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Sweet Land of Liberty

Well, today I am going to write about something that may make a few people mad.  It’s something that I have been feeling and wanting to write about for awhile now, but I’ve had to approach it in a constructive way.  I already have a few people in the world who can’t stand me for whatever reason, but I just need to vent a bit here.

I’m sick and tired of hearing people constantly criticizing the United States.  I don’t hear the same type of constant criticisms about other countries the way I hear about our country.  I know…..Americans are viewed as arrogant, and I know quite a few arrogant Americans, but I know a lot more Americans who are kind-hearted, and loving.  I know….our government has some major flaws right now, and I for one, cannot stand the man in the White House…..but he does not represent everyone, or what I see as the “American Dream.” I get it. We are a big, powerful country, which makes us a target.  But I’ve had enough.

I recently read a blog about what we do wrong, written by a European, now living in the USA.  First of all, if we are such a horrible country, then why is this person living here?  The criticisms I’ve heard are that we are too friendly, we dress too casually, our restaurant dishes are too big, we have free refills on drinks, we tip, we have “to go” boxes, we ask strangers, “how are you?” in our greetings, we drive too much, our children drive too early, but drink too late, guns, healthcare, and blah, blah, blah.  If I addressed everything he wrote about, I would be writing all night.

So….I love living in a friendly place.  I know people will help me, if I need it, especially if they have presented me with a warm smile.  I’ve received compliments from total strangers in public before…..sometimes a little creepy, but most of the time, I welcome a kind word and someone asking how I am.  I usually respond with, “I’m fine, thank you!  How are you?” Why is this wrong?

Dressing casually….well, why not?  And what is considered casual?  I don’t approve of the pajamas at Walmart, but I don’t like shopping at Walmart anyway!  But we can dress up when we want to, and most of us do.  My father wore a suit and tie to work every day, and seldom wore jeans or sneakers.  I live in a beach community.  It’s 90+ degrees every day with extreme humidity, making it feel like a 110 degree sauna.  I wear sun dresses or jeans with a nice shirt, cute shoes (always!), and jewelry to work every day…..is that too casual?  Why wear a suit in this weather?  You’ll MELT! And really, why does anyone else care? It’s not like I’m going to a wedding in a bikini!

Al and I went to lunch today, and we spent less than $50 (including dessert and tip).  Yes, the portions were large, but we didn’t eat them all (some Americans aren’t obese either).  I brought home enough leftovers for at least 2 more meals! This is extremely cost effective, common, and smart!  And our service was excellent, because our wait person was working for a tip!  The better the service, the better the tip, so she probably makes more than I do as a teacher! I’ve been to some countries where the customer service is crap, and I wish they were working for tips….maybe they would be more attentive! Oh yeah, and we also got free refills in “to go” cups for our tea because as our waitress said, “It’s about 130 degrees out there!  You’ll need something cold to take with you!” See how that works?  Reasonably priced meal, great service, leftovers, and a nice dining experience.  How is that wrong?

Driving….well, if you live in a city, you are more likely to have access to public transportation.  Let’s face it, this country is HUGE, and we are very spread out.  We like the space!  In order to get places, we do drive, but we also love road trips, and exploring our country, and you can’t get that in a taxi or a subway.  We don’t all drive gas guzzling vehicles, and enjoy learning about the diversity and history of our country.  Our children drive young (not something I necessarily agree with) because this country was built on family farms.  Farmers had a lot of children to help, and they needed to drive trucks and farm vehicles to help.  My father started driving at 12 years old (in 1936) from necessity.  So licenses at 16 or 17 (after a period of restriction) isn’t all that strange to us.

Alcohol….this one I have to agree with.  If our young men and women are able to fight for our country, and our boys are required to register for the draft, then yes….they should be able to have a beer!  I remember when the drinking age jumped to 21 nationwide.  Before that, the states had their own age limitations.  In Kansas and Oklahoma, you could buy low point beer at 18, but liquor at 21.  In Iowa, it was 19 for everything.  The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers were behind this, if I remember right.  They wanted to keep it out of the hands of high school students, which I understand, and can sympathize with too.  But if the kids want it, they will get it.  I thought 19 was a good compromise. And I have read that teenage drinking has dropped in recent years.

Guns and healthcare….well, we do have a problem.  I will not argue with this.  But some of us want solutions, or at least compromises, to these issues, and some of us don’t.  Please don’t lump all of us in to being part of the problem.  It’s a real concern for many.

A few weeks ago, I met some people on the beach from a European country (I won’t say which one, because I don’t believe in doing that to anyone….just like us, they do not all think and act alike).  They had flown to Washington DC, drove south to Miami, and were now on their way to New Orleans, stopping in our little community for a day or two to rest. Now, how many European countries can you travel that distance and still be in the same country?  Like I said before, our country is vast, and I think they were surprised by that, but how cool!  But they had nothing nice to say about us or our country!  I was really annoyed.  Here they were, sitting next to a total stranger, on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (free admission and free parking), complaining about everything, and saying we had no freedom.  And by the way, this American was more than happy to take their picture with the water in the background, and watch the lady’s purse while they went for a stroll on the beach, but you couldn’t do that in every country. They complained about where they stayed, thinking it was ON the beach.  It was on the Sound, and just over the bridge to the beach.  They complained that they had to drive to the beach.  I told them they could have walked over the bridge…a lot of people do.  They were afraid of the traffic….there is a walking/bike path.  Americans eat too much and are fat….these folks weren’t particularly skinny!  Black people shouldn’t be on the beach….I really had to hold my tongue with this one…..but then they complained about the racism we have.  I told them that my husband and I are teachers, and what we teach.  When I said that my husband works with students in the behavior unit, they assumed they were just “brats.”  I had to inform them that the majority of them suffer from some level of autism, and can’t help it.  Believe me, by the time I was finished talking with these rude tourists, I wanted to ask them why they bothered coming here if everything is so horrible!

I love my country, even though we are really in the midst of some awful things right now.  It was a safe place to grow up and raise children, and my parents encouraged all five of their children to go to college. We aren’t tacky, stupid, rude, or lazy.  Obviously, I have manners for not criticizing these individuals, or their countries.  We have a lot of freedoms here that many of us take for granted, and we should always protect.  But one thing that I will not stand for is someone telling me how we are “wrong” because we have a different culture.  This is OUR culture….like it or don’t.  There are a lot of things we do right, and some things we need to work on.  We are not everything you see in the news and on television.  As much as I struggle at times to understand what is happening in our country, it’s still MY country, and if it isn’t something you like, or can appreciate, or say something nice about, then go away…..you need to learn some manners!

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Attitude Adjustments, Be Kind, Egos, Emotions, Helicopter Parenting, Uncategorized, Watch, Listen, and Learn, Youth Sports

Scenes From an Afternoon of Youth Basketball

I enjoy people watching.  I love sitting back and observing mannerisms, speech, clothing, body types, how they interact with others, etc.  I never want or need to be the center of attention, so people watching is my way of learning about others. You can learn oodles with observation!  Yesterday, I went to watch my husband referee some youth basketball games.  I don’t know any of the athletes, but I do enjoy watching, for as long as my head and ear can stand the whistles and loud buzzers.  I also love watching Al doing something he really enjoys.  But some of these games bring out interesting characteristics in people!

When I first walked into the gym, it was about halfway through the second quarter, and it was pretty crowded, so I was looking for a spot to park my fanny.  A nice man saw me searching, and said, “Ma’am, you can sit here!”  My first interaction with someone there, and he was as polite and nice as can be.  I thought to myself that manners do still exist, even in intense situations, such as a youth basketball game. That was a great way to start this little outing!

I had a front row seat, and saw Al running up and down the court.  The score was pretty close (19-14), and both teams seemed to be very aggressive.  There were a lot of fouls, and they were extremely physical! I guess the boys on these teams were about 12 or 13 years old.  The win came down to the final few seconds, so most of the parents were on edge.  It was a good game, and fun to watch!

There were two ladies behind me, but I could only hear one…..she wouldn’t shut up.  She wasn’t watching the game.  She was telling the other woman all about how her boyfriend broke up with her because she was no longer his best friend, and he didn’t feel right about dating her and also working with her.  He didn’t feel like they would be right for marriage because it was too much work, and she disagreed because marriage is work, and blah, blah, blah!  I heard it all! Then at one point, she stopped and said, “I have a hard time getting to know people.  I don’t know how to get to know someone.”  I wanted to turn around and say, “Maybe if you shut up long enough to LISTEN to someone else, then you could get to know people!”  SHEESH!  My guess is she didn’t really care too much about her son’s game, and I bet her boyfriend really broke up with her because she talks too much about herself.

Other parents love to coach their child from the sidelines, which drives me insane.  If they want to coach, why aren’t they volunteering their time to do it?  They’re yelling at their child, yelling at the coach, yelling at the refs.  I can’t imagine how difficult these people are to live and work with.  I bet they’re never happy with anything, and everything is someone else’s fault. There are a couple of parents who know nothing about the game.  Every time their child got the ball, they would yell, “Shoot it!  Shoot it!” even though they weren’t in any type of scoring position, and weren’t within any proximity to the basket.  One boy mouthed off to his coach, and then talked back to his mother in the stands.  She laid into him for the whole gym to hear…..”You better remember who you’re talking to!” He was in foul trouble, but I think he was in more trouble with his mama.

Watching people with their families, and how they interact, is interesting to me.  First of all, I like to look at facial features and body types, trying to match the children to the parents, or which couples are together.  There was one family that were all built like blocks….the mother, the father, and all of the children had very square heads, no necks, square upper bodies, and skinny legs.  It was really odd……I had a hard time looking away…..they sort of looked like cubes with arms and legs.  The mother kind of led the children and her husband around like a pack leader.  They followed along behind her, and it was obvious who was in charge.  Back to her later…..

Because of the intensity of the game, the parents sitting around me were very vocal, coaching from the stands, and yelling at the refs (Al and another man).  I do get a little defensive when anyone criticizes him, but I think I’m supposed to.  In our marriage vows, we did promise to protect each other.  I think that goes for unfair criticism too!  Again, if they want to do the job, then apply for it.  See if they want to run up and down the court for up to 16 games a week.  See if they appreciate being yelled at, called names, or criticized for making the right call! Of course, some things get by the refs, and of course, they will let some things go on purpose, especially with the younger athletes.  They’re only human, and the game does need to move along.  If they called every little travel by these young kids who are still working on their coordination and control, then the games would take days to complete!  After Al came over and kissed me, they realized who I was there to watch, so they toned it down a bit.  I guess they knew better than to say anything with his wife sitting there. If they said anything after that, they kept it to a minimum.

For the next game, I moved to the other end of the gym, where it was a little less crowded, and one man sat a few feet away from me.  He had a lot to say when the game was going on about the refs, but as soon as Al came near me during the time outs, he lowered his head and played on his phone.  When the game started back up, he started his criticism again.  Coward.  It wasn’t a very exciting game because one team was really bad, and it was a blowout, so I left at half time. One of the parents from the losing team was the mother from the “block” family….the pack leader. I’m actually happy I left before the end of that game.  Al said she came to him, and verbally berated him for not making enough calls on the winning team.  She was mad that her team lost, and was very unpleasant.  It wasn’t his fault that her son’s team sucked.  The saddest thing about this is that she is a co-worker of Al’s at school.  She attacked another adult, who was just doing his job, over a youth basketball game.  Petty.  Immature.  And now their working relationship will most likely be strained.  As protective as I am of him, it’s probably best that I wasn’t there!

Watching and listening.  Watching, listening, and learning.  Spending an afternoon watching youth basketball games, and learning about people…..people I may never see again, but who show us so much about their personalities through their words and actions.