Posts Tagged ‘ American ’

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I guess I should say one step back, and two steps forward. Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In short, NBC News had this description of what it means:

The Voting Rights Act requires nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.

However, it remains to be seen how it will shape up from here. No question though this was devastating to anyone who cares about Civil Rights.

But then this morning I woke up to some amazing news, also from the Supreme Court.

In a major victory for Gay Rights, the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA as it is called. From the New York Times:

In a pair of major victories for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there.

While this doesn’t mean anyone who’s gay and wants to get married can, it advances the cause by huge leaps and bounds. This is a huge victory for my state of California, which is the most populated in the nation. We will now join 12 other states that recognize same-sex marriage as legitimate in every way of the law. We are lucky number 13.

As discouraged as I was with yesterday’s ruling, today’s gives me hope for this country’s future. It is a relief to see smart, logical, non-faith based legislation passed. It’s been awhile. The defeat of reasonable gun control laws still infuriates and baffles me. Immigration is coming up next on the docket, as Congress debates the current bill. Let’s hope they act in an intelligent manner and do the right thing.

Anyway, my blog isn’t a political one, but rather personal and opinionated. And today I just want to say that the advances in Gay Rights is making me inch back towards being a proud American.

 

Pic of Court via Shutterstock

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Too Many Toys? Ideas to Avoid Toy Overload

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, offers a homemade gift alternative to store bought toys while making a point about excessive consumerism.

Jill’s recent blog about Toy Overload really struck a chord with me. How many toys are too many? How do you measure? Whom do you measure against? Who’s to say?

In 2008 on a trip to Rwanda, my husband and I came across a bunch of kids who had made a bicycle out of wood. Wood. I mean every part of the bicycle was made of wood. Okay, maybe there was a nail or two holding the wheel (also wood) on but everything else was wood. The most striking thing about the bike was that it didn’t belong to any one kid. It belonged to all of the kids in the village. Collectively. They took turns riding it, without fighting or crying. Can you imagine?

In another village we found kids playing with a soccer ball they had made from discarded plastic bags. This was all the more impressive because plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, which makes them hard to come by. What will they play with when their makeshift soccer ball is nothing but tattered shreds? I’m pretty sure they’ll come up with something ingenious.

Not long after returning from Rwanda my husband and I moved to Hawaii. Oh man, to be a kid in Hawaii. Year-round fun in the sun. In the military community where we lived there were kids galore. It wasn’t hard to figure out who in the neighborhood had kids (which, apparently, was everybody but us) because their yards looked like a cross between a gigantic yard sale and a trash dump. Full of every toy imaginable.

But here’s the thing. You almost never saw kids playing with any of that junk. Like kids around the world, they ran around in packs doing what kids do.

The toy disparity between the Rwandan kids and the kids in Hawaii was hard to swallow. My husband and I made a pact that if we had kids the rule in our household would be: get a toy, give a toy. That is, for every toy received, our kids would have to choose one toy to give away.

Four years later, we now have a little girl. Our house (and yard) has not been inundated with toys. Since our daughter was a newborn I’ve been going through her toys about every other month and pulling out the things she has outgrown or now shows no interest in. Some I pass on to friends, some I save for later, some I donate.

Many of her toys are hand-me-downs anyway, from her twin cousins who are 9 months older. We get the toys they’ve outgrown and send them back when we’re done with them. My sister then passes them on to others.

I’ll admit I haven’t actually implemented the get a toy, give a toy rule. In my defense, our daughter is only 2½—old enough to realize that in our house, toys sometimes disappear.

After Christmas my daughter caught me squirreling away some of her toys and wanted to know what I was doing with them. I explained how fortunate she is to have so many toys and how it’s good to give some of her toys to kids who don’t have any. Surprisingly, she seemed okay with it. When she’s a little older I’ll have her choose the toys she wants to give away and together we’ll go to donate them.

That’s all well and good but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem of having too many toys to begin with. Jill mentioned that she felt they received too many toys at Christmas. She wouldn’t have that problem if she was related to me.

My sister has no qualms about asking people not to buy toys for her boys because they have so much. You don’t have to tell me twice. I still want to do nice things for my nephews of course, but instead of sending toys, I send supplies for a simple craft. I send everything—supplies, instructions and a picture of my daughter with the finished craft—and my sister gets to make it with her boys. Our Easter craft is a perfect example. My daughter is on the left; my nephews are the other two.

Okay, so our mangy bunnies would make Martha Stewart cringe but I truly believe we all got something out of this. It helps that my sister is the least creative person on the planet, but still.

And the best part—no more junk! We can throw it away when we’re done. It’s just an idea to throw out there for those of us who think toy overload is something to overhaul. Especially when you know that kids have the creative capacity to come up with far more than we give them credit for. For some, just having a plastic bag or a piece of wood is enough. That’s by necessity, but we can still learn from their examples.

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Toy Overload — How Much Is Too Much?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I am sitting here holding back tears. My intention this morning was to write a blog asking you guys for the best toy recommendations. I found myself bored while playing with Emmett yesterday. I got to thinking, maybe like me, he’s sick of all his toys too.

But no, that’s not why my heart aches…

I’m tired of the hippo that has the pieces you put in to match colors and shapes. I’m sick of the music table that cranks out tunes in Spanish and English. I’m sick of the 500 building blocks–and in particular the whining that ensues–when Fia builds and Emmett knocks down.

Poor me. Poor us…

“Emmett, stop!” she screams, then shoves him. He starts crying. I threaten a time out for her. I hold him. This scenario is repeated throughout my day.

Oh, how very sad right? But fear not. My heart isn’t aching because of my difficult life… 

I’m even sick of the 103 books we have. Because as great as books are for kids, come on. Let’s face it. Every few months they get into a few favorites. But at the rate we are getting books (me included–I love to buy them), they will never get through even a fraction of them.

And don’t even get me started on all the stuffed animals. Especially because you can’t donate them due to sanitary reasons. We probably have at least 150.

So back to my boredom yesterday. My thought was, hmmm…maybe I’ll ask my readers what their favorite toys are/were for their babies at 14 months old. Particularly boys. Then I can go get more crap. Yes crap. To help entertain me and my kid.

Nope, this still isn’t why my heart aches…even though I can understand all of your sympathy…

How quickly I forgot about my utter annoyance at Christmas by all the toys people sent us. On Christmas Eve, I counted 27 presents under our tree. Only 4 of those were for Phil and me. Instead of feeling blessed, I felt gross. Family members love to send our babies gifts. I get it. But honestly, we don’t need them. They clutter up our space and instead of our kids learning to enjoy a few precious toys, they get bored and inundated with too many. It’s the classic consumerism of America. It begins at birth. And seems to never end…I ended up giving a bunch of stuff to a toy drive.

As a side note: I also found myself resentful. Since they bought so much, we had very little to get for Fia or Emmett ourselves. We got them each one thing. As parents, we know how much fun it is to watch them open gifts. But it would be more fun if the majority of gifts were from us. Plus, then there would probably be six toys. In total. I felt a bit robbed by everyone else who took the liberty of buying them so many toys.

But back to my heart ache…

So there I sat yesterday, the indulgent, gross American, bored, as I pulled out toys from one of our 8 brimming baskets. And by the way, the toys at the bottom of those baskets never see the light of day. Again, I use the word gross.

I sat down at my computer to crank out this blog when I got an email from my brother. It was a link to a site. It was crushing. I can’t pull the pictures from the site because of copyright. So I just ask all of you to take a moment and click on this link. It hurt my soul. It slapped me in the face. Hard. Pull it up now, then come back to finish reading my blog. I will wait………

(more…)

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