stick around longer than the nice comments, and there are far more of them.

When I hear someone say, "they can afford the loss, they make enough" I wonder how much the speaker really understands what a loss can mean.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lazy Summer Days

I've always wondered exactly what is meant by that. The day's don't seem lazy to me, they simply fly by! My guess is that it's more about how people feel, or how they think that they should feel. I know that I"m not overly ambitious. My days are rather relaxed. I do laundry, I do dishes, or rather, Finn and I do them. We pick up toys. We eat peanut butter sandwiches, we lay under the apple tree and look at clouds. I have to admit, that part is simply amazing. There is nothing in the world that beats laying on fresh mown grass, eating peanut butter sandwiches, drinking cold lemonade and pointing out clouds with your child. It is everything I think Lazy Summer Days are supposed to mean. There is a peace and contentment in that moment that, to me, defines perfection.

Oh I know that there are more dishes to do, the dryer is probably done, the bushes in the front of the house need to be cut, the driveway has weeds that need to be pulled and I know the floor needs to be swept. I have several stories that are lingering, I can't count the sewing projects that need finishing. But right now, the clouds are moving, the shapes are changing and it's going to end far too soon.

Somehow, I don't think it's going to be the same when Finn no longer wants to lay there with me and watch the clouds. I can't hold on to these Lazy Summer Days, they are slipping between my fingers and there is nothing I can do to keep them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Monday was a day of reminscing for me. It was also Faolan's 4th birthday. Throughout the day my thoughts kept drifting back 4 years to the day he was born. "They've started Pitocin", "Mom and Dad are here now," "I'm trying the shower thing," etc. All day my mind was half way between what was going on at home and what was happening 4 years previously. It was a quiet day at home, we had his friends party on Saturday and family party on Sunday. I kept looking at this busy boy and just enjoying his every existance.

It started a long time ago. 1989 to be precise. We carefully discussed it, and began trying for our family. A few months in we got a positive on a home test. Which turned out to either be a chemical pregnancy, or a false positive. It was heartbreaking, but we persisted. We started infertility treatments in 1990-1991. The stress mounted and we finally decided to take a break. Life went on, and around 1997 we decided to try again. More testing, more consultations, more specialists and more negative tests. We ended up at the point where we were running out of funds and the next steps were the ones that lead to higher order multiples (more than 3.) For a variety of reasons, we decided to stop treatments again.

Life moves on, and over the years it was a constant thought in the back of my mind. The ache of wanting our own child never went away. I won't drag you through the dark times of infertility, but they were there. Several things happened, and in 2005, I decided it was enough. My 2006 New Years Resolution was to let it go. We had a new business and a good life. It was time to stop mourning about what wasn't going to be, and get on with life. I did so many things for myself and our marriage that year. I ate better, a lot better and my system normalized. I was thrilled. I spent more time with Gino, we threw ourselves in to our store. I started bellydancing tapes with a friend.

Then in October things got a bit crazy. We started the month with a friends wedding. About a week or so later another friend had a baby (I've been back up labor coach for all three children, and we were both really surprised when I almost passed out when she got her epidural) the following week my maternal Grandmother's brother and her sister passed away within 24 hours of each other. A trip out of town for two funerals on two days, sleeping on a friends couch. I came home to find out that my Dad's Aunt and one of his cousins had both passed away. October wasn't done with us yet though, and the following week we got a phone call that Gino's dad was in the hospital and wasn't doing well. We spent the last 10 days of October and the first week of November traveling back and forth between St Cloud and Grand Rapids. It was a lot of time in the car, and a lot of fast food. I was disappointed in myself, but felt it was understandable when my system was once again out of whack. I was exhausted, and spent much of November going to bed early and fighting to stay awake at work. In early December I ended up with a case of stomach flu that would not go away. But I also had symptoms that things were returning to normal. I did get a bit frustrated as there was a lump in my stomach that made it uncomfortable to sleep in my favorite position, and I was getting up to go to the bathroom all night long.

You know throughout the past 17 years, I've gotten to be an expert in home pregnancy tests. I got to see the technology change. I used them several times a year. Every few months I'd start to think, well maybe.....I could manufacture symptoms at the drop of a hat. So I'd go buy a test, take it, and sit and stare at the test strip. Watching as it did absolutely nothing. 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, all the way through the 10 minutes that they say not to read the test after. They were all an unrelenting blank test. Every time. But they generally resulted in a kick start to my system.

So in the middle of December on one of my trips to the store, I picked up a test. Between my regular job and the store, I didn't have a lot of free time, so I decided to take it at the store. In my rush I thought that I had used the test incorrectly and threw it away without even looking at it. I didn't need ot look really, I knew what a negative test looked like. Nothing happened over the next week, except I kept getting up to go to the bathroom, the lump didn't go away, and I kept getting sick two to three afternoons a week. Generally after I ate Chinese food. To be honest, I blamed it on the restaurant. On one memorable occassion, I threw up three times in the car on the way back to work. It's about 4 blocks. I went home and slept all afternoon. Came back to work and just about thew up when I was drinking my coffee. So late that week, Thursday, I was with friends finishing up my Christmas shopping and I decided that I was going to get another test. It would straighten my head out and my body would settle down.

I went home, went upstairs and used the test. I washed my hands and glanced at it to make sure that the test was working. To my utter shock, not only was the test strip showing, but in the results window was a plus sign. When I say shock, we think I mean it literally. When I got downstairs with the stick my hands were shaking, I was white and cold. Gino knew something was up and asked, all I could do was hand him the stick. He smiled and it was the most amazing and fragile feeling. We'd had a false positive before. So he asked what I wanted to do, and then we went to the store and bought another test. I bought the name brand, not the store brand this time. It was a bit more expensive, but I figured a second brand was a smart move. Again I go upstairs, test, and watch the plus sign appear. I'm ecstatic and terrified as I tell Gino that yes, this one is positive too. We sit on the couch talking for a couple of hours and agree that I'll go in to the doctor to confirm it in the morning. We tried to sleep, but I gave up at about 3:00 a.m.  I spent the night on the couch alternating between reading and staring in to space. At one point I decided that really, I was being foolish. It was more likely that they had stored the tests wrong at the store and every test was going to be a positive than my being pregnant. I considered going to a differant store. Only the fact that we were parked in by friends kept me at home.

My boss still laughs and wishes she had a camera for when I came in. I told her what we thought and she asked why I wasn't at the doctor. They weren't open yet, so I had to wait until 8:00 so that I could call. The scheduling lady was very nice, "how can I help you?" "I'd like to come in for a pregnancy test" "is there a reason you suspect that you might be pregnant?" "I took two tests last night and they both came back positive." laughter, "you don't need to come in, you're pregnant" "We've been trying for 17 years and I've had a false positive before, I need to know." "You come right in, we'll get you in." So I did. I went and peed in a cup. "you can go home and the doctor will call with the results." "No, I'm going to wait in the waiting room." "Ok, we'll call you back when we have the results." I go out to the waiting room and barely sit down. "Dawn?" See, I knew it. It couldn't be true, the nurse leads me back. I fully expect to stop just after we pass reception, it's the way it's always done when I go to the doctor for a pregnancy test. She doesn't stop, instead leading me down the hall to some kind of a room. There is a refrigerator there, maybe it's the nurses break room? I think that they've found something else wrong, as if they were testing for something else. "Your tests result came back positive, you are pregnant."

Tears pour down my face as I sink in to a chair. The nurse is concerned as she reaches for kleenex, "is this bad news?" I look up at her in a daze, "we've been trying for 17 years!!" She uses the kleenex for herself, "I love it when I get to give news like this! It's going to make my family's Christmas!" Her family's Christmas! Holy Mackeral, I'm going to get to give my family the best Christmas present ever! Once we are both done crying she asks me if I'd like to schedule my appointments and do the bloodwork now rather than scheduling a separate appointment. Would I? I've been waiting so incredibly long for this. I want it all. I'm an absolute mess as the technician is drawing my blood. She's excited for us as well, "I did your pregnancy test! I've never seen one turn positive so fast." By the time I've gotten up to the scheduler, the entire office knew what was going on. I can't get in to see the doctor until almost the 10th of January, but I can schedule our orientation class. Just before I leave the nurse that told me I was pregnant hands me a peice of paper. "We don't normally do this, but here's a copy of your lab test, I thought in your case, you might need to actually see it later." Oh, she was right. I left the office clutching handfuls of paper, but that lab test was taken out and stared at many times over the next 10 days. "pregnancy test - positive" some of the most beautiful words I had ever seen.

To this day I'm not sure how I drove back to the store. I called my boss and said I wasn't coming back that day. It was the Friday before Christmas and I only work 1/2 days on Friday anyways. By the time I had all the bloodwork done and appointments set, it was almost 11. She was completely understanding and I headed for Gino. It was the most amazing weekend. We called his family, but we were spending Christmas with mine, so I wanted to tell them in person. I went shopping and got a Christmas card "To Grandma and Grandpa" an "What to Expect when You're Expecting" and baby hangers. It seemed a safe enough baby purchase, not too pushy about what kind of expectations we had, and I had no clue what I wanted for a nursery.

The two days from Friday until Sunday (Christmas Eve) were nerve-wracking. I wanted to call my mom, I wanted to drive over, I just wanted to tell! It was everything I wanted it to be, my mom excited, my siblings excited, me crying. We spent the evening calling people to tell them our news. My mom even managed to show up at Christmas morning with baby gifts.

The days until our appointment drug by. I had my doubts every single day. When the doctor's office called with a problem with our bloodwork I was positive that it was a mistake, she was calling to let me know I wasn't really pregnant. She told me that my blood sugars were high and asked if I had eaten or been under any stress that day. I really can't tell you if I ate or not, but I sure was stressed. She said that was probably the issue and she laughed when I asked her if I was still pregnant. That blood test was a sign of things to come. I had gestational diabetes, and I had a pretty strong case. But I was still pregnant. When we got to our appointment and heard the heartbeat, it was amazing. More tears. Dr. Pinkerton did the exam, and then said, "I think we need an ultrasound. There is no way you are only 12 weeks and we need to see how many appointments to schedule" So off we went to the waiting room. We were finally called back and they said that because I hadn't been told to come in with a full bladder, they weren't sure if they'd be able to do an external, but they'd try that first. The put the gel on my stomach, and then the wand, and the tech said, "well! there's your baby." There he was, looking just like a baby, we could see head, arms, legs, feet, hands, I thought I may have seen more, but she didn't linger. She did measurement after measurement and the answer came up, 15 weeks 5 days. I was already out of the first trimester!

Because of complications, it was less than 6 months from the positive tests at home until the day we were holding Faolan in our arms. Life hasn't slowed down either. Every day I see him change and grow. We're more busy than we ever thought that we would be, and we're loving it, every day! My guess is that I'll think of those days every year on his birthday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mommies Funding Research

Have you heard the phrase “it’s just the internet” or “It’s not like it’s real people” or “what do I care about someone that lives in my computer.” I can only shake my head at this comment. Are you a real person? Do you live in a computer? Where do you think the other mesages come from? In case you’re stumped, let me help you out. It’s a real person, they don’t live in the computer. They have family and friends, they have bills and responsibilities. They have feelings. Those feelings can be hurt. More importantly, those people can be your real friends too.

You may have heard me talk about Babycenter. Maybe more than once! Babycenter is a website owned by Johnson and Johnson. I stumbled on them in the early days of our surprise pregnancy. They have tons of information not only about pregnancy, but about babies as well. But for me, the appeal to BabyCenter is the Community (BBC.) Thousands of people gathering together to discuss everything from trying to concieve, sharing throughout pregnancy and into parenting, and beyond that as well. If there is a topic you like to discuss, BBC has a group that discusses it.

I  found several groups that fit, and found a “home” in the group called July 07. As you may guess, it was for women that were due in July of 2007. Finn’s first due date was actually 7/27, before it was moved to 7/2. By the time we found out we would most likely have a June baby, I had made friends with so many of the women on the board, I didn’t want to start over with June.

We shared a lot on that board. Our hopes, fears, parenting questions, pictures of our bellies, concerns about our doctors, fears of labor for us first-timers. We fought, sometimes bitterly. I’ll jump ahead and let you know that some of those that fought constantly are good friends now. Then we started having babies. The first one that I remember was Kennedy. She was born in mid-March. We checked the boards for updates often, and we all wept when Kennedy’s mom let us know that there would be no more updates. Kennedy is still thought of often, and I hope her momma knows that she’s remembered. There were more losses and then we started to get more survival stories. And in mid-June, I joined the list of happy stories.

By late July we still had a few babies that hadn’t arrived and us early ones were on our six-week check-ups and getting ready to go back to work. One of our mommies, Monica, came back from her check-up with devastating news. Her adorable son, Sawyer, was having issues. The doctor wanted to do more tests, and in late August,  July 07 learned about SMA, Spinal Muscular Atropy. It’s a terminal diagnosis. Information searches checked everywhere and information and love flowed to Monica and Sawyer. We all watched helplessly as Sawyer struggled and we wept with Monica in October, when the SMA became too much.

A year later, Claire recieved news that her little girl, Hannah, also had a serious condition. Hannah had MPS, mucopolysaccharidosis. There is no cure, although there were treatments. Claire and Hannah spent the next six months in the hospital. Once again July 07 rallied with emotional support and even some gift cards to make meals easier for them while they were so far from home. Christmas was sober for July 07 and heartbreaking for Hannah’s family and shortly after Christmas, Hannah’s family made the difficult choice to stop fighting.

It left all of us aching to do something. Something more than the cards,flowers, people attending her memorial service. More than wearing ribbons and remembering Hannah and Sawyer. We loved those babies and their momma’s and we were unable to sit and do nothing.

So we are. We’re doing something every single year. We call it “Mommies Funding Research.” Here’s our page:  Every year from June 29th – July 7th (Sawyer and Hannah’s birthdates) we hold an auction. We donate items and choose which disease the proceeds go to. Pictures are put up and bids are placed. When it’s over on July 7th, the highest bidders send their donations directly to the linked organization for their item.  When we know that it’s been recieved there, we send out the item to the winning bidder. It’s a simple process but we’re proud that we’re doing something. We want to do more, we want more people donating and more people bidding. Please check out our blog, and if you can, when the auction starts, bid on an item!

These are not imaginary friends, they do not live in my computer and they have suffered the worst pain a parent can feel. When you start to think that the internet is “just the internet", think about Hannah and Claire, Sawyer and Monica, we do.

Friday, April 22, 2011

School Bullies

Last week two thirteen year olds in my state killed themselves. Details are still sketchy, but it is known that one of the girls was expelled recently for fighting. It appears that she was fighting someone that was bullying her friend. The tragic part? These two young girls are not remotely the first to commit suicide over bullying.

It's hard to really get a handle on this issue. What is teasing to one person is bullying to another. When I was in school they were referred to as "the mean girls", but they were also the "popular" or "in" crowd. We tell our kids over and over to remember that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Frankly, I think that's a load of, well. you know. I'm betting that any parent that's told that to their kids know's it too. Words hurt. They hurt a lot. If they didn't, we wouldn't have words that aren't acceptable to use. I'm not going to list them, you know what they are. If we can acknowledge that those words hurt, then why in the world would we say that others don't? Sometimes it's not even the words themself, but the fact that other people feel that they have the right to say something. The very act of mocking someone sets them apart as less than others.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We are social creatures. Bullying someone sets them outside of the social circle, if they are already there, even better because it's easier excused in the minds of the bully. They aren't one of us, so they don't really matter. The victim knows it as well, and so does everyone around. It's a violent act that separates us. Ostracism from the group opens the victim up to more bullying. It's rarely the person surrounded by friends that's a victim of bullying.

One common excuse? justification? is that the person who is being mean is doing so to make themself feel better. Is that supposed to make the victim feel better? Oh, well, they just humiliated me in front of the class, but it's ok because they are hurting too.

I'm not that generous. I feel bad that anyone may hurt that bad, but I don't excuse their behavior. I do sometimes grant a bit of grace if it's a one time thing, and I can understand when the circle of friends doesn't step up. That is really hard to do in school. After all, it takes you out of the safety of the group, and possibly puts a target on you as the next victim. But when it's habitual, I have no patience for it. It's hard to say how much of my opinion is based on my own experiences. I think it's suprising if someone gets through school and isn't either a victim of it, or one who does it. I'd like to think that I never did it to someone else, but I know that once or twice the mean words hurt bad enough that I lashed out. I regret that a lot, because I know that it didn't really accomplish anything. I didn't really feel better after, and I managed to hurt someone else.

Now it was never bad enough that I seriously considered killing myself, but I did consider dropping out of school. My mom was willing to let me take a year off or go finish school with relatives. In the end I decided it wasn't worth leaving the friends I did have. I really made a choice to ignore the ones that seemed to enjoy being mean. I had a great senior high experience and I'm still friends with those girls.

It's been 26 years since high school. That's a long time, but I can still remember how it felt to open my locker, or come back to my desk and find a nasty note left there, knowing people were watching and waiting to see what my reaction would be. It's a feeling that will probably never completely go away. What I wonder now is do those girls remember it as well? Do they regret it? What will they teach their children about bullying? Do they even have a clue how badly they hurt others? Frankly, I hope that they didn't. Because I think it would be worse if they knew what they were doing and kept doing it.

Parents of the victims are outraged that it happens, parents of the bullies are indignant and insist that their child did nothing wrong, school administration is caught in multiple cases of "he said, she said" and what happens is a child snaps and either phsyically lashes out and attacks their bully, or they decide that it's simply not worth getting up in the morning to go face it again. Society wonders how this happens. The mom's on message boards discuss it every time it's in the news. Discussion threads like "how many kids have to die before we do something" "Has your child been bullied" "Is your child a bully" crop up and long discussions about how to handle it from either side occur. Which is great, but the next week those same moms are LOL'ing and ROFL'ing and OMG'ing over a picture from a site like peopleofwalmart.

If you aren't familiar with this site, the entire purpose is to take pictures of people in Walmart and then post them online so that millions of people may make fun of them. Someone today told me that if you go out in public dressed like that, you deserve to be made fun of. Really? So because someone may not have a lot of choices in clothing, but yet they need to get groceries, it's perfectly acceptable to mock them. It may not be bullying in that the person may never know that they've been photographed and put online, but what are you teaching your kids? I'll put this out there, you're teaching them that it's perfectly reasonable to make fun of others. There are all kinds of sites that are similar, sites that do nothing but look for people and trash them. As long as we go to these sites, contribute to them, or laugh at them, we teach our kids that there is nothing wrong with bullying.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hockey again??

So it appears that I missed out when I decided against going to the hockey game two weeks ago.So this weeks comments come from what was relayed to me by my husband. He thought it was pretty funny that this happens on a night I'm not there! A different family was in the seats behind us. Our team scores! Hurrah! Sieve! You Suck! Sieve! You Suck! the chant goes up, you know how I feel about this. The dad behind us stops his son. "We don't say that." "but everyone else is!" the child, about 10 years old replies. Dad looks at him, "just because other people are doing it, doesn't make it right." Thank you Dad!!!! It's so hard to fight things when it seems to be so acceptable to so many.

The game goes on. Late in the game there is a long play of our team fighting for the puck, the forwards are giving everything to keep the puck away, the defense is tying up their defense, and between them, they manage to force their way through enemy lines and working together they put the puck past the goalie. "Hurrah! Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!" Our friend Scott turns to my husband and says, you know what? I don't think I can chant Sieve any more. Because that completely negates any skill and work that the guys scoring just did, and they were brilliant, but chanting Sieve makes it seem that it wasn't anything that they did, it was just that their goalie is incompetent, and that's not what happened. Wow! a new viewpoint and I love it. I am thinking about this a lot. It has nothing to do with whether Sieve is a slur against the goalie, and everything to do with what part do you celebrate? the hard work and skill of the players that beat the goalie, or the mistake the goalie made? Which one do I think deserves the "reward" of crowd response?

Sadly hockey season is coming to an end. The WCHA Final Five (you know, the playoffs that now contain 6 teams?? and 6 games??) will be held next weekend. Neither one of us will be attending for the first time in about 10 years. Gino will be at GAMA and I'll be working the store. Hopefully we'll have some cool information from there to update the web site with. I'll need to find new inspiration for my blog! hmm, baseball is right around the corner, maybe we can start with Justin Morneau and Concussions?

Monday, January 31, 2011

More on the words we use

I have a lot on this thought, so here's another post. Several things happened in the past week that had me thinking again, on the words we use.

This past weekend was hockey again. Yes, they were chanting "You Suck" again. I guess the upside of our team's pathetic performance was we didn't score all that often, so we didn't hear it all that often! I read during the games. I like to do it. I watch the game, I read during intermission, and since the game sucked so badly on Saturday, I freely admit I read during the 2nd and 3rd period as well. But I'm not unaware of what's going on around me. It was a sea of black and cardinal, our schools colors, the Husky logo was everywhere. Then there was a smattering of the purple and white of the opponent. It's nothing like when we play either NDSU or the University of Minnesota. When those teams are in town, there are big blocks of Green/White and Maroon/Gold. The cheerleaders led us in chants of the school name, S - C - S - U! The crowd roars in approval. The entire focus is to divide us in to Us and Them. We shout that we're Number One, they yell back.

It's all justified as all in good fun. It's just a way to get the crowd in to the game. But it's more, it's an identity. I'm a Vikings fan, a Twins fan, a Wild fan. Team colors, mascots, uniform designs are all copyrighted, they are carefully crafted and they are sold to fans to give them a group identity. Much the same way that I have a state identity. Which does seem to be quite similar to a sports team. There are state birds, fish, trees, flowers and even in MN a state muffin (Loon, Northern Pike, Norway Pine, Ladyslipper, and Blueberry.) All done to cement my identity as a Minnesotan. As opposed to an Iowan, or Wisconsinite. Then we have a national flag, national anthem, national bird, all to make sure that we know that we are different from Canadians and Mexicans, and anyone else on the globe.

I'm going to wander for a bit. Last weekend we decided to get out of the house. Because it's January in Minnesota, it's cold and snowy. A trip to the MN Zoo seemed perfect. That Tropics trail sounded like a small slice of ammonia scented heaven. The trip had it's usual moments of pure excitement that only a 3 year old can generate, long discussions that they were raccoons argued by the three year old, "uhuh, coons. oooh, look! kitty!" It also had a few moments of tears and too many people. On the way out we stopped at the gift shop. One of the items we picked up was a book. It's all about animals, not that big of a shock I would imagine. What it includes is the name of the animals as a group. My guess is you know a lot of them. Pride of lions, Band of gorilla's. I learned that crocodiles are a Float, and hippo's are a Bloat, which made me giggle and seemed appropriate. Parade of elephants, the manatee (see cow) is a Herd. Some of my absolute favorites: Sleuth of panda's, Wake of vultures, not to be outdone by the Murder of Crows, but my favorite of the new information was the Ambush of tigers.

How does it relate? Well it seems to me that each animal has a unifying name for a collection of it's members. One name that means a collection. As humans, I can barely count the names of the collections I'm part of. Family, co-worker, classmate, teammate, spectator, but they are all names for a role I'm taking, not simply for a collection of humans. If I go broader, I'm Minnesotan, I'm a citizen of the United States, I'm a member of July 07 (Babycenter again). But again, that's a role I'm taking. Not just a name for humans. We spend so much time and trouble to make sure we divide ourselves and identify with something outside of being human. It's no wonder that we don't identify with others, we toss it off with a casual, well you're not Minnesota, you don't understand what we deal with in the winter. You're Canadian, you can't possibly understand why this policy is so divisive. I'm dead certain that if we were to ever encounter a non-terran, we'd respond, well you can't possibly understand what we go through living 8 light minutes from Sol!

If we can come up with a name that just means a random group of humans, maybe we can start seeing that there are more things similar as humans than different. I'm not trying for some rose-colored, or color-blind glasses, but something that ties us all together. We need a cool name, something where we can all be on the same side. Let me know what you've got.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thank You So Much

I freely admit this came to me from a thread on Babycenter Debate Team. Someone asked what stupid little things annoy you. I had a few to list that day and I realized I had more to say about one of my peeves than was warranted on what was meant to be a light hearted thread. So you get to hear all about it!

BBC (BabyCenterCommunity) has a Debate Team, where all kinds of parenting issues are discussed. Breastfeeding/Formula, Circumcision/Non-Circumcision, Potty Training, Harnesses, Car Seat's, Vaccinations, if it relates to Parenting, it comes up on Debate Team. Along with a host of other topics, but this peeve is on parenting. Actually it's on those parents that feel the need to criticize other parents. They always are careful to say, "It's just my opinion" and "I would never say something to them!" But they feel comfortable judging them. There are two main camps in these discussions. Those that feel parents that don't do as they do, that don't have perfect obedient children are lazy bums, and those that feel it's not their child, it's not their business, especially as they have learned parents have reasons for what they do. Inevitably in the course of debating the topic it will be said, that "well of course, this doesn't apply to children with special needs/medical issues."

My first thought is, my that's awfully big of you. So generous to grant those of us that have made a decision about our child an exemption from your disdain of our choice as long as we have a medical reason, or a child with special needs. Because that's just what I need from you. Yes, I am raising a child with special needs. That's a hard thing to say on a good day. The best I can do right now is hope that he makes the progress they tell us he could. On bad days, it's a self-accusation. So your so gracious excusing of me for not being a lazy parent is really not that generous. I don't need you to make excuses for my son.

My second thought is to wonder just how these people know that the child in question has special needs. Say you see a child that looks to be 4 years old in a harness, what's your thought? According to one camp on Debate Team, you are nothing more than a lazy parent that can't be bothered to teach your child to walk with you. The other camp smiles and says, "wait until you have a runner." And someone says, "well it's OK for kids with special needs." That's a great sentiment, but it's not like you can look at the child in question and know for certain they have special needs. So many special needs aren't visible. Sensory issues, autism, dyspraxia, cognitive delays, they all affect what choices a parent may make, but they aren't stamped on a child's forehead.

So why do people assume that the parent is lazy? Do they make themselves feel better by knowing that no matter what they do, it can't be lazy parenting because their child doesn't use a harness, a stroller, a pacifier, is potty trained..... The world must be a sad place for that kind of parent. They look around and see nothing but lazy parents, or bad parents. Why not take that oh so generous medical exemption one step further? Why not assume that every parent has made the decision that they feel best for their child and that they have thought it out and have an actual reason?

Think about what the world would look like then! Everywhere you look, no matter what you are seeing, it's full of parents that love their children, care about them and for them, and have taken the time to make the decision that they feel best allows their child to thrive. I may have on rose colored glasses, but I choose my world, the one where every parent is doing the best that they can over the one where every parent but me is lazy. The next time you see a child that you think is too old to be riding in a stroller, or wearing diapers, which world are you going to choose?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Worst Day of the Year

According to some sources, today is the worst day of the year. Not because there is something wrong with today, but a bunch of things are going to combine for people to make it feel bad. (This also has nothing to do with Martin Luther King day!) The holidays are over, we've now had two weeks back to work, of course, a lot of people have today off. We don't, the store is open as normal. We close for very few days. Today should actually be busy for us, as there is no school. The credit card bills for December have arrived, and most people that started the New Year with resolutions for how this year will be differant, have failed in some way, the majority of them completely giving up because of their failure.

So I'm checking in with you about mine.

Healthy Living: well the exercise Wii thing hasn't been happening. However, I have thrown on the snow gear, put Finn on a sled and gone for a walk or two. I have to admit getting us both out the door is a project in itself. Finding wool socks for me and worrying if a single pair of socks is enough for Finn, because he doesn't have any wool socks. Check the weather channel, what's the wind chill? Is one pair of jeans enough? do we need long underwear? t-shirt, sweatshirt? turtleneck? ok, snowpants on, boots on, hmm, maybe I better change him, boots off, sweatpants off, change a diaper, snowpants on, boots on. Finn has by now lost any interest in the process, and is reaching for trains or trucks. Wrestle him in to his coat. stamp in to my boots, grab my coat, hat for each, mittens for him, mittens for me, do we need scarves? Finally we open the door, dig the sled out and make it safely down the steps. Finn on to the sled and off we go. Hopefully the sidewalks are not completely cleared because the sled is a lot easier to pull when there is snow under it! Off to the park, two blocks north and 1 block west, and a large intersection later, we are at the park. With half the walks cleared and huge drifts blocking our way to the play structures. But we fight through, Finn sometimes needing to be lifted out of a drift that he got stuck in. To find ice coated play structures more suited to skates than boots, but we gamely keep searching for one we can play on without falling. 30 minutes later, we are exhausted, we are boiling hot inside our coats, and ready to reverse the trip back home. Finn sometimes walks, sometimes "helps" pull he sled. An hour after spending 20 minutes getting ready, we are back home and reversing the process, Finn tries to take his snowpants off without taking off his boots, I search for the wet mittens to make sure they are hung to dry and we shed clothes across the kitchen. Our cheeks are bright red and cold, our toes are burning and we are full of fresh cold air, and I think longingly of summer, "do you want to go outside?" Open the door and walk out. so much simpler, but not quite as invigorating. I think getting ready qualifies as a workout, so it's two workouts in one day when we get ready to be out, and then actually spend time out there!

Clutter: I've hauled out several bags of garbage. I'ce sorted through a couple of bookshelfs for the first time, I have a couple of boxes that are either going to my family to see if they want to read them, and others going to the used bookstore. I found a couple that need to go back to their owners as well! I really need to step that project up, as the bookshelves are in the room that we are making in to Finn's big boy room. I'm really working hard on keeping the kitchen clean, once I have that as a habit, I'll add the living room. That's my biggest "public" problem area.

Relationships: My mom and sisters decided that we need to spend more time together. So each month we are having Girls Day Out. We had our first one yesterday, success for January!! We helped Mom get some pictures hung back up, and then we went shopping. Clearance racks are phenomenal. Then dinner together at Applebees. It was a great day with a lot of laughter and we decided next month's date and event. We're going to be lazy next month and curl up on couches and watch Audrey Hepburn movies. We also are kind of incorporating a book club, with each of us sharing favorites. Mom and Ashlee are going to read Good Omens, I may have to find a copy and refresh my memory as well! I'm bringing the Odd Thomas series for them for next month, and Rhonda sent home a new fantasy series for me to try. I'll be getting the Steig Larsson books next. My family are readers, so this should be a lot of fun. Gino switched shifts with our employee and he now has Friday's off. We are going to try and re-establish connections with some friends that have been hard to maintain with working at the store so often.

All in all, I can't say that it's a bad day. I feel like while I haven't made the progress I'd like to on all my resolutions, I'm making progress. I'm ok with that, and the trick is to keep going despite having failures or missteps.

And to keep it timeley, my favorite essay by Dr King was about conscientious objections. He reminded people that you can't freely break the law. You have to do it knowingly, lovingly and accepting of the consequences. It is only then that you would be able to show how it was wrong. It isn't just not following the law because you don't agree, it's using that law to show how unfair it is. Working within the law takes longer, it's not glamorous, it's not exciting, but it is lasting, it leads to true change and better laws for everyone. A much more reasonable approach then opening fire at your local supermarket and recklessly injuring people.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


One day I'm going to find some. When that day comes, I'm going to turn to the man that sits behind us and ask him a question. He and his son are season ticket holders like we are. Generally well behaved, so that's not my issue. If you're familiar with hockey, when a goal is scored, traditionally the crowd chants, "Sieve, Sieve, Sieve!" Our school has added a lovely follow up, which this man and his young son gleefully participates in. The chant at our local college goes, "Sieve, You Suck; Sieve, You Suck" Now I'm not upset with the Sieve, this is a long standing tradition in hockey, but You Suck? When did this become acceptable? So I want to ask the man behind me, "do you also teach him to chant You Suck when Mom drops a plate? or when his friend gets an answer wrong in class?"To be fair, he's far from the only father/mother cheering this way. The family that sits in front of us is an anomaly though, in that they don't participate.

Whenever I discuss this with the Debate Team (Babycenter), the common thread is that I'm alone in wondering why this behavior is acceptable, after all, it's a sporting event, and that's normal behavior. Normal? well in that it seems to be happening quite often, and in many places sure it's normal. But acceptable? why? when did we forget that those players are people? When did we forget that spectators are subject to the same rules of sportsmanship as the players. To the point where the team can be penalized for the crowd's behavior.

Merriam-Webster defines sportsmanship as follows: conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

Can anyone tell me at what point "You Suck" became a sign of respect for one's opponent? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

To be fair, it's not the worst thing I've heard at a hockey game, it's quite a ways from the worst. But it's organized, it's participated in mindlessly by many that I think aren't even paying attention to what they are saying. Children are encouraged to participate and I wonder. I wonder how many of these parents that point their arms and cheerfully yell "Sieve, You Suck" would be shocked if at the local spelling bee a child misspelled a word and their child stood up and yelled, "You Suck!" After all, they've been taught that it's fair game if someone makes a mistake in public to deride them.

What about the first part of the chant? Isn't that derogatory? I don't think so. It's a generic term, anyone can be a sieve, it's simply the process of letting something through a small hole. "You Suck" is a statement of opinion about a specific person. That's what the You does, it points out that one person, the goalie in this case. It singles them out for ridicule.  That's what I just can't wrap my head around. Why we accept this. Why do I sit there game after game, thankful that my son is too young to be in the arena and absorbing this, thinking that it's acceptable behavior. Mom and Dad are the odd ones, because everyone else is saying it, it can't be that bad. Why do we, as a society, seem to feel that anti-social behavior should be accepted because it's a hockey game (or a football game, or a baseball game, or a whatever?)

Or am I wrong? Do we need this time to be rude to someone, a faceless enemy, dressed in the oppositions colors, known mainly by the number on the jersey or the position he plays? We can yell "You Suck" at him with impunity, so that on Monday when our co-workers gets up in front of the Board of Directors and completely blows the presentation of the project you've been working on for two months, you don't stand up and yell "You Suck!" Which we can't do because it's rude, boorish, and well unsportsmanlike for a start.

This won't be my last post on this subject. The power of the words we use every day, and our own behavior.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Under Construction:

Both my blog, and myself! Please bear with me as I figure out just what I want the site to look like. It's part of the construction project of myself as well. Every year I make a resolution to get healthier. Remind me to let you know how that worked out for me in 2006. This year, I'm holding myself accountable by putting it out there for everyone to see. I'm hoping to lose weight, develop some stamina, and declutter my house. If I could find a way to fulfill my financial obligations to our family while staying home, that would be the icing on my cake. Uhm, my fat free-sugar free-low-calorie cake that is.

So how do I get started? Diet and exercise are the logical culprits. I've bought The Biggest Loser Wii game, and my goal is 3 times a week. Yeah, I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but I want a goal I can reach. That's my January goal. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit, so that's what I'm going for. Then I'll work on adding a day! By summer, it should be a daily thing. Of course by summer, it will be warm enough to get my bike out, and then we'll have to have the discussion about a bike trailer, or a tandem add-on bike for Finn.

Diet is the next step. If I was hard-core, I'd go through the cupboard and get rid of everything that isn't healthy food, and anything that is processed. That's not going to happen. For one thing, I can't afford to replace it all at once. Instead what I did was I picked up a box of whole wheat pasta this week, and the only canned veggies were the beets that I bought because Finn likes them. I also grabbed a tub of couscous instead of the boxed mix and my cart was full of raw veggies. I'm just going to use what's in the pantry and replace with better options as I go. Luckily the grocery store is close enough that once I'm feeling in better shape, and frankly once I feel like I'm not going to break an ankle walking, that will add to my exercise. I can walk to the store for fresh groceries. I kind of feel a wagon in our future as well.