The Day the Moon Melted.

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The total eclipse of the sun. Art by Nick / photo by KidZond.

By Js Kendrick

 

In case you missed…and I have no idea how you could have…we had an eclipse this past Monday. For those of us who live in the contiguous United States it was quite a show. Passing from the west coast to the east coast. The eclipse was all over the news and throngs of people went to view the eclipse, to be in the path of totality.

There was also the scary bit about the moon melting. Oh? did you miss that part on the news? I’m sorry you missed it. It was a big deal here at my house. Because when the moon goes in front of the sun, well, come on! It’s the Sun! The moon was definitely going to melt. Or burn up, either way, the moon was toast.

Despite that little thing called Science, to a 6-year-old boy, the whole idea of the moon blocking out the sun is a tad concerning. Simply because he lacked perspective. Actually that has been going around a lot lately, but I digress. My son Nick had a concern which I needed to address.

Being 6, and fairly smart for his age, and me being very childish for my age, he had me puzzled as to how to explain it. I showed him diagrams, even videos, explained the Sun is approximately 93,000,000 miles away from Earth. And that the Moon is around 239,000 away…so we had a good 92,750,000 miles and some change, comfort zone. Nada. Just didn’t compute. He could not grasp the concept.

I would have to say his concern wasn’t exactly real. He didn’t break out the tinfoil and fashion a hat. Nor did he carry water jugs down to the basement. But he did ask if it was going to rain ‘moon drops’ when the sun melted the moon. I just narrowed my eyes and wondered if he was pulling my leg on all this.

What Nick lacked was understanding of the science. What was going to happen when the moon passed between the earth and sun? He just couldn’t fathom how it wasn’t going to be a catastrophe. Yet Mom and Dad were not panicking, nor were the neighbors packing their bags and heading for an underground bunker. So he knew that, yet it didn’t quite make sense to him.

Then, on Sunday, out on our front deck I had an epiphany. Nick was standing against the railing as I sat in a chair and I realized I couldn’t see the mail box. He was blocking my view.

“Hey Nick.” I said.

“Yes?” He said knowing dad was going to try to explain this eclipse thing again.

“Come with me, I want to show you something.” I said getting up and taking him to the mailbox.

Our mailbox is on a wooden post that stands about 5 feet tall. Nick isn’t there yet, he’s about 4 foot 5 inches. So, I used the post as comparison. Then took him back to the deck and I had him sit in the chair.

“Can you see the post?” As I stood where he did. Blocking his view.

“No, but you’re taller.” He said, got me there. I scooched over.

“Can you see our neighbors door?” I asked. He frowned. The door was taller than me, wider too. Yet I blocked it. He frowned then smiled.

“No.” He said. I pointed to our neighbors door and told him that is the Sun, and then at myself and said I was the Moon.

“I’m on earth?” He said. I nodded. Then I pointed to the sky.

“You’ve been on a plane before right? The plane is pretty big, bigger than a school bus, but when you see one up in the sky how big is it?” I asked.

“Little.” Full smiles now as the wheels turned in his head.

“Yeah, you can block it with your hand, and you known that the plane is bigger than your hand. So, see? That’s why the moon won’t melt, it’s perspective, how you see it, compared to what its actual size is. The Sun is really far away, too far to melt the moon.” He nodded, seemed to grasped the concept and went off to play, content that the moon would not melt. Although disappointed it wasn’t going to rain ‘moon drops’.

So we had an eclipse on Monday. The moon passed between the earth and the sun. The moon is still there, didn’t melt a bit. And I was able to explain perspective to my son.

The moral of this story is Perspective. In life, we often encounter problems that seem disastrous. Overwhelming and beyond our control. Yet often it is simply a matter of perspective. It may not be as severe as the Moon being melted by the Sun, and yes, at the time the problem can cause great distress and be daunting beyond belief, but years later, we tend to look back at those hiccups in our lives, placing them in perspective, and realizing that as bad as it was then, it could have been worse. You know, the Earth could have melted.

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How to lose sarcasm in 7 days or less.

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The sarcastic Cheshire Cat. Illustration by John Tenniel / Illustration from Wikipedia Commons.

 

By Js Kendrick.

 

A week ago today I was asked to do something I thought was impossible. Stop being sarcastic. Now, very few people can ask this of me and actually get me to even think of doing that. My daughter Alexis’ therapist is one of those people.

Alexis, my 9-year-old daughter, is a high functioning Autistic. Most people wouldn’t even notice what I have been learning to notice. They would pass it off as bad behavior or that maybe she was tired, hungry or just having a bad day. Yet people do catch that Alexis is sarcastic.

Yeah, that ones on me.

To say I speak to others sarcastically is putting it mildly. Usually it is in good fun, to keep thing from getting tense, or just because that is my nature. My conversations drip with sarcasm. If you call me a ‘Sarcastic Bastard’ I will just profusely thank you for the compliment. Sometimes I get so bad I have to say, “No, actually I’m being serious”. Just so people know I am. Even then I might have to convince them.

Yet Alexis, who has a father who jokes, says the wildest things, and teases (nicely) all the time, well, she doesn’t see the difference. She thinks speaking sarcastically is normal. You know? because that’s how daddy talks.

 

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Alexis and I ‘smiling’. She started to ‘look mad’ for smiling about a month ago. 

 

So, I’ve had to stop being sarcastic. Okay, around her. Let’s be real, if you are a sarcastic person, stopping is nearly impossible.

However I know when to stop. I don’t tell a Police Officers who pull me over for a broken tail light that,  “I am surprised you guys finally found me”. Or tell my boss when he asks me to come in early that “Sorry, I’m still on the North side of Mt. Everest, can I come in at my normal time?”. I do know when and where sarcasm is acceptable. Alexis can’t filter that.

Here is an example of how her mind works. The other day we watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. It’s a good little movie set in the Harry Potter Universe, by author J.K. Rowling. If you know anything of the Harry Potter Universe you know they have all sorts of creatures. Which of course is part of the movie’s plot line. When I asked my kids if they wanted to watch it again, having to call it the “movie with all the magical creatures in it”, she said to me:

“Yeah! But they’re not real creatures are they? Because they don’t exist. It’s just made up right?” She asked. Her brother Nick, who is 6, said to her they were just ‘made on a computer’.

Now you might think, as I had in the past, she was just confirming that there are no such monsters like that in the Real World. But that isn’t what she was doing. It wasn’t out of fear, but out of the need to reaffirm that there is a difference. Differences trouble Alexis. It’s the simply social cues that we take for grant that she struggles with.

As her brother Nick knew right off the bat, those creatures do not exist. Alexis knew, but wanted a confirmation that they were fake. She does this often. Confirming if something is funny, or scary, or dangerous, or true. Truth is important to her, along with facts. She often tells me why I am incorrect, because the facts don’t support my statement.

Thus the problem with sarcasm. Sarcasm is literally speaking the opposite of what is the truth.

“Wow, you just hit your thumb with a hammer, did that hurt?” I may be asked. To which I would respond sarcastically. “Oh no, I do this once a week just for fun”. Obviously a contradictory statement to the facts.

Usually when I hit my thumb with a hammer it involves very Bad Words and sarcasm. As in “Well that blanking felt lovely”.

So discerning the difference is hard on Alexis. So she has learned to be sarcastic. As you might have guessed, this isn’t a quality you want in your 9-year-old. Especially with school right around the corner.

My project for myself this past week has been dropping my sarcasm as much as possible around her. Try to be more Black and White in my speech so she picks up that and not the reverse snarky speech of sarcasm.

It has been a helluva a week for me.

No, serious.

Argh! A writer’s life for me!

[ Well sometimes…]

 

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Nick and Alexis enjoying the new deck. / Photos by KidZond.

 

If you like to write, like myself, you will eventually run into this problem. Life gets in your way.

There are a whole list of problems that confront you, that whole sleeping thing, eating, and well the dog looking at you because you’ve been writing for the last 10 hours straight and she really needs to pee. Hopefully you notice before you step in the puddle.

Of course those are the more silly aspects to writing. The reality is your job, (unless you write for a living – and I’m not there yet.) your family, and well things that just need to get done.

Take my porch for instance. My porch, or rather stoop, was not in the best shape. What’s worse is that the walkway to the stoop, had sunk and with this wet summer we’ve been having, has caused a 5 inch deep by 4 foot wide lake. Hey, it’s a lake when you try to walk across it at night after getting off work.

So, it had to go. After talking over options with my father-in-law, he had a simple solution.

“Hey I want to try out this 16 lbs sledgehammer, see if we can get that  concrete stoop out and then build a deck.” Is what he texted me.

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Hey, sledgehammers do work pretty well! Also great for punishing sarcastic son-in-laws.

 

What started as a trial of a sledgehammer has turned into a full-blown project. Because, well, it needed to be done. So, I went from working, household chores, children and writing to working, household chores, children and building a deck while trying to squeeze in writing. The trick on the writing is to write when you are mostly coherent, not at 1 a.m. after a day of shoveling in 3000 lbs of fill dirt and working 8 hours. Something was going to have to give.

Writing took a backseat for the time being. Okay, Blogging took a backseat for the time being. I still write, everyday, usually on my downtime at work, using pen and paper to craft out an idea for a novel. Yet sitting down to write after a full day just turned out gibberish. Ideas were lost in my tired mind and blogs were relegated to the trash heap. Hopefully to be resurrected in the near future.

All writers face this problem, heck you don’t even have to be a writer to have life interrupt you. Car problems, house issues, and children will often throw your plans off kilter. It’s a fact of modern life. Pretty sure it was a fact of ancient life.

“Dear? Weren’t we going to go hiking today?” Roman husband asks.

“Yes why? Mt. Vesuvius is just lovely this time of year.” Roman wife says.

“Yeah, well it’s erupting, we may want to go sailing today instead.” Roman husband says quickly packing.

 

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This is only 1400 lbs of dirt, 1600 to go.

 

Whether you have a home improvement project, or life just interrupts you, learning to take time off from what you love, and not fret over it like a Mother cat who has misplaced a kitten, will make your life a whole lot easier.

Many articles are written about guarding your writing time. Finding a time everyday to write uninterrupted. They’re good articles, they make a good point. For those of us who live that ‘organized chaotic life’ with children and life’s interruptions, what sounds like sound advice, isn’t always practical.

Even successful writers have trouble getting time to write. And those lucky S.O.B’s probably have to do book tours and a host of media interviews that cut into their next novel’s time. So while us personal bloggers slog along in life, remember, it could be worse. You could have that million dollar book deal you are working on, and have to hire someone to build your deck.

 

Everything…

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My Brother Jay fishing on the Rock river. / Photos by KidZond.

 

 

The conversation started quite unexpectedly. We had been talking most of the night yet others were present. My brother’s wife, my wife and two young children and my sister. But at around 11 p.m. we, my brother Jay and I, were alone.

We had dinner earlier, teriyaki chicken on the grill. We had also been drinking craft beers since afternoon. Then of course, being on vacationing all week at a rental house on the river, we had been drinking a lot. I think I drank more that week than I have in the last five years. Possibly ten.

Yet one thing my brother and I wanted to do on this vacation of ours, was to relax on the deck, beer in hand, and just talk. This hadn’t happen yet, we had family time, we went on a day trip to historical town, my brother and his wife toured a brewery in Wisconsin. So our conversation had been put off. I truly think we had forgotten about it.

“I want something other than beer, want to have some Johnnie Walker?” My brother asked me. I agreed. So we brought the bottle out and sat out to drink it gone. This was actually a family joke, a sort of ‘point of honor’ as our father and our great-uncle had accomplished this feat many times. So we needed to ‘be like dad’.

So we talked.

“Do you remember when…” and

“What was that guys name who always…” and even

“Really? I never knew that!” and many more phrases of the same vein. We talked and laughed. Talking about funny things and silly things. Catching up for years of conversations we should have had, but never got the chance to.

However as we continued on with the point of honor, tossing in a 25 ounce bottle of beer that we split between us, and some craft beers for fun. Thus increasing our blood alcohol level to a point where it narrowed our visual acuity. Our conversation turned more to the serious side.

We discussed our parents, both of whom had passed away years ago, our father in 1998 and our mother in 2006. We talked of our love of our parents, how we, among so many we know, were very lucky to have parents that stayed together their whole lives. Both of our spouses come from families that had went through divorce.

Neither our Father nor our Mother had a happy childhood. Both were children of the Depression. Our mother was taken to an orphanage when she was just 5. Our grandmother had died of tuberculosis when she was 5, her father, my grandfather took her and our uncle Tommy to an orphanage because he couldn’t be bothered to raise children. An irony here is that I am the spitting image of our grandfather.

Our father grew up with an alcoholic father who beat him. His parents divorced when he was young and our grandmother remarried when our father was 13. He ended up leaving home at 15 and living with our great-uncle since my grandmothers new husband and our father didn’t get along. The would become the best of friends over the years, but back then they couldn’t stand each other. So both our parents loathed their childhoods. However, they talked of the good times more than the bad.

Our parent would have four children, they would have their ups and downs yet still remained together for 53 years till our fathers death. They were, by no means, perfect people. Yet they truly loved one another and their children.

I wouldn’t call it a chiding of our parents as more of a review. All of us children are hard workers, a trait we inherited from our father. Even our eldest brother (who wasn’t present) owns his own business. Yet unlike our father, we have stayed at jobs for years.

“So, what? 2 years? maybe 3 tops?” My brother said. I nodded.

“I’ve been at my present job for 11 years, before that 13 years.” I said. He nodding, he too had worked at his present job for years.

Our father rarely stayed at one job. He would always find a reason to move on. We figured the longest job he ever held was 5 years. Yet he provided, always came through in the end. The in-between sucked, but he was good at pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

We talked about Politics, our father loved to talk politics. We talked sports, and all the events our father dragged us to. How our mother would smack us in the face for the littlest infraction yet our father never, ever, laid a hand on us. Although they loved each other immensely, my brother Jay and our mother’s relationship (especially in his teenage years) wasn’t the best. When he became an adult, their relationship mellowed. This is a common thread isn’t it? I had the same relationship with my eldest daughter. Yet I never hit her with a cast iron frying pan like our mother did to Jay. Yes, there is a story there.

Our conversation metered on to our lives, our screw ups, our triumphs. We talk families, and children. We divulged secrets of our lives. Things we would never repeat and I won’t repeat here. As we talked the conversation went to a place few get to go to. One of deep admiration and love for each other, of total honesty without hurt. Two brothers, intoxicated yes, but still able to follow each other’s words. Reaching down deep to find our moment in time where we bonded like we never have before.

I’m the baby of the family at 53. Jay is 60, so you can imagine what a total pain in the ass I was as a younger brother. As kids, our bonding was only when we needed something from each other. Yet that night, that Saturday night that I will never forget, the conversation transcended all normal conversations we had ever had. We even went so far as to chide each other, but in a loving caring way, that if not for that moment in time, it would have been taken wrong, taken as a rebuke, yet it wasn’t that night.

As my brother question my dreams, my desire to become a writer and to fulfil that dream, that I have been pursuing for over 20 years, he asked my why I had never published. Why I had never put my work out there for others to see.

“What? are you afraid? You scared that you will be rejected? That no one will like your work?” he asked me. After a long awkward pause, I answered him.

“Yeah…” I said quietly. “I’m afraid.” I admitted.

“Okay, so what’s worse. Never publishing and not having to worry about rejection, or not knowing? Never knowing if anyone will like it because you didn’t put it out there?” and that was the crux of the matter.

“So what if no one likes it, you’ll know, then just…I don’t know, do something else you love. But come on, you need to know.” He said to me.

And he was right. I knew he was. That night, that Saturday night when we stayed up till the early morning air was thick with dew, he pushed me to face my biggest fear. This blog was created in response to that conversation. Putting myself out there for the world to read. I would have never had started it if not for his loving goading of me.

We had conversations on every topic imaginable. I can’t think of a subject we didn’t touch upon. From the world and it’s messed up ways, to what bug is that? We talked. We finished our point of honor and then some. And as the sun threaten to show the first rays of dawn, we stumbled off to bed. Our tongues were literally tired. Our eyes bleary, our bodies achy and knowing the pain they will be in tomorrow. Yet our souls were refreshed.

Not a Saturday night has passed since that one, that I don’t think about that conversation. Something about it was almost magical. No showmanship, no condemnations, no boasting except for humours effects. No one but us, that deck, and the river that flowed by. I will never forget that night. Even though, in time, the conversation itself will fade in memory, exact details will be lost, as some were to Mr. Johnnie Walker, yet the feeling and emotions of that night…I’ll never forget it. Nor will my brother Jay.

The next day, as we were made fun of for our hangovers. Teased and picked on, we would just smile at each other. It was Sunday, their last day here before flying home early Monday morning, and my family and I had to go home, so we parted around mid-afternoon. My sister-in-law asked my brother Jay how long we stayed up. He said around 5 a.m. he thought. She looked at him and asked him what did we talk about for 6 hours? He thought for a moment, looked at her and said.

“Everything…”

Why is there never anything to eat in my house?

[Or why my kids never find anything Good to eat.]

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Fat chance I would ever get any my kids to eat this. / Photos by KidZond

 

I’m kind of getting tired of hearing this question. I’ve heard it for the last 20 some odd years. I have heard this question when I have had to slam the cupboard closed just so the box of Cheez-it’s wouldn’t fall out. Darn shame they were white cheddar and not cheddar. Because if you haven’t noticed…white cheddar does not look like cheddar, which is orange. Which of course, is a very important difference in the minds of a 6 and 9-year-old.

Is there anything good to eat? Is the question at hand.

This is of course the never-ending battle parents have with their children. There is never anything to eat. Well, never anything Good to eat.

I’m pretty sure you have something in your house that can be consumed. I know I do. We have fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and various snacks. Some of these are healthy snacks, others are just snacks. But we have food. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you do too.

But…it’s just not the right food. Like marshmallows. Or maybe just a box of sugar cubes would suffice. If I suggest eating something like, say…a sandwich, I have just asked my child to eat roasted grasshoppers cooked on stick over an open fire in their little sugar addicted minds.

“I’m hungry, can I have something to eat?” thus wails, the poor starving child.

“Want me to make you a sandwich? Or a bowl of cereal?” I suggest.

“No, I want something good. That sounds yucky.” the child leans against the cupboard for the full effect.

“What do you want then? An apple? Oh, how about peaches? I can open a can.” Working on my Parent of the year award.

“Don’t we have anything good?” is the famished child asks.

 

I do my best not to lose it. I count to 10 and think…in less than 10 years, feeding themselves will be their own problem.

Till my 23-year-old visits and looks in my fridge.

“Have anything good to eat?” I hear her ask.

“Yes.” I respond.

“Like what? I don’t see anything in the fridge, what is this? You’re cheese is moldy.” I hear.

” That’s Blue Cheese. It’s supposed to look like that. Hey I have an idea!” I said in a lilt of a voice.

“Oh yeah? what?” She answers back in anticipation of some delectable treat.

“Check your own fridge.” I say.

*Crickets* Fridge door closes slowly.

 

That’s the crux of the matter. It really doesn’t matter what age your children are, they still think that your fridge is theirs. And once again, you have nothing good to eat.

It’s really hard to blame them. When I was younger I was the same way. My mother, being raised in the Depression, always had something in our house to eat. In fact, when I came over to visit after I had left the nest, she would feed me. Insist on it actually. I rarely said ‘No’.

But there was a time I was a tad ‘picky’. Like at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners when they served Candy Yams, or also know as, sweet potatoes. I was not into that. Here was this orange gooey mess that looked like aged mashed potatoes that had been pushed back into the far recesses of the fridge since 1963 and I was supposed to eat it. I didn’t, never did as a child. Refused.

Then my father didn’t finish a certain piece of succulent turkey that I had my eye on. He looked at me, asked me if I wanted it. I wiped the drool off my face and nodded. But it had some of that icky candy yams on it. Unfortunately, I had to eat it, to eat he piece of turkey.

“Hey, these are sweet!” I exclaimed in shock. My mother, such a sweet woman, gave me a look with her head cocked to one side and a smirk of a smile.

“Yes they are, why do you think we call them candy yams?” She berated me. I ate two helpings. I was 20 years old when I first tried them. Now, I make them every year for holiday meals. (The brown sugar is the key.)

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See that cheese stick? Mine!

It’s really hard to keep ones cool when you hear that your full cupboards are worthless. That no matter what you buy at the store, it isn’t worthy of little palates. I try to remember that my son eat’s broccoli, and loves it. That my daughter is a very good eater. And that my older two have their own fridge.

I have to remember, not only my own youth, but that sometimes, even after going to the store and buying food, I find myself not wanting anything I have bought. Of course what I do want usually requires me to cook it, and I hear the whines of…

“I’m not eating that!” or “Could I have a cookie first?” to “Didn’t we get anything good?” That I take a deep breath and look at my wife in the most loving way and say.

“Wanna order a Pizza?”

Through the Prism of my Yard.

Or why you should teach your children not to believe in ‘races’.

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Photos by KidZond

[Authors Note: Besides blogging I have the infamous Day Job. I work at a manufacturing plant. My job is the Yard Truck Driver, in short, I move Semi-trailers in and out of docks and assist the truck drivers who come to our plant for pick ups and deliveries.]

I have a rule at my job. When you come into my yard you leave behind what you think you are. You leave behind your gender, your ethnicity, your political views, your religious beliefs and your race. Every truck driver that comes into my yard is classified as a Driver. I have done this at my job for the 11 years I have been there.

I would like to tell you that I do this for a higher moral purpose. That I am devoid of jaded opinions. That unlike the other 7 billion people on this planet, I alone, have the moral high ground cornered.

I don’t. Not even close. Yet I do know that in order for my yard to function, I have to minimize any conflicts that may arise. So ever driver that comes into my yard is just that, a driver. I’ve had to let that be known on more than one occasion. Neutrality is the key to keeping my yard running smoothly.

I would like to think I carry this attitude off work. I try, but I fall victim to my own prejudices now and again. That isn’t totally a flaw in my character, but a flaw in my humanity. Let me give you an example.

For a while there has been a cute meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a black toddler in middle-eastern dress, putting her hand on a white toddler in european dress, cheek. The meme extolled the virtues of children. Children who do not look at each other as being of races, that race is a concept beyond their ken. It’s a flipping cute meme! You’re going to have a hard time not liking the meme and most people absolutely accept it as truth.

But it’s not the exact truth. The truth is that these kids are two toddlers and recognize that fact. Kids, especially very little ones, look at each other as kindred spirits in a world full of giants. If someone were to put a toy between these two, all hell would break out in less than 30 seconds. Simply because they are kids, nothing to do with pigment.

Even as children grow up they keep this ‘kids against the adults’ mentality. Of course there will be a point when children notice differences in others and will form their own opinions. Obviously how they are raised, how their parents, grandparents, and every other elder in their life feel about other people, who are different, in one way or another, has an important impact.

Back to the meme. No, kids are not born racist. Yet they are born to discriminate. And believe me, there is a huge difference there. People discriminate all the time as adults. It doesn’t mean you are a racist.

You have friends? most likely a majority of your friends have common interests with you. You probably don’t agree with your friends views 100%, but you do agree on a good chunk of it. It may be you two have a history dating back to grade school, or you met in the military and clicked. You have commonalities that bonded you together at one time and have kept you together. They are your friend and others are not because you discriminate against the others. Not in a bad way, you choose to be with those that are like you. This is a very human quality, and not on its own, a bad one.

“The last race died out 40,000 years ago.”

My eldest daughter asked me an interesting question one day. How many races are there? I told her one. She gave me a serious wtf look and I had to give a quick explanation.

One Race, the Human Race. Specifically Homo Sapiens. The other race died out about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthals.

Of course she asked about people who looked different from her and I. If you haven’t been asked this question yet by your child, it will come. Mine was in her late teens when this topic came up for some reason. Yet scoff all you want about there only being one race, take a moment to consider the alternative. Just how many are there?

Okay, So we have Asian, Black, White, I guess Brown, but what is brown? Hispanic? That’s not really a race. Hispanic is a broad term for people whose ancestors were once under the control of Spain. Yet Filipinos were also under spanish control at one time and we consider them Asian. Geography, go figure. Indians, is that a Brown race? So does that mean that people who live in Nepal and those from Karachi Pakistan are the same? Why are they Brown and people from Africa, and their descendants, are called Black? And, for the love God! What about indigenous people’s? Inuits and Aborigines? All they One race or Two?

Gets pretty maddening doesn’t it? Humans are a spectrum of diverse colors and physical characteristics. Yet we are still, all of us, human. That much we have in common. Our diversity has kept our species on this planet for the last 150,000 years. Unlike the other race, the Neanderthals, we made it.

Back to the prism of my yard. There has been many days over the years I have watched truck drivers struggle to put their empty trailer in our drop lot. They will be cranking their wheel, jacking their trailer in the oddest of positions so they can put their trailer next to one that looks just like theirs. It’s not just a driver trying to put his trailer next to another trailer from his company, but types of trailers next to the same type. All the while there will be plenty of empty space for the driver to drop and go. Yet people discriminate, they find commonalities and have a desire to conform. They put those trailers next to each other because it just, well … it looks right.

The elephant in the room on races is that people, to this day, consider it a big deal. People will hate, cheat, deride those whom they feel are different from themselves. Races may not exist as we’ve been taught, yet racism is real. It exists.

So in my yard, I have banished it. I judge people on their ability to do their job, whether they are nice or an asshole. Little things like the color of their skin do not factor into my opinions. I don’t have time for that. Neither do they.

As for my children, I have always taught them that there is only one race. That humanity is diverse, and that is a good thing. That 7 billion humans are individuals, sometimes conformity gets the better of them, but they are still individuals. That looking at the differences between people and judging them for those differences is like looking through a prism. Your view will be distorted.

Yet, if you hold that same prism away from you and let the sunlight shine through it, you will be rewarded with a rainbow of colors. Amazing isn’t it? That one prism can hold so many different colors.

 

 

Ode to a naked plastic woman.

Or why Barbie is a cultural martyr.

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Alas, poor Barbara Millicent Roberts, she played well. / Photos by KidZond.

 

I was mowing the grass this past weekend when I came upon the scene of the crime. A mud spattered naked plastic woman, her body prone on the grass, her decapitated head supine. My reaction was one I have had often over the years.

“Oh really? What the hell?! Do you kids know how much these cost?!” I quickly looked around for children to yell at. None present at the crime scene. I estimate the body had been there for a week. If I called the police, Ken would have had a lot of explaining to do. I’m sure my children would be great material witnesses.

Barbie’s have been a part of my life for many years. Long before I had daughters who would beg me to buy them one, and throw a fit when their sister (or brother) took theirs. Finding one decapitated and discarded wasn’t really a shock as much as it was an annoyance. Then again, Barbie’s heads don’t just ‘pop on’ anymore like they did when I was a kid.

When I was young, my favorite playmates were my niece and nephew. Both were in my age bracket, being that my niece was just 2 younger than me, my nephew 4 years younger. The three of us would play with my nieces Barbie’s. Join with my nephew and I’s G.I. Joe’s who, back then, were the same size. Inevitably these creative play dates would turn to rivalries and my nieces Barbie’s would suffer the consequences. It never ended well for my nephew and I. Usually we would get in trouble for putting G.I. Joe’s head on Barbie bodies, snickering as we handed them back to my niece. This and other devious plots, would irritate my niece enough to place a call, in the form of a scream, to my Mother and Sister. Luckily, for my niece, she soon got a sister to play with, and could then ignore us boys.

I grew up with Barbie’s, and when I became a man I was still fascinated by that impish smile of hers, her stand out eyes, and perfectly contoured figure. So, I of course, sought out the same in women.

Which of course is an utter lie.

Nor did my nieces, or my daughters, for that matter, ever want to be Barbie. They may have wanted to be what she was career or imagination wise, but not her.

Barbie was created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, she has had approximately 130 careers in her ‘lifetime’. Has done almost anything a little girl could possibly image.

Then again I have seen Barbie do some amazing things over the years. She has cast spells, vanquished monsters, sang at talent shows and even explored the vast depths of the bathtub. Once she even climbed to the top of the roof. Took a ladder to get her down. I will say that Barbie and her friend Barbie should never have ridden in the back of my pick up truck to work. Who knows what they did back there unbelted and sitting in my truck bed. Although it did make two little girls very giggly.

Barbie has gotten a bad rap as of late. Ironically it’s an old rap that comes up now and again. The concept that she is a bad influence and shows girls an unrealistic view of what they should look like. Sorry I don’t buy that. Here’s why.

Years ago I worked in the printing industry, I worked on a computer system that was the precursor to Photoshop. I edited images of all sorts, twisting reality to the advertisers desire. From taking a photo of heavy construction equipment, shot in a garage, and putting it in a work zone setting, to making a green eye woman have the most startling blue eyes. I did a fair amount of work altering what models looked like. Photography is nice, but electronic editing makes it sell.

Then came the day I bumped into two teenage girls in a grocery store fawning over a cover picture I had actually worked on. I listened to them say how much they wanted to be just like her (it was a photo of a movie star) and how perfect she was. I did the bold thing and interrupted them. I pointed out all the work I had done to this movie star to make her perfect and flawless. They were both fascinated and shocked. Electronic photo editing was in its infancy back then, so the idea that this photo wasn’t ‘real’ was new to them. Yet those two teenage girls walked away knowing that perfection in the advertising industry is an illusion.

Do I fault the advertisers? No, they are selling a product, in this case a magazine. They have to compete with hundreds of other magazines, so they need images to stand out. Just like it was more economical for the heavy construction equipment to have their photo shoot in a well-lit garage and have the outside environment added.

Do I blame the actress for not being flawless? No, she’s human. The picture I worked on was probably after the poor woman having to sit for two or more hours as the photographer took hundreds of pictures. So she had to endure fans blowing her hair, bright lights blinding her eyes and countless touch ups of make-up. Her eyes being red, hair a little messy, and the touch of crows feet are normal. Flawless was my creation. It was what I was paid to do.

So how does Photoshop image of an actress relate to Barbie? Glad you asked.

Because in both cases these are unrealistic depictions of woman. One is a doll created for children’s entertainment. The other is a person whose altered photograph is used to sell a product. Neither is real. Both have been targets of those who think we are damaging little girls minds into believing they must look like this or that. And counter argument that it’s just ‘fine’ and girls know the difference.

I’ve had to have these fights, these arguments with my older daughters as they felt the pressures from society that they must conform to what society thinks is ‘perfect’. Young girls are assault daily with images and ads as to what they could do or buy to make them perfect and thus happy. The beauty lies within argument only goes so far.

Of course when it comes to advertisement I have a leg up on most parents. I did it for a living, so I know the ins and outs. I could counter my two older daughters desire to be just like *pick a pop star* and let them know they were just as human as they are. Yet not once in those teenage years did my daughters hold up a Barbie Doll and tell me they wanted to look just like her.

So while I can say that media, in all of its forms can be maddening for a teenage girl or boy for that matter, I have to disagree that Barbie is warping young minds. Especially when I find one lying naked, headless, in my backyard. Not too sure who aspires to be like that. Or naked with only one shoe on 90% of the time.

The Barbie, naked, muddy, decapitated is still annoying. As with those painted with sharpies, or those whose hair has been cut short, or whose dress is now sleeveless because, well, it’s summer. This is a monetary thing for a parent. It also is proper respect for your belongings. Or your sisters belongings. I suspect that my son Nick is a hitman for Ken. I’ll have to talk to him about this in the near future. Not a good career choice.

If I had to take a guess,  I would suspect, that if that poor Barbie could talk, she would tell me of the wonderful adventure she had, prior to her untimely demise. It is possible she was on a secret mission for the King and was attacked by a dragon. Or maybe she was a spy that was uncovered. Trust me, there is a story there. There always is.

Barbie is a cultural icon. She has been around longer than me. Yet in that time she has been on millions, if not billions of adventures. 130 careers? I don’t think so. She has done more than that. Much more. She gives children, yes even little boys, a way to express their imagination in ways children before Barbie’s came along could not fathom.

So maybe it is a little too early to melt Barbie at the stake. We may want to give the old gal a break and let the next generation of little girls and boys just Play Barbie’s. She may be an unrealistic image of a woman’s body, yet she is also a vehicle to explore the vast world of imagination.

 

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When you travel in a suitcase, clothes are optional.

 

You can find more about Barbie at http://barbie.mattel.com/shop

 

[KidZond in no way endorses any product. The product mention in this blog is for entertainment purposes only. And yes, I have played Barbie’s, and still do to this day upon request.]