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Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Black Friday

Unless you’ve been away from all forms of media for the past several days, you’ve most likely heard or read something about the infamous woman with pepper spray incident at the Walmart in Porter Ranch, California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the unidentified woman turned herself into at a LAPD station on Saturday, but declined to answer questions about the incident. She was not taken into custody and the investigation is continuing. The article also spoke to a defense attorney about the incident:

Defense attorney Dmirty Gorin said the key question is whether the woman used the spray to intentionally cause harm or if she believed she was using it to defend herself.

“Witness interviews regarding the circumstances surrounding the use of the pepper spray hold the key to whether this woman’s actions were criminal or legally justified,” Gorin said. “In a riot-type atmosphere at midnight on Black Friday, there may have been a literal frenzy among the shoppers. The woman in question had the right to use pepper spray if she reasonably intended to prevent serious injuries to herself or other shoppers.”

Here’s video of the store in the aftermath of the incident I found on YouTube:

People are understandably outraged about what happened, and I suppose this woman is an easy target for such outrage. At least 20 people sustained minor injuries. But honestly? What do you expect when people act like animals?  All in the name of half price electronics and other Black Friday deals?

Alejandra Seminario, 24, said she was waiting in line to grab some toys at the store around 9:55 p.m. when people in the next aisle started shouting and ripping at the plastic wrap encasing gaming consoles. The store was supposed to open at 10.

“People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray,” the Sylmar resident said. “I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes.”

Whatever happened to peace on earth and good will toward men?

Or perhaps the better question would be,

What is the price of your dignity and self respect?

You can keep your half-priced X-boxes and 50% off flat screen televisions.

I’ll keep my dignity intact and settle for less life-endangering Christmas presents.

Gift cards, perhaps…

“Presents are the best way to show someone how much you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say ‘Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth.’” – Michael Scott, The Office

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Hypocrisy

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Angela Doll Carlson aka @MrsMetaphor wrote an excellent and very convicting post last week called Big but…or…what not to say in political discussions. In it, she highlights why I have little hope the political discourse in this country will improve anytime soon. Here’s a brief excerpt:

The reality is that we have a highly divided country on pretty much every single level. No one is going to sign on blindly to a sound bite. The only line it’d be possible for us all to agree on might be something like:

“We all want to live and live as well as possible.”

And frankly, that might even need engagement and discussion. As Pee Wee Herman says, “everyone I know has a big but…” We might all sign on to the statement above although I’d wager we could each offer up a big but-

“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want to pay higher taxes for it”

“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want a republican president”

“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want national healthcare “

“We all want to live and live as well as possible but we don’t want prayer in school”

Your big but and my big but are the reason we need to be able to have discussions and engagement. We need to be able to say, “yes, I hear you but I have an issue with this piece or that piece” and that cannot happen if your response to my articulated argument is to just tear me down by calling me names.

Politically speaking, I think it would be a fair statement that Angela and I do not agree on some issues, but I can disagree with her politically and still respect her as a person because she presents her views honestly and intelligently. And in doing so, encourages others to do the same. We need more people like Angela and fewer people on the far left an far right whose approach to political disagreement is an all-out war against the enemy, who believe those who disagree with them are evil, and believe that their agenda should be advanced by all means necessary.

Which brings me to my incessant rant.

Tuesday afternoon. I’m checking my replies column on Tweetdeck when I happen upon this retweet:

Thinking I must have misunderstood what the meaning of the tweet was, I tweeted back:

Rather than respond to me directly (or several others who took issue with that statement), @ActivismTips tweeted the following:

Oh…wow. Okay.

Despite my vehement disagreement with “our goals and aspirations that define us” (because I can have goals and aspirations to win a triatholon, but if all I ever do is sit on my fat butt aspiring to be a triathlete and never actually train, I wouldn’t say that defines me as a triathlete) I’ll give him/her credit for attempting to clarify the previous tweet. If we’re all human and are all hypocrites, then I suppose I took the “it’s okay to be a hypocrite” tweet too literally. Unfortunately, since whoever tweets for this account (which has over 15,000 followers and follows no one) does not engage in conversations on twitter as best I can tell, I was unable to clarify the meaning of either tweet. Which begs the question, does this activist want to engage in conversation which might offer some real change and movement towards a said “goal and aspiration” or do they just want to spur others to protest for the sake of protesting?

Since their twitter bio is rather vague: “This is how you find your inner activist, this is how you fight for freedom, this is how you dance the dance of resistance.” (Freedom from what? Resistance against what or whom?), I decided to visit their website, which provided The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life.

Again, no chance to engage in conversation. Just sound bytes. To be fair, I didn’t read all 1000 points, but here are the first 10, just so you can get a feel for their message:

These are 1000 ways in which you can politically and socially activate your life:

  1. The next time you’re with family or friends, discuss a particular cause, instead of letting the conversation drift to celebrity gossip.
  2. Be mindful of the fact that the news channels synthesize events in ways which make the individual feel as if activism is hopeless.
  3. Try to make friends that are politically involved, instead of maintaining the same old school friends.
  4. Stay focused on one particular cause, it’s fine to take up many causes, but always recognize your main cause.
  5. Call a big bank that was bailed out in 2008 by the people and ask them if they would be willing to bail out poor families.
  6. Go to a protest, do not let the stigma propagated by the mass media keep you away from protests.
  7. When your friends talk to you about new consumer products, change the topic to political causes instead.
  8. If you’re going to a protest, try to bring as many of your friends as you can.
  9. When friends say that protestors are ‘crazy’, explain to them exhilarating feeling of being part of a large politically conscious group.
  10. Being an activist requires sacrifice, you will lose many brainwashed friends along the way, but who needs them anyway!

My biggest problem with this exhaustive list is that I still don’t understand what the author of this list is for, only what he or she is against. Nothing will ever change if all anyone ever wants to do is to vilify some abstract vision of “the man”. To be fair, no progress will be made on the other side of the argument if they employ the same defamatory rhetoric from their own perspective.

I can accept that MY Truth may not be the same as yours, and I respect your right to live your life in such a way that it least compromises your values. Just don’t demand that anyone take you seriously when you encourage others to be


“Living a double life does not make you a hypocrite, we all have to feed ourselves, it is living a passive life that ruins your heart.”

“Take donations from the rich, but do not ever credit them, do not ever do the whole ‘sponsored by Goldman Sachs’ nonsense.”


“Write anonymously, it is an empowering act, forget the capitalist notions of copyrights and intellectual property.”

“Fight against the notion of intellectual property, the idea that our thoughts and minds can be owned and distributed.”

and Liars:

“If you have to lie to people by telling them there’s free coffee and donuts to at a political protest, then lie away!”

You know, all those things you accuse the greedy capitalists of being…

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Foregoing innocence

With very few exceptions, reality television is a cesspool of everything that’s wrong with the moral compass of society.

Feeling guilty about how messy your house is? Just watch Clean House or Hoarders. Comparatively speaking, your home is a showplace.

Wondering if your consumption of Diet Coke borders on addiction? At least you don’t secretly eat the stuffing out of sofa cushions or find yourself unable to communicate with people without the use of a puppet like the folks on My Strange Addiction.

Think your daughter’s wedding day expectations are unreasonable? Just watch an episode or two of Say Yes to the Dress, Whose Wedding is it Anyway?, Bridezillas, or the mother of all bad bridal shows, Bridalplasty:

The show follows 12 engaged women who are competing for the wedding of their dreams and their dream plastic surgery procedure. Each woman must complete a plastic surgery wish list and complete wedding-themed challenges in order to win the surgery of her choice. The winner of the week’s challenge gets one plastic surgery procedure from her wish list.

The winner of the competition will get a wedding of her dreams and multiple plastic surgeries from her wish list. The husband will not see his fiancee until the wedding day, when the bride reveals her new look. (Source: Wikipedia)

Regardless of how base and degrading your behavior may be, thanks to reality television, you can always find someone whose actions are more base and degrading than your own. Hurray for you!

And while I can largely ignore or make light of most of this nonsense, there’s something especially disturbing when the subjects of these shows are children.

Enter the world of baby beauty pageants seen through the lenses of the creators of Toddlers and Tiaras. My personal opinions aside about pageants in general and children’s pageants in particular, I know there are some contests for kids where glamourous make-up and costumes are not only not discouraged, but not allowed. I suppose these contests are the lesser of two evils, but I still think it sends the wrong message to the children involved.

Recently, a four-year old contestant made the national news when she appeared in a Dolly Parton costume complete with big hair, fake boobs and a padded butt. I considered posting her picture here, but then I suppose I would just be adding to the circus. When she appeared on Fox News with her mother,  her mother said she was surprised at all the outrage over this costume. “It was a theatrical costume (she wore) for 90 seconds.” When asked about charges of sexualizing young children, the mother replied: “There are people who are going to take everything to an extreme, but at the same time, people have Facebook posts that are 10 to 15 (years old) and all of their friends in bathing suits running around taking sexualized pictures, but because this has been brought into the national news spotlight people feel like they have to jump on it and correct me, when there’s other things going on on a daily basis that are so much more concerning.”


Thank you for restating my original argument. People can justify their own actions because there’s always someone taking things further than you are. Those are the people that really need to be stopped.

People like the subject of the latest outrage stemming from Toddlers and Tiaras–a three-year old whose mother recreated Julia Robert’s prostitute character in Pretty Woman. Yeah, this one:

I’m not terribly concerned about how shows like this will effect my 10 year old daughter, because the only time we ever watched it together she was as disturbed by it as I was. My concern is for the little girls and boys involved in these shows.

Many of their parents will argue that most of the time their kids are just that–kids. What they may not be considering is the fact that their kids get the lion’s share of attention when they’re strutting around looking like adult beauty queens. I suppose I’ll buy the argument that many of these tiny beauty queens think the pageants are fun, even though the frequency and voracity of the tiny temper tantrums on that show leave me less than convinced. I’m less inclined to believe they enjoy being spray tanned, wearing painful hairpieces and false teeth over their own called flappers.

The message? You are a beautiful child, just not beautiful enough without all the extras. This is the wrong kind of attention. And it’s not okay.

As much as all the primping and yes, sexualization of children on this show bothers me, what bothers the most is that these little girls and boys most likely think people watch them with admiration, when in reality most view the show for what it is: a freak show.

A big, money-making freak show.


This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Innocence, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more on this topic, please visit him at

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Thank you, entitlement generation

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There are children who suffer horrible abuse and neglect at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and protect them: their moms and dads.

There are also children who bear emotional scars from parents who were doing the best they could for their kids. Parents who were simply ill-equipped to raise their children into emotionally healthy adults.

There are days when I think I’m the worst mother in the world because I’ve allowed my own foul mood to spill onto my kids and overreact to some minor infraction. I wonder if there’s any parent who hasn’t felt this way.

As adults, how many of us have questioned to what extent how our parents treated us as children has impacted who we are today? Both positively and negatively? If everyone had a wonderful childhood, we would put the practice of psychiatry out of business. Mostly likely the alcohol and illegal drug trade as well.

But what if you could SUE the offending parent? Certainly would help with those therapy sessions and bar tabs, no?

That’s what this enterprising brother and sister duo attempted to do:

20 year old Kathryn Miner and her 23 year old brother, Steven Miner

According to a story from ABC News, the adult children of 55 year old Kimberly Garrity were attempting to sue her for being a lousy mom. “The children sought $50,000 for emotional distress stemming from the damage of her supposed bad mothering.” The news report goes on to say:

The case was originally tossed by a Cook County circuit court, but the kids appealed. Last week, an Illinois appellate court also dismissed it.

Raised in a $1.5 million home by their father, the children alleged the Garrity was a lousy mom because she failed to send money for birthdays, called her daughter home early from homecoming, and threatened to call the police on her son, then 7, if he didn’t buckle up in the car.

Steven also accused his mother of once smacking him on the head, saying that he still suffers from headaches. One of the exhibits in the case included a birthday card that Steven called “inappropriate” because it failed to include cash or a check.

The card did include the inscription, “Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you ? different from all the rest!” On the inside Garrity wrote, “Have a great day! Love & Hugs, Mom xoxoxo,” according to court documents cited by the Chicago Tribune.

Oh, where do I begin?

Two bratty children raised by their father in a million dollar home, mad at their mother because she didn’t shower them with the lavish gifts their father did and actually had the audacity to tell them no. And frankly, Garrity didn’t smack that kid in the head hard enough if she was trying to smack some sense into him.

Incidentally, the kids’ lawyer? Yeah…their dad. Kimberly Garrity’s ex-husband.

Miner did not respond to messages left by ABC news, but said in court papers that he filed the lawsuit after much legal research and had tried to dissuade his children from bringing the case.

Why would their father agree to take on their case (presumably pro-bono, because I’m guessing neither one of these kids have worked an honest day in their lives in order to pay for a lawyer) knowing from the start that it was a case they would most likely lose?

Here’s what Garrity’s attorney had to say (source

In court papers, Garrity’s attorney Shelley Smith said the “litany of childish complaints and ingratitude” in the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by Garrity’s ex-husband to “seek the ultimate revenge” of having her children accuse her of “being an inadequate mother.”

“It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious” for Garrity, Smith wrote. “There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free.”

I guess it’s true what they say. The spoiled, rotten sense of entitlement fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

This is a ridiculously extreme case of the entitlement generation run amok, but it permeates American society on so many levels.

But that’s an entirely different rant. Maybe next time…

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: We will never forget

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September 11, 2001: We will never forget

Really? Ask a New Yorker if they agree with that statement. Many will tell you that they think most of the world is trying to do just that. Forget the attack. Whitewash history. Remember the who people died, just don’t mention why they died and who murdered them.

In the spirit of tolerance, build a mosque in the shadow of where the World Trade Center once stood. And no, I’m not going to debate that issue again. I still think it’s wrong and no amount politically correct pandering will change my mind about it. That’s not what I’m upset about (today).

Today I am angry about a World Trade Center memorial. Not what it will contain, but what it will not. The following is an excerpt from the Save the WTC Sphere Petition:

The bronze globe sculpture “The Sphere” was created by artist Frtiz Koenig. It stood as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center plaza for thirty years as a symbol of world peace.

On September 11, though severely damaged in the terrorist attacks, it emerged intact from the rubble of the WTC. It was thus embraced as a symbol of the strength and perseverance of America.

It currently stands in Battery Park, about a half mile south of Ground Zero. It was installed there with much ceremony on March 11, 2002, the sixth month anniversary of the attacks, as a “temporary memorial.” There was full intent at the time, and the 9/11 families were promised, that the Sphere would be returned as the centerpiece of the future 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center.

Instead, however, the Sphere, the only remaining intact remnant of the WTC has been banned from Ground Zero and the “national” Sept. 11 memorial.

The designers of the memorial have ruled that it CANNOT be returned. In order, they said, “to protect the integrity of the design.”

The memorial design will include over 500 trees. Mayor Bloomberg and his deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, will not permit any of those trees to be cleared to create a proper space that allows the return of the Sphere and respects its history and significance.

At Ground Zero, landscaping takes precedence over 9/11.

This is a denial of history. It is an affront against the American spirit that triumphed 9/11; it is an assault upon truth and memory. It betrays the memory of the innocents slaughtered there.

Here’s a portion of an interview of Michael Burke, brother of Captain William Burke, a firefighter who lost his life on 911:

What this particular clip does not include is what I consider to be another  “oversight” of the planner of the memorial. Before the commercial break, anchor Martha MacCallum made mention of the names on the memorial and how they would be presented. The names of the victims will be there, but only their names.

Captain William F. Burke

For Captain William F. Burke, Jr., who was the captain of Engine Company 21, who got all of his men out alive and stayed behind in an attempt to rescue, among others, a quadriplegic man trapped inside, who sadly lost his life when the tower collapsed before they could get out, it will say William F. Burke, Jr. His title of Captain, which in and of itself helps tell the story of his heroic role on this terrible day, will not appear on the memorial. Many lives were lost that day, and I’m not suggesting that his life was more valuable than others who perished. But I think it’s incredibly important that people 100 years from now understand that when others were fleeing from disaster, brave men like Captain Burke were rushing towards the danger in order to save the lives of others. Their sacrifices should be remembered and honored.

When asked why the titles would not be included, Captain Burke’s brother Michael offered this explanation:

“This is the crux of the situation. The memorial is not designed, not intended to tell the story of 911. It is not supposed to remind us of what happened here. This is why it was chosen. Arad (the designer of the memorial) says it. In fact, the jury that picked the memorial said there can be no history of the attacks included in the memorial to protect, quote, the integrity of the design.”

I don’t often sign petitions, because frankly, I don’t know how much good they do in many cases. But I signed the petition to Save the Sphere, and I’m asking you to join me. Enough with this political correctness run amok where we bend over backwards not to offend the offensive and dishonor those who lived and died with honor.

Here’s a link to sign the petition: Save the Sphere

Enough is enough.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Lame apologies

I’m cranky. I blame the heat.

And I’m sick and tired of people lying.

Last week it was Anthony Weiner. While I certainly don’t condone his irresponsible and icky behavior, everybody does stupid stuff they later regret. What I took great issue with was not only his denial, but his vehement denial; calling representatives from all the major networks into his office and claiming he was a victim of a Twitter hacker. That lasted until the other pictures surfaced. Only then did he call a press conference with his tearful apology. I’m pretty sure Representative Weiner is sorry. Sorry he got caught. Lame apology.

Then Sunday afternoon, NBC ran a patriotic opening at the beginning of the U.S. Open which they later apologized for during the broadcast. The following is a clip from Fox News. There were other clips on YouTube, but this was the only one I found where both the audio and video were clear. If you don’t want to listen to the commentary that follows, simply stop the video:

Shortly after the piece aired, NBC Sports host Dan Hicks apologized for the cut:

“We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open Championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time,” Hicks said. “Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”


Am I upset that they intentionally took “Under God” out of the piece? Yeah, it upsets me. But it certainly doesn’t surprise me. It’s pretty much par for the course these days. It matters not that those words are actually part of the official pledge.

Someone on staff at NBC took it upon themselves to intentionally omit those words and the powers that be at NBC thought they could slide it by viewers without taking much heat for it. It was a bad miscalculation on their part. They apologized because the outrage was such that they had to cover their asses, but I don’t think anyone mistook the apology as sincere. I actually think it was worded so as to come across as insincere. It sounded like something Bart Simpson would write on the blackboard at the beginning of The Simpsons.

image courtesy of

Spare me and everyone else the lame apologies NBC. If you don’t believe in God or do believe in Him and hate him, or encourage free speech but only when it fits your political leanings, then fine. Do that. Knock yourself out. But don’t try to play both sides of the fence. Nobody’s buying it, and I for one am tired of being treated like I don’t know any better.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: People aren’t as stupid and ignorant as you think they are.

End of katrant.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Celebrating mediocrity

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Today’s post was supposed to be a revamping of a Dr. Seuss classic. I’ve got the intro written, but when I sat down for a rewrite, I just wasn’t feeling it. Since I believe any parody worth doing is worth doing well, I’m going to let it stew for awhile and see if I can get it right. Instead, I thought I’d share some personal observations from an awards ceremony I attended at my daughter’s school today.

The good news is that we have a high level of parent involvement and participation at the elementary school my daughter attends. The bad news is that all that parent involvement and participation makes it virtually impossible to find a good parking spot for any school event unless you get there at least 30 minutes ahead of time. I was fortunate to arrive early enough to find a spot to parallel park among the other cars using the carpool lane as a makeshift parking lot. Parents arriving just moments after me were forced to park illegally in the field across from the school. Did I mention that this awards ceremony was ONLY for the 4th grade class? (Yeah, yeah. I know–I have no reason to gripe about parents showing up to support their kids. But hey, it was hot outside. And I was in a dress. You feel sorry for me already, don’t you?)

But I’m not here to complain about the school’s inadequate parking.

I’m here to complain about our inadequate expectations for our children.

When I was in elementary school, I made all A’s and B’s because that’s what was expected of me and because if I brought home a report card with a C, I was expected to come home from school each day and study whatever subject (let’s call it “math”) I had earned that C in until I brought it back up to an A or B. There was no such thing as “A and B honor roll” and I didn’t get a certificate of achievement at the end of the year. There were always kids who struggled in school; kids who failed a grade or two. Heck, I graduated high school with a guy who was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, but when he walked across that stage and received his diploma, he had earned it.

Nowadays we’re so concerned about “no child left behind” that administrators have teachers teaching our kids how to pass standardized tests, not how to think for themselves. Failing kids means loss of federal funding, so educators do everything they can to make sure kids don’t fail those tests. Oftentimes memorization and rote thinking takes the place of the experience of learning how to learn, comprehend and retain knowledge. How else could you possibly explain how a person could graduate high school without knowing how to read?

What I’m about to say may be shocking and unacceptable to some, but here goes:

We need to allow our children to fail.

In school, in sports, in relationships, in life. Allow them small failures when they’re young and they will be equipped to handle and even avoid large failures when they’re older. Parents and educators need to stop saving them all the time, telling them, “It’s okay this time, but don’t do it again.” Because you know what? If you do that, it’s NOT okay and they WILL do it again. We’re indoctrinating an entire generation of dependence and entitlement, evidenced by an attitude that everything good in their lives is because they deserve it and everything bad is someone else’s fault. (I blame Shel Silverstein and The Giving Tree for much of this, but that’s a whole other rant.)

Today I attended a 4th grade awards ceremony in my daughter’s classroom. Every class in every grade level has one. Each child stands up and shakes the teacher’s hands while three awards are announced. Most kids have more, but only three of their choosing are allowed to be announced. Why? Because three is the minimum number any child can receive. Essentially, if the child has a pulse, is registered at the school and shows up for class they get an award. Which means my daughter’s classmate who has never made less than a 98 on anything he’s ever turned in, who reads at a high school level and is being tested to skip the 5th grade is equally recognized with the kid who rarely turns in his work and is a constant disruption in class. The star athlete, the exceptional artist, the accomplished musician and even the class clown don’t have their exceptional abilities recognized above anyone else for fear of damaging anyone’s precious self-esteem.

When everyone and everything is exceptional, no one or nothing really is.

That’s unacceptable.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Extreme Couponing

This is not a neatly stocked grocery shelf. It's a stockpile of canned goods in someone's home. (image courtesy of google images)

From TLC, the network that brought us Hoarding: Buried Alive, Four Weddings, I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant, Toddlers and Tiaras and other reality shows that make me either want to scream obscenities at my television or gouge my eyes out with a fork, comes a show about something called Extreme Couponing. Here’s the promo:

I don’t want to sound too flippant about this. I realize people are hurting financially, and I don’t begrudge anyone who is trying to save money where they can. I wish I were more disciplined when it came to grocery shopping. I can barely bring myself to go to the grocery store, let alone spend hours clipping coupons and planning meals to coincide with sale items. I admire people who do this. But some of the extreme savers go way beyond saving money on the household budget. Check out Nathan’s Six-figure stockpile:

Did you catch the part about having a 150 year supply of deodorant? And is it just me, or was this man just a little too giddy about possessing more things than he could possibly use in his lifetime? I don’t know who these people are. Chances are they’re great folks who happen to share a passion for saving money. But there’s something very unnerving to me about devoting entire rooms of your house to stockpiling groceries. I get the impression that what may have started out as a means to save money has become something very different. Dare I say an acceptable if not celebrated means of hoarding and idolatry?

What I would love to see, and have seen in some instances, is for people to take what they’ve learned to help others: homeless shelters, food pantries, victims of natural disasters. Can you imagine what an impact these folks could have on their local communities? It’s sort of mind boggling when you think about it.

If you or someone you know is an extreme couponer, please enlighten me. Am I wrong to feel repulsed by this? I just don’t understand how having 50 boxes of cake mix and 300 bottles of salad dressing is a good thing, even if you got it for free. There comes a point when the things we thought we owned begin to own us. And that’s not just true of these folks. We’re all in danger of this.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Student protests


Last Thursday morning at 11:52 am, I received a call from my 13 year old son. With chants of “Save our Teachers” in the background, he informed me that he was standing in front of his school protesting the firing of teachers from his school and other schools in the district. He did not ditch class, he walked out of school during his lunch hour. I told him I supported his protest as long as he did so respectfully and went back to class after his lunch break was over. He did.

Several local news stations carried this protest as well as others throughout the district. The State of Texas is facing mass budget shortfalls and education will take a heavy hit. Katy ISD announced plans to cut 550 jobs within the district. Of these jobs, 500 teachers were lost to attrition or lay-offs and 50 administrative jobs were cut. If these figures seem lopsided to you, you’re not the only one. But more about that later. The following letter was sent out to all students via email from the Superintendent of Katy ISD following Thursday’s walk-outs:

Dear Students,

Today, some of your peers decided to take a stand to have their voices heard in protest of teacher lay-offs. I understand that many of you are upset over losing great teachers, and I too feel the same frustration. This entire process has been one of the toughest challenges we’ve faced as a school district in recent years. Therefore, I want you – our students – to understand how we got here:

The State of Texas is facing an education budget shortfall of as much as $10 billion over the next two years. This means that school districts all over the state will not receive a significant amount of money. For Katy ISD, we’re estimating a loss of approximately $50 million. However, by Texas law, we cannot reduce teacher pay to save jobs. And, by Texas law, we cannot use funds for new school buildings to pay teachers. This is why we have had to face the difficult task of cutting back on programs and laying-off staff members – both teachers and administrators.

Texas law requires us to notify teachers of their job status at least 45 days before the last day of school. So, even though the state has not announced a final dollar amount that will be cut from our schools, we are forced to make difficult staffing decisions before April 19. This deadline is what drove the announcements this week. These layoffs are necessitated by the projected shortfall in state financial support-not due to job performance. My hope is that the state does not cut as much as is currently projected, allowing us to hire some of these great teachers back.

Our goal is to spread the cuts as much as possible so as to not severely impact the classroom, classroom support, student learning experiences and other services that have made Katy ISD one of the top school districts in our nation.

You are Katy ISD, and I admire you for wanting to have your voice heard – and for caring about our great teachers. We are continuing to work hard to balance this situation, and I ask that you be respectful of your teachers and your principals as this time is very difficult for all of us.

Please stay focused on your academics and finish strong in this last stretch of the 2011 school year.


Alton Frailey
Superintendent of Schools

Having been in this district for several years, I was unimpressed with the letter as were many students who received it. More protests were carried out the following day, and yet another email was sent out:

Information regarding student protest:

· Students’ voices have been heard and messages have reached the state leaders
· Their point is appreciated and has been made
· Behavior observed/occurring now on behalf of students in not peaceful or focused but disruptive and not safe
· Further disruption of the school day will result in disciplinary action

I applaud the kids for standing up for their teachers. What I don’t appreciate is feeling like our kids are being used as pawns in some power play between the state legislature and the local school superintendent. Based on several news stories and interviews I read and viewed on television, it seems the teachers were approached by administration staff during the school day and told they were getting laid off. They then had the option of completing the rest of the day or going home. The district had substitute teachers on hand if the teacher chose to leave for the day. Many chose to leave, many visibly upset and in tears. I question why the district carried out these layoffs while the children were there to witness them, especially when Friday was an early dismissal day for students and they could have waited until after 12:40 when the kids had left for the day. Of course, the news media had mostly cleared out by then, too.

Katy ISD only spends  49.7% of each dollar on the classroom.  The Administration makes a lot more money than the teachers.  Add this to the fact, that over 80M is sitting in a bank account in the district, and you see just how ludicrous the actions were of this administrator.  There is zero requirement for 80M to be in the reserve funds of the ISD.  Yet, he still wanted to make political points. (Source: /Texas for 56: Katy Schools Suffer As Superintendent Wields Power

Here’s a few statistics via Texas Education Agency.

  • For every public school teacher in Texas, school districts have one non-teaching staff position.
  • State-wide, teachers earn an average of $9,000 a year less than “other professional staff,” $22,000 less than school administrators and $38,000 less than central administration staff.
  • The turnover rate for teachers is about 15%, with almost 38% of teachers having less than 5 years teaching experience.
  • Superintendents on average take home six-figure salaries, with the highest-paid superintendent, Thomas Carroll of Beaumont ISD (19,000 students), earning $346,778 per year – nearly 2 ½ times more than the Texas governor!
  • Superintendents typically enjoy a number of perks, like an expense account, retirement contribution, car and housing allowances, bonuses, and more.

There’s so much more to this mess, but this post is already too long. Thanks for letting me vent.

It seems to me that if we could eliminate a few more admin jobs and stop building these Taj Mahals they call administration buildings, we could afford to put more money back into the classrooms. I understand the need for administrative and support staff, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a t-shirt that said, “If you can read this, thank an administrator”.

End of long winded rant.

Seeing red

image courtesy of

How do you explain the color red to a blind person? Or any color, really? There’s much the other senses can compensate for when it comes to grasping the essence of something–how something feels, tastes, smells, etc. But how do you describe the essence of color to someone who has no concept of it?

What if I asked you to describe a lion to a person who had never seen a lion? Now take it a step further. What if you gave the hide of a lion to that person and asked him to taxidermy said lion to be put on display? The results might be akin to something like this:

image courtesy of

According to, the story goes as follows:

“In 1731, King Frederick I of Sweden received a lion as a gift from the Bejen of Algiers, but after it died, the pelt and bones were presented to a taxidermist who had never seen a lion. You see the result looks more like a cartoon character than the king of beasts.

Doesn’t exactly capture the essence of what you understand a lion to be, now does it?

image of taxidermy lion courtesy of

Nope. Not even a little bit. I find myself feeling bad for everyone involved. Mostly the lion, though. This beautiful, majestic creature living out its last days in captivity, then to add insult to injury, having its body turned into a horrible caricature put on display for centuries after its death.

And I wonder if we’ve done that with the Word of God.

Under ordinary circumstances, my mind wouldn’t have made the leap from a bad taxidermy job to scripture. It just so happens that I had a rather interesting conversation with a family member on Friday night, thought about it most of the weekend, then received the link to the above story via email from my friend Dorothea.

Before I share the conversation, I need to provide a little back story:

This person grew up going to church every Sunday. Got married and had children, who also went to church every Sunday. By this time, he was more of a Christmas and Easter Christian, but their mother took them every week because that’s what good people did. I’ve known this person my entire life. I’ve spent lots of time with him. I don’t ever recall seeing him read a bible. Not even in church when the preacher says “Turn to Matthew, chapter 3”. He’s like hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people who come to church on Sunday, get their fill of God and think they know Him based on what some guy behind a pulpit tells them. They don’t need to read the bible because the good parts–the important parts–are preached on Sunday morning. The “need to knows”, if you will. I’m pretty sure if I attributed the quote “God helps those who help themselves” to the bible instead of Benjamin Franklin, he wouldn’t bat an eye. He likes to watch Joel Osteen on the Sunday mornings when he misses the service at his church, because that counts, right?

Imagine my surprise when he told me he was attending a bible study.

Imagine my horror when I found out it was a study of the Book of Revelation:

“We started this bible study about the Book of Revelations. It’s pretty scary stuff. I never knew that Catholicism would become the One World religion and that a current member of the Vatican is the Anti-Christ.”

To which my response was, “Whaaaa?”

Followed immediately by me saying that Revelation is subject to many different interpretations, and that it is very often misinterpreted. I may have some doctrinal disagreements with my Catholic friends, but I don’t doubt for a moment that we serve the same God. That they believe in the same Jesus I do. My husband then asked him if this was being taught as truth or simply as the teacher’s opinion. “The teacher’s opinion”, was the response.

But, you see? For a person who trusts what other, seemingly more biblically knowledgable people say about the Word of God rather than the Word of God itself, opinion often become truth.

Just like the unfortunate taxidermist who didn’t see with his own eyes what a lion is, he creates this incomplete, often horrible misinterpretation of its essence.

I know there are a few pastors who read this blog on a regular basis. I’m urging you, if you don’t do so already, to please encourage your congregations not to take your word for what God says, but to confirm what you teach them by studying the bible.

The most effective way to train a person how to spot counterfeit $20 bills is to have them intensely study real $20 bills. The same principal applies to God’s Word.

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