nesting * geeking * critiquing

Posts tagged “rant

Fired Up About Fireworks

I am tremendously grateful to live in the greatest country in the world. Multitudes of brave men and women have died over the course of our history to ensure that we have unrivaled freedoms, comforts unmatched and little powdered sugar donuts. And I hope that I never take that for granted.fireworks

But no country’s perfect—ours has an irrational love affair with amateur-use fireworks. “Fireworks,” patooie! I don’t like them, I never have and I never will.

“Friends…countrymen, lend me your ears…”

[cue the Battle Hymn of the Republic] Fireworks should be big, awe-inspiring demonstrations! They should seem to stretch across the entirety of the night sky! They should boom so as to make you feel them in the pit of your stomach but not hurt your ears! They should be free to watch! They should not be purchased in big tents or warehouses! And they should be detonated only by trained professionals!

Fireworks should not be explosive powder stuffed in goofy, colored packaging that is made to resemble things like tanks, turtles, snakes or parachuting maniacs. They should not be suitable for lighting by John Q. Public as he prances around his driveway with a punk or other fire-starting device. Nor should they shoot out of little cardboard tubes that can be knocked over far too easily.

Am I the only person who thinks it’s ridiculous that flaming balls of explosives are shooting out of cardboard tubes?? It’s fire and cardboard, people! 

Above all else, fireworks should never, ever make squealing sounds that are certainly part of an evil plot to destroy all Americans’ eardrums. Think about it: one extra scoop of whatever makes that awful sound and it would surely push the frequency beyond what only dogs could hear. But do the manufacturers (mostly located outside of the U.S.) do that? Nope. It’s a conspiracy, I assure you.

Every year, I take one for the team and witness the holiday tradition that is amateur firework-shooting. “Fireworks,” patooie! Not only that, but I get to welcome the family into my home for said celebration.

In addition to the usual hostess woes of cleaning and food prep, I will entertain a plethora of other concerns. I will worry about burning down the house, about people getting hurt, about remnants falling in the yard and being eaten by my dogs before I realize what’s happening. I will complain about going another year without watching a real fireworks display. I will vow that we are never having the ‘party’ at our house again. Ever. I will threaten to move across the country to avoid it.

I will have to shower before going to bed to curtail my elevated blood pressure and rid myself of the smokey, chemical smell and ash in my hair. I will grumble about the people who are still out burning their money on noisy explosions that are, at best, mildly entertaining.

Ultimately, though, I will thank God that I live in the United States of America. We are still a young country that struggles with growing pains; too easily and too often, we lose sight of the big picture and become mired in discord over politics, values and even race. And yet, we also pull together in times of triumph and tragedy. We find ways to work around our differences and celebrate the qualities that make us uniquely American. You guys, we live in a country where people can literally watch their money go up in colored smoke if that’s what they choose to do!

And once the neighbors finally run out of “fireworks” (patooie!), I sleep soundly in a country that is safe and free and mine… and I’m darn proud of it!

Note: an earlier version of this piece was posted on my now-defunct blog, The Road to Kilmarnock.

The Trouble With TV

One of my superpowers is unwittingly offending people. Generous use of sarcasm tends to contribute, though I’ve also been known to cause a kerfuffle without employing snark.

The past few months have taught me that one of the best ways to elicit this power is by discussing my views on facebook…not my political or religious views, mind you, but my views on cable/satellite tv.

Yes, you read that right. TV.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve managed to instigate a few heated debates over the virtues of dropping cable. As it turns out, people are hardcore about their television habits.

We ditched cable back in 2009 for a number of reasons, none of which included us trying to be elitist. Instead, most of it came down to cost-to-use ratio and desire to limit content/distraction. I’ll touch on the latter in a moment, but first let’s talk money.

The most significant result of ditching cable has been financial. We regularly watched only a handful of channels, so the full complement of cable/satellite service just isn’t important enough for us to justify the expense. For less than what we were paying on cable tv alone, we now pay for internet and Netflix. If we wanted to catch more current shows, we could subscribe to Hulu and still be in the black. There’s a one-time expense for the antenna ($30-50) but “over-the-air” programming is free.

We live in a somewhat rural area about 40 miles outside of Kansas City, MO; even that far away our antenna picks up 15 or so channels. In addition to the big networks, ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX, there are 3 PBS stations, some that broadcast infomercials and trash, and a few others that focus on classic shows. If you’ve been around here long, you know how much I love Bob Newhart; he and numerous other favorites are welcomed into my home each week thanks to Me-TV on free tv.

As for the content and distraction…well as you just saw, we still have plenty of distraction. The tv is powered on pretty much every evening. The difference is it’s just not as big a draw for us now as it used to be. If there’s nothing particularly intriguing to watch, we’re more inclined to turn it off and go do something rather than simply flip over to HGTV and settle for hours of House Hunters.

There aren’t as many programming options readily available but we are content with those to which we have access. For the programs we really want to watch, we catch up online and stream via Netflix, I borrow content from coworkers and we overtake my parents’ living room every Sunday night for The Walking Dead. Now that’s quality family time right there!

So yes, we still find ways to watch tv though we may not always be current on the popular shows. It’s just not that huge of a priority for us.

And that’s the controversial part—because it doesn’t rank high on our personal list of priorities, it is perceived as a commentary/critique on what kind of priority it is (good, misplaced or other) for others. While that’s never been the intent, it does make me think… If we bristle at something as trivial as someone challenging our media habits, it’s likely because we are feeling pressured to examine our priorities. Priorities are the point of contention, not how someone sates his television cravings.

How do I respond when someone suggests that I’m perhaps too reliant on my cell phone? Am I offended when people negatively comment on my plethora of Star Wars toys and memorabilia?
Is that pang of anger and inclination to defensive retort an indication that I/we haven’t heretofore considered the state of my/our priorities?

Very few things in our lives are are truly essential. We need only sustenance, some bit of clothing and shelter enough to protect ourselves from the most extreme weather. Apart from those necessities, we have options aplenty that we prioritize either consciously or subconsciously.

The options on which we choose to spend our money are a pretty good indication of our priorities. This has been the case since biblical times; Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV).

It’s healthy for us to examine our priorities every so often, just as it is to periodically evaluate how we allocate financial resources. Scrutinizing our values and behaviors then deciding how to proceed are imperative for personal growth. But it’s certainly personal. What works for my family needn’t necessarily work for yours.

So if I tell you that I’m anti-cable/satellite, don’t take it personally, okay? Save the indignation for when I say something really stupid, because I undoubtedly will (whether I mean to or not).

 


“Way Out of Line”

Our society claims to crave authenticity. We plead with others—especially men—to share their raw emotions, to tell us what they’re feeling. We say we want people to be real…like, really real…

Unless it’s after an emotionally charged football game.

You’ve probably heard something about Sunday night’s NFC Championship game between the Seattle Seahawks* and the San Francisco 49ers. The game was everything one could wish for in a playoff battle of longstanding rivals; it was exciting, it was nerve-wracking, it was a good ol’ American football gridiron epic.

Seattle held a slim lead for the last several minutes of the game, but SF threatened to score for the upset. On what would be the last critical drive, SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick (I didn’t even have to look up how to spell that!) set his sights on the end zone and launched a pass that was tipped and recovered by Seattle. It was this play that ultimately sent the Seahawks packing for the ‘big game.’

Now imagine you’re the guy who was primarily responsible for setting up that game-clinching interception, one Mr. Richard Sherman. You’re nothing short of stoked. This was the biggest game of your career to this point, and that was a hugely pivotal moment. Pure adrenaline and primal passion are running high after four solid quarters of action and anxiety. Oh, and your triumph unfurled in the midst of a face-off against an opposing wide receiver with whom you have negative history (Michael Crabtree). Odds are you, like Sherman, would be ready to celebrate and express all of those pent-up emotions.

Before leaving the field, Sherman taunted his aforementioned opponent and gestured at the quarterback—not spiking the ball, not the traffic finger, not a slicing action across the neck, not pretending to fire a weapon but hands-around-the-neck implying “dude, you choked!” Crabtree shoved in retaliation, the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct was assessed and that was that.

Until the infamous Erin Andrews interview just moments later. If you missed it or care to watch again, it’s here.

Was it borderline (or more) idiotic? Sure. A little (or more) tasteless? Yup. Do I condone it? Nah. Is Sherman, in fact, the best cornerback in the league? Probably not, but I don’t know.
What I do know is this whole kerfuffle has been overblown to ridiculous proportions.

I’m a day late and a dollar short writing about this, but I’ve grown tired of debating it on Facebook so I’m turning here instead. A few thoughts from yours truly, a girl who’s trying to look at it a bit more objectively…

This is the NFL. All of these men have trained to be highly competitive players; they cannot and will not foster much of a career without an ample dose of self-confidence to back their skills.

In subsequent interviews, including those with the Fox panel only minutes after his initial outburst, Sherman demonstrated a marked shift in poise. He was still excited and self-assured, but the vitriolic demeanor had subsided. Either he heeded advice to reel it in or he simply cooled from the proverbial heat of the moment.

“The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect blah blah blah”…we hear this legalese time and time again. And yet in this instance, people feel entitled to disregard common sense and attribute a lack of “class” to the entire Seahawks organization based solely on Sherman’s rant.
This is what bothers me most about the situation: It took the whole team to win the game, but many in the general public are discrediting that same team because of one player’s comments. Were we all judged based on brusque behavior by a colleague or other acquaintance, we’d all be a sorry lot indeed. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that every one of us has, at one point or another, said incendiary things…but we gloss over it because there’s not a microphone shoved in our face or a national audience.

I’ve been told that he needs to be held accountable, because he’s not being a good role model for the kids who were watching the game. “That kind of unsportsmanlike conduct should not be tolerated by any organization,” said one Facebook post. “He chose that profession, he needs to be responsible with it,” another agreed. Sherman belittled his opponent, but he didn’t curse or threaten violence. He had a platform to express his feelings, and he took full advantage of it. He was impassioned but not overtly hostile. Should he be fined or benched for this? Hardly.

Another post I saw said, “We wouldn’t want teachers behaving like that.” I fail to see how this is the least bit relevant. Last I checked, Richard Sherman is not a teacher. Moreover, I’m sure you can find numerous classrooms across the country on any given day where some misbehaving kids have pushed their teacher to his/her wit’s end and prompted him/her to voice angry comments towards the class. From what I hear, it sounds like it happens an awful lot with parents, too. And what of athletic coaches who routinely emote with ‘strongly worded’ delivery? Frankly, if this is what you’re worried about your child seeing on television and emulating, you probably need to be more in tune with what your child is watching; I’d bet my bottom dollar they observe far worse language and disrespect on a daily basis.

What happened after Sunday night’s NFC Championship game is a commentary on our culture of hypocrisy. That this incident overshadows the rest of what was a remarkably good game for both teams is utterly inconceivable to me. If you’re unhappy that the Seahawks won, or you prefer to cheer for the Broncos for whatever reason, that’s a-okay. Just don’t blame it on Richard Sherman. Unwise and in need of a muzzle he may be, but “way out of line” he was not.

*DISCLAIMER: The Chiefs are my home team, but the Seahawks are my home-away-from-home team. 12th dogShadow agrees.


Enough of the Elf!

It’s still very early in the Christmas season, so I’m going to get this off my chest now lest it fester and spoil my holiday cheer.

Enough with the stupid Elf on the Shelf pictures!

In spite of my childfree status, I can certainly appreciate parents’ desire to keep the Santa magic alive for their little ones. There are few things in life so precious as a child’s fervent belief in good old Saint Nick. In fact, I spent some time discussing Mr. Claus with a little fella at work last Wednesday and have a very sweet interaction to recount one of these days. Today is not that day.

Believe it or not, I happen to think the Elf on the Shelf is kinda fun…or at least preferable to some things. You are welcome to enjoy my mad computer graphic skills for a look at what some of those things might be.Better Than

But I digress. The above does not mean that I care even the tiniest bit about what mischief your elf allegedly causes overnight. Because, really, I don’t. Moreover, I fail to see the point in sharing it on Facebook. It’s only December 4 and I’ve already been subjected to dozens of photos depicting the carefully executed escapades. It would be one thing if I was seeing your child’s half-awake, smiling face or giggly reaction. (Though I did see a couple of those last year, and they’re not really as endearing as one might hope.) Is the overarching idea that I’m supposed to be impressed by your creativity ability to emulate ideas you’ve seen on Pinterest?

Speaking of Pinterest, I’d like to suggest that anyone pinning elf ideas put them on a unique board dedicated solely to that endeavor. I’ve had more than a few unwanted elf pins populate my home feed because I followed someone’s “holiday” board, and I’d have to unfollow the other good ideas to get rid of the elf stuff. It’s not fair! Darn these 21st-century first-world problems. sigh

It must be true that a person’s verbal filter deteriorates as they age, because I’m finding it increasingly hard not to make smart-aleck quips on these dumb Facebook posts. I genuinely fear what kind of loose cannon I’ll have become by the time I reach my elderly years.

While other friends give the obligatory, “Oh, cute idea!” or “I bet JacobSophiaAidenEmmaOliviaNoah loved this!” I’m fighting an overwhelming urge to say, “Congratulations, you deliberately made a mess in your house that you now have to clean up.” And I know a thing or two about making messes, because I can’t keep a clean house without kids.

I propose we petition Facebook to create a “Hide all Elf on the Shelf photos” feature. Would there be some other pictures that were inadvertently hidden? Probably, but I’m willing to take my chances.

Let’s rally, troops! Who’s with me????

{UPDATE: I apparently posted about this very same thing last year. My memory must be going even faster than my verbal filter. Scary!}


Woman, yes. Mom, no.

If you’re a bridge troll like me, you understand how very difficult it can be acclimating to a new group. Now several weeks into my new gig, I’m pleased to say that I get to spend my days with talented, kind, even funny people…and none of them have run away from me screaming. Yet.

But even among the nicest people, I can be counted on to inadvertently make things awkward.
It’s kind of what I do.

On any given day, you can find me spending my lunch hour sitting at my desk—”pinning” to my heart’s content or writing blog posts that never get published or otherwise frittering away my time. No peer pressure to eat or be social or make eye contact; just me and my computer. But upon moving to this department, I was invited to join the lunch club (a genial group of ladies who eat lunch together). My first impulse was panic. Am I going to have to start eating a real lunch? When will I have time to write blog posts that never get published? What about Pinterest? Is eye contact mandatory???

In a very uncharacteristic turn of events, I opted to join the girls for lunch. I ate lunch and tried very hard to be social, and all was well until…

First let me give you a bit of background. <clears throat> When people find out I’ve been married nine years(!), there is no escaping the question of if I have children. The default answer has invariably been “not yet.”

…all was well until the get-to-know-you conversation went to that inevitable “Do you have kids?” place. And for whatever reason, I changed my answer that day at lunch. I left it at “nope.”

(photo from museumofplay.org)

(photo from museumofplay.org)

When this elicited an uncomfortable “Oh” from my lunch party, I felt compelled to keep talking—an unfortunate nervous habit. I volunteered that it was both ‘by chance and by choice.’ This admission was greeted with an equally uncomfortable “Oh” and change of topic.
To be clear, I consider each of these gals to be friends, and none of their reactions offended me in the slightest. The situation itself, however, made me realize that I’m evolving as a person. I’m no longer ashamed to identify myself as a (mostly) willfully childless woman, an anomaly. Here’s why…

By Chance
We decided 7 years ago that it might be nice to have a baby, but it hasn’t happened.
There was an incident six years ago (almost to the day) that may have been a very early-term miscarriage. I’ve no clinical diagnosis thereof, but the evidence suggests it.
Since then, we’ve gone through career changes and moves and financial challenges and the occasional bout of marital discord (anybody who’s been married this long and claims to not have had any of the aforementioned troubles is flat out lying). And now that things are sunny, we are both increasingly comfortable with the idea that parenting might not be in the proverbial cards for us.
If we’re surprised and it happens eventually, wonderful! If it doesn’t, I’m not interested in undertaking extreme medical and financial steps to make it so, and I don’t want to be one of those women that people feel sorry for. Enter childless ‘by choice.’

By Choice
While I’m learning to embrace the notion of life without children, I also find myself wondering if this bit of apathy is something of a glitch. I mean, I like cutesy wootsy widdle clothes and itty bitty fingers as much as the next girl, but I’m not going to try to force it. Frankly, I don’t want to. Am I somehow broken for not actively seeking motherhood? Did one of my woman genes fail to activate or something?
I have a friend who suspects that it may be some subconscious result of having wanted a baby and not having one yet. I think that’s a possibility—there’s always a tiny twinge of pain when I find out about newly expectant parents. But, honestly, I also really REALLY enjoy my current lack of responsibility. On days off, I can sleep in as late as I want and waste time watching Portlandia or playing Lego Star Wars or going shopping (for me!) or doing any number of things that don’t involve paying constant attention to another human’s well-being.

Regardless of the reason or motivation, I continue life as a chick without kids. A “not mom,” if you will. I picked up that label from the good folks over at thenotmom.com; they make me feel like I’m not alone in the world, even if I don’t always agree with their contributors’ politics. It’s kinda nice.

I’ve even become increasingly aware of the presence of women like me in my everyday life; in addition to two of my aunts, I have several coworkers and friends with similar situations. It doesn’t change the cultural/social stigma, but it helps.

Now let me set the record straight on a few things…

Women without children aren’t any less intelligent and don’t harbor any less common sense. That might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s apparently not. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard some variation of the “you’ll understand when you have kids” comment over the years??? Frankly, it’s insulting and frustrating. Parents have a completely different set of experiences that yield other learnings, things I may never know. But I’m alive; I’ve had my own unique experiences and observations. To say that I can’t understand something or that my opinions are less valid is infuriating.

And elaborating on that, women without children aren’t inherently at odds with parents. In fact, I revere the massive undertaking called parenting. Still, there are times (oh so very many times) that I wish parents would take more responsibility for how their kids behave, since they’re ultimately the ones who teach respect and enforce or neglect boundaries. Now before I start getting hate mail, please understand that I know children have their own personalities and some are more compliant than others—remember that point about childless women still having intelligence and common sense?

Women without children aren’t necessarily selfish. Admittedly, some of my motivations are a bit superficial and selfish, but that’s certainly not the case for everyone. To assume so would make no more sense than assuming that all moms are as selfless as Mother Teresa (also a ‘not mom’ haha). By the same token, women without children may or may not really like kids; just like women with children may or may not really like kids.

Women without children are not people who should be pitied because they don’t know ‘real love.’ This is another peeve of mine—the assertion that only mothers know ‘real love.’ Mothers inherently feel a different kind of love but that’s just it, it’s different. The differing qualities of something do not make it any more or less real to any given person.
You mean to tell me that childless people who are married for decades don’t know about real love? Heck, it’s not even limited to married people; everyone who feels loved knows what ‘real love’ is to them, and that is different for everyone. So let’s just can the idea of ‘real love’ altogether, shall we?!

I guess that’s basically it: everything you didn’t want to know about why I don’t have kids.

Just like The Game of LIFE, I’ll keep going down my little road in “full 3-D action,” and time will tell if any little ‘peg people’ are added along the way. In the meantime, I’m content.