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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who's flying the flag?

Almost five years after 9-11 and few flags were flying yesterday for Memorial Day -- at least around my suburban neighborhood. I remember a time when everything, including cars, was draped in red-white-and-blue. I wonder what that means. Have we forgotten or grown complacent? Or have we been numbed by the never-ending flood of bad news from Iraq?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Living scared

How did this happen? The more I read or listen to the news, the more I think that life in the good, ol' U.S. of A has changed irrevocably in the past few years. We're living scared, running scared. If it's not the terrorrists, it's the immigration issue. We're no longer standing tall, but cowering and backtracking -- and there are plenty of demogagues feeding into those fears.
In the next few weeks, we'll watch our elected leaders duke out a compromise immigration bill. While there's no denying we need laws (and enforcement) that will truly help us protect our borders, too much of the rhetoric sounds xenophobic and nativist.
Sure, a fence may keep people out, but it also keeps us in.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summer: Freedom from the battles of homework

Okay, so a lot of parents are scrambling to figure out places to keep the kiddies when school lets out Friday. But an equal number of parents I know sigh with relief when the final school bell rings. No more battles with homework. No more frantic calls from school about a sick child, a forgotten homework, or a lost textbook. No more late school buses or rides home from activities that didn't materialize.
Just as summer means freedom from the strictures of school for children, these hot, wet months mean a certain kind of freedom for Mom and Pop, too.
Let's hear it for cold watermelon, frozen pops and no social studies projects.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kind-hearted bosses

If you need a little lift to start your week, read the story on a Miami landscaper whose employers paid the tab for medical treatment after he was shot in Guatemala. Just goes to show there are plenty of good, conscientious people in the world -- and some of them are even bosses. What a nice Monday morning thought!
Now...back to reality.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The insurance cost of living in paradise

I'm a State Farm policyholder and have been for as long as I've been an adult. I figure the company has made lots of money off my auto and home policies. Except for Hurricane Andrew and Katrina, my slate is clean. I'm also a safe driver.
So I'm not too happy to find out it's requesting an increase -- of almost 150 percent for those of us in Miami-Dade. Between housing prices, traffic congestion and windstorm insurance, who can afford to live here anymore? The premiums are getting to be more of a problem than the hurricanes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The next Da Vinci Code

Every writer friend I know is wondering -- and plotting -- how to write the next The Da Vinci Code. The opening of the movie is front-page news, which will only mean more books sold. And the controversy will be sure to crank up the ka-shing at the checkout counter.
Did Jesus marry Mary Magadelene? Who knows. I personally believe that a Jew of his time would've been married-- religion required it -- by the age of 33, so it's probably not a far-fetched idea. Was it Mary Magdelane? Maybe, maybe not. Were there children from the union? Anyone can speculate at will.
Regardless of the theological battle, however, one thing is certain: Dan Brown is laughing all the way to the bank.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Road rage? What &$%@# road rage?

Take a bow, Miami. We've received the dubious distinction of being among the top 5 cities for rude drivers. We speed too much, cut others off too much, talk on our cell phones too much, and curse too much. Why does this not come as a surprise?
The last two days of rain-soaked driving made me think I died and went to hell.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The difference between need and want

Hey, I know it's hard to say no to kids, but we're not doing them any favors by showering them with stuff -- whether it's technology (i.e. iPods) or lessons (private batting classes) or activities (special summer camps, class trips, etc.) Experts are saying that it's not good for our economic health, or theirs, when we succumb to their whining. We should be using that money as parents to protect our future, like saving for retirement.
But like many others I know, it's growing increasingly difficult for me to draw the line. If I don't pay for a special summer program, will he fall behind? If he doesn't go on an expensive class trip or own the latest and greatest, will he feel left out?
I'm battling with this dilemma because my 13-year-old has been whining about getting a cell phone for over a year. All his friends have one, but I don't see the point (or the need) to outfit him with one more tech-gizmo.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jaws Florida style

A couple of summers ago it was shark season. Shark attacks were the news du jour. Apparently this summer it might be gator time. While the deaths are unimaginably horrid, I wonder if those of us in the media don't hype up the story in such a way that it seems more of a problem than it really is.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Big Brother is here

The feds have been collecting all kinds of phone records in their fight against terrorism, and now the country is once again all atwitter about the newest revelations that the NSA has our phone records. (Listen up, South Florida. Most of us use BellSouth as our land line service.) Some say that whatever it takes to fight the bad guys is fine by them. Others lament the not-so-slow erosion of civil liberties in the name of a war that has been, at best, sloppily handled.
Every week we find some new detail about Big Brother's continuing incursion into our lives -- all without oversight What's next? Webcams around the house? Recorders in our car?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Will your kid's teacher be back next year?

It should come as no suprise that half of all schoolteachers quit by their fifth year of teaching. Something to do with poor working conditions and low salary. My husband is a teacher, a brother is a teacher, two sisters-in-law are teachers, and the stories they tell about the lack of support they get from administrators and the frustrations they face on a daily basis would never hold in another industry. Yet, they still love working with students and feel they can make a difference.
Unfortunately, how we treat them and what we pay them are reflections of society's screwed-up priorities.
Can someone remind me how much Barry Bonds makes please?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What I really want for Mother's Day... a little time to myself. I don't want perfume, jewelry or lingerie. Not even a day at the spa. Just a few hours to putter around and do whatever I want to without deadlines and children demanding to be driven somewhere.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How will our kids afford to live here?

More depressing news on the real estate front for Mr. and Ms. Average just starting out. Rent, like the sale of houses, is shooting through the roof -- and income for us townies isn't really keeping pace. For the generation just coming up, that should be a big worry. My friends and I have moved from gleefully talking about how much our homes are worth to concern about how our children will find a place to live if and when they settle in South Florida.
Who's paying these ridiculous prices anyway? New Yorkers?

Friday, May 05, 2006

And you wonder why schools are having problems

Two top Miami-Dade educators are feuding over racist remarks. Rep. Arza apologized, saying he did not mean to offend. Schools chief Crew has refused to accept the apology.
My friend, a public schools counselor, is enraged over the incident. She wonders why she bothers to teach her students about conflict resolution, walking away from fights and being the bigger person when these two powerful men are basically negating all her lessons. "I want to tell them, 'Grow up already!'" she said this morning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Should I spell it for you? S-T-R-E-S-S

Scientists are trying to figure out why we Americans are so much more unhealthy than the British. Our rates of diabetes, cancer and other diseases is considerably more than for those on the other side of the pond. Even the richest among us only fare as well healthwise as the poorest of Brits.
My hypothesis? Stress. We're all super-stressed out, trying to do more with less and in fewer hours. The attitude towards work in Europe -- and I imagine in Britain as well, though I've never been there -- is quite different than ours. It seems that over there more people work to live. Here more and more of us live to work.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The view from my front door

Who says there are no seasons in South Florida? My neighbors' yards are awash in color, the last effusive hurrah before the heat wilts all the flowers. I know how corny this sounds but ... it perks me right up to open my front door and see the gardens a'bloom.
Proof that you don't have to pay money for a pick-me-up.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Will a strike backfire?

The town is abuzz with the potential closings or slowdowns caused by immigrants who are striking for the day. But plenty of us who technically qualify as immigrants or children thereof are wondering it this is a tactic that will win over any converts to the cause -- that we are vital to the economy of the nation.
Last night at dinner with friends there was a lively discussion about this. All of us immigrants -- and children of immigrants -- decided that one more rally, however just the cause, was pushing the issue too much, especially on the heels of the controvery over the national anthem in Spanish.