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.