Creepers Gonna Creep

I am a lousy blogger. There, I said it. My intentions are good. I have so much to write about, but then  all that stuff I have to write about — life — gets in the way.  The life of a single parent, full-time worker, part-time student never seems to slow down. It seems that when I do have a spare moment, all of my good blogging intentions go out the window and instead I end up spending time with my kids doing what we love.

We aren’t the “let’s go to the mall,” kind of folks — not enough disposable income. We aren’t into nature much either. The Arizona summers are brutal and the winters are spent celebrating the fact that we can be inside the house without the air conditioning on. One thing we do like to do is play video games together, and our favorite is Minecraft.

Minecraft Creeper

For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a game that requires the player to find resources in the environment and use those resources to build a shelter, farm or hunt for food, and craft tools, armor, and weapons with which to battle the undead creatures of the night, namely zombies, skeleton archers, and big green baddies known as creepers.  Creepers, true to their name, creep up silently behind you, make a short hissing noise and explode, destroying everything and everyone within a several meter radius. (Yes, I said meter — Minecraft was created by a Swede.)

Every Minecraft player hates creepers. They serve no useful purpose. Unlike zombies, which upon their deaths may drop some tasty rotten flesh or in rare cases an iron weapon or tool, or skeletons, which drop bows, arrows, and femur bones, a creeper drops nothing but gunpowder, which can be used to — wait for it — blow up more things.  Spend hours building a beautiful house out of wood and stone? Hissssssss — BOOM!  Start again.  Find some valuable diamonds at the bottom of a deep cavern? Hisssssss — BOOM!  Into the lava you fall, along with your hard-won gems.  You are dead, the gems (and anything else you had in your inventory) are gone.  You start again, minus your valuables and back where you started.

I play Minecraft with my kids because it’s a creative game that lets us build a world of our own design and then defend it against fantasy bad guys using swords or bows and arrows. There are no guns in Minecraft, and although players can fight one other (player-vs-player mode), this is an option I turn off.  One of my girls loves to build her world and tame wild animal; she plays on ‘peaceful’ mode and never has to battle the monsters. My other daughter and I like to suit up in armor and kick some undead butt while gathering diamonds and emeralds to fill our storage chests. She is always jumping in front of me, stealing my glory and my loot, and loving every minute of it.

Lately though, it seems like my real life is a lot like Minecraft. Whenever I manage to get all my ducks in a row,  hisssssss —BOOM!! A creeper sneaks up and makes a big old mess. There are final exams to pass, college financial aid workers to argue with, and ex-husbands to  barely tolerate.  Get the kid’s braces paid off? Time for the cat to get sick — really $ick. The car breaks down, eyeglasses get stepped on, and Christmas comes with its financial demands.  A creeper lurks around every corner, just waiting to blow up in my face — or overdraw my checking account.

When a free moment comes along and I just know I should sit down and write, I can’t help myself. I have to grab my kids and slay some zombies, mine a few diamonds, and kick some serious creeper hiney.  They’re only kids once and when they’re hanging with their friends on the playground, I’ll bet they are bragging about my creeper killing skills, not my blogging prowess. I guess I’ll write some more another day.

The Fondue is a Lie

Since the political campaign season is in full swing, I thought now might be a good time to talk about lies. What I am referring to is the falsehoods, half-truths, misrepresentations of fact, and fabrications that have been handed down to us as Americans since we were children. From our first grade school history class to today’s front page of CNN, we are fed a line of bull that seems to have no end, and some of us keep believing it.

One of the biggest lies that we perpetuate as a nation is that America is a big “melting pot.” We want the rest of the world to believe that we are like a big pot of cheese fondue — a smooth and homogeneous mixture of cheeses of every color and cultural origin just waiting to be scooped up with a crusty slice of bread. In reality, we have more in common with Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey, with the privileged floating above the less fortunate on a milky white cloud. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mitt Romney.

Wage equality imageEven our founding fathers were serving us a crap sandwich when they wrote that “all men are created equal.” If that line read “all rich white men are created equal,” I might buy it, but alas it does not. At least they didn’t try to suggest that all men and women are created equal. That would have been a laugh riot. How would they even begin to explain how I can work as hard or harder at the same job as a penis-equipped individual and still make less money? The old excuse that a man needs to make more to support his family doesn’t cut it anymore, now that the number of single-parent families headed by women is at an all-time high.  The dirty truth is that equality in America is all talk and pretty much no action.

If all men are created equal, then why didn’t the US media provide equal coverage to a shooting that occurred in a movie theater full of predominantly white people and to the slaying of a group of foreign-looking people in their house of (non-Christian) worship? While the topic of the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado, was all over the internet, newspaper, and television news for nearly two weeks, the massacre of several Sikhs in their temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, an equally tragic event, received far less attention from both the press and those frequenting social media sites. Maybe it’s just a fluke. Maybe there were other things going on that were more newsworthy than the Oak Creek shooting. Or maybe most Americans just can’t (or choose not to) identify with people who don’t look or act or pray like them.  Perhaps we are all just weary of the gun-related violence in our nation and instead we would rather direct our attention toward something more pleasant, like the Olympics for example.

Olympic gymnast Gabrielle DouglasThe Olympic games provide hope and inspiration to everyone who attends the events or watches them on television or the internet (providing they have a really expensive monthly plan with one of the big digital television providers that includes NBC and MSNBC, otherwise you can’t watch — sorry!) The athletes have worked for years, in some cases decades, to master their individual sports, and it’s only natural that Americans would cheer for their hometown heroes. Why is it then, that when Gabrielle Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the gymnastics all-around gold medal, all anyone can talk about is her hair? Blacks and whites alike appear to have an opinion about whether Ms. Douglas’ hair is “too straightened,” “too kinky,” or just too black. Really? After watching her amazing performance at the games, this is what becomes news? Gabby herself put it best when she responded, “I just made history and people are focused on my hair?” Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see much attention given to the hairstyles of the other four American gymnasts who had their (Caucasian) hair pulled up in the same slightly messy ponytail/bun thingy. Again, we see the lie that is American equality. This fixation on Gabby Davis is not about her hair, it’s about her black hair. Her black girl hair that is somehow less than white girl hair, therefore making her somehow less than the white American gymnasts despite her incredible accomplishments.

Chik-fil-A hateThe idea that Americans have become less biased in the years since women marched for the right to vote and Martin Luther King championed civil rights for all is just that, a nice idea. Racism, sexism, and homophobia, just to name a few, are alive and well in the good old USA, we’re just a little more subtle about it — a little more subtle. The owners of Chick-fil-A don’t post “no gays allowed” signs on their restaurant doors, but by now everyone knows they are not fans of the fabulous. And the use of the “N” word, albeit with an “a” instead of an “er” on the end, has become common among white boys who wear their pants around their knees, demonstrating their lack of spelling skills and fashion sense in addition to their racist nature. Don’t even get me started on the “Jesus loves everyone except you,” believers.

As the parent of two daughters who do not share my race or ethnic background (and yes, those are two different things!), I can only continue to teach my girls that they can grow up to achieve anything they want in life. They just have to be prepared to fight like hell for it. Now pass me a chunk of that pumpernickel — my fondue is getting cold.

Bling ‘em back to school

It’s back-to-school time… That time when parents rejoice and kids mourn the passing of yet another summer gone by too quickly. It’s time to go shopping for pencils and binders, for crayons and rulers, and for a wardrobe full of clothing designed to make a fourth grade girl look like a budding hooker.  Apparently, the designers of our children’s fashions believe that all little girls want to grow up to be Lady Gaga, so why not start ‘em off young?  I disagree and instead foolishly believe that little girls should dress like little girls and not Lolitas in training, so imagine my dismay when a visit to my local mall revealed that the latest in clothing for the elementary school set consists of chiffon miniskirts, animal prints, and more sequins than a Miss Redneck Toddler beauty pageant.

Even when my 21-year-old daughter was younger, I lamented the fact that middle school girls were dressing like backup dancers for Madonna. In the decade since, it appears that children’s clothing designers have decided not to make a girl wait until she hits puberty before beginning her collection of streetwalker-inspired apparel. Take for example the “new arrivals” over at the popular Justice website. I’m not sure which I find more appalling, the skin-tight animal print leggings, or the sequined one-shoulder circle top that exposes a bare shoulder with only the tiniest of spaghetti straps to hold the thing up in hopes of preventing a preteen wardrobe malfunction. I actually refuse to buy anything at Justice on principle. How can they sell back-to-school clothes when they can’t even spell, as evidenced by the nearly daily emails they insist on sending me, swearing that they’ve got the looks I’ll “luv”? What I’d “luv” would be clothing choices my girls could make that won’t have them feeling like tiny NFL cheerleaders. Of course, Justice is not the only offender. It seems that every retail buyer out there is perpetuating this unfortunate fad.  Even duller-than-dirt JCPenney can hook your 7-year-old up with a nice form-fitting, tie-dyed, cheetah inspired short skirt. Or is that a wide belt? It’s hard to tell when it’s so skimpy.

The most infuriating part about the lack of appropriate clothing for young girls is that the trend doesn’t seem to extend to the boys departments of America. Styles haven’t changed much in nearly half a century for the miniature male population. Racks of blue jeans, khakis and polo shirts still fill the aisles of nearly every department store and discount outlet. Aside from “graphic T’s” that are sometimes too graphic, boys clothing is rarely as offensive as that of their feminine counterparts. Sure, you could buy your sons those pants that hang down so low that you can see their underwear – all of their underwear — but if you simply add a belt, voila! Problem solved.

As with every kind of retail ridiculousness, the horror (or is that whorer?) that is tween fashion is driven by the almighty dollar. Parents are buying this crap. Worse yet, moms are buying this crap!  Whenever I hear a mother declare with a sigh, “I just can’t get her to wear anything else,” I always wonder how their kid became wealthy enough to buy her own clothing. Oh, that’s right, she didn’t. Some little girl’s mother bought that too-short skirt or those blue jeans that rest a smidge above her pubic bone. (The better to show off your thong, my dear!)  Why is it that some women will dress their little girls in this way? Is it because they tire of arguing over fashion choices and just buy whatever the kid wants or, even more disturbing, out of some misguided desire to relive their own childhood, only in a much “cooler” wardrobe? Either way, it isn’t a movement I’m buying into. My girls are already growing up too fast for my liking; I’m not about to accelerate the process.

In disgust, I flee from the mall, determined to find some Diva-approved school clothes before the summer ends.  As I make my getaway, I hold tight to my fist full of dollars lest I be tempted to shove a few bills into the waistband of the pint-sized mannequin in the display window. She really does deserve a tip for having to model such skankery, don’t you think?

You Don’t Get What You Pay For

It’s a crappy time to be an American. The economy is in the toilet, and despite what a few obviously over-medicated cheerful economists are saying, it’s not going to change any time soon. Poor Kim Kardashian may even have to sell some of her Birkin bags on ebay! Certainly the downturn has most consumers looking to get the best bargain on every purchase. I’m not much of a shopper myself, but I when I do crack open my wallet I want to get the best possible deal, which is why I get really irate when I spend money on something I can’t use. Something like… health insurance.

Now, I know you thought I was going to say one of those fancy-schmantzy smartphones that are supposed to do everything but pick up the dry cleaning and instead make it impossible to even make a phone call, but no. I’m talking about the hotly debated subject of American healthcare. You see, I have a job that fortunately puts me somewhat above the poverty line (although it usually doesn’t feel like it), and each and every time I get paid a nice chunk of my earnings goes toward health insurance. Health insurance that I can’t afford to use. Yes, I realize I’m lucky to even have health insurance. Nearly 50 million Americans have none (yet). Still, I’m left wondering if I’m getting what I’m paying for.

Gel capsules filled with shredded currency

Photo by Lisa Yarost via Flickr

A few months ago, I tripped going up the stairs to my condo (it’s Snark Diva, not Graceful Diva, you know). I came down directly on my right knee and bruised the heck out of it. A couple of days and lots of swearing later it stopped hurting, so I forgot about it. That is until I went to kneel down to pick up my kids’ toys off the bedroom floor a few weeks later and an excruciating pain shot through my entire leg. Realizing this was not a good thing, I made an appointment with my doctor who charged me a twenty dollar co-payment to “manipulate” (torture) my knee and order an MRI, since she was fairly certain that I had torn a ligament or something equally as ominous.

I took the order for the MRI, called the radiology facility and made an appointment. Two days before my appointment they called me to tell me the insurance company had denied the MRI. Okaaaaayyy. Now what? I contacted the doctor’s office and they suggested I come back in to have it looked at again. Hmmm. What was she going to see now that she didn’t see before, besides another twenty of my hard earned dollars? I politely declined and decided to simply not kneel down ever again. That should solve the problem, right?

A month or so later I found myself again shelling out co-payments for my “well woman” exam (such fun!) and a mammogram. While I was in the office I again asked about my knee. This time I was given an order for an x-ray. If the x-ray was negative, the doctor would again order an MRI. Of course the x-ray showed nothing, and the insurance company still won’t pay for an MRI (presumably because I am not yet to the point where an amputation is imminent). So apparently what I have to show for the many dollars I pay each month for health insurance is a bum knee that isn’t going to get better anytime soon. American healthcare at its finest.

This is the situation many low to middle income families find themselves in. If they are fortunate enough to have health insurance available to them, they often cannot afford the copayments, or even more commonly the prescription costs. As a result, appointments are canceled, medications are left on the pharmacists’ shelves, and we as a population become sicker and sicker until we can no longer avoid seeking care. Of course, by that time the costs are likely to be exponentially higher than they would have been if we had been treated much earlier.

The truth is, no matter how well we take care of ourselves (and admittedly many of us don’t), people are like cars, they’re gonna break down once they get some miles on them. We get injured, we age, and sometimes we just want to prevent ourselves from getting sick in the first place. Our government has finally been pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but just how “affordable” will it be? Will Americans actually be able to use the health benefits for which they have fought so dearly, or will we remain just as unhealthy despite having coverage? Just thinking about it is enough to drive a Diva to seek therapy. If only I could come up with the forty dollar per session co-payment!

Not My Kid!

Nothing pisses me off more than perfect strangers who think they know how to parent my kids better than I do. No one has the right to tell me how to raise my children. I gave birth to (and in my case also adopted) my kids and I don’t need other people pointing out my parental failings, especially in a very public forum. That is why one of the online news stories about the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting last weekend really had my blood boiling.  It appears that some people felt the need to attack the parents of the youngest shooting victim, a 4-month-old boy who was attending the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises with his parents and an older sibling, insisting that he shouldn’t have been there at all.

The majority of the comments left in reply to the CNN.com story suggest that babies don’t ever belong at the movies, especially not at midnight. While I may have my own opinion about rug rats at the cinema, the current subject of my fury is the cruel and self-righteous horde of people who feel that this debate is even worth having in light of what has just happened. Why are they not more focused on the horrific individual who could even think of shooting a baby?

I know the world is a sick and twisted place, but I hoped there was still some kindness left out there. I’m sure that the parents of that young boy don’t need to be told how ill-advised it was to take him to a late night movie. You can bet they’ve been regretting that decision every minute of every day since it happened. Chances are it will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

After reading all of the comments about how babies disturb other moviegoers and how their rude parents refuse to remove them when they cry, not to mention how irresponsible it is to bring any child to a midnight flick, I was left wondering why this type of knee-jerk response is so common following a tragedy involving a child. You see it whenever there is news coverage of a kid being abducted or murdered; the public response is nearly always to find fault with the parents.  Some people will insist that the parents weren’t supervising their child well enough or they allowed the child too much freedom.  Parents are certain such a horrible thing would never happen to one of their kids!

This thinking is what I believe is behind all of the finger pointing and allegations of neglect.  It’s the little voice that whispers, “If you don’t parent your children the way those people did, then nothing bad will ever happen to them.”

Of course this isn’t the case.  Any one of us could turn our back at a critical moment, or worse yet trust the wrong person around our kids. The truth is, no matter how fiercely we hold on to our kids the unthinkable can happen.  When it does, shouldn’t we turn our outrage toward the monstrous perpetrators of these crimes instead of blasting the already anguished parents? Ridiculing other families during their time of grieving won’t protect our own and it just adds insult to unbearable injury.

So tonight I think I’ll save my opinions about crying infants in public places for another less sensitive time, and instead I’ll just be thankful that my kids are sleeping safe and sound in the next room. Anyone wanna join me?

 

Welcome to the snarkfest!

Got snark? T-shirtWelcome to the Snark Diva blog! This blog is all about looking at the world through snark-colored glasses.  The Urban Dictionary defines snark as:

snark (noun):  Combination of “snide” and “remark”. Sarcastic comment(s).

While Dictionary.com prefers Lewis Carroll’s more literary definition:

snark (noun):  A mysterious, imaginary animal.

Both of these definitions are apropos of this blog, since its blogmistress is clearly a mysterious animal prone to sarcasm. Things in the the world annoy me, and I feel the need to give my not-so-subtle opinion about them.  Any topic in the world is fair game for the Snark Diva. So read, enjoy, and by all means snark back in the Comments section. I can’t be the only one who finds myself in a world where truth is often stranger than fiction.