Say It Ain’t So, Joe?

Baseball.
America’s pastime.
Cracker Jacks and hot dogs.
Iced cold sodas and even colder beers.
Three hours of pure Americana– a timeless sport of modern heroes.
The strike of the ball, the swing of the bat, the crowd.
A coalescence of all walks of like coming together to cheer on the home team.

Danger.  Danger.  Warning, Will Robinson.  Warning, Will Robinson.

A coalescence?
Absolutely in 1950.
Definitely in 1980.
Probably in 2000.
Today?

It is almost impossible for an average American family to attend a ball game.  I find this reality to be somewhat of a tragedy, a precursor signaling the onset of the “us and them” attitudes of the rich and average.

We are a family of five.  My husband and I both work full-time.  We pay our mortgage, our car payments, and our taxes.  We find enough money to support the kids’ activities, and in the summer, when the city is bustling, we want to get involved and have our children experience life for all it has to offer.  We want them to feel a kinship with their fellow Clevelanders and become true enthusiasts and supporters of all this city has to offer.

“Let’s go to a ballgame!” 

What a great idea!

Then I look at ticket prices.

Within the last five years, what used to be a twenty dollar ticket  has skyrocketed to $55.00 a seat.  How do I justify spending close to $300.00 just to walk through the door (I’m taking into account Ticketmaster charges and parking)?   Once I factor in concessions, we are probably looking at another $100.00.  What middle class American family can afford to attend multiple games in the summer knowing this is what they will be spending?   Sure, we could go to one, maybe even two, but I LOVE baseball and I want to attend more than that!

I try to rationalize.

It’s only money.  Sounds good until I look at my checking account and sure wish I had an extra four bills to put toward the landscaping project in the backyard.

Tom and I could just go.  Well dang it, that defeats the whole “family” thing I’ve got going on.

We could pawn two off at a time, and only take one at a time.  Yes, we could do that, but the bonds of sisterhood can be formed over a blustering rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that lands them all beaming on the jumbotron.

So, I am left with a few options: break the bank or skip the game and feel a slight sense of guilt because I cannot afford to give my children what I want them to have.

I guess baseball has finally entered into the arena with all other major league sports.  The problem is that no other sport plays 164 games in regular season.  The other sports can charge more because in a world of supply and demand, there are less seats in relation to the length of the season.  When taking into consideration they Browns only play eight home games, it is much easier to rationalize a more expensive seat.

Maybe the sport of baseball will remember that they need me to be able to bring my girls to five or six games a year so that they will develop into the baseball aficionados that I am, and someday, want to share the love of the sport with their own children.

Our family used to try to support the Indians a few times a year.  However, it seems impossible.  Maybe its just a sign of the times.  Baseball has moved itself into the realm of the other major markets who aren’t looking at “the family” as their customer any longer.

Sometimes, when I want to be able to embrace the spirit of sitting in the ballpark, I feel as if I have been tricked.  I feel as disappointed as that young fan standing outside the courthouse in 1920; the boy who thought of Joe Jackson as a paladin: a regular guy living out a dream one home run at a time.  However, it was a ruse, a curveball of the greatest proportions.  “Say it ain’t so Joe.”  Maybe, the greed of Joe Jackson has always been the driving stimulus of our sport, and I have been tricked into believing they were playing for me, my city, and for the love of the game itself.

 

 

21st Century Childhood Allowance: Contracted Labor

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about motivating my children to do work around the house.  None of them are very motivated, and I have found in the past that offering a blanketed amount for a week’s worth of duties left me with less money in my wallet for less than par performances.

My two younger daughters, nine and eleven-years old respectively, have finally learned that saving money for something they really want has a higher sense of gratification than running to the dollar aisle at Target every time she has a buck or two.  Maggie recently saved for a Captain America Build-A-Bear, and Lizzie saved for an American Girl gymnastics set.  However, they have each learned that without a regular way of earning money, it is difficult to set her sights on something big because she is unable to make a timeline and work toward that goal.

This morning, after a very long conversation with Lizzie, the nine-year old, I decided to reinstitute allowance.  However, I refuse to allow for the handing over of moneys for the same level of effort I am getting at present.  Hence, I drew up two unique contracts for each girl, I had their father act as witness and legal advisor, and he, on their behalf, agreed to the wording and terms of my contract.

They have been signed.  Schedules have been made, and who knows what the results will be.   Hopefully, the girls will learn that their performance effects their pay; they will learn that economic survival is about one’s willingness to perform; and they will learn that earning money is actually rewarding and can lead to an early retirement!

Here is Lizzie’s contract:  (Moms, feel free to borrow my idea!)

I, ______________________________, not bound by the contract of habeas corpus, do agree that by the signing of this said legal document, that I will do my best to perform each activity listed so that I can earn a fair wage in the Huffer household.

I understand that by signing this document that I am aware that if I perform each activity to the best of my ability, I will be awarded a bonus for each activity a week. Likewise, I understand that if I do not meet said criteria, not only do I forfeit my bonus, but that my weekly allotment will be less because of my laziness.

In addition, mother and/or father have the right to ask me to take on an up to two extra duties a day that do not meet the requirements for compensation. These duties include, but are not limited to: picking up wet towels, taking paper to the paper pile, hang up my coat, taking cans and glass to recycling, etc.

If at any point I feel that I am asked to do an activity that is time consuming, it is in my legal right to negotiate for compensation for said activity.

Compensation Schedule:

I will make my bed and pick up my floor every morning for $.25. At the end of the week, if I have performed said activity each morning, I will have earned $1.75. However, I may also earn a bonus $.25 for performing this job for seven consecutive days, taking my earnings for said activity for the week to $2.00.

I will at the end of each evening, pick up all of my belongings off of the kitchen table, the tables in the living room, the living room floor, and the basement floor and put them in their specified locations: books should return to the book bag, toys to their proper location, and any other belongings should be placed NEATLY in my room. This assignment will also earn me $.25 a day with a bonus of $.25 at the end of the week if I perform my activity for seven consecutive days.

I will empty the dishwasher every day. As with the other activities, I will earn $.25 a day with a bonus at the end of the week of $.25, after I have executed my responsibility for seven consecutive days.

Lastly, on laundry day, I will be afforded $.50 for putting all of my laundry away NEATLY and appropriately. I must bring down my hamper to have my clothes washed, and I must bring down all hangars in my closet that are not supporting my clothing at the time.

If I perform all of these activities each week, I have the opportunity to earn $6.50 a week. However, I understand that my pay is solely based on my diligence to perform each activity each day.

 

Print your name ____________________________                    Date _______________________________________

 

Signature _________________________________                     Witness _____________________________________

 

Mother ___________________________________

A Zen Little Unplanned Existential Experiment

This morning, I did not expect NOT to go to work.  I mean, it was a figuratively balmy 8 degrees at 6:00 when I awoke, and the temperature was only going to climb as the day progressed.  In no way would calling school be justified again.  The Polar Vortex was done ravaging us with wind chills in the -40s; it was time to get back to normality.

However, at 6:13, a friend texted me, “No school again ?!?”

I thought he was joking.  I had not received the call, and this friend of mine, he can be somewhat of a jokester.  However, I walked out of the bathroom, and wouldn’t you know it, the phone rang one-minute later.  Today, school was cancelled because the majority of the busses wouldn’t start, and they could not, of course, allow the little dumplings stand in the frigid air while the few busses that did work tried to manage all of the routes.

Day Three.

The first thing that went through my mind was a song I used to love in the 90’s.   My mind could hear the riff of the guitar as the words played in my mind:

For three strange days
I had no obligations
My mind was a blur
I did not know what to do.
And then I lost myself

I, for the life of me could not remember anymore of the song.  I could not even remember who sang it.  Thank God for Google and the world-wide web.  I vaguely remembered the band School of Fish and when I looked up the lyrics, I found that they were actually really depressing.

For me, these have been three strange days, but unlike the lead singer, I have not lost my motivation.  On the contrary, I have relished in the gift of freedom that snow days bestow.

A gift, you scoff!  What about all the other days off?

Don’t you think, dear reader, I know you are dubious of the complexities of my job.  You see it as a cake walk: three days at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, Spring Break, and then nine weeks in the summer!  But, what you do not understand is the paradox of teaching: we work our asses off for 187 days a year because we need for the students to excel and be better at whatever subjects we teach, and in order to do that, we need days off to regroup, reevaluate lessons, and recharge our batteries.

Everyone feels burnout, you say.  Well, I do not disagree, but please, try to be a teacher for even a year, and you might think a little less critically of our chosen calling.

Now, I do not mean to put you on the defensive or make you angry.  I love my job and I am grateful for the time off that school districts give students and teachers to restore their enthusiasm and yearning to learn.  Likewise, I was grateful for our winter break.  I crossed many items off of my list.  I shopped, cooked, entertained, visited, cleaned, worked out, graded some papers (not as many as I should have, I will admit), and relaxed with my family.  It was the perfect break.

Oh, but then the Polar Vortex hit, and three magical free days were conjured in the universe.  Free Days.  I did not plan on these days.  I did not have a schedule of chores that needed to be accomplished.  I did not have any set list of items that needed attention because these days were not planned, and thus, they were a gift.

For three strange days I had no obligations….

With no obligation comes the ability to just exist.  I kind of zenned out in my own little existential experiment.  I realized that nothing had to be done, so I decided what should be done was anything that I wanted to get done.  Do you understand the enormity of this gift for a 44 year-old, full-time working mother of three?

So what did I do?

  • I read The Fault in Our Stars cover-to-cover.  I would recommend it because it is incredibly well written, but blubbering for forty or more pages makes it a hard book to recommend.  Okay, screw it.   I cried but I also laughed. You should read it!  It’s that good!
  • I worked out twice!  I never find time to workout during the week, or is it that I find a million other things to do besides working out during the week?  Well, whichever way, the endorphins made me feel strong.
  • I played countless games of Life with the girls.  I won more than once.  I always pick the college track, and I think they are starting to realize that long-term earnings increase exponentially with a college education.
  • I slept.  One can NEVER sleep enough, in my opinion.
  • I cooked delicious meals.
  • I blogged.

It was a glorious, unencumbered three days, and it was almost better than any planned vacation.

If only I could give the gift to each of you readers so you can understand how having three strange days can seem like the perfect motivation to get done some of the things you never seem to find time to do.