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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Monday, 16 May 2005
Award Burn-out

A couple weeks ago, I did a major Mommy no-no. I missed the monthly award ceremony at my daughter's elementary school. Although she claimed to be very hurt that I didn't show up, the event in question occurred on a Wednesday afternoon and she didn't mention it until the following Monday while we waited for the bus.

"Why didn't you tell me when you got home from school Wednesday?" I asked.

"I got distracted," she replied.

For five days?

There's really not much ceremony to these ceremonies. The kids receive little plastic charms for being kind, respectful, responsible, and safe. Then they get more little charms for such things as good bus behavior, good lunch room behavior and running or walking a mile in gym class.

Essentially it amounts to stuff they really should be doing anyway. And since most of them are good kids who do what they should do, every single fourth grader gets every single award.

Here's how it works. The principal calls out the names of the kids in each class. They stand up, get their little Responsibility charm, and sit down. Then it's on to the next class until every child is called. Then they do the same thing for the Respect award. And the Kindness award. And, well you get the idea.

As far as I'm concerned it's a colossal waste of everybody's time.

It's been promoted as a way to improve discipline in a positive way. No one seems to understand that when everybody gets an award, it makes the award meaningless.

We still haven't gotten away from that self esteem craze that's been around for the last twenty years. That's the idea that children need lots of positive encouragement to build their confidence. Like my daughter, they have a closet full of awards for doing what they should be doing anyway.

The result is that we are sending kids to college who've got great self-esteem, but can't take any criticism at all. They've been told all their lives what a great job they're doing and just don't understand why their paper came back with all those red-ink comments. (Red ink has been banned in many schools because of its negative impact on self esteem).

There's one more awards ceremony to go to, and I'll be sure to make that one.

But I don't expect to enjoy it much.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2005 10:43 AM EDT
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Friday, 13 May 2005
It's A Bloody Tiger, For God's Sake!
This month a pair of tiger cubs found wandering along a highway in Gaston County NC were placed in a wild life preserve called Carnivore Preservation Trust. Now they have room to roam, food to eat and beer barrels to play with.

The hot shot who abandoned them has never been found. Apparently, that's a common practice among owners of exotic animals. Once they aren't cute any more, they let them go. Or they call zoos or animal shelters, asking them to take the big cat off their hands.

Who are these idiots who think they have a special rapport with lions and tigers? These animals eat huge amounts of meat, soak everything with buckets of nasty smelling feline urine (think alley cat times 100), full grown they weigh 450 pounds and they can kill you. In the wild, a tiger will kill its own mother if she trespasses on his territory. They have even less regard for the human who feeds them.

Not only are tigers a danger to their owners, they are a danger to the public. They can and do escape. Earlier this year, a tiger was found wandering in the hills around the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. The tiger was killed and its owner was never found either.

But for me, the worst thing about this practice is that it's so crushingly humilating to these beautiful, proud animals. They were never meant to live in tiny fenced in yards. They were never meant to bond with humans. Owning them is just plain wrong.

Here in North Carolina there are no laws to restrict the ownership of exotic animals. If I had my way, it would be banned outright for the reasons I mentioned. If the city of Cincinnati can ban owning pitbulls, surely banning the ownership of animals much bigger and much more ferocious than pitbulls can be done as well. You can bet I'll be writing my state representative.

If you feel the need to bond with a tiger, visit the zoo.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:38 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2005 9:46 AM EDT
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Thursday, 12 May 2005
Because No One Else Wants to Clean The Rooms At The Ramada Inn
Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy have introduced an immigration bill that would grant "guest worker" status to immigrants coming here to do our dirty work. Those already here would could apply for legal status if they pay a fine and back taxes on the money they've already earned.

Opponents of the bill say it's granting amnesty to criminals. These people came here illegally and they've got to be punished for it. Excuse me, aren't fines and paying back taxes punishment? I know that there are plenty of CEOS out there employing an army of lawyers to avoid both.

Also, critics say the immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens. No they're not. They're taking the jobs that we refuse to do, like motel housekeeping, food service, hospital aides and lawn maintenance. It's back breaking work for low pay. What's so mind-boggling about all this is that the immigrants pay thousands of dollars to smugglers and risk their lives just to run leaf blowers and change sheets in motel rooms for $6.00 an hour.

I think it's a great idea. Not just because it will bring in money from the fees, fines and back taxes. Or that immigrants will be able to shed the constant fear of deportation. Or even that there will finally be some sort of control over who comes in and who doesn't.

The best thing is that it will save lives. Two years ago this month, 100 Mexicans were found stuffed like cord wood into a truck left to bake in the Texas sun. Eighteen died and dozens were hospitalized for heat exhaustion and dehydration. Instead of walking across the desert or cramming themselves into car trunks, immigrants will have a safe journey here.

And we won't be finding truck loads of dead bodies in Texas any more

Posted by judy5cents at 10:24 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 11 May 2005
For This I Spent Four Years In College? (not to mention grad school?)

I cleaned out the refrigerator today. It took me well over an hour. I removed everything, wiped down the inside and cleaned all the shelves and drawers. Then I put everything back, trying to bring a semblance of order to our main food storage system. So I thought I'd share the end product on the web.

Yes, this is boring, but it's my life. What's worse is that I know full well in a few days' time the refrigerator will look just as bad as it did this morning. I've always looked on cleaning as an exercise in futility, even though I spend a good part of my day doing it.

That's how I was inspired to start writing my first novel, Caviar Dreams. I was scrubbing out the bathtub and it wasn't getting any cleaner. I thought "What's the point? I might as well be writing. At least whatever I do today will be there tomorrow." Five years later I had a book and the bathtub was somebody else's problem, as we'd moved to North Carolina.

According to, if I was getting a fair wage for what I do, I'd be getting $90,000 a year. Of course we all know life is not fair and I get sweet FA.

I admit my job is easier than most stay-at-home moms. I only have one child, which eliminates the problem of sibling rivalry right off the bat. She's nine years old, so she's pretty self-sufficient. The days of diapering and dressing her are long gone. She can even make her own lunch and this summer I intend to teach her how to do her own laundry. (Hey, if she can operate a Gameboy, she can operate a washing machine).

But it's still work, and not particularly fulfilling work. No one notices what I do unless it's not done. "There are no clean socks! The kitchen's a mess! Where's dinner?"

However, I've had the chance to see my daughter grow. I've seen all her milestones in person, no daycare provider told me about her first steps or her first word. I'm with her when she gets on the bus to go to school and I'm there when she gets home. I also have had the opportunity to help out in her classroom.

So, even though it sounds like it, I'm not complaining. I have no regrets about leaving the working world to be Aly's mom. Aside from the bathtubs and refrigerators, it's definitely been time well spent.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:53 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 10 May 2005
How Are Things In Bangalore?
Recently, I heard a financial news story about employees at a Bangalore, India call center stealing millions of dollars from Citi Bank customer accounts. They were caught, the money was returned and guess what happened? Citi Bank decided to keep its phone banks in Bangalore. In fact, they wanted to keep the story quiet so no one would guess that they've outsourced their customer service department.

How dumb do they think we are?

The people of India speak English fluently. But no matter how hard they work on Americanizing their accents, and studying American pop culture, they still sound like foreigners.

In the interest of fairness, I will reveal that at one time I made my living as a telephone customer service rep. And I'd always assumed that job or a job like it would be there for me when I needed to return to the work force. So, yes, I am a bit PO'd that my job has been outsourced.

But that has nothing to do with the frustration of dealing with "Bob" or "Natalie," who just don't get what I'm trying to tell them. I spent a good deal of time on the phone with Netzero's financial department trying to cancel my service and get my money back. (I was charged $14.95, even though the disk said "Three Months Free")

Interestingly enough, the people in billing were in India. The people in account cancellation were in the States. Apparently, Netzero figured out that an American accent can save an account and a Bangalore one can kill it.

American companies have good reason to go to India. The average call center worker has a college degree, whereas in the states, the job attracts people with only a high school diploma. And they get all this talent for no more than $5.00 an hour. That's including the health benefits. Over here, it's around $12.00 to $15.00 an hour, not including benefits which as we all know, are going through the roof.

I don't know what we can do about it. My guess is to stop patronizing companies that outsource their customer service departments. As for me, I try to avoid those calls if I can help it.

And by the way, Verizon has opened up a call center in Wilmington NC. So if you have a problem with your cell phone bill, the only accent you'll hear is Coastal Carolina.

"Just reboot it..."

Posted by judy5cents at 8:47 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2005 9:51 AM EDT
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Monday, 9 May 2005
No Child Left Behind?????
Today my nine year old daughter went off to school to take what we call the EOG (End of Grade) tests, part of the No Child Left Behind act.

For the next three mornings, she and her classmates will be hunched over test booklets, diligently filling in those little bubbles with newly sharpened number 2 pencils.

She hates the tests. Her teachers hate them. I hate them. But we have no choice.

Standardized testing is an easy fix that doesn't work. First of all, just because a kid passes or fails a multiple choice test, it doesn't prove whether or not he's competent in a given subject. He may have been distracted during the test. He may have skipped a question and marked all the wrong answers on the test card, even though he got them right. Or he may just not be a very good test taker.

Also, there's the issue of test development. Last year I was shocked at one of the questions my daughter brought home on a EOG practice test.

Here's the question: Where would you go to find where Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson in the library?

Here's the answer: The card catalog.

My daughter has no idea what a card catalog is. She's never seen one. Most libraries removed them in favor of computerized search systems back in the early 1990s. Since my daughter was born in 1995, they were long gone the first time she walked into a library.

I did ask her where she'd go to find a book in the library and she replied, "That's easy. I'd look it up on the computer."

My point is that these tests are put together by people. Regular folks like you and me come up with the wording, the subject matter, and the criteria to be tested, which may include the non-existant card catalog. For all we know, there are plenty more questions about things that are not in the experience of our kids.

But the worst thing about the tests are who has to take them. Everyone in the school. The special ed kids and the children of migrant workers who've only been there for three weeks and don't speak English take it right along with everyone else, even though we know ahead of time they won't succeed.

Supposedly, the schools with poor scores will get help to improve, but that's not happening. The idea of forcing a school to behave like a business (the best ones flourish, the weaker ones improve or close their doors) just won't work. As a former educator, I know you have to work with what you've got. It works fine for the middle class kids whose parents have worked hard to prepare them for school, but in the poorer schools, there are lots of kids whose parents are just not there for them. No one reads to them, no one hugs them, no one practices spelling words with them. If their schools fail, whose going to teach those kids? That rundown school in the inner city was all they had.

Seems to me, the No Child Left Behind Act is leaving children behind left and right.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:50 AM EDT
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Friday, 6 May 2005
The Right to Eat As Much As You Want
Lately I've been noticing big splashy advertisements on television and in magazines for the Center for Consumer Freedom. Very high sounding name, right? It bills itself as "a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices." Well, who can object to that?

If you go to their website Center for Consumer Freedom you'll find a ton of articles telling you that everything you ever thought you knew about nutrition is wrong. Obesity does not cause near as many deaths as the Center for Disease Control claims, studies have shown that there's no real gain in drinking milk or eating vegetables, and there are lots of bad people (the Food Police) who are trying to force their misguided nutrional values on all of us.

Although it's non-profit, clearly it's all about profits. These are restaurant owners and food producers. (For more information click here: Independent News) Obviously, they want people to keep coming to their restaurants and buying their food. The more people eat, the more money they make.

Lately, groups who seem to have no problems at all are claiming to be persecuted. Conservative Christians loudly proclaim their values are under attack. Now the obese say the food police are after them.

As far as I can tell, you are still free to walk into your local Wal-Mart, fill your cart full of Doritos, Little Debbie's, Cherry Coke and Tombstone Pizza. As long as you pay for it, no one's going to stop you. You won't be asked for an ID, there are no limits to how much junk food you can buy. You can tell everyone within earshot, that you intend to eat all of it yourself right there in the car and no one will call the Food Police.

Yes, there's a great deal of discrimination against fat people and overeating. I make an effort to eat the so-called healthy foods, although they do seem to change from year to year. (When in doubt, eat brocoli) and we very rarely buy chips or sugared soda. Maybe, I've been brain washed by the food police.

But I will tell you this. When I worked as a patient registration clerk at the Dearborn County Hospital, every person who came in with Type II diabetes (and we had a lot of them) was always overweight. No coincidence.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:37 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 6 May 2005 10:40 AM EDT
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Thursday, 5 May 2005
Four Dead in Ohio
It's been 35 years and one day since the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Kent State students gathered at a protest against the Viet Nam War.

Although I am a graduate of Kent State (BA in journalism), I was not there when the kids got shot. I was only 13.

But seven years later, my friend Sharon and I took part in the annual May 4th candle light vigil. We walked silently, carrying our candles along with a thousand others, finally stopping at the Taylor Hall parking lot.

I'll never forget the heart wrenching feeling I had when I saw Allison Kraus's father standing alone, surrounded by candles on the spot where his daughter was killed.

What's worse was the exhibition in the student union of the hateful letters and telegrams people sent to the parents of the dead and wounded. "I'm glad your son was shot. They should have shot more of them." How can people be so cruel? Most of the kids shot were on their way to class and had nothing to do with the demonstration. But even if they were all violent radicals, as Gov. Rhodes had called them, their parents still loved them and missed them terribly. What could possibly be gained from telling a grieving mother her son deserved to die?

I had hoped that we would all become kinder and more civil as the years went by but it doesn't look that way. The culture wars have reached a fevered pitch now and the righteous are raining down an awful lot of wrath.

Still, no one's daughter should ever die in a parking lot for doing nothing more sinister than walking to class.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:14 AM EDT
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Friday, 29 April 2005
How about fixing Medicare first?
Right off the bat, I was not all that keen on hearing what President George had to say. We were all set for an evening of our favorite network TV shows--Survivor Palau followed by a new CSI and the president's press conference put all that off by an hour. We did get to see Survivor (Sorry to see Stefanie go) but we're old and have to get up early and fall asleep at 10 o'clock, so CSI was a washout. Now we'll have to wait to see it on re-runs.

I've known for years that Social Security is essentially a Ponzi scheme. For years people have been saying that there won't be anything left when the people of my generation retire, which we're starting to do now.

I believe that Social Security is not as pressing a problem as the president makes it out to be and his solutions will cause more harm than good. Invest your payroll taxes in the stock market? How many of us saw our rock solid 401Ks tank four years ago?

What concerns me the most about retirement is not the piddly little check I'll get from the government every month. It's Medicare.

I'm in great health now, a couple months shy of my 49th birthday. And if anything should happen, I've got excellent insurance coverage through my husband's Blue Cross insurance policy, provided by his employer General Electric. However, in 16 years I will have to use Medicare as my primary insurer. More and more employers are discontinuing health coverage to their retirees so it's more than likely my husband and I will have to take out our own insurance.

We all know as we grow old, our bits start to wear out. Heart failure, cataracts, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, that's all a distinct possibility once you get past 65. Insurance companies know that and charge accordingly.

When faced with providing health care for a huge chunk of the population, Medicare payments are now so low that many doctors are refusing to take Medicare patients. And what does Congress do? They pass a Medicare Drug benefit that will suck out even more money from the program.

When I'm 73, with some manageable type of chronic ailment that Medicare won't cover, I've got my own solution. I'll go to Washington and camp out by my Congress person's office door, wasting away as the cameras roll. And maybe I'll bring along a few sick friends as well.

Maybe then, they'll realize there's more to the Culture of Life than one woman's feeding tube.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:44 AM EDT
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Thursday, 28 April 2005
My conservative views
Yes, I do have a few. Most of them have to do with child-rearing.

Last week while my daughter was at soccer practice, I happened to be down at the Christian Radio end of the radio waves and heard an interview with a woman who'd just written a book on dealing with a "strong-willed" child. Although her conversation was interspersed with lots of references to the glory of God, she did say something that I whole-heartedly agreed with.

"That little person is not your friend. They don't want an grown up for a friend. They want a parent."


Your children are not your friends. They're your children. Set limits. Say no. Don't give them everything they want. Resist the desire to be the cool mom and instead tell your teen aged daughter that there's no way in hell a co-ed slumber party will be held at your house.

I also believe that if you have children, you are the one who's supposed to take care of them when they're little. I know as women, we've been told that we can have it all--marriage, a family and a career, but anyone who's ever tried to balance all three, knows that there are lots of trade-offs.

I keep hearing that in today's economy, a family needs two incomes. And a lot of families are barely scraping by on two incomes. They have no choice. But I believe there are lots of families out there working themselves into an early grave in order to maintain an extravagant consumer lifestyle. Houses with four large bedrooms, three bathrooms and gigantic living rooms that cost a fortune to heat. Cable, high speed Internet, cell phones, wide screen televisions, new SUVs every couple of years. Plus the weekly trips to the mall.

But everyone else has all that, why shouldn't we?

Because having children means making a few sacrifices. They're only little once and they spend their childhood in rooms with nine other kids and a caretaker who's getting little more than minimum wage to be there.

Obviously, we can't pass laws to make women stay at home with their children. And despite Congress's best efforts, we can't force people to live within their means.

As far as having it all, you can. You just can't have it all at once.

Posted by judy5cents at 1:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:16 AM EDT
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