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Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Hating Hate

I’ve stared at a topic within the last 24 hours that I haven’t given much thought to for years and years.

Hate.

We’re a hateful society. Admit it and agree with me. How many times a day do you literally let the word “hate” spill out of your mouth? As kids, we grew up learning to hate various aspects of our lives – even our parents on occasion. As adults, hate has, I hope, taken a back seat in life.

But last night I sat down at the High School auditorium to watch the most recent directorial effort from child number one. My daughter has become a student director of theatre productions in recent years. The high school’s spring play this year is, “The Laramie Project” and not only does it address a hate crime, it also addresses such heavy topics as religion, sexuality and morals.

I enjoyed the play, which is moving – especially since I can easily recall the actual Wyoming event in which Matthew Sheppard was brutally beaten and tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere – left to die by a couple of thieves who just happened to prey on a young, gay college student. Sheppard died and his two assailants are spending their lives in prison.

But what I liked more was the concept of high school students taking on a play that is rife with major moral issues – and pushing what is potentially the most memorable of all teachable moment they’ll be exposed to this school year to the entire student body – as well as to teachers, parents and even the janitor.

Because, while it’s easy for us to say we’re tolerant or tell our kids, “…correct is correct and you must do what’s correct…” for most, it’s all to easy to slip back to habits learned in our childhood – when the mere tone of the word “gay” coming from our lips might be slathered in spit-covered sarcasm – no matter who we were talking to or what context we used the word.

There’s only one kind of hate that kids need to learn from us – and that’s that we hate the very concept of the word when used against anyone no matter their religious background, sexual orientation, race, or strong affinity to dogs instead of cats.

It’s how we teach our kids what we don‘t know that will help make them better adults – and a better
society than we ever thought possible.

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Idiots!

Three Minnesota legislators have lost their minds.

In a proposed bill authored by Republican House member Chris Delaforest, he and two of his “peers” suggest the drinking age in Minnesota be lowered from 21 to give those who are 18, 19 and 20 the ability to drink in bars. Their position is that  heck, since drinking is going on any way by kids in this age range, might as well let them drink legally in a bar instead of in the back seat of their car.

Bull shit.

I’m not suggesting minors don’t drink (been there, done that). But in light of recent instances right here in this state in which several college-aged minors (one celebrating her 21st birthday) literally drank themselves to death is proof enough for every individual with a brain that kids at this young age have no business legally bellying up to a bar and drinking.

Oh, but they’re old enough to vote and serve in the military. Why shouldn’t they be able to drink legally?

Military service and voting are far and wide different than ordering cocktails from Noon until 2 a.m. then getting behind the wheel of car and driving home.

Studies show the brains of young adults aren’t fully mature until they reach their late 20s. So why would a law maker think, feel or believe that giving these impressionable young people legal access to alcohol at age 18 is a good idea?

Idiots!

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Spencer High School gave me an education that took me places. Places even my high school guidance counselor didn’t think I’d go. In fact, upon reviewing my ACT score, my guidance counselor sat me down and, I shit you not, he said, “You should probably think about a vo-tech school for when you graduate.”

So I didn’t have the best of ACT results. That didn’t stop me.

Upon graduating high school, right in the middle of a class consisting of 176 seniors, I went with my best high school friends to the University of Iowa. Once there, I proceeded to have one of the blurriest years of my life. Twelve months later I was sitting out the fall semester at home contemplating my future. I did go back to Iowa…for a semester, which was much better educationally for me.

Finally, in Dec. 1988, I graduated from a small liberal arts college, Buena Vista University. I, proudly, finished in the top third of my class with a grade point north of 3.5. I had made the freakin’ Dean’s list on several occasions. So eat that, my high school guidance counselor.

Why the trip down Educational Lane?

Yesterday in The New York Times, an article entitled: Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile To Knowledge, suggested that here in the U.S. there’s an anti-intellectual movement. The writer’s theory was that cases like the Miss Teen U.S.A. fiasco last year and American Idol blonde bimbo Kellie Pickler (who had never heard of the city Budapest when questioned on the show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”) serve as proof that kids today view education as a pox. The Times article states:

Ms. Jacoby…doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.

A hostility to knowledge?

I’m not buying it. I think throughout time some kids take issue with books and education while others soak it up like a sponge. That doesn’t mean kids and young adults today are anti-intellectual. Are they different than the kids I went to school with in the ’80s? Why yes. Yes they are. Just as I was different than my Dad or Mom as a young adult. And they were different than my grandparents. And so on. And so on. And so on.

Plus, let’s face it, while the vast majority of us should be able to find Hungary on a world map, how imperative is it to our daily living that we know its capitol city? For trivia questions, maybe, it’s significant. But with all the pages of history that have been added to the history books since the ’70s, do we expect next generations to know every detail of every worldly event that’s happened since the dawn of time?

Please!!! A little bit of reality with that reality show!.

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Deconstruction

I spent about 90 minutes in my old home last night…the house my former wife and I picked out together when we relocated to the city. She inhabits it now and our two teenagers split their time between “the palace” and my more humble habitat located about four miles away.

Several years ago, while still married, we purchased a bunk bed for my son’s room. Seemed like a great boyhood thing to have. I always wanted one when I was a kid. Bunk beds just spell fun when you’re eight years old and have a sleepover. But when you’re 13, that style of bed loses its luster. So the kid’s mom sold the bed and needed a little help deconstructing the frame.

It’s a rite of passage, I suppose, when a child-like bed is disposed of – enabling that child to grow and mature with more appropriate surroundings. That’s how I felt as I loosened the screws of the bunk bed and hauled it to the garage where the new owners will pick it up in a day or two. For the past seven years, that bed enveloped my son each night. Formative years. He’s dreamed in that bed, good dreams and bad ones. He’s fallen ill and recovered in that bed. He’s grown more than a foot while spending nights sleeping there. He’s daydreamed and played on that bed, which has taken him to other planets and who knows where else through his imaginings.

So selling off the bed is more than just ridding the house of an article of unwanted furniture. It’s saying farewell to a fixture that, for the past 2,555 nights, kept my youngest child feeling safe and sound even through dark moments of loneliness when he woke up and realized his dad no longer slept under that particular roof with him.

These things slip through our fingers – a kid’s half life – gone in a second, I thought to myself. But what can a parent do?

He’s as anxious to grow up and live his life as I was….as I am. No fault in wanting that. And with a new bed will come new dreams and growth that will, in just a few years, make this boy a young man. A young man who’ll always be admired and loved.

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In toney Eden Prairie, Minnesota, high school students have been busted. Busted by dozens of photos they or their friends have posted on their profile pages found on social networking pages like Facebook (see the previous post about this story as it broke on Jan. 9).

So far, 42 students have been disciplined and 13 have been suspended from school sanctioned extracurricular activities – activities in which many students signed a pledge to abstain from using alcohol or drugs or face consequences.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports today that students organized a classroom walkout today due to the controversy of whether or not school administrators have any authority over photographs and content found on Facebook. Not only that, apparently some parents are talking to lawyers to see if they can sue the school for taking measures they view as “too harsh” for the indiscretions and stupidity of their children.

It seems (as has been done through the ages) kids will be kids. I drank when I was 17 years old. In fact, I drank beers before, during and after high school events that I was involved in. I did not, however, share pictures of my activity with teachers, friends or parents in any public way. But today, with the accessibility of the Internet, these kids checked their brains at the login window and chose to upload photos of themselves at parties, holding beers or cups of beverages believed to contain alcohol.  The school administrators were presented with the evidence and felt obligated to take action. Case closed.

Except not only do the kids affected by the district’s discipline policy feel it’s too harsh, but so do the parents – who apparently also checked their brains at the door.

Helloooooo! Your child is consuming alcohol and brazenly posting pictures of their actions on public web sites. If you don’t want the school district to interfere and discipline then perhaps you should pull your heads out of your asses and be the parents!

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Oh my god! Are teenagers really this stupid?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported today that more than 100 students from toney Eden Praire High School (a ‘burb of Minneapolis) have been suspended from participating in athletic events and given other punishments because of incriminating photos posted on various profile pages found on Facebook.

I have a daughter. She has a Facebook page. She goes to parties where, at times I’m sure, alcohol gets served (you know those theater groupies – they love their booze and pot) *cough*. But I’m thinking that even IF a photo of her standing next to someone who appeared to be drinking a beer or other form of alcohol were taken, she’d never allow it to be posted online anywhere. Just a hunch. And if a photo incriminating her were to be posted online, someone’s head would roll. Her group of friends are above average in recognizing the public nature of the Internet. Unlike this student from another high school in suburban Minnesota who said:

I think it’s a huge invasion of privacy.”

Oh yes. That huge private thing called the Internet (rolling my eyes).

Many children today, for various reasons (read: most parents choose to be friends to their kids instead of serving as parents), think there are no longer limits as to what they can do. The drinking age is 21? Ha! Watch me drink. No cell phones in the classroom? Right. Sure. (sound of typing a text message as their pal’s phone across the room vibrates…loudly).

As an aside there was a hilarious joke going around just yesterday about Bill Clinton being in near-constant cell phone communication with Hillary as the two campaigned in New Hampshire. The punch line dealt with Bill’s phone being on vibrate, making the calls from Hill all the more wanted. Ok. Not so hilarious perhaps, unless Bill’s cell phone is shaped like a cigar.

Back to the story…

So a preponderance of kids today think it’s a “no-holds barred” world for them and all they have to do is show up to have life handed to them on a platter. And parents enable this attitude. Junior drives Dad’s 2003 Beemer to school five days a week, and sits in the “great room” of the fam’s 4,000-square-foot-house while mommy serves him and his five best buds plenty of pizza and ego-building compliments about what good kids they are. They, in turn, lap it up and ask for more.

And what will the result of this Facebook scandal net these kids who are caught with beers in hand? A few missed games if they’re an athlete. A wag of the finger from school administrators who’ll say,

“Don’t you know better?” And of course, mommy and daddy just might smirk and say, “Next time you have a party, all cameras and phones will be checked at the door!”

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It’s January 5, and this early in the year, every day is still a great day.

But today is special. It’s been this way for 17 years. At 4:30 in the afternoon on Jan. 5, 1991 my daughter came into the world. She’s my first born and I continue to be ecstatic that she’s in my life – making it fuller and richer and, no doubt, contributing to the white whiskers that I see when I let my facial hair grow for a few days.

Since her birth, I’ve been blessed with a son, too. A perfect suburban set of kids who get along most of the time, pick on each other part of the time, but still tell each other that they love one another (in front of mom or dad, no less).

My daughter is a young woman. A junior in high school, her social network of friends is vast. She’s had boyfriends – one serious relationship that left her with a broken heart – and she currently dates a guy who is a year older. I wonder how that will work when he goes to college next August?

Her interests in high school gravitate toward the arts. She reads, writes, creates, and has a great “eye” for projects she takes on in and out of school. She student directs plays – musicals, one acts, drama productions. She loves all genres. She’s now teaching me things, not just talking – but enlightening me.  As a high school student she recognizes the message in a production like “Seussical,” and has angst when her peers don’t “get it.” She takes stands based on her young beliefs that have developed through finding mentors, having conversations and developing opinions.  Her foundation sits somewhere left of center.

Yep. She’s her father’s daughter with a whole lot of her mother’s love within her as well.  I hope I can always keep sending her down the right roads where, if nothing else, she will stay true to herself no matter where life takes her.

Happy Birthday, K!

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Is this a big surprise to anyone? More like “overdue” in my book. She’s been given every chance. However, instead of K-Fed getting custody, these kids should probably be handed to parents or grandparents.

The story from the New York Daily News gives all the details…

LOS ANGELES – Britney has lost her kids!

In a devastating blow to the spiraling-out-of-control songstress, the same judge who two weeks ago found she was partying too hard has ordered Britney Spears to turn over her young boys to her ex-husband.

Kevin Federline, who has shared the two boys 50/50, “is to retain physical custody of the minor children” after noon tomorrow, Judge Scott Gordon said in yesterday’s one-page ruling that didn’t specify why he took the extraordinary action.

There were reports last night that K-Fed may already have little Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, in hand.

Spears was spotted whisking the boys through a Carl’s Jr. drive-through for lunch yesterday before handing them over to K-Fed’s bodyguard, x17on-line.com reported.

It’s not clear whether the scandal-plagued singer knew her precious hours with her sons were numbered.

 And this photo from TMZ.com is just lovely…

Spears Kids

Good luck Spears children. You’re gonna’ need it!

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Yet another first day of school is in the books. Both kids started back on September 4: One in 7th grade (first year of junior high), and one now a junior in high school. They scrambled to tell me how their first days went and I listened, congratulated them and patted them on the backs for taking on another school year with such enthusiasm. In the back of my mind I kept telling myself, “They want something. Here it comes. It’s coming. They’re going to ask…”

 

They never asked.

It was just me and my two kids talking. Well, they talked and I listened. And today they’re back in class. So as a parent, I must be doing something right. Right?

I vividly remember both my start in junior high and my junior year of high school.

Junior high is such a huge transition year. You quickly become a big kid. It’s awkward for boys because we’re sweating and smelling and growing hair in places previously untouched by hair. We start noticing girls in a serious way and have to deal with our mature immaturity. One minute we’re all grown up, the next minute we’re sucking the air out of an empty Mountain Dew bottle and vacuuming it to our cheek, unknowingly leaving a large red hicky on the side of our faces. Just try to explain that to an older kid who’s pointing, laughing and calling you hicky face.

High school juniors, on the other hand are all grown up. They’re practically the top dog and they’re faced with their most challenging year of education they’ve ever had. Eleventh grade teachers are brutal. They pile on the homework in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. They want you to know by the end of your junior year if you’re going to a university, a junior-college or straight into the workforce. Of course there’s always the threat of joining one of the armed service branches for those who refuse to turn in assignments on time.

My junior year was filled with dating, music and drinking…and a few nights of studying when I had to. And even with a lowly ACT score, I still got accepted at a major university, proving that if I can handle it, any average kid can. But what is average? It’s the best of the worst, right? So why not strive for excellence? That’s a tough lesson to teach any 17-year-old.  

You lead by example, set expectations and hope they’ll see the rays of light you shine on their path. Then you remain realistic, knowing they’ll stumble along the way and that you’ll be there to pick them up and dust them off.

In the end you can pat yourself on the back if, during the year, you’ve congratulated them more than admonished them and, when spring time rolls around in six months, they’re still just as enthused as they were on that first day back to school.

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The Great Minnesota Get Together starts on Thursday and runs through Sept. 3. This year I’ll find myself at the fair. Last time I strolled the Fairgrounds along Snelling Avenue in St. Paul was 2005 and my head wasn’t in the game, so to speak. I’ve always liked a good fair. The sights and sounds — the carnies, the corn dogs, the cacophony from the inaudible loudspeaker systems — take me back to my hometown, which was host to the World’s Greatest County Fair.

I grew up on The Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. Each year, this rural fair draws CCFhundreds of thousands to a town of less than 12,000. It was the main event – the one thing every resident planned for and participated in either as an attendee, a worker, a consumer or people watcher.

Several moments from my fair days as a kid still mark my brain (maybe scar it).

The first and most dominant scar caused by the fair happened when my Uncle Earl took me there to wander the grounds. Uncle Earl was my “rich” uncle. He was rich in a way that surpassed money. And while he always drove a nice new Buick and made half dollars fall out of my pockets when he lifted me by the ankles, he never bragged. His presence in a room, advice, spirit and belief in God made Uncle Earl revered.

So on that day when we wandered the fair grounds, Uncle Earl was most interested in poking through the cow barns and striking up lengthy conversations with livestock owners who were showing off their best Holsteins or Herefords. I was 10. Bored with conversation and wanting for the Midway where I could quickly blow the half dollars that had magically appeared from my pants pockets. Naturally, when I spied I large pile of hay I had to take a running leap into it. Mistake. As I later learned when Uncle Earl smelled me and realized I’d jumped into a pile of used hay – manure filled.

We stopped by an ice cream stand and I wiped myself down with napkins. But the cloud of manure hung over me, not to mention the embarrassment of having to take off my pants before my uncle would let me into his Buick sedan. This story continues to get much laughter at family events, so I can proudly tell it here. Rest assured, I have not ventured back into hay pile jumping since that famed day at the fair.

Part Two of my fair remembrance deals with my dad’s booth at the fair that he managed and staffed until I was in my early teens. Dad owned his own business called Spencer Radiator Works. We called it “The Shop” and it blossomed as a business in my pre-school years. He worked it hard and expanded it, selling anything with a small engine as well – primarily lawnmowers but including chainsaws, generators and other two- and four-cycle things.

The Clay County Fair was the perfect demo ground for the latest in riding lawnmower design and Dad cleaned up during fair week. It was like getting an extra month’s income each year. But the hours were long and sometimes frustrating. By the time I was four or five, Dad would take me with him, usually in the afternoons, to hang at his booth outside and watch him sell lawnmowers. It was exciting just to be on the grounds, but watching Dad in action as a salesman was riveting, too. He was engaging, knowledgeable and could tell a looker from a buyer almost immediately – a critical skill when investing time in a sale.

I’d help him in the booth, serving as “runner.”

“Butch,” (his nickname for me and I have no idea why), “run and get me a coffee.” Or, “Butch, why don’t you go get yourself a corn dog and bring back a turkey drumstick for me.” Sometimes he’d leave me alone at the booth while he went to the bathroom or found a pay phone to check with the boys at the Shop. When he returned he’d bring a treat – a slushy lemonade or ice cream bar.

Those days in Dad’s booth at the fair were bonding days for the two of us. He probably didn’t know that he was giving me some of my greatest and fondest memories by taking me along. But thinking about those afternoons I spent with him during a week each September always make me pause. For a father-son relationship that was far from perfect, we shared many perfect days — common ground on the grounds of The Worlds Greatest County Fair.

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