Friday, December 31, 2010

Please, Not Dick Clark

(Originally published 31 December 2009 on "A Suburban Mom's Survival Guide)

I recall sitting around the television with close friends at a rental beach house in Cape May, New Jersey on December 31, 1999 watching the ball drop in Times Square on “Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve” special.  We were all quite vocal in wishing the same thing a decade ago—Dick Clark really should pack it in! He looks terrible! Now 10 years later, he’s still at it at the ripe old age of 80. Being 80 doesn’t bother me, but the after-effects of his stroke a few years ago renders him unwatchable for me.
I’ve seen the trailers for tonight’s ABC programming and “Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve” is on the docket (With Ryan Seacrest in fine print). I hope that Ryan does the bulk of the show tonight. I don’t think I can stand viewing poor Dick Clark mumble and stutter his way through forced dialogue. He is an all too vivid reminder of my own mortality. It’s time to pass the torch to the image of youth and vitality seen in Ryan Seacrest. Please Dick, step aside this year or I’ll be flipping the channel!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

Are your stockings hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas will soon be there? Mine are. Despite it being only a gas fireplace, Santa still makes it down my chimney year after year. The Christmas cookies are all baked, the house is looking quite festive, Christmas cards are mailed, and best of all the presents are all wrapped! 

Those who know me certainly know that having all of the Christmas shopping done and everything wrapped before Christmas Eve is an oddity for me. My son was most bemused when he saw all of the wrapped presents that started appearing under the tree last week. I come from a family of last-minute shoppers. I remember closing down the Northway Mall in Marshfield, Wisconsin on many a Christmas Eve past. Now I did not say that the presents were beautifully wrapped with all of the trimming as I will admit that I am the world's worst package wrapper. But my horrible wrapping job won't really matter come Christmas Eve.

Now that all of the work is done, it's time to relax and enjoy Christmas. My wish for you is that you have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas with your family and friends. Take some time to enjoy all that Christmas has to offer.

So my readers . . . "Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!"  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

7-Year Old Blues

There's a fine line between being a concerned parent and being a bitch. I think I was the latter to my 7-year old son this morning. He is the youngest and very used to getting his own way. Well this morning he decided he didn't want to do his morning math flashcards or read. He ignored me, his under the blanket, and whined. He wanted to spend his morning on the computer watching Black Ops and Call of Duty videos on You Tube. I said "no", took away all screens for the day, and held my ground. He threw a tantrum, and then I lost my temper unfortunately.

This prompted him to wish he was born to another family, demand a nice Mommy, and declare that he was leaving the family. He walked out the front door crying. He didn't last long out there barefoot, wearing his summer pajamas in the snow when it was 15° outside. He stormed back inside and hid out in his room.

I'm sure you've all been there but it certainly isn't any fun for me or my child. I apologized to him as he ran off to the bus (this time fully clothed), still giving me the silent treatment. But what can you do? I love my son and refuse to let him do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Isn't that what being a parent is all about. Tough love every once in awhile.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snow Hype

As of 4 pm today, my Twin Cities suburb is under a Winter Storm Warning. Local and national weather forecasters are predicting anywhere from 6-20 inches of snow. One forecaster boldly called this a "once in a hundred years snow." Blizzard warnings are already in place southwest of here. With 40-50 mph winds expected, blowing snow will cut visibility and cause the snow to pile up into 2 foot high drifts. This isn't even factoring in the subzero temperatures with the winds that will drive the temperature down well below zero with wind chills plummeting to -30° to -40° below zero.

Is this just snow hype? Washington, DC weather forecasters take the prize for snow hype. But this is Minnesota, and Minnesotans know snow. If it's truly a "real" snowstorm, hockey practice and basketball tournaments may well be cancelled.

I'm hoping it's not snow hype as I'm all stocked up for being house-bound over the weekend. Judging by the crowds of shoppers stocking up at Costco this afternoon, I'm not alone.

For those of you who don't live in Minnesota, I'll keep you posted on the upcoming snow of the century.  If this is all true, I may not want to venture outdoors until Monday. Until then, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

A Shot of Common-Sense for the US Voting System

Now that it's been over a month since the 2010 elections were held, Minnesota has ended the recount for the gubernatorial race and is welcoming DFL-er Mark Dayton as the new governor. Since I live in the land that gave us a former pro-wrestler, Jesse Ventura, as a governor and a comedian, Al Franken from Saturday Night Live fame, as a US Senator, I should not really be surprised by Minnesotans choosing a multi-millionare, Mark Dayton, as the next governor. Right on the heels of that blue-collar workhorse, Tim Pawlenty. But that is besides the point . . . at least the recount in the 2010 Minnesota governor's race ended somewhat quickly.

Do you remember the Norm Coleman and Al Franken recount of 2008? I think that recount dragged on for over six months and dug deep into taxpayer pockets for financing. Norm Coleman eventually conceded the race for many dubious reasons that I'll not drag out now. Let's just say that it was interesting to learn in July 2010 that 341 convicted felons had voted for Al Franken in the 2008 election. Which is completely ILLEGAL in case you've forgotten! Franken ended up winning his US Senate seat by 312 votes. Perhaps we need a voting system that truly doesn't allow convicted felons to vote in the first place.

Maybe you remember Florida's "hanging-chads" of the 2000 Presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore with the Presidential outcome teetering back and forth for weeks. Or a less-covered 2010 US Senate race in Washington State where Dino Rossi lost his race to Patty Murray, also in a recount. However, this wasn't the first race Mr. Rossi lost in a recount. It was his third. One of which he lost by a mere 129 votes after an 8-month long recount. The recount list could go on and on.

Instead of adding to the growing list of election recounts and spending millions of dollars on lawyers for the recounts, I propose a simple change. Use your drivers license or your state ID card as your voting card. Before you rule this out as impossible or too "big brotherish", hear me out. Think of all of the information that a bank or credit card company has on us when we swipe our debit or credit cards or type in the number on-line. Do we mind that credit card companies know our spending patterns, our social security numbers, and other critical data? No, we seem to happily hand that over when we apply for a credit card or apply for a bank loan. Why can't the same idea be applied to our drivers licenses?

Each drivers license or national ID card already has a magnetic strip on the back. This could be swiped at a polling place to verify that you yourself has voted once. Show your photo ID, swipe, and vote at some sort of digital or computerized voting booth that simply and automatically tabulates the data. (This voting system would be the same all across the United States.) Say you make a mistake and vote twice, it is red-flagged and you correct your mistake. At the bottom of your ballot would be a big red button stating "VOTE" with a disclaimer stating that you have reviewed your ballot and this is your final vote. It would be very simple and user-friendly for the elderly and confused.  Once the polls close, the results are tabulated efficiently with no room for error or fraud.

Voting with your drivers license or state ID would virtually eliminate the need for a recount and totally abolish the archaic vote-by-mail systems currently found in Oregon and Washington State. It would also eliminate different precincts counting votes many different ways. Too expensive to implement such a system nationwide? Well, look at how much the past recounts have cost. Then add up how many spending increases Al Franken has voted for that have been implemented during his two years in the US Senate. Maybe a one-time investment in a national voting system isn't the worst idea. 

Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that the current voting system desperately needs an overhaul. Unless you like your hanging chads.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deck Those Halls

Is anyone else out there as far behind as I am with Christmas this year? Even with a much lighter pre-Christmas schedule, i.e., no Nutcracker ballet this year, I feel as if I'm weeks behind schedule. I know that the Christmas season has started when I receive the first Christmas card of the year, always from the same US Senator from Mississippi and always only a few days after Thanksgiving. Two more Christmas cards (or should I correctly say "holiday"cards) arrived today by families headed up by much more organized Moms than myself. I have yet to order our cards, muchless find a decent picture for the card and write the letter. Maybe this is a good year for New Year's cards.

At the moment, it looks like Christmas has exploded in my living room. All of the boxes of decorations are unpacked with wrapping, Nutcrackers, angel ornaments, snow globes, scented candles, and the like scattered everywhere, waiting for their placement throughout the house. The basement resembles the Ghost of Christmas past with bins full of old toys that the kids have outgrown or destroyed. Very spendy American Girl dolls with all of their clothes are all stacked up in a doll crib, bags full of disassembled pieces of Hot Wheels race tracks, robotic dinosaurs and panda bears, two bins full of Beanie Babies (remember that craze?).

Then there is the baking, Christmas tree decorating, shopping, wrapping, holiday parties and programs, and I have a Christmas birthday kid and a New Year's baby thrown into the mix. (Poor planning on my part I guess!) By the time January 3rd rolls around, I'm exhausted by the holidays. But don't get me wrong, I'm actually looking forward to this Christmas. Christmas 2010 will certainly be better than last year when Santa brought the entire house the stomach flu for Christmas. Then we, in return, gave this lovely gift to all of our friends and relatives for Christmas. Hands down, the worst Christmas ever.

We all seem to survive the stress of Christmas and so will I. Now time to turn on the Christmas music and deck my halls while remembering what the season is truly about.