Friday, July 29, 2011

The Day the Reading Died

My brother just posted a news article today about a high school in Missouri that is banning a couple books. The request came from a moral standpoint, but the principal has stated they are being banned because they are not "age appropriate." That is interesting, because both my brother and I were assigned one of the books in high school. Maybe our school was just more mature than this one.

I feel bad for the students of that high school, but I feel worse because I feel like this is another symptom of an ever larger problem. And that is.... the death of the book in America. Mom and Pop book stores were consumed by the big box book sellers, and now even they are a dying breed. Rest in peace, Borders, for you have already succumbed. Now, the argument may be made that the e-book is the cause, but I don't think so. I think it may contribute, because I love me my Nook and my ability to have a new book magi-ppear in an instant, but that isn't the problem. The problem is... the readers of the world are getting old and dying, and our children, our younger generations aren't being taught the love of reading.

Children these days (yes, I sound 80 years old) are not reading. They are not being read to. Their parents are blackberrying, Angry Birding (Hello, my name is Lynn and I was an addict until I beat all the levels), and DVRing Cake Boss (Hello, my name is Lynn and I've never seen this, so I am sorry if it really is worth watching). We used to have fewer options for activities than kids do now. We recorded a few things on our plastic VHS tapes, but if we missed Who's the Boss?, we missed it. We couldn't record that, plus Family Ties, Dallas, and Full House so that the second we got home we could park ourselves in front of the boob tube for the rest of the night. We had our Commodore 64 set up to play Pac Man and Avoid the Noid, but we didn't have hand held rectangles where you could instantly download an app any time of day to avoid boredom. We got bored. We had a swimming pool in the backyard, and we still got bored... and speaking for myself, when I was bored, I read.

I see kids all the time, mine included, with an iPod touch permanently glued to her palm and her library book collecting dust, untouched. We are raising a generation that believes, "gtg, ttyl" is good writing, and their imaginations are as unused as a card catalog.... and yet we ban books that speak to people for fear that they aren't age appropriate?

Tabbi read The Hunger Games series, three long books, in a couple weeks because it spoke to her. She put her phone and her iPod down and she read. She talked about it with passion and excitement in a way that she had never spoken about a book before. Now I realize that it isn't being banned, but still... if a random teenage boy could have that reaction to Slaughterhouse Five (like my high school guy friends did), isn't that reason enough to keep it around? It made them turn off the Xbox and discuss literature, and if that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is.

We are raising a generation of cyber humans. Kids who play cyber guitar, not real ones. Kids who would rather use iPod apps than their imaginations, and we as adults aren't helping. We are letting them, and we are stripping away the books that could one day make them actually want to unplug. Right now, I can say that my little boys love reading, but I can also say that we own no Xbox, Wii, or Nintendos (do those exist anymore?). And, we don't, because I fear the future if we did. I fear for the day my boys crawl onto the couch with a controller, instead of up on my lap with Cat in the Hat, and I fear that on that day I will let them play so that I can watch my DVRed Celebrity Rehab in peace. I get why this is happening, but I also get the tragedy it is causing, as well. Books are dying.... and our kids' imaginations and minds will go right along with them. Rest in peace....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Fairy Tale

I watched the replay of the USA/Brazil World Cup soccer game that was played on Sunday and I was inspired. Obviously, USA won... so that helps, but it was more than that. This was more than a game, or at least it should be. This was magical.
There are sports movies galore that try to capture the spirit of what these women did for real on Sunday. Well, I should say that there are men's sports movies that depict heroes... titans taking the field of battle. There are women's sports movies about... uh... ice skaters. Truly, I can think of maybe two movies (A League of Their Own and Million Dollar Baby) where the women were more than just sparkly... they were heroes. As I watched the game, I realized that I was witnessing an inspirational moment that movies would kill to recreate. The dirty, sweaty, scrappy women that came back after terrible calls and one player down to win against a formidable opponent. They didn't quit. They didn't cry. They fought, they dug deep, they fell and got back up and made plays so beautiful they made dancing look clumsy.

The game is over, and the moment passed... but tomorrow Team USA advances to play France in the world's most respected sport. Watch it. Make your young girls see this for what it is... this is the stuff real fairy tales are made of. No sitting around waiting for a prince... these women made their fairytale ending by themselves... and attention should be paid.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Out of the Guns of Babes

A tragedy happened in my area last week. An 11 year old boy shot and killed his 6 year old brother while they were home alone. Debates are raging as to whether or not this 11 year old should be tried as an adult, and whether he should have been released from custody to attend his brother's funeral yesterday. It is interesting to read the interwebs and look at the discussions people are having, because one thing is eerily absent.... the same thing that was absent the day this young boy died... the parents.

Hold on... let me climb up onto my soap box. Ahhh... that's better.

I consider the questions I posed last paragraph to be easy ones. 1. Absolutely do not charge this child as an adult. While the crime he committed was very mature... he is not. And, I am sickened by the thought of what this child would endure in a male adult prison facility. I've been in them. It's not pretty. 2. The child should have been allowed to attend the funeral, unless it brought great discomfort to the immediate family. This was not a premeditated act of evil (ahem Casey Anthony), it was a child with a loaded weapon acting on impulse. Punish - yes. Punish in accordance with the goal being the best possible future - absolutely. But here's the thing I still fail to comprehend... if our prosecutor is considering charging the child as an adult for Murder 1... what are the parents going to get?

Man, the view is great from up here....

When you are an adult, you can choose to have a gun for safety, sport, serial killing... whatever. Actually, I don't endorse the third one... but wait... I don't endorse any of them! But in any case, it is your choice. When you have a child in your home, though, that choice ought be to rethought and rethought one hundred times over, picturing every possible scenario that leads to a gun being put in an 11 year old boy's hands. Where was the gun safe (oxymoron)? Did the 11 year old know how to open it, therefore defeating the purpose of having one or did the family just think they could stick it in their underwear drawer and hope for the best? Was it locked? Was it loaded? Was this boy ever taught that death is forever and guns aren't toys? Did the parents ever give it one second of thought before they left a deadly weapon within reach of children? Did they ever consider that between target practice and duck hunting, that maybe they should make sure the gun disappeared when not in use? Would they let the kids throw lit matches at gasoline? Did they juggle steak knives? Were they allowed to hold each other underwater until they stopped kicking? Probably not... but by God they'd let that gun be available at any time.

There are a million things in this world that could take our children from us, and the bulk of them are completely out of our control. Tornadoes, drunk drivers, cancer.... they are all out of our hands. But, guns.... you are potentially putting those in the hands of your children every time you bring them into your homes. And I am left wondering, not about trying the boy as an adult or letting him attend the funeral... I am wondering for the parents who lost one boy forever and another is on his way... was it worth it? Was the idea of safety or sport worth the lives of both of your sons? And for all of the opinionated masses sitting at home with guns either un- or under- secured... is it worth the lives of your children? I bet not.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What a Difference 730 Days Make....

Two years ago, my family and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Kansas City with my brother. You may remember reading the post, or hearing my retelling 400 times, but the visit was not without incident. At Deanna Rose Farmstead (a lovely place to visit, to which I will never return), Will fell off the dock into the fishing pond, and scarred me for life. However, I am proud to say that my return this weekend showed me just how much we've both grown.

This 4th of July, we went back to Kansas City and did all the things there is to do in that fantastic town. Science was done in Science City, dinosaurs were built and watched at T-Rex, and despite my frequent panic attacks, my family attended RiverFest.

Now, I realize that a normal person only fears the great unwashed when attending a fest like this one, but I am far from normal (insert joke here). Instead, I am afraid. I am terrified of Will going anywhere near scary water. My definition of scary water is... any dark, murky water with any sort of current that could sweep my son away to a watery death. So, pools... no problem. There isn't a swimming pool around (except maybe the one in Massachusetts where the lady drowned and the water was so cloudy her body bloated on the bottom for three days before anyone found her) that I can't get my boys out of. I am a strong swimmer and am confident that I can rescue them out of a clear pool, but what about a river? An ocean? A lake where they sink to the depths that we can't dive down to? That thought has kept me up nights when things like cruises, or RiverFests are mentioned in my presence. And this fest was no different.

The drive out to the river made me physically sick. I had barely slept the night before for all the images of my boys falling into the swift current and being swept away. I was nauseous, my heart pounding, my mind racing with panic. But, we went. I repeated 100 times to my family that the boys couldn't go near the river and forced the boys to hold someones hand when they walked through the fest even though the riverbank was 40 feet away. But, I went. I can't say I enjoyed the fest, as I was completely consumed with the single thought of "KEEP THEM AWAY" replaying on a constant loop in my brain... but, I went.

As I sit here, back at home today, and reflect on the weekend... I realize that Will and I have both come a long way since that trip to the bottom of the fishing pond at Deanna Rose Farmstead. He can now paddle along in a deep end (with adult supervision) and has turned into quite the water baby. No fear of water developed for him. And I can now walk along a river walk with my boys and even though I am not yet calm, I can be there. I went. A fear that came into being in Kansas City two years ago, was met in Kansas City again this year, and while I am sure it will stay with me forever... it may have gotten just a little bit smaller this weekend. And that, for me, is a bigger feat than even Will's giant, dynamite cannonball jump.