Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Interview with Anderson Cooper 'Bout Mutton Bustin'

With my luck, THIS is what WOULD happen if I ever relented and allowed any of my children to enter this rodeo ritual...
The events described below are complete fiction. The opinions, however, are all mine.

Anderson Cooper (looking dapper and suave as ever): They say it's a rite of rodeo passage—some starting as early as two years of age. It's done in the name of toughness. Done in the name of proving ones child can 'cowboy up' and take a little grit in the teeth and a few bumps to the head. But is it really worth the risk? Is what they call Mutton Bustin' really worth parents' bragging rights or the chance at a very large and gaudy livestock trophy? One mother in Spanish Fork, Utah is asking herself those very questions tonight. I am joined by Chris Thompson, small town mother of three whose daughter, Anna, was tragically paralyzed in last night's sheep riding competition at their annual Fiesta Days celebration. Mrs. Thompson, how is Anna holding up tonight?

Me: Anderson, she is in pretty good spirits considering what she's been through. Thank you.

Anderson (with a look of concern): Now, for our viewers who are not familiar with this particular rodeo custom, is it true that your daughter was trying to ride a sheep when the incident took place?

Me: That is correct.

Anderson (inquisitive): What kind of training did your daughter have? What was her experience? I am assuming that you and your family are familiar with farm animals and the dangers they pose?

Me (a hick accent forming): No, not really. Anna's only experience with farm animals came from pettin' her grandfather's horses and watching mutton bustin' at past rodeos. Plus, her cousin's cousin on the other side rides bulls. Does that count?

Anderson (looking dismayed and not quite sure where to go with that response): So, she hadn't practiced or prepared in any way... What kind of protective gear was Anna wearing, because I know in other states, it is mandatory for children to wear a protective mask? helmet? vest?

Me (hick accent growing stronger): Well, Sir, they don't have those kinds of fancy requir'ments here in Utah, and besides, those things might've protected Anna from a busted tooth or a severe head injury, but there is nothin' she could've wore to keep her from havin' her spine busted up the way it was.
(Dead air time as Anderson formulates what was just said)
My princess was, however, all dudded-up with a cute pink hat and matchin' boots. Plus, I'd curled her hair real big like a rodeo queen, ya know?

Anderson (looking flummoxed): No, Mrs. Thompson, I don't know. Do you mean to say that you sent your daughter to the middle of an arena, atop an animal that reached speeds up to twenty miles per hour, eventually ramming her into a cattle fence, paralyzing her, and the only protection you offered her came in the form of an eighties hairdo? What the hell were you thinking?

Me (hick accent reaching Ozark proportions): Well, she's wanted to do it ever since she was a tiny thang, and I figured that if she had the gumption, by golly, I was gonna let her try.

Anderson (looking forlorn into the camera): Mrs. Thompson, do you hear yourself? People all over the country, right now, are listening to you describe how you used your daughter's 'gumption' as you call it, to allow her to unwittingly provide entertainment for a crowd of people whose collective IQ apparently isn't much higher than your own! She was simply a spectacle—all to get what...a laugh? a trophy? bragging rights? Why exactly did you put your daughter in a situation that in most parts of the country would be deemed nothing less than child abuse?

Me (whiny, mamma bear, hick voice forming): Well, she was really lookin' forward to it.  She held on for a pretty good run, and had that devilish sheep not ducked its head and charged straight for that fence, she coulda had that trophy! And if that'd a happened, Anderson, you wouldn't be sayin' child abuse, you'd be sayin' glory, glory, glory!

Anderson (shaking his head): Mrs. Thompson, you have the final word...your daughter will never walk again. What do you have to say for yourself?

Me (with whiny, undaunted, ignorant resolve): Well, she may never walk again, but next year...even without the use of her legs...I guarantee you, Anderson, that Anna'll be ready to hang on and ride, pink hat, curls and all! (camera fades to black) Helmets are for wussies!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thoughts and Insights I Had While at Seven Peaks

Caution: This post contains graphic description, uncensored opinion, and the f-word...(fat).

Regarding children...

*Women who bring newborns to the pool deserve a medal of honor.

*Parents who allow their children to run full speed and chase each other through crowded places should be water boarded.

*The only thing worse than cold water in the Lazy River, is cold water with occasional warm spots.

Regarding the fact that only a handful of adults can look GREAT in a swimsuit...

*There is a difference between 'fit' fat and 'jiggly' fat and most of us over the age of 12 have both. The trick is to cover as much jiggly as possible, limbs excluded, of course.

*If, like mine, your stomach or breast region has the consistency of bread dough, Jell-o, or that of a deflated balloon, no one else should have to see it. And I'm not just talking women...

*The solution to many of the body image issues so prevalent in our society are just a pair of board shorts and a tankini top away. I wear both.

*Whether you are size 2 or 22, tan fat looks better than white fat, but covered fat looks best. One can be happy and secure with one's body image without exposing every last imprudent inch of it.

*Due to the (apparent) rapid decline of honest friends, there is a rising need for more mirrors at public pools.

Regarding human silliness...

*The concept of renting a tube and then paying to have it babysat so no one else can take it, is an interesting one--almost as intriguing as people saving seats at church with their scriptures, or better yet, their pajama-clad children...(true story).

*High heels with a bikini in Provo, Utah. Really?

*I love the argument that breast implants are akin to orthodontics. You are just fixing an imperfection...Tonight we went to a family night at the water park that was sponsored by our orthodontist. Saw lots of great smiles and very few boob jobs (by Utah standards). Apparently, the types of moms who care about their kids' teeth, don't care about breast augmentation (or they just can't afford to).

*I paid how much for that handful of fries? Bring on the jiggly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

American Idol: An Old Schooler's Perspective---Spring 2010

A few nights ago I overheard one friend questioning another’s obsession with American Idol. There was no judgement being passed, just a simple inquiry into a phenomenon she has yet to discover. Had I not been exhausted and trying to pay attention to the unfolding plot of the four hour movie we were watching, I may have joined the conversation. As it was, the explanation my friend offered was brief and the conversation ended without too much discussion. However, once the movie had come to an end and I was lying sleepless in the comfort of my own bed that night, I couldn't’t help but ponder the question that had been posed earlier that evening. Just what exactly is it that I and so many other viewers love about American Idol?

After all, I am a grown woman (yes, that’s a euphemism for “almost-middle-aged,” but I couldn’t bring myself to use it here). I grew up watching Gilligan’s Island, The Price is Right, and never missed an episode of The Love Boat. Until now, no reality series has even come close to luring me into its time-sucking trap, but every Tuesday night for the past I don’t know how many years I have found myself in front of the TV, tuning in to see the performances of America’s latest wannabe's.

Perhaps therein lies the draw. A show of wannabe's. Certainly, we all can relate to a group of people striving for a fast-track to success in what they deem their profession of choice, and the entertainment industry provides the perfect forum for such a spectacle. Let’s face it, who would want to tune in every week to see a group of tomorrow’s hopeful teachers battle it out in the classroom, wielding nothing less than their best anticipatory sets and most clever uses of the latest graphic organizers, all in an attempt to win a salary which often pales in comparison to that of any local plumber found in the Yellow Pages?

I have always been a fan of documentaries which highlight the ups and downs of various artists’ careers and the roads that led them to their fame, or in some cases, notoriety. I suppose American Idol provides me the opportunity to ride along and view the documentary of success as it unfolds. Better yet, I can even feel a part of the journey by casting my vote when I feel so inclined. But somehow, I don’t think the power of the vote is what attracts me to the show so much as the vulnerability of the contestants themselves.

We live in a culture that professes equality and often frowns upon openly putting one person above another. Judgement and criticism connote negativity–so much so that both have nearly been eliminated from the public school system. As a teacher, I am often counseled to use a positive approach to discipline, ask open-ended questions, avoid the use of the ever-critical red pen, and never question a child’s behavior openly in front of his peers. All of this is done in an effort to protect “Johnny” and his ever-increasing false sense of self esteem–-a term foreign to generations prior to baby boomers. In some cases, even parents have gone from being authoritative advisors for their children to becoming neutral consultants as they allow their children to self-navigate the world in a way they think best suits them. In our attempt to become judgement-free we have, in many ways, become a society without judgement. Rules are bent, exceptions are made, and limits seem to know no bounds in much of our current culture. In contrast, many of us almost-middle-agers (there, I said it) remember a time when not every hardworking student got As, parents told their children no more than yes, and not every girl who tried out expected to make the cheerleading squad.

I think this is what draws me to American Idol. Amidst a culture that promotes equality, and sometimes mediocrity, contestants take the stage every week knowing they will be openly criticized, even scrutinized, in front of the entire nation and eventually eliminated in a contest where there can be only one winner.

Assuming that this demotic talent show appeals to others for the same reasons it appeals to me, gives me hope. Hope that we haven’t forgotten the value of fierce competition. Hope that we can still appreciate the necessity for criticism. Hope that we can recognize that as we are watching others strive for their dreams under stressful circumstances, we understand that the fruition of the dream is only part of what delivers happiness. And yet, while it is true that the journey itself can bring much fulfillment and joy, being deemed the best at what you do whether you are the plumber, the teacher, or the next American Idol, is enough to make anyone’s heart sing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mommy Monster: Chapter One...of Many

Something happened the day I gave birth to my son Kyle. Well, duh, of course something happened. I squeezed a nine pound baby from my loins without the help of any modern medicinal agents that are so commonly used today. Well, okay, I suppose I un-willingly received help from the medical world in some fashion. It came in the form a nurse, I'll call Helga, who leveraged herself against the rails of my bedside and barbarically pushed on my ribcage in true WWF fashion, hoping to help in the delivery my already half grown child. But aside from the trauma caused by my son's harried birth, (and despite the fact that immediately afterward, I was trying not to think he looked like a squinty, one-eyed Mickey Goldmill who at any moment could've sat up and declared, “You're the champ, Rock,” in gravely tones), the day I had Kyle changed me. Yes, I morphed into something of which Parents magazine would never write—something more awful than the pain of natural childbirth itself. I became...a mommy monster.

Mommy monsters think they are the only ones who can do something right, but then get (how shall I say it?) pissy when others try to do things that only they are qualified to do. They ask things like, “Who folded these burp cloths like this?” in tones so snippy that no one dares fess up to the alleged crime. They say things like, “I just put the baby down. Don't even think about picking him up.” They do things like repeatedly check on a the slumbering tot and change him incessantly before anyone else can interfere with her master plan of parenting. And while it may seem that the mommy monster is in complete control of her newly created reality, it becomes very evident that she is not exactly 'wrapped tight' when something so simple as her spouse suggesting that she go take a bath while he watches the baby, sets her off on a tirade, screaming, “No one ever helps me around here. I have too much to do to bathe. Now,get out of my way!”

to be continued...perhaps at novel lengths.

Bode to Tiger-

Oh to be there the night thou fell from grace,
Thy true character exposed.
What aficionado might not have paid to see such a spectacle?
Like an angel of vengeance
Her crashing through thine darkened windows of deceit.
In flowing robes of white, attacking thy chariot as thou scrambled to flee--
Her only weapon, the clubs once used to build thy kingdom.

Then, in the wee hours, before the dark turned to dawn,
Light shedding on thy reputation, once impeccably clean,
Thou wast forever dented and tarnished, never to be repaired.
Yes, for one so adept at reading the greens and fairways of life,
It became evident that this time,
Thy errant play would be thine end.

And so it is with nary an ounce of pity in my voice
I proclaim...
May thou shootest twenty over,
Never to wear the coveted green jacket again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gift

Reading poetry is like unwrapping a gift.

It can be obnoxiously wrapped in newspaper, taking hours to peel back each layer

Or it can be so beautiful that you just want to sit and stare at its creative covering—going no deeper than the surface.

The gift can be full of thought, making the receiver its true beneficiary

Or it can be more an expression of the giver—never intended to elicit a response from others.

It can be something you keep for generations, passing down its wisdom to those you love,

And it can be something you pass on as an inside joke, bringing with it knowing laughter and meaningful connections.

It can also be a gift that is readily discarded, its purpose never understood.

It can be popular with the masses

Or like, Steve Urkel fashion plates, it can be 'all wrong' on a multitude of levels.

Poetry is not one-size-fits-all

Because what many love, some may abhor.

Nevertheless, it is still a gift.