Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gorilla vs Child

In the case of Harambe the gorilla who was recently killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, yes...I am sad that he had to die but I am also a little alarmed that people put an animal's life above the safety of a child. I am also saddened at what a judgmental world we have become to brand the child's mother "neglectful" and a "bad parent" even when eye witness accounts say the mother had her son right with her and was warning him away from the fence just seconds before he slipped through. Yes, I am alarmed and saddened but not surprised.

In our current world where the internet shows us a myriad of pictures and videos of animals "acting" like humans and those watching obviously believing they have a human side, it somehow makes sense that people would be much more willing to fight for animal rights than they are for human rights. It's kind of ridiculously sad if you think about it. I guess because of this, no one should be surprised at the out cry in defense of a 400 lb. gorilla who likely would have killed this child had the zoo not intervened as it did.

The fact is, gorillas, bears, lions, etc are WILD animals. Even when "trained" or "domesticated" there is no guarantee that these animals won't get startled or revert to their most basic animal instincts....regardless of how many cute animal videos you watch on the internet. When that happens it is human vs. beast and the human is not likely to win that battle.

The internet is in full out cry and lynch mob mode that those in charge at the Cincinnati Zoo made the call to kill the animal, even though they explained their protocol and they are the experts on the situation. However, it does not keep Joe Public from sitting behind his computer saying "Awww poor innocent gorilla. He was just taking care of the boy." I saw the video and Harambe was most definitely NOT taking care of the boy. He was dominating the boy. You didn't have to be trained in animal behavior to see that.

Sadly, the likelihood that any of these indignant people have ever been closer to a gorilla than reinforced plexiglass or zoo cages is slim to none. They have never worked with these animals and don't know their true personalities or what the likely outcome would be of such a tragic incident. It's easy to be an armchair zookeeper when your screen saver is a grizzly saying "I haza cheezburger?" However, if you listen to the "real" experts, the people who work with these animals and know their temperament, they all say the same thing. The zoo acted responsibly. Harambe under the best situation...meaning people not excitedly screaming like crazy....would likely have ended up hurting or more likely, killing the boy. It might have been unintentional, but a 30 lb child being drug through the water is no match for a 400 lb gorilla. Add in the screaming people and that poor gorilla was likely very agitated. He was in protect mode and he was standing his ground. That little boy meant nothing to him.

One expert said that yes, they could have tranquilized him, but before he went down he would have gotten crazy as they don't go down immediately. Since the boy was between his legs, he would likely have been severely injured if not killed before Harambe actually became tranquilized. The zoo and all those who knew what they were doing, acted appropriately. They put the boys life first and that is as it should have been. The out come was sad, but would have been much sadder if the boy had been killed right there in front of everyone.

As for the armchair quarter backing of the mom...... So all you parents who have raised your kids without even one near miss, raise your hand. If you are honest.....there are no hands raised. The fact is, if you are a parent.....you have lost your kid, dropped your kid, forgot your kid or watched your kid get hurt at least once and probably more times than you would like to admit. It doesn't make you a bad neglectful parent. It simply makes you a parent. You can't protect their every move. It is simply not possible. Believe me...I have tried....and failed!

All eye witness accounts say that the zoo was busy and that the mom was being attentive to her child. The little boy said he wanted in with the gorillas and she had told him no! This is not unusual, as kids want to be most places they are not suppose to be. They also have no fear of anything. That gorilla to him was a big cuddly stuffed thing he wanted to play with. Perhaps his parents had shown him videos of a gorilla cuddling a puppy. Yes....that was sarcasm. At any rate, it was at that moment.....his mission became  to play with that gorilla. And any parent knows when a toddler is on a mission, they are slippery, sneaky and very quick. It's what toddlers do! The mother turned her back for one moment to take a picture and that is all it took. The boy was gone. It has happened to all of us and yet you would think this was a singular case. The rest of us are just lucky our kids didn't try to crawl in with a lion or a bear.

So what are we now doing? Are we trying to set up a precedence that if a toddler does what they do best, that the parent faces charges? Looks like a lot of us will be doing time then. Yes, because that is what our legal system needs. More bogus cases clogging up the system and costing the tax payers money.

Bottom line is that people are being ridiculous. This was an accident plain and simple. Remember those? Where something unfortunate and unplanned happens but it really isn't anyone's fault. Perhaps some of you die-hard people out there who think the lady wasn't being a good parent, would like to have seen her have a leash on her kid. Oh, but no.....then you would have had a whole other reason to criticize her parenting skills.

I do find it sad that Harambe had to die, but I applaud the zoo for acting so quickly and for those who knew what they were doing, jumping into action and saving the child. I also feel a great deal of empathy for the mother who I have no doubt felt plenty of guilt already for her son breaking free and that was long before the opinions of America chimed in making it worse. I am sure it is a scare she will never forget and a situation she will never allow again. So lets save our parental rage for the parents who starve and physically and sexually abuse their kids. Just a thought.

Please people.....get over your mob mentality and get off your judgmental high horse. But for the grace of God that could have been any one of us parents...... and every last parent out there knows it. Lets just hope that a lesson was learned by all and maybe perhaps more zoo's might think about toddler proofing themselves just a little bit better. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day In My Town

I woke up this morning thinking about Memorial Day as a kid. It was the official end of the school year and the official beginning of summer. It was always hot, the town pool was open, people were off work, everything was closed and it was a day of patriotism and remembrance along with celebration and family.

Lawns were mowed on Saturday and cars were washed. Garages were cleaned out and barbecue grills were spiffed up and made ready for a big day of grilling. Flags were flown on every house and driveways, front yards and porches were full of people talking, laughing and remembering those who had fought so that their Memorial Days could be so picturesque.

For me, moving to and growing up in this small town was life changing. The wannabe writer in me even back then, knew the importance of the sensory experience of these moments and that many would either not be repeated or would some day fade away into an ever changing world. Even all these years later, I have held on to many of those images and the smells, the feel and wondering even at such a young age if one day my kids would experience this or if it would merely be unfathomable stories to their young minds.

So I have started walking again and today, after lying in bed thinking about the past, I decided to walk my 4 mile trek around town and see what my small town was doing in 2016 on Memorial Day. I vowed as I walked out the door to take pictures and to walk more slowly than usual as I wanted once again, the sensory experience that I seldom had time for anymore. I wanted to see this day....like a kid again.

It is a warm, humid morning full of sunshine. My usual bustling little town is quiet. Traffic on the main drag is nil and in places it is so still I can hear my own heart beat. I try to remember how the sun felt as a child and how excited I would have been that summer was finally here, but my adult brain was taking me to the thoughts of how free I was. How amazing it was that I could walk no particular place in no particular time and how much I was enjoying it. I was trying to imagine what life would be like without the freedom to come and go as I please and I could feel a knot starting to form in my stomach at even the thought of such a thing. Yes....Memorial Day....a time to remember those who fought and died, so that I might have a peaceful walk without limitations.

I walked passed the city building with its flag waving majestically over head. Our flag. The flag that has been abused, stepped on, burned and yet still it stands. Amazing. And I walked on. As I walked through the main street of town flags adorned the center posts. There was not a soul other than myself as I headed down the street and yet I was not alone. With me stood all those that had built this town, worked in this town and yes....died for this town. It was such a feeling of belonging and also a feeling of loss.

As I headed west and then back south, the smell of charcoal and smoke was already permeating the air. Many cars lined the streets as family and friends started to gather for celebrations and barbecues. Kids could be seen riding bikes and playing in yards. The whir of lawn mowers could be heard here and there as lawns were finally dry enough from all the rain....to mow. Garage doors were open and people were sitting in lawn chairs with music drifting on the air. As is small town etiquette, they would smile and wave as I went by, none I am sure realizing, that I was searing their image, the sound and the smell into my brain. None knew that one question kept popping into my head. What if these days, these celebrations, these moments of freedom.....are numbered? I had to remember them. I had to remember this walk.

On the south side of town, I heard the occasional rooster crow and neighborhood dogs would stand at their fences and bark "hello" as I walked by. Even in the humidity, the tree lined streets gave off shade and ever so often a slight breeze could be felt. It was surreal beauty at its finest.

I looked at the houses as I walked by. Some were homes of friends that I had gone to school with or had grown up with. Some houses had seen better days and some had been given new life. There were beautifully manicured lawns and lawns that needed a green thumb and much love. Regardless, they were a part of the scenery of my life and each felt special as if I would miss it terribly if I walked by and it weren't there.

I walked past the park that used to hold the city pool. I spent so many summers in that pool with my friends. I stood quietly for a moment and I could almost hear the laughter, the splashing, the life guards whistle and the sound of the radio coming from the concession stand. I felt real loss at that moment for even though we now have a new pool on the edge of town, my kids will never know this pool and just how integral to our summers it was for generations of kids.

The more I walked, the more I realized how intertwined my soul and my heart were with this town. I understood fully how I was a small town girl and how grateful I was that my youthful dreams of being a writer in New York City had never panned out. My heart would not have lasted a week in a place where I couldn't hear my own thoughts or have listened to the trains as they passed through town or walked tree lined streets where everyone waved whether they knew you or not. No....this is home. This is where I belong.

As my walk was soon to end, a sadness creeped over me. As much as I loved this place, there was something missing and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I continued walking down my street, trying to figure out what was bothering me. As I looked at my neighbors house, it hit me. I knew what the sadness was and it was quite profound. In front of me stood my neighbors house and proudly from the front porch, gently waved the flag. It was solitary and singular and it represented all that this day stood for. It was at this moment I realized that yes.....the town had flags, but of all the houses I walked by.....only a handful had a flag flying. I immediately jumped back to those days of childhood where every home had a flag and where it was flown every Memorial Day without fail. Maybe we truly were coming to a time in our world, our country.....my town, where freedom was a dying right, being replaced by ignorance, apathy and a huge disregard for what this country was founded on and who fought to keep it free. I almost cried.

My walk was over and my emotions were raw. The sensory tour had been a little more than I had been prepared for. I had one more yearly event that I needed to do and although I wasn't sure I was up for it, it had to be done. I got in the car, flowers and flags in hand and headed for the cemetery. I drove out south of town thinking that I was pretty emotional and I hate to cry. I had to see my mom though and my husband and all those whose lives were a part of me and a part of my town.

As I drove into the cemetery, my heart jumped. Before me stood a row of big beautiful flags that lined the entire center of the cemetery. There were cars everywhere as people came out to pay their respects and honor those who had gone before them. The graves were adorned with flowers and flags and there was a sea of red, white and blue for as far as the eye could see. My town had not forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day. They had not lost their pride of country or freedom. It was here....where it should be. Remembering the men and women who fought and died so that we all might be free.

Tears ran down my face as I took in everything. It was amazing and I knew I would never as long as I lived forget that moment. Yes....this is my town!

Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

And We Laughed....and We Laughed....and We laughed

Have you ever laughed so hard that you literally had tears running down your face? You snorted? You couldn't breathe? You even peed a little? Guilty!!!! I love to laugh. There is simply nothing better....unless perhaps it is my own humor. Yeah....that is definitely better.

Many of you may not know it, but I am hysterical. No....really! I am! I think I came out of the womb thinking knowing I was funny. I remember as a kid often having a "witty" comeback when Mom told me to do something. Mom called it talking back, I however, called it...."me being funny." Mom and I often had to agree to disagree on my humor.

I was never openly disrespectful to Mom, or anyone for that matter, but things would just pop into my head and they had to come out. Sometimes I thought them so funny that I was hysterically laughing before I could even say them. On occasion I would see the corners of my mothers mouth go into a half-smile, but never more than that because she was not about to encourage my hilarity. In fact she spent a lot of time cautioning me about my mouth and my "humor" and warning me that someday it would get me in trouble. It has a time or two, but only because people didn't understand how funny I a really am. (wink)

In my defense, I come from a pretty darn funny family. Believe it or not....my mom's side of the family was filled with humorous characters and funny stories. My grandfather once shot his own reflection in a mirror, thinking it was an intruder. Grandma killed a snake and put it on the walk heading up to the house knowing Grandpa was scared of snakes. Yes...these are my kin. Explains a lot now doesn't it.

Now Mom was funny too and she had an amazing sense of humor.....which usually showed up in church. Put her with her sister and it was like two 10 year old little girls sitting together. They would look at each other and you could see it start. Why were they laughing? Who knew, but before long....both had their heads down and were literally shaking and trying to keep from snorting out loud. At my cousins wedding rehearsal they got so tickled they were both laying in the pew....yes....they were snorting. The mother of the groom was not amused. Neither was my other aunt who threatened to take them outside if they didn't behave. They only laughed harder.  Eventually after years of  this kind of behavior, my mom and aunt realized that sitting in the same pew during Mass was a recipe for disaster so they ended up sitting across the church from each other and out of each others line of site. I think Father sent them each a thank you letter.

My aunt was not the only one who could get my mom going in church though. Once my mom, my brother and I all went to confession on a Saturday afternoon. We walked into the pew....Mom first, then my brother and then myself. Neither my brother nor I were paying attention and I guess we both assumed Mom had put down the kneeler. She had not. Both of us went to kneel down and hit the ground chinning ourselves on the pew in front of us. Let me just say......I'm sure it looked a lot funnier than it felt. Mom looked over at us and started to laugh. Neither my brother nor I were amused, Mom however was. She laughed and she laughed. Tears began to form in her eyes and we knew her trademark snort was just around the corner. Watching her trying to unsuccessfully hold back the snort got us to laughing too. It was contagious and none of us could control ourselves.I am sure Father wondered what was going on, not to mention the others who had come for confession and got a show. So you see, I am obviously funny.....even when I don't mean to be. It's a gift I tell you.

Through the years, I have surrounded myself with friends who are 1) either as funny as I am or 2) appreciate how funny I am. Yeah, I know.....if you are my friend, you know what I am talking about. Whether it was hiding from the cops behind a fridge on New Years eve, laughing our way to St. Louis or having the pleasure of being my wing person as I make up fake identities at a bar.....you know how funny I am. You also know who you are.

My kids have also spent many years dealing with my humor. They, like my mother have not always appreciated my quick wit and at times I am sure I have even embarrassed the tapioca out of them, but along the way....I have also taught them to have a sense of humor and to laugh....even when life doesn't throw a lot of "funny" your way.  

In case you weren't aware....I am not your ordinary mother. As I have gotten older my humor at times has crossed over to the dark side and my mouth can be a bit irreverent. When my kids were young though, I always tried to keep my words and my humor appropriate around them, but even the best of us has our slip ups. I think Z finally realized who he was dealing with when he was about 8 years old. At that point in his life, I rarely cussed and the F-word was strictly forbidden in our house. Then came the day that Z saw a different side of me. The side that changed his view of me......forever!

Z and I were out outside working in the yard and we came upon a snake. Now this snake was huge and seemed to be squaring up for a fight. Z jumped into action, trying to be my big protector. He picked up a nearby brick to kill it. Now here is where I should tell you that I was wearing flip flops, not knowing that steel-toed boots might have served me better that day. Z threw the brick at the snake and missed it by a mile, however....he did NOT miss my big uncovered, unprotected, freshly polished toe. The brick left a huge gash right across the nail and actually broke the toe. The pain was immediately excruciating and as I grabbed my foot and began to hop around....from my mouth flew the words F*ck a Duck! Now never in my life had I used that particular phrase.....so I have no idea where it came from. What I do know is that it was loud enough that everyone on my block probably heard it and I turned to see Z white as a ghost with his mouth and eyes equally wide open. I am not sure whether it was the words that came from my mouth, the dance of pain I was doing or the expression  on my face, but all of a sudden my 8 year old just burst out laughing. He was laughing so hard that he doubled over. He obviously had inherited our families signature snort as he was snorting and trying to catch his breath. Even in my state of pain, watching my son gasp for air as he laughed at this unfortunate incident....well it got me to laughing too. And we laughed.....and we laughed.....and we laughed. By the way.....no snakes were injured or even remotely traumatized during this little incident. My toe however.....was not as lucky.

I think it was at this moment that he realized who his mother really was and I realized that my son, like me,  had an amazing sense of humor. As Z has grown, I have had a glimpse into what my mother might possibly have dealt with....with me. I have been the recipient of his "witty" comebacks and his humorous remarks that were so funny in his head, he almost couldn't get them out. He like his mother is pretty darn funny and sometimes together.....well lets just say.....only the truly funny can hang with us.

So yeah...I'm funny. And apparently....I, like generations before me....have passed this onto a whole new generation. For this, all I can say is.....your welcome!