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I have strung words together for The New York Times, Vice, and more. I write and shoot people (with a camera, you guys) from my home in upst...

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    spiritSo much for the friendly skies. A Marine fighting a battle with esophageal cancer has been told by Spirit Airlines that they don't care that the veteran is dying. They won't give Jerry Meekins a refund for the plane ticket he bought right before doctors discovered his cancer had spread so far it is now considered terminal.

    Spirit would have had to give up $197 if they'd decided to show a little compassion for a dying man. Instead the company CEO is sounding like an insensitive jerk today, insisting that a 76-year-old veteran of our military should have bought traveler's insurance so he could recoup his money for a flight cancellation. Gee, I hope the company bought insurance against losses if their spokesperson comes out in public acting like a jerk.

    Technically, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza is right. Spirit does not have to give Jerry Meekins the money. They can hold true to their policies.

    But then travelers don't have to hop a flight on Spirit either. And if this is the way a company treats an old man who just learned he is going to die without even being able to take one last trip to see his daughter, I know I don't want to hop on that plane. The number of people "liking" the Boycott Spirit Airlines page on Facebook has been skyrocketing since news of the Marine's plight has spread on the interwebs. It's up to 32,000 pissed off travelers at press-time.

    I like companies that care about people, not money. And the ironic thing is, when companies do the former, they tend to draw in the latter. Baldanza claims that giving a refund to Meekins would destroy their bottom line as more and more down-on-their-luck folks put in for money back. Maybe. He doesn't know what would have happened.

    What he does know, what we do know, is that Spirit's a company that lacks compassion. And in our free-market system, we can tell that company what we think of them with our money.

    It's a beautiful thing, isn't it? Spirit is free to do what they want. We're free to do what we want. And we're free to show a little love for a man who sacrificed for us all to have this kind of freedom by serving in our US military.

    Who gets your support here? Jerry Meekins or Spirit Airlines? Check out this other bit of news from Spirit -- they're hiking baggage fees big time:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

     

    Image via alaskan dude/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    thermometerIt doesn't matter how many times I read the words "baby dies in hot car." Every time, I get the same feeling, right in the center of my stomach, right below my belly button. My throat constricts, and tears prick at the corner of my eyes.

    It's a feeling of horror, thinking about what kids like the 7-month-old who died in his father's pick-up truck in Sugar Land, Texas this week were feeling in those last moments. But it's fear too. Fear because of all the crimes against children, a young one forgotten in a car is the one most of us look at and say, "Oh God, that could have been me."

    I could be the criminal.

    I could be the monster.

    Here are the sparse details of what happened in Texas this week: The dad took his older kids to school on Thursday morning. Then he went to a business conference. He returned home around 3:45 p.m. Sometime later, his wife called and asked how the kids were doing. That's when he rushed out to the truck, realizing his baby had been there all day.

    Now let's read between the lines. I imagine a Dad rushing to get the kids to school, rushing to a conference. I imagine a Dad who was trying to do so many things for his family that he never managed to do any of them quite as well as he could.

    Been there, haven't you? A few months ago my husband fell ill, really ill, to the point where he had to be rushed to the ER. But in the days before his hospital visit, he was so incapacitated that I acted as if a single parent. I took over the morning run to school in addition to my after-school duties. I fed. I bathed. I clothed. And I worked.

    This is not to say I did anything extraordinary. It's my job, and my hat is off to all the single parents who juggle it all for much longer than a week. But when your schedule is changed, when you have extra duties piled on you, things fall through the cracks.

    Most of us have never left a child in a hot car. But we all have that memory that haunts us. The tearful call from a hungry kindergartner whose lunch you forgot to pack, perhaps. The 11 p.m. dash to the pet store to buy a new goldfish because the last one succumbed to hunger while your kid was at camp.

    It's a horror that there are babies dying in hot cars. But part of the horror is knowing that there is no one good way to make these tragedies go away.

    What is that mistake that haunts you and makes you feel like you could have been this dad?

     

    Image via gematrium/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    basketballAnother day. Another mom who can't bear to see her widdle snookums hurt by people who don't think he's quite as awesomesauce as she does. Yes, an Arkansas mother is in the process of suing a school district and the coaches who cut her son from the high school basketball team as a freshman.

    Teresa Bloodman claims students have the "right" to participate in extracurricular activities. But here's the funny thing. Her son went through three tryouts before he was cut. She didn't have a problem with the first two ... which kept OTHER kids from being able to participate.

    It's only since her son was kicked off the squad that Bloodman has had a sudden need to defend every kid's "right" to play. Gee, sounds so sincere, doesn't it? Snort.

    Bloodman is right, kids do have rights. They have a right, just like everyone else, to earn a spot on the high school basketball team. And by earn I don't mean use lawyers to get you that spot. I mean get your butt out on the driveway every day after you finish your homework and practice your jumpshot until it's so dark that you can't see your own hands.

    I didn't play high school sports. Not because I have a problem with them, but because I am one of the klutziest people on two feet. My high school team was made up of girls who were far more talented than me, and that was just fine with me. I was a member of the Quiz Bowl team and the yearbook committee, and I took karate class for fun. They had their strengths; I had mine. And trust me, my parents made me earn those strengths. They weren't going to sue my way onto the nerd squad (and God knows, I would have gone and hid in a corner if they had).

    Like the parents who are currently suing their kid's school for kicking him out of class for cheating, moms like Bloodman seem to think their kid is somehow better than anyone else's kid. And they're letting their kid know that's how they feel. What incentive is that kid going to have to actually work from here on out? He doesn't have to! His mom is fighting his battles for him!

    I don't know about you, but if my (klutzy and really better at the arts) kid was a starter on the soccer team, I'd rather it be because she spent every night in our backyard kicking a ball against the shed than because I had to whine and moan and sic a lawyer on the school district. At least she'd be able to hold her head high and say, "Yeah, I really CAN do this."

    How do you feel about the "right" to take part in extra-curricular activities?

     

    Image via Steve A Johnson/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    naughtyLet's face it. We all go into parenthood with the best of intentions. We are going to rock this whole raising kids things! And that chick at the supermarket who just grabbed her toddler by the shoulder and hissed in his ear? We are so judging her.

    Well, until reality hits. And suddenly all those best laid plans are lost in an explosion of baby powder and Play-Doh on your living room floor. You are making mistakes left and right, and you are that mom you judged. Only now you understand her because you have the back story on that bad mom move, and it doesn't seem that bad after all!

    So let's look at some of the bad mom mistakes that good moms have made, huh? 

    1. Put her to bed without supper -- No matter what I said, she was refusing to eat! So if she wasn't hungry, I wasn't forcing it down her throat ... guess who woke up the next morning ready for breakfast!

    2. Let her go to school in shorts on a cold day -- B's daughter was insistent that it was warm enough for shorts, and allllllll her friends' moms were letting them wear summery clothes. So B. gave in. The way she saw it; one day being chilly would put a stop to the whining. It did (and yes, she sent her with a coat to put on so she wasn't freezing to death!).

    3. Smacked him in the face -- C's son unexpectedly bit her, hard, on the leg! And she said the reaction was automatic, like slapping at a mosquito when it bites you ... not as punishment.

    4. Hit my daughter square in the face with a doorknob -- You know how kids can't climb out of a crib until all of a sudden one day they do? I could hear my daughter crying after naptime, so I ran up to her room, and threw the door open to get her out of her crib ... only she wasn't in her crib! She was standing right behind the door, having JUST learned how to climb out. And that knob and her little face were right at the same level. Worst mom ever?

    5. Left my 3-year-old daughter in time-out for 45 minutes -- C's daughter was so quiet in time out, she actually forget she was there ... when she realized almost an hour had gone by, she went up there and found her flat out asleep!

    6. Forgot to pick him up from school -- You know what happens when the school changes its schedule, and you're at home with a busy toddler? You do what C did: totally forget that they changed the schedule.

    7. Let her kid to go to school without underwear on -- There comes a time in every mom's life when she is just so relieved her kid can dress herself, that she does not question when said kid comes out of her bedroom wearing a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt without holes. But when J got the text from the babysitter asking if she was aware that her daughter wasn't wearing underwear, she was mortified. Then it got worse: turns out the kid had gone to school that way three times! Guess who is making the kid get dressed in the living room now?

    Come on, you know you have a story that sounds bad until you tell the whole thing. Spill!

     

    Image via Lara604/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    banana whoopie piesOnce upon a time, I considered the New York cheesecake to be the greatest of all desserts out of the northeast. Oh was I wrong. I have since discovered the one thing my life had always been missing: whoopie pies! Where have these sweet little sandwiches full of goodness been hiding all of my life?

    It as is if the cream-filled cookie and the cake got married and made ... well I guess they made whoopie (sorry, sorry, I had to go there). They're cake and cookie, and the way these are made -- cakey outside, creamy inside -- makes for endless flavor combinations. But is there anything that can top banana whoopie pies with peanut butter filling? Mmm. Check this recipe out!

    Banana Whoopie Pies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

    Ingredients:

    2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana) 1/2 cup sour cream 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Powdered sugar (for dusting)

     

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl. Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe batter into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing rounds 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool. (Unfilled cookies can be stored for up to 1 day.)

    Peanut Butter Filling (adapted from Epicurious)

    Ingredients:

    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)

    Directions:

    Sift powdered sugar into large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until smooth. Pipe or spoon 1 tablespoon frosting mixture onto the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

    Hungry? Need dinner ideas? Just love anything and everything food and recipes? Then you'll totally want to follow us on Pinterest! Our virtual pin boards on Kid Friendly Recipes , Sweet Treats  and Easter 2012 are pure eye candy. Yum!

     

    Image via 3liz4/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Mark RuffaloThe Avengers hulk smashed its way past the wizarding world of Harry Potter to claim a new box office record this past weekend with $200.3 million in ticket sales. And now for the actual surprise. Nearly half of those tickets were sold to women. Why? I've got three words for you: The Incredible Hulk. And now two more: Mark Ruffalo

    In a script by Joss Whedon -- male director oft described as a feminist -- smooth, sexy Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man has been dethroned in favor of a guy who literally smashes through everything set in front of him. But it's as the Hulk's alter-ego Dr. Bruce Banner that Ruffalo and Whedon have reinvented the superhero as the everyman.

    Goodbye macho man. Hello sweet, humble, unassuming, conflicted guy who looks more like he needs a hug and, I dare say it, mothering, than a man ready to take on the world. Who would have thought of the Incredible Hulk as cuddly? Who would have thought the Hulk would be getting all the attention today?

    During interviews with the actors before the New York premiere last week, Tom Hiddleston, who plays the movie's main villain, Loki, joked that it was almost embarrassing sitting at Comic-Con last fall with people so focused on giving him "Loki Love" while Ruffalo and Captain America actor Chris Evans sat beside him. At the time comic book fans were still uneasy about Ruffalo's casting.

    Those days are over. We're in love with the Incredible Hulk. And the big green lug has gotten Ruffalo plenty of attention, from a Twitter hacker who has taken his account hostage to sending bids sky high on some Avengers-themed memorabilia he's signed to support the green charity he passionately talks up every chance he can get about the danger of natural gas drilling instead of the danger of letting a green monster loose in Manhattan.

    But it's Disney/Marvel's promise to give Ruffalo his own movie in 2015, a flick that will be 100 percent Hulk, that shows how much this reinvigorated character means to the franchise. In total, we're supposed to get six films out of him.

    He's certainly sexy enough to draw the ladies (sorry, but you were thinking it too). But thanks to Whedon and Ruffalo himself, Hulk is finally a superhero we can wrap our arms around and let him carry us through another Avengers (they totally set that up at the end of the movie; if you stayed for the post-credits scene?) and beyond ... fingers crossed anyway.

    Who stole your heart in The Avengers over the weekend?

     

    Image via Brock Lady


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    handcuffsOomph. I think I just took a foot to the guts. A 14-year-old girl in Indiana is being held on murder charges. Police say she stabbed her 4-year-old cousin Leon Thomas III to death, then walked out of their grandparents' home, covered in blood.

    Can you imagine what life is like in grandma and grandpa Bryan and Angie Shanks' house right now? I can.

    The grandparents of these two kids aren't trying to figure out what family means now.

    They have to be vacillating between shock, grief, and anger and then back again. It's hard enough to see a child die. It's harder still to see a child die in such a violent way. Now add on top of it the fact that police say the perpetrator of such a heinous act is your own flesh and blood. It's the kind of thing that rips families apart.

    More from The Stir: Mom Kills Son for Potty Training Accident, Then Eats Pizza

    Right now, police aren't saying much about what led up to little Leon's death, only that he was visiting his grandparents along with his 11-year-old sister. The 14-year-old suspect in his death lived with her grandparents after apparently having run away from her own home. Angie Shanks even had official custody.

    From there, everything sounds like a relatively normal weekend for a family. The kids were downstairs; the grandparents upstairs. And then. Tragedy. Alleged murder. A dead child. A teenager walking the streets covered in blood. A family member in the morgue. A family member in juvenile detention.

    When the victim of a crime and alleged criminal are from the same family, people don't know what to feel. Anyone can make sense of being on the side of the victim. But criminals have loved ones too. We don't just turn our backs on them, even if we disapprove of what they're doing.

    Only it's a heckuva lot easier to love someone despite their faults when that fault hasn't resulted in the murder of one of your own. How do you decide who gets your support now? If this teen is indeed to blame, she's obviously mentally disturbed. But she's still a kid, and she's still family.

    How do you treat a criminal who is still a member of your family?

     

    Image via notsogoodphotography/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    field hockeyWith all the stories in the news about girls being shunned for playing on a "boy's" team, it's hard to believe it's been 40 years since Title IX became federal law. And now for something completely different! A teenage boy is fighting officials at the head of a school field hockey league in Long Island because he wants to play on the same team ... as the girls.

    Thirteen-year-old Keeling Pilaro allegedly got the boot from the team at the Southampton High School because he does well at the sport, which the county athletic officials say gives him an unfair advantage over the girls. His parents and even other girls in the league say that's not true: he's good but not the best. That seems to be why he's getting so much support around the interwebs, but frankly, they're all missing the bigger picture here.

    I want my daughter to be considered "good enough" to play alongside boys on a team because she is a human being. Whether she can kick their butt or not is kind of beside the point (unless it comes to passing the tryouts ... then it very much is the point). She's human. She should get an equal chance to play.

    If we want that for girls, we need that for our sons too. There are no special circumstances for equality. Either all genders are equal or they're not.

    A boy like Pilaro deserves the same chance as the girls. And the way things stand, he's not getting it. Pilaro, who originally hails from Ireland, where field hockey is played by boys, doesn't have any other option to play the sport on Long Island. Like most places here in the states, there is no boys team for field hockey at Southampton or in neighboring schools. To deny him this chance is to cut him out for no reason other than what dangles between his legs. 

    The point of Title IX isn't to simply protect our daughters from discrimination in sports. Excuse the round-about thinking here, but protecting our boys means protecting the right to protect our daughters. Confused? OK, look at it this way: allow one gender to be slighted. Now how do you argue that the other one should be protected? It's just like teaching your kindergartner they shouldn't hit because they don't like to be hit.

    So maybe letting boys on girls' teams will make it harder on the girls because they're "too good." Good ... because now girls can get on boys' teams to make it harder for THEM when they are "too good." What's good for the goose, right?

    What would you do if a boy wanted to play on your daughter's team or vice versa?

     

    Image via Nilec/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    flagWhen her husband is serving overseas, there's no question a military wife is sacrificing for our country. But a heartbreaking story out of Afghanistan is putting in perspective just how much a military spouse goes through. Army Captain Bruce Kevin Clark was Skyping with his wife last week when suddenly he dropped dead right in front of her.

    Susan Orellana-Clark couldn't do anything. She was stateside with the couple's two daughters. And she had to wait until the Army released his body to send it home. Can you imagine?

    Right now, no one knows how Capt. Clark died. Susan says she saw a bullet hole in the closet in her husband's room, but she was on Skype with him, she couldn't examine the room. And the Army says there wasn't a wound on him -- aside from the cuts and bruises that resulted from his head hitting the desk.

    Honestly, I can't imagine being a mom of young kids (their girls are 3 and 9!) and having my husband die under any circumstances. Wait, scratch that. I prefer not to think about my husband dying. Period. So right there my heart is breaking for Susan.

    For most of us, if, God forbid, something happened -- say a car accident or even something on the job -- you are relatively close by. You can get to their side to clasp their hand and cry. If need be (shudder), you can get an autopsy done rather quickly. We take it for granted when we don't have a spouse in the military.

    Instead, because her husband was deployed overseas, there this poor woman is, an ocean away, and she can't even get an answer on how her 43-year-old husband died. And this is what military wives and husbands deal with.

    Whether it's under mysterious circumstances like Captain Clark's death or as a casualty of war, answers to your most basic questions can get caught up under the guise of "national security." And even something as simple as being able to give them one last hug is not to be.

    My heart goes out to the Clark family today. I hope those little girls know their daddy died while he was doing something he thought was right.

    Do you know a military spouse? What do they do to get through the days?

     

    Image via brittanylynae/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    sleeping babyI love babies. Tiny ones. Plump ones. Squirmy ones. Sleepy ones. When you see a baby, you just can't help it. Something in you lets loose, and you say "awwww."

    But then there are the other things you say. You know, the verbal diarrhea that spews out when one wants to express how incredibly adorable a new baby is. It sounds good in the moment, but then you step back and wonder ... wait, did that sound as creepy out loud as it does now that I'm thinking about it?

    Yes, yes it did. And just so you don't get caught in the trap, let's discuss the rather bizarre things we tend to say when we see a new baby, shall we?

    1. I want to eat her up. Move along Jeffrey Dahmer, move along. (Also in this category: Oooh, he's delicious; She looks good enough to eat ...)

    2. Those hands are HUGE. Hold up there Mrs. Robinson, he's still in diapers.

    3. I can't believe that head fit! Um yeah, my vagina is ... wait, why are we having this conversation?

    4. Oooh, I just want to squeeze him! Ouch.

    5. He looks just like the ultrasound! Oh gee, thanks for confirming it. My kid really does look like an alien, huh?

    6. She and (name of so and so's son) will make such cute little babies. OK, see, she was just born. Can we not fill her uterus quite yet?

    7. OMG, look at the size of his ... Actually, don't. Please. Don't.

    8. Can I steal him? You do know baby snatching is illegal, right? Although, if you want to just borrow him to complete diaper-changing duties, this one might be negotiable.

    9. I'm so going home and making my husband get me pregnant now. Wow. That is just. Too much information?

    10. I can't wait to get my hands on her! Yes, we know what you mean. But remember what your Mom meant when she said, "Just wait until I get my hands on you?" It still haunts us.

    What's your go-to line when you see a new baby? Is it a little ... off?


    Can't get enough of baby pictures? Look at these cuties all cuddled up trying to sleep ... in some rather wacky positions?

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    computerYou know that saying "time marches on?" Well I wish it would stop. Now. I have just been informed that cyber-bullying, that scourge of the Internet, has stretched into the kindergarten set.

    Kids as young as 6 years old are being bullied online. Six! My kid is 6, and she can't even tie her shoes yet (I know, I know, we are working on it). And now I have to worry about somebody stealing her self-esteem?

    Now I know what you're thinking.

    You're betting I'm one of those lazy moms who let her 6-year-old set up a Facebook account and doesn't bother to check what her little computer wizard is up to online. You know the type -- they sue computer companies for "addicting" their kids to games instead of taking the gadget out of said kid's hand. Their kids are practically begging to get into some kind of bad situation online, aren't they?

    Not my kid. We've had our issues, learned from our mistakes, and that laptop is loaded down with so many locks that the most common complaint from her desk is "It's moving so slooooow." She doesn't Facebook. She doesn't Tweet.

    So I'm doing pretty much everything "they" tell you to do. Which is the problem. While we're all focusing on how great we are because we've kept the little ones away from social media, the bullies have found ways around us. 

    Here's what you DO need to know: if your kid has a cellphone, it turns out they're more likely to be getting mean messages via text. And if they don't have a cellphone (really, at 6? mine doesn't), the messages are coming through systems like the Nintendo DS (yes, my 6-year-old has one). And then there's FaceTime and iMessaging on their iPod. And it goes on.

    They're even saying kids are at risk on the Kindle Fire. We can't even let them read without somebody coming to harass them!

    Message for parents? No one's safe. Watch them like a hawk on EVERYTHING.

    I know I've heard it loud and clear. How about you?

    What kind of bullying has your child encountered?

     

    Image via DeclanTM/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Where the wild things areGet out the tissues, Moms and Dads. Legendary children's book author Maurice Sendak has died at 83. The man who sent us to cavort with Max in the land of the wild things never had kids of his own, but his books made clear how he thought they should be treated.

    Raised by Polish immigrants who lost many of their relatives in the Holocaust, Sendak knew about death and dying from a young age. And the way he saw it, other kids could handle life's big truths. His books were like an ultimate "FU" to the helicopter parenting trend.

    Kids in Sendak's world can be nice or nasty. They can be greedy or graceful. They can be scared. They can be forced to think. They are real kids living in a world devoid of the purple cats and talking unicorns that people much of the kiddie lit section of the library. Sendak wasn't afraid to offend parents, landing him on the most censored books in America list countless times.

    I'd wager his honest portrayals of children are exactly why parents like me gravitated to him. Sendak provided a balance to our kids' bookshelves. His stories were at times magical and fun, the stuff that made them "kiddish," and yet, read a Sendak book at bedtime, and you feel like you are getting to know your own child better. You are diving into that place deep down inside them, beyond the giggles and scraped knees. It's the place where they think thoughts you cannot hear, fear things you cannot see.

    Published last fall, his last book, Bumble-Ardy, was a take-off on a sketch he'd put together for Sesame Street in the '70s. It scared the pants off of my 6-year-old. And I'm sure if I'd been lucky enough to meet him and tell him that, Sendak would have been proud. He was a bit of a crank that way. But he was a lovable crank, an honest one, a man who helped us be better parents. And now he's gone. We will never get another book from him.

    And so today we parents wish to say to Maurice Sendak, "Please don't go! I'll eat you up I love you so!"

    What is your favorite Sendak book to read to your kids?

     

    Image via Barnes and Noble

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Adam Mayes
    The bizarre case of a mom and her three daughters kidnapped from their home in Tennessee, has just taken a turn for the worse. Police have identified two bodies found in a home connected suspected kidnapper Adam Mayes. Mom Jo Ann Bain, 31, and her daughter Adrienne Bain, 14, are dead.

    It's the kind of story that makes you want to hole up in your house with the doors locked and never come out.If you did the math, you know that means that while Gary Bain mourns the death of his wife and eldest child, he still has to wonder where his youngest kids are. And he has to deal with the fact that the man police say is responsible for all of this is one he invited into his family's home. 

    We have become so wary in this society of strangers, but we depend on the people we "know" and "trust" to do right by our families. It's hard to reconcile cases where the known quantity turned out to be the problem. And yet, sadly, it's more common in criminal cases. Statistics show kids are more likely to be abducted by someone they know; women more likely to be raped by a known attacker, and so on.

    And now it seems like the guy Gary Bain thought he knew is the one who took off with his wife and kids and maybe even killed two of them. Adam Mayes apparently knew the Bain family because he had and Gary were once brothers-in-law. They'd been married to sisters, and he was treated like an uncle by Adrienne and missing girls Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8. Mayes was so trusted that he is said to have been at the Bain house in Tennessee before the abduction because he was supposed to help with the family's move to Arizona. Instead, dad woke up on moving day to find his entire family gone, along with his former brother-in-law.

    I'm not going to blame Gary Bain here. You can't foresee everything in life. These things happen. But the more bad news that comes out of this story, the more I hear the words, "You think you know someone ...." in my head. Let's hope that whatever good Gary saw in Mayes at least protects little Alexandria and Kyliyah and they're delivered home safe to their dad.

    Has someone you thought you knew ever betrayed you?

     

    Image via FBI


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Robert Downey Jr.Poor Robert Downey Jr.! First Mark Ruffalo swoops in and completely steals his thunder in The Avengers. And now he's been forced to admit that hanging with new baby boy Exton is a lot like going on a series of bad dates!

    Welcome to the club Buddy! Downey may have some super armor to protect him from the bad guys when he turns into Iron Man onscreen, but back here on planet reality, no parent has yet proved themselves immune from the downside of hanging out with someone who still sits in their own poop. Just get a load of what he told Ellen about the little man.

    He’s smiling and talking a little bit. It’s incredible. Well, I mean, you know. I think he is talking. I go, ‘What are we doing? What’s happening?’ He goes [makes baby noises]. I go, ‘Really?’ Kind of like a bad date with somebody who is really small.

    Yup. Sounds about right. And now that I think about it, the whole bad date analogy goes way beyond talking like a ninny while this little person stares at you without saying much back. Consider the myriad other ways babies tend to resemble the worst date you ever had:

    1. Falling asleep in the middle of the meal: There you are carrying on a conversation. There they are, face down in strained peas. 

    2. Farting and then laughing about it: They always say those early smiles are just gas, right? Forgivable because they're cute ... at least at this age. When you're trying to watch a romcom with them on other hand? Not so cute. It doesn't matter how smart (or cute) a fella is when he's a 20-something-year-old fart smeller.

    3. Always making a scene in a restaurant: Crying uncontrollably, making the other diners stare: doesn't matter how old they are, you still want to crawl under the table out of embarrassment.

    4. Pawing, tugging, biting, etc. your breasts: OK, so the baby has a good excuse; they're hungry! But that's the kind of behavior that would get a guy a kick in the you-know-what ... just sayin'.

    What else does your baby do that reminds you of your worst date ever? Are they more inappropriate than Robert Downey Jr.'s little guy?

     

    Image via jasminhunter_photography/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Tyrannosaurus RexI'm trying to decide if Tyler Gold is the coolest guy alive or one of the dumbest. Well, the man formerly known as Tyler Gold that is. The Nebraska resident walked into a court and got permission to legally change his name to Tyrannosaurus Rex.

    If you're picturing a 5-year-old clutching a plastic model of a creature that's been dead for millions of years, stop. Mr. Tyrannosaurus Rex is 23 years old. And just wait until you hear why he took on the monstrous moniker.

    Gold claimed to the judge that "an entrepreneur, name recognition is important and the new name is more recognizable." Yes. It certainly is. Recognizable that is.

    And who doesn't want to be recognized? There's a certain thrill that goes up and down your spine when someone spots you on the street and knows it's YOU! Hey you!

    But there's being recognized. And then there's being RECOGNIZED (insert eyeroll here). You know what I'm saying?

    Basically, the difference between being recognized as Tyler in business and being recognized as Tyrannosaurus is the difference between wearing a pantsuit in the boardroom or a Wonder Woman costume. Which one would you hire? Yeah. I'm going pantsuit all the way.

    I certainly give him kudos for having the chutzpah to be different. But unless his intended profession is as children's party entertainer, I'm going to go ahead and guess this name change is not exactly going to bring in the phone calls from clients. But that's just me. I live in 2012, not the Cretaceous Period.

    What would you do if you heard your new doctor/lawyer/baker was named Tyrannosaurus Rex?

     

    Image via Mara ~earth light ~/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    facebookPop quiz. Who should decide the fate of the grandmother charged with making her 9-year-old granddaughter forced to run until she died? Facebook or a jury? If you're think justice for Savannah Hardin would be best served inside a courthouse, my apologies. It seems the web thinks they own the rights to determine how things should play out for the women police think are responsible for a 9-year-old dying.

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The public weighing in on criminal cases from that of Hardin to George Zimmerman (the man charged in the death of Trayvon Martin) have judges concerned that the idea of a "fair trial" is dead. But what did they expect?

    People have always talked about issues in the news. Only thanks to social media, we now have a forum that's seen 'round the world to express our views. It may not have been what our forefathers anticipated when they wrote the freedom of speech into our Constitution, but its what came of it.

    And there is benefit to having your say on Facebook or Twitter or whatever form of social media you choose. It means you're getting involved. Finally! People are engaged in the justice system!

    We live in a society where serving on a jury is technically a civic duty, but one we begrudge. Being involved makes too many people groan. And yet, people have opinions. And the more they voice them, especially in forums where they are heard, the more powerful they feel, the more empowered, perhaps to get off of their butts, shut down the computer and go and do something.

    Agree to join a jury in a horrific case like the death of a poor 9-year-old forced to run until she collapse. Vote against an amendment that would cost same-sex couples the right to marry. Whatever it is, social media may not make prosecutors and judges happy because of the complications it causes, but at least it's empowering people to feel like they have a voice.

    How has social media gotten you more involved in an important case like Savannah Hardin's?

     

    Image via Facebook


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    condomsI'm officially not looking forward to the prom. Thousands of dollars on one night for our kids? I don't think so! But at least I don't have the angst a whole bunch of California moms who are absolutely apoplectic that their kids were handed condoms after the prom.

    Imagine! Kids practicing safe sex after prom! How ... wonderful? I almost wish my kid went to the Visalia Unified School District!

    OK. OK. If I think about my daughter having sex, I want to dig screwdrivers in my eyes and throw bleach in my ears. Or maybe it's the reverse. That's how discombobulated the concept of my girl and the whole S-E-X makes me.

    But when I stop being uber emotional about it and start acting like an adult, all I can thinks is "don't want to be a Grandma until she's graduated from college." It's a mantra that I will recite to myself, albeit silently until we reach 21 or 22, at which point, well, that's up to her. And it's one I know takes a bit of me giving up on the whole "want to put blinders on and pretend my daughter doesn't have one of thoooooose." I have to talk to her about sex. It's my job. And I need to talk to her about SAFE sex.

    I plan to do that (she's only 6 right now, so no, we're not there yet). But I also hope someone else will step in and reinforce it. Because I remember what happened when my mom tried to have "the talk." I literally stuck my fingers in my ears and sang, "La, la, la." (Cut me some slack, it was a long time ago). As much as my parents tried, they were still my parents. Hearing it from another, disinterested party, seemed so much more reasonable.

    If someone is going to volunteer to pay for a whole bunch of condoms and actually push them in my kid's hand on prom night? I'm all for it. It's a nice back-up mechanism for all the preaching. 

    So I admit I'm a bit ... confused? ... by these parents pitching a hissy because their kids got a condom. If they did a good job with the whole sex talk, what are they so worried about?

    What would you do if your kid was handed a condom after the prom?

     

    Image via Paul Keller/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    glee promWonder why you watch Glee? Then you need to save the prom episode (dubbed Prom-asaurus because, well, they could) on your DVR so it's handy when you're feeling particularly down. It's the last episode before the finale of Season 3, which is essentially Armageddon for Gleeks who can't contemplate a show without Kurt Hummel, Rachel Berry, and the rest of the graduation group. And it was everything that Glee is about.

    These are kids who are on the outside proving that they are worth it, that they count. They are kids who throw an "anti-prom" because they are trying to prove they don't need the adoration of the so-called cool kids, but still show up at the real thing. 

    OK, so the real question is "who the heck was prom king and queen." The answer is, well, it's complicated. It's what makes Glee a show we watch.

    Quinn won. Because she's hot. She's blond. And she's a cheerleader. And she worked that pity vote like a mofo from her wheelchair.

    More from The Stir: Lea Michele & Cory Monteith Make Our Finchel Dreams a Reality

    But she is also aware that it really sucks to win because you worked the pity vote. So she threw the competition to Rachel. Rachel friggin Berry. Ms. Dresses Like a Catholic School Girl and Is Kind of Self-Obsessed won prom queen. And she got to stand beside sexy boyfriend Finn Hudson, who got the king title for her happily ever after (for now). Nice TV ending you expect, right?

    Except that's not "the end." Because Rachel threw an "anti-prom." That's what geeky Glee club kids who aren't accepted by the main stream do in real life, right? And Becky, the cheerleader with down syndrome who has a British voice in her head telling her story, lived the dream. She got the anti-prom queen title, thanks to Puck, her anti-prom queen hottie king on her arm. Geek. Girl. Dream.

    It happens in real life. Occasionally. It makes us all feel like it CAN happen, that kids who are different will be accepted. But it's still too rare, and Glee was honest about that. They didn't give Becky the "real" crown, but they gave her the one that mattered. Because the kids of Glee have taught America that it isn't what the mainstream recognizes that changes a kid's life. It's finding acceptance off the grid, finding a group where you fit, that can change your life.

    The music rocks. The laughs are good. But the lure of Glee is really about finding those diamonds in the rough and making them shine. This show is the anti-prom queen of primetime.

    Why do you watch Glee week after week?

     

    Image via Fox


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    insulinRemember when the thought of going through an airport scanner actually seemed preferable to a potential groping by an overly aggressive TSA agent? Those days are over. A teenage girl is claiming the full-body scanner at the Salt Lake City airport was so powerful it destroyed her $10,000 insulin pump.

    Savannah Barry had a note from her doctor suggesting she avoid the scanners, but says TSA agents ignored her request to be patted down (really, a 16-year-old girl WANTED a pat-down, and they didn't think there might be a reason for it?). When her mom called the maker of the device designed to keep her daughter's diabetes from spiralling out of control, they said take it off. NOW.

    Poor treatment of someone with a diagnosed medical condition is hardly a shocker coming out of the TSA. This is the agency known for poking and prodding the delicate tissue on the chest of a woman who'd just undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer. And last year it was a pregnant diabetic woman whose life was put in danger when agents seized her insulin. Poor Savannah's ordeal is just more proof that agents need better training before they're let loose in positions of authority over the general public.

    Now for the real news. These scanners can destroy an insulin pump in the few seconds it takes to go through the machines one time. If they're that strong, and work that fast, what else are they destroying?

    An insulin pump is made to be pretty hardy. They're worn, often by kids, constantly. They're there to protect life. If a few second blast of radiation that's supposedly no worse than a cellphone can destroy that ... It almost makes me wonder if I really do want to get on an airplane again.

    I'll admit that I've preferred them to the pat-down process because I feel less exposed being judged by machine rather than man. I admit there are issues with the radiation for frequent travelers, and I supported the TSA backing off on forcing pilots to go through them. The build up of radiation in the system of someone who spends that much time in an airport would be mind-boggling.

    But most Americans don't travel that much. Maybe once, twice a year? I was willing to take scientists' conclusions that we're at no more risk from that limited exposure to radiation in a scanner than we were walking around people using cellphones.

    Now I'm not so sure.

    What screening method do you prefer when going through airports? Why?

     

    Image via cogdogblog/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    readingHave you gotten a look at the calendar? Mother's Day is coming up fast! And you haven't bought a gift yet, have you? Don't worry; we've got your back.

    The thing is, flowers are just going to get knocked over by the cat. Chocolate is just going to be eaten by the kids. But books, ah, books give her an excuse to go hide in the bathtub with a lot of bubbles and laugh her way through the pages. And have we got a list that's just made for Mother's Day!

    We take motherhood and writing seriously here at The Stir, which is why you shouldn't be surprised at the crazy number of authors in our ranks. Does your mom want funny? We've got it. Sexy? Got that too. And there's even some celebrity in here!

    What book is on your Mother's Day list this year?

     

    Image via moriza/Flickr


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