Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thrown Into the Pit by the Monkey's Uncle

Today's victim will be the parents of the four year old who fell into the Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo.

Normally sane people have decided it is their job to cry for the heads of the parents for failing to properly safeguard their child.

"Let's judge this couple. It's justified! Everyone, feel free to be righteous, after all, your kid didn't fall into a Gorilla pit!  Feel free to throw poo at them.  Threaten to take away their child.   Lacerate them as bad parents.  Bankrupt them!"

If you read the com boxes, follow Facebook or engage in any sort of social media, you will find all of these responses.

How they know the parents failed to safeguard their child? The kid fell into the Gorilla pit! It is a neat and tidy argument.  Who could argue with the neglect which must be involved for a kid to fall into a Gorilla pit?  After all, no one else's kid ever fell into a Gorilla pit!

I will.

I will because I have woken to find my kids standing on top of three legged stools holding a broom in the air, trying to bring down a balloon that escaped, not noticing they are in danger of falling. Not noticing they could break the light fixture in the room where the balloon is, not noticing anything but the balloon.

I've had kids put syrup on their fingers and try to leap to the wall to stick like Spiderman. I've run after my son barefoot in the snow when he learned how to open the front lock and bolted for the street.

I have stopped my children from bringing the hairdryer near the sink, stopped them from falling into a pool when they couldn't swim, fished quarters out of their mouths and told them NOT to ferret something out of the garbage when they wanted more snack!

The point is, we watch kids all the time.  We warn kids all the time.  They still do stupid things.

Last week, I told a teen not to ride in the trunk of a mini-van.  It wasn't my kid but I didn't care. The kid found a better safer ride after I told him, "Don't do that."  But if I hadn't walked out to say good-bye, if I'd stayed inside and started cleaning up, I might have missed that moment to stop him, and it might have been tragic instead of bemusing about the nature of children, even older children.

They do not see the danger.  Their eyes have not been trained, their minds have not been trained to think things all the way through and in the course of any given day, there are countless dangers as a parent we see, that our kids do not.

It is the one we will one day miss that haunts us...what if one day...

As adults, as parents, it is our job to see the danger, to anticipate, and to be ever vigilant.  However, we live in a world of distraction.

I've seen countless scornful..."I bet they were on their phones."  It's possible.  How many of us have been distracted by our phones?

I've seen "he has  rap sheet."  He may.

It doesn't matter.

I don't have a rap sheet, but I've had that cold shiver down the spine when I don't know where one of mine is, and I know, I was reading or writing or making dinner and somehow lost track of time and need to find that one child and it is a frantic crazed I will never forgive myself kind of search that takes place.  We've all had that moment as parents at some point.

Because we're human.  We're fallible.  We get distracted.  We are distracted.   We might even be being distracted by something normal, like needing to go to the bathroom, trying to find the snack shop on the map, checking our wallet for money, but it only takes a moment. It only takes a second.  Maybe you tie your shoe.  Maybe you're swatting away a bee or thinking about where to go next or talking to your spouse about the Gorilla for a moment, or reading the display and the information.

Making this sad story (and it is sad to have to kill a beautiful rare creature), into a referendum on parents via armchair quarterbacking the parents' vigilance when we weren't there and don't know, is uncharitable to all concerned, including us.   It makes us into the mob picking up the stones. Anyone want to be identified with the Pharisees?

The child is safe.  A gorilla is dead.  Would these same people be calling for the zoo to close if the officials had allowed the child to be killed by not shooting the gorilla?  Even if the parents were negligent, should the child pay the price?

Because that's what you're saying if you think they shouldn't have shot the gorilla to protect the kid.

Sometimes in life, there are mistakes and there are not easy answers.   Sometimes, we can do everything right and still have a sad or incomplete happy ending.

The desire to feel smugly superior to this family does nothing for the zoo, the gorilla, the fate of gorillas, the child, the parents, their parenting skills, the family in general, or the improvement of society as a whole.

No one wants to have their lives defined by their worst moments, or by the brain lapse moments that can happen in an instant.   Seeing your four year old dragged around by a creature you cannot predict, control or stop, has to be one of the worst moments anyone could ever have as a parent, except perhaps now, when it seems the whole world is calling for your head.

This is not how a charitable society acts.  This is not how a people who are celebrating "The Year of Mercy" should respond.   So I'd beg everyone to stop trying to throw the parents into the pit and thumping their chests in superiority or outrage.   If you feel really strongly about the loss of the gorilla, give to the zoo to help them with conservation, or adopt a gorilla via the World Wild Life Fund.  

Is negligence a possibility? Absolutely, but we do not know.  Let those who saw, those who were there, and those most affected by the story, make the decisions about the consequences of this unfortunate series of events, and let the rest of us, thank God the child is unhurt, and remember, it only takes a moment for a kid to think, "I will climb up onto the counter to get a cup because I'm thirsty."  or "I will throw a baseball through the rip in the screen door." or "I will leave my wallet in the car." because all of these things happened just this weekend, and I was running after them and watching, reminding them, stopping them, saying, "This is not a good idea!" in so many words.

It's a good thing, we don't live near a Gorilla pit.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Fit Bit Bites Back

Yesterday, my fit bit gave me a frowning face, (not really), but I didn't get the happy face sticker I'd managed for the past week.  I only walked 6,145 steps that day. (I wasn't lazy, but I was tired).   So I slept in, we played cards, I caught up on the laundry, wrote a few starts to pieces but nothing that gelled.  We got to 10:30 pm.  I wasn't going to go outside and walk up and down the driveway just to make my wrist happy.

That evening, I charged the thing, read a book, took a bath and went to bed.   This morning, I forgot to put it on...and I think the fitbit, well, I think it is thinking...is it time to start singing Righteous Brothers?  I mean, it's three o'clock in the afternoon. We've gone to mass, we've had brunch, and my wrist has informed me, I've got 9000 steps to make it to the happy face.

My children are here. They are resting, playing games together, or sitting on my bed, watching recaps of prior Indy races. (Paul loves watching them).  The need to move seems like a very unimportant thing.

The fitbit...you never wear me now when it's time to go to bed.....
and my little nags have failed to get into your head...
You're not trying hard to show it....baby....but baby....baby you know it...

I looked at my wrist. There's a little fitbit sized shaped not quite burn but impression.  I think it's trying to bite me.   MOVE you slug.  MOVE.

Oh look, there's that book I've been wanting to finish.   Maybe I'll create a Lit Bit, which details how many words you read.   I'd do much better.   Or a Sleep Bit...which praises you for naps...

My fitbit perks up...I do monitor sleep you know....all you have to do is wear me to bed.

Nope.  I like to sleep free range.

Fitbit: I'm not sure this relationship is going to work...


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Summer Movie/TV Fun

When I was a younger mom, I thought I'd do summer movie fun and introduce kids to the classics.  Boy, was that a dumb idea!  It's sort of like trying to get your kids to eat gourmet. It's possible, but it's more likely they'll look at you and say, "Where's the blue box? Can I have cereal? or I don't want this!"  Frustration city is an overeager too early exposure to something.  The kids feel annoyed at being pushed. The parent feels annoyed at having an epic fail even if no one ever knows.  Money, time, effort spent, and pleasure derived from the experience, zero. 

I don't know why I thought they'd get the beauty of such things before they were older, I sure didn't.  I remember having to be dragged to watch Casablanca.  I remember discovering Singing in the Rain in college.

So I no longer try to earn Mom merit badges by introducing my kids to something they're not ready for just yet with anyone.  It doesn't mean I don't sprinkle their young lives with stretching experiences. It just means I don't push too hard or demand too much.   Save Casablanca for when they've had their first break up and the fancy meal stuff for the teens and older. It took a long time to figure out, I don't have to eat what they eat.  We don't have to watch what they watch.   

But having a Summer Movie night is something we've enjoyed for years once we took the pressure off.   So here are Sherry's movie/summer picks for a large brood where you get to enjoy, and it isn't too kiddie or too adult, great for when you have a sleepy Friday night or a rainy day and everyone is a bit antsy.      

Some of these are older films...from when my older kids were the youngest ones...

Here are Sherry's Picks for Family Friday Night Films: 

Ella Enchanted
This is a great book and if your tweens haven't read it, they should because it's better than the film, but the film is still loads of fun.   As a film, my kids all found it fun and it happened to come out when one of my daughters was turning 9 so it became a perfect birthday party.  It won't give nightmares, it will entertain, and the soundtrack is fun too.  Pass the popcorn. 

How to Train Your Dragon

If your kids haven't seen it, this beginning of what is slated to be a trilogy stands on it's own, and the tv series is fun for middles (ages 5-13), too.   I found the sequel rather dull, it didn't have the scope, heart or humor of the first, but for a Friday night, if your kids have't seen it, it's fun.  I won't give away the final tug at your heart if you haven't seen it, but it has more to it than a mere coming of age story, and there's more of that in the book series but it's a bit different from the film. 

Spirited Away

This one my kids love. I found it frightening the first time through, but even my five year old and seven year old son Paul loves this movie.  They will watch it anytime.  It's hypnotic like a dream with it's weirdness, but that's what Miyazaki does.  They will also watch Ponyo, or My Neighbor Totoro anytime as well.  Of the three, Spirited Away hits the broadest range of kids, while Ponyo and Totoro are slower, quieter, gentler introductions to this animation director/story teller's world, great if you have sensitive children.  My youngest learned to love ham because Ponyo loves ham. By the same token, I think half my older kids will never eat roasted chicken anymore because they saw the parents eat the spirit food in Spirited Away.  

Over the Hedge 

I would have thought would never work. It was based on a comic strip.   It had a large cast of successful actors.  I worried it would be like a grocery store cupcake, too much frosting, not enough flavor in the cake.   However it works.  Everything about it is fun, with its light satire of suburban life, and a good deal of unexpected heart.   No kid should be too scared even of the very obviously bad news bear, because you get the sense, it will work out and without any spoilers, like any charming kid's tale, it does.   

The Fantastic Mr. Fox 

The stop action animation is weird and clever and it's from a book by Robert Dahl so you know, it will go in directions you never quite can predict.   My kids love this movie so much, we had to hide it for fear it would be on in perpetuity.   Again, this is a Friday Night way to enjoy the screen with your kids, but maybe rent it from a Red Box or Netflix so it doesn't become a perpetual part of your rotation.  What does the fox say?  Lots of things, and sounds like George Clooney.  

Big Hero Six

I've learned to trust my 20 year old (anime fan/illustrator/graphic artist) when she says to go see a film with the kiddos.  She can pick them. I didn't have any interest in seeing this film, but it is a beautiful story about recovering from grief (warning, for sensitive kids, the death of the brother early in the story will hurt, and Hiro's wrong choice might frighten as well).  Fortunately, the action is strong, the humor keeps it from getting too dark, and if you have middles/tweens, this is a fun way to get them to unwind rather than stare at phones or computers, make pizza and sit with them to enjoy.  As with all Marvel films, stay for the end or you'll miss the bonus humor.  
 The soundtrack by Fallout Boy is fun too.   

Wrek it Ralph

My daughter told us to go to see this film too, and it is more than the sum of it's parts. Again, I would have said NEVER in a million years would a movie about video games work. (See PIXELS if you want to see how a movie about video games can go seriously wrong).  It's got about three minutes total of cheap as we call it in our home, 4th grade humor.  Other than that, it's great fun.   

Bridge to Terabithia

If your kids haven't read the book, it's a great summer (albeit sad) read for your 4th, 5th, 6th graders or 3rd grader with you. It's sad, but it's also a great stretch and wonderful read.  The film holds to the flavor and beauty and quiet friendship of the book itself.  My kids always cry, but they also love it.

        The Iron Giant

Before the Incredibles, Brad Bird made The Iron Giant.  He knows how to ratchet up tension, use feints and develop character.  It's one of my favorite kid films.  It's also not boring for the adults. It does tend to loose my daughter's attention, but it holds the boys well.  Make root beer floats for a nostalgic touch.   

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

It's a fun way to introduce your kids to C.S. Lewis and the first one holds the closest to the actual story.  Well done, and feeling slightly grown up despite having talking animals and Santa Claus, it's a nice Friday night...hand them the books afterwards, they'll feel like they just found a treasure trove.  

Ten movies, ten weeks.  Happy Friday Nights.   

Monday, May 23, 2016

Over at Aleteia

I am over at Aleteia today! It's the height of irony for me to get an email that my piece on the internet has gone live which I read on my phone when the essential issue of the piece is what? Put down that phone/computer/tv and be present to each other.

Life in the Fast Lane...nope. I'm More Take it Easy...

Yesterday, my girls ran a 5k.   I would say, I walked one.  

Any exercise is good true.  Revealing to your 9 year old, you cannot keep up?  Not so much.

Driving to the race, it's raining. It's cold.  I can't think of anything I would rather not do than run a 5k when it's raining and cold on a Sunday morning. Oh yes. Wait. I know, I would rather not run a 10k even more.  

So naturally, we're all signed up for June 11 for a 5k.

My track star son has openly boasted, he can beat us all running a 10k with us running a 5.  Personally, I suspect, he could beat me running a 5k if he were running a marathon.  The kid's mile time is four minutes fifty-three seconds.  His two mile time is ten minutes thirty-two seconds.  I know for a fact, a 5k takes me 45 minutes, sometimes 40 if I push (and that's on the elliptical).   In real life on real pavement, it's a solid 50 minutes minimum.

Still, his siblings and dad think we can take him.  I know better.  This is a dumb bet.  

Everyone in the 5K has to beat Peter for us to win,

Maybe if I wear roller blades.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Fit Bit Curve

So last week, I bought myself a Fitbit. For those not yet owing a self imposed electronic tracker, you don't just strap it on and go.  You fill out a profile. Name. Age, weight.  hand you will wear it on, (dominant, non dominant), height, etc. etc.  Then, you charge it up and off you go.

Day 1.  Wow, I walked that much, I should be in better shape. But maybe I didn't know how much I moved.

Day 2.  Seriously?  I only took down the trash, how can the number be this high?

Day 3. How can I be at this number?  I just got up.

Day 4.  I think my fitbit is lying to me.

Day 5.  This isn't possible. I didn't walk 7 miles. I was in the car half the day.

Day 6.  I realized.  I'm wearing it on my dominant hand, and I profiled non dominant.  

Day 7.  Depressed because now, I have to work for those numbers.  

Day 8.  Thinking about switching back to the incorrect hand for motivational purposes. I learned how to cheat the system. Clapping makes it think you took a step, but that's not really the point.

Moral of the story: The right hand may not need to know what the left hand is doing, we do know, the left hand is lazy.  Whatever it's doing, it's doing it less.

So I fixed the problem and the fitbit isn't grading on a curve anymore. I think I'd prefer it to go back to lying to me.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wit Bit...Day 2

I broke down and bought a fit bit which tracks my every move or lack thereof. As technology goes, it is the equivalent of volunteering to have a nag strapped to my wrist. It vibrates when I've not moved enough in the past hour. It gives me progress reports that are the equivalent of "Sherry daydreams in class and isn't serious about this pursuit."
Honestly, if the makers really wanted to help me lose weight, they'd have the thing give me an electric shock when I reached for the refrigerator or put chocolate in my mouth. However, given my will to eat, I might endure the pain for the gain.
The forbearance of this machine is remarkable. I know, if I had to be my fitness coach, I'd have lost patience long ago and have sent out a message on twitter, linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, snapchat and my blog, "This woman is a human marshmallow. She is hopeless."
I prefer to subscribe to the belief, having my seat in a seat proves I'm at the computer working. Pulling down an article a day whether it gets published or not, the goal remains to consistently write one thousand words a day. Instead of charting 10,000 steps which aren't to actually go anywhere, my priorities rest squarely with the chocolate bar, diet coke and the keyboard, trying to write a book and articles along the way.
In an effort to make something positive out of the situation, I propose a new technological gadget for the writing world.
The Writ Bit.
Here me out.
The Writ Bit would track your word count per day. It would give you helpful stickers, "Congratulations, Let's try for a higher word count, maybe spend less time hanging out on Facebook and more time typing shall we?" or "Wow! You earned the Ink Stained Wretch award." or the..."Put your rump on the stump and start writing or I'll give you a friendly taser zap."
There would be bonus levels for strenuous writing as versus ordinary, based on grammar, word choice and limited use of adverbs.
It would scrutinize your output for cliches and poor structure. It would also have an editor function to nag you about theme, authenticity, and the demand the words somehow open a vein.
My only issue would be for those moments when I'm distracted by the demands of my fitbit, since it would be at odds with the Witbit...and whether getting in some BIC time or logging my 20 minutes of cardio, I'd be getting a shock to the system from the dueling wrist bands.
Maybe I'll abandon both pieces of technology in favor of the chocolate bar...because whatever else it does to my body, it doesn't nag me whether or not I eat it, and it never tases me bro.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Once She's been tagged....

She will be released back into the wild.   Using this painless key monitor bracelet, we will track her movement.  

It is estimated that the normal mature human female is supposed to go about 10,000 steps per day.

Based on initial readings, we aren't tracking a human female at all, but a sloth.

That's right.  I've joined the Borg collective.  I will be weighed, measured, and found wanting to move more than I do.

Hopefully, in 8 weeks, I will be weighed, measured, and found to have approximated something in the animal kingdom less stationary.

I bought a fitbit.  

Will this be the break through help I need, or will this like the treadmill that became a valet for the dry cleaning, the gym membership, the pedometers, the Billy Blanks cross fit videos, Atkins, Southbeach diets and the boot camp before it, become just one more example of the sisyphean struggle to lose more than my birth weight by my birthday?

Given that I weighed 2 lbs and 11 ounces at birth, it's not like the bar isn't already set really really really low.  

Maybe if they put a chocolate bar at the end of that string...

Tune in next Tuesday...for an update.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Link Fest Because...

1. Why do I do a link up on Friday when I have my own link up on Thursdays?  

2.  I know, it's Friday but....

3.  Today, I have a piece over at Aleteia!  It's on teaching forgiveness and my own two cents.  
Here's the picture of the actual Forgiveness Jar.

4.  How's the Book coming?  Slow.   Last week I was sick, I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing, but somehow, life keeps taking up more and more time.   This week, I'm taking on Saint Teresa of Avila.   I figure, I should share some sites I've found that are gems.  This week's favorite is:

Order of the Carmelites.

What I keep understanding as I pursue this project, is I am in the kiddie pool of understanding, they swim in the ocean. 

5.  What are you reading?   I just got it, so I just started, but Elizabeth Scalia has a new book!
Thus far, I'm really enjoying it.  I hope to review it next Friday...as part of keeping my brain from spinning toward its natural state of atrophy.   

6.  What else are you doing?  In two weeks, we have a blockbuster weekend with Prom, Girls on the Run 5K and the Gaithersburg Book Festival!  The past two years, I've gone.  This year I'm helping with a booth.  I hope next year...to present!   

7.  I am a geeky woman.  I saw Captain America's Civil War.  I enjoyed all of it the same way Stephen Greydamus does, like a pizza that tasted great going down, but I probably shouldn't have eaten so willingly.  

After every movie, my husband and I do a wrap up, sort of like a post game review.   What got me was, the writers chickened out.  In the comic Civil War, the fight between Captain and Ironman has high stakes and high consequences.  If the movie had been willing to allow those sort of consequences to happen to both sides, it would have made the pain between them that much more than a mere stake out of my side, your side.  Superhero movies do have to rely on action and pop, so philosophical musings about the consequences of decisions, of releasing/holding onto power have to be done on the fly.   As Falcon says, "most fights don't involve that much talking."  However, I think the intimacy of the fight fell a little flat because there wasn't as much talking as one would want, to bring the audience into the Civil war with genuine torn loyalties.    
The poster promises something I don't feel the movie quite delivers, the pain and break isn't as decisive or hard as it should be.   It's more of a friendship sprain than a heart breaker. That being said, it was a fun popcorn date. 

Talking it over with my husband, we have allowed as young as John to go see it, but I wouldn't let anyone younger.  

See you Sunday.  Now I have to go get some writing done. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

We Have No King But Caesar

The people have spoken and we will have as President this fall, someone who thinks Planned Parenthood does some very good things...or we will have Hillary Clinton.  
We will have someone who has no humility.
We will have someone who has no scruples about lying, about destroying others, and about lying about destroying others.
We will have someone who thinks the law is for other people.

We will have a leader who is willing to mock other people, and to tell all followers, it's okay to hate the other side.   They're legitimate to hate.  

We will have a leader who thinks because people on the other side hate, they are somehow legitimate and noble.  

We will be ruled by either a party indifferent to anything anyone says, or the other presuming about its own moral value based on comparison.   If the Houyhnhnms or the Yahoos win, humanity loses.  
America loses.

No one running for office this year who will be on the November ballot has done anything ti show they care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  

If the theme of the 2008 election was hope, the theme of 2016 is

Abandon all of that, ye who enter here.  

Not to spend too much more time gazing into the Palantir, for such way lies only despair, but my one worry and warning is based on the one thing I've seen from the fruits of both candidates about the coming election.  No matter who wins, we will have someone in the White House who above all other things, desires power.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

We Like to Think We Think

God always wants it all.

That's why the Eucharist isn't merely bread and wine, and isn't a symbol, and isn't anything less than everything.

That's why we are the bride to the bridegroom, the church to Christ.  That's why marriage is sacred and sacramental, and supposed to be a total self giving.  Because God doesn't do half measures or gestures or well meaning symbols.  God is always all in and God always wants our hearts all in.  God doesn't want us just to need Him, but to Love Him.  He doesn't want us just to tolerate our neighbors, but to love them.  God wants us always all in.

So today, I'm asking people to go all in.

I have a friend from three years of writing.  We've never met face to face, but she's helped with my writing, she's encouraged me when things got tough, and she's always been kind.  She is a veteran.  She suffers from a debilitating condition.   Tonight, baring a miracle in Ann Arbor or Oakland County, Michigan, baring someone going all in, she will be sleeping outside and she is scared.  I am scared for her.

Today, where I live, it is mucky and wet, cool and unpleasant to be outside.  I do not have to be.  However I stood outside today, forcing myself to take in the minor discomfort.

I don't know what it is like, to sleep without a roof.

I don't know what it is like, to feel unwanted on sight, to have no place where the doors are thrown open because it is you in particular.  

I don't know what it is like, to have to fear not merely the dark or the cold or the trash, or the looks of others, but also the whole community, because I cannot tell the state of anyone else around me. I do not know that level of edge, the veneer of safety and security having a place called home gives.

Some people have seen me post to my friend's Go Fund Me page, you may be tired of it, but take a moment to think how tired you would be, if there were no place you could stop and safely call it an end to the day.   No place to rest.   I don't want to imagine, except I know my friend, doesn't have to.

Consider giving.  We are so many. We have so much.  This is a little act of courage, of hope, of salt, of light, of goodness, of comfort, of warmth, of rest.

“Christians who stay still, who don't go forward, are non-Christian Christians. We don’t know exactly what they are. They are slightly ‘paganized’ Christians: who are there, who stay still and don’t go forward in their Christian lives, who don’t make the Beatitudes bloom in their lives, who don’t do Works of mercy… they are motionless. Excuse me for saying it, but they are like an (embalmed) mummy, a spiritual mummy there. There are Christians who are ‘spiritual mummies,’ motionless, there. They don’t do evil but they don’t do good things.” --Pope Francis

Here's a chance to do a good thing.
For the cynics: Will there be need tomorrow? Yes.  Will there be other needs tomorrow from other places? Yes.   However right now, you know about this need, from this person, and have the rare opportunity, to make tonight a night where she has a roof.  

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!