Thursday, September 19, 2013

Today, It's Games

This is a subject that has annoyed me for many years. First of all, I’d just like to say…How very easy and convenient it must be for people to be able to lay the blame for mental illness and/or a lack of parenting and/or a lack of personal responsibility on the doorstep of video games. It takes a severe lack of imagination, or at least a good imagination, to use video games, television, and movies as an explanation for why people do dumb things.


Video Game Addiction

 I’d like to open my topic by saying that I am by no means, an expert clinician on mental illness. I only have my familial experiences and examples to go by. Haha. I kid.  Sort of. My undergrad is in English and I only took intro to psychology. Still, I would like to claim a sort of expert-ship when it comes to gaming. I’ve been playing video games since the original Atari. I even played the black and white Pong but I think that was a little after it was initially introduced. I played The Oregon Trail in elementary school on a Commodore 64. I’ve played games on every Playstation console and almost every Nintendo console. I admit to never having had a Sega or Xbox though. I put my foot down against the Xbox because we already had a Wii and the PS3. I also game on a PC, Mac, iPod/phone, and iPad as well. Suffice it to say, I’ve been playing video games the majority of my life. I still play some sort of game at least once a week and participate in the gaming world via Twitter and blogs. Yup. I’m a geek or nerd or whatever you want to call it. I am joined by millions. We are legion. Deal with it.

I’ve played a variety of games from first person shooters to MMO fantasy games to platform games to simulation games to role playing games. I’ve even played a few sports games even though I’m not a sports fan. I can’t think of a genre of video game that I haven’t played or at least tried. AND LO AND BEHOLD!!! I’ve never felt compelled to get a gun and kill actual people. I've never gone on a hunt for elves or gnomes. I have also never developed a gaming compulsion.

I’ve known people that have had a compulsion to play video games. All of them have said that their compulsion had roots in another problem or issue in their life. For instance, one person said that his/her gaming compulsion stemmed from issues with his/her father (this person was 19 at the time of their gaming affliction). The game became a place to hide, a place to avoid confronting the real problem. Another person said that they had a generally addictive personality. Video games weren’t the first, nor were they the last, addiction that this person had to overcome.

I have to say that I’ve never known someone who translated actions in a game to real life like the criminals we’ve been hearing about in the news. Most people understand that something that is animated, such as video games, isn’t real and isn’t an example by which to live their lives.

How many millions of people who play video games every day and aren’t criminals are there versus the people that play video games and have committed violent crimes because of them?

I’m not saying that there are not inappropriate games, at least in my subjective opinion, out there. Personally, for my family, Grand Theft Auto and all of its incarnations, aren’t allowed in our home. You know why? Because the Mister and I actively parent our children. Still, offensive, objectionable, unacceptable, inappropriate, are all subjective words. What I call offensive someone else might not and vice versa.

I’m also not saying that in some instances, video games cannot play a part in the motivation behind a violent crime. But I am saying, in my inexpert psychological opinion, that even if games have been part of the drive behind a crime, that it is only one piece of a diverse and complicated puzzle. People that have the ability to pick up a gun and kill innocent strangers have way more complicated problems than the video games that they play or the movies that they watch.

My point being is that of all the people that I have known of that have had addictive issues with video games have all had other underlying personality flaws and/or mental instability(s) and/or social issues. They have all said that if it hadn’t been video games, it would have been something else. These people had the ability to take personal responsibility for their actions despite everything else they had to deal with which is more than you can say about most people. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, we are a society full of people with an inability to take personal responsibility for our actions and pass the blame off onto someone or something else. Today, it’s video games, yesterday it was guns, who knows what it will be tomorrow. How about we all take an old fashioned look at our values and personal ethics for a change. If you think I'm wrong, some of my opinions here are supported by someone who is an expert. Read this article on video game addiction/compulsion.

It would be a breath of fresh air if people could demonstrate that they possess common sense. And I’m not talking about the criminals here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Still Get the Tingles (and other stuff)

Maybe it's because he had 24 hour duty and had to work the next day, but I've been especially loving my husband the last couple days. He called me this morning. He was just driving from point A to B on base and had a couple minutes to talk. That he called me "just because" made me all melty. I love that man.

Just so you know:  Duty and the next day of work equated to him being at work from 6:30 am Tuesday until leaving work at 3:30'ish Wednesday. Including drive time, he worked a straight 35 hours and was awake for 40 hours straight. I don't know how he did it. Also, just so you know, his car has the built in hands free deal for his cell phone.

Enough sappy stuff...

Breaking Bad

I've recently become a Breaking Bad fan. This came about because of Michael Symon's Facebook feed, lol. He can't say enough good things about this show and all his effusive gushing made me curious. I started watching it on Netflix and was immediately hooked. It is such a compelling drama with Dexter-like characters where you really like them but know you shouldn't because they do pretty horrible things. I went on a Breaking Bad binge and finished watching the first four seasons plus the first eight of season five on Netflix. Then I hit the rest with OnDemand and I'm all caught up now. I get to finish out the series by watching them on Sunday's with all the rest of you schmucks. Ugh!!!

I would say that this show is in the top five favorite dramas of all time for me. I told the Mister that last night and he said, "Even more than Dexter?" I had to say yes because Dexter, while one of my favorite shows, probably in the top ten, has had its bumps in the road. It's like Chris Hardwick said on one of the Talking Bad sessions (sorry, don't remember which one), Breaking Bad has never had a bad episode. Most shows always have one or two episodes that make you feel like they were written simply to get you from the episode previous to the one following but every episode of Breaking Bad has been a nail biter and has had an, "Oh shit! Did that really happen??" moment. In my opinion, this final season of Breaking Bad is just as good as the first or any, really, of the previous four. How many shows can you say that about?

On the one hand, I'm sad that I came into this series in its last season. On the other, it was a great ride to be able to watch the first four seasons successively and at an obsessive pace, lol. Especially considering that this series has mid-season hiatuses. Yuck.

Next up, Sons of Anarchy. I have to be honest and tell you that I have my doubts about this show despite the hype. So far, I've only watched the pilot, but it didn't hold my attention all that well. I also have an extremely hard time believing Katy Sagal in this role. I can't get past seeing her as Peg Bundy despite the fact that I hated Married with Children and didn't watch that show. Still, I'm going to give this show a fair shake because the Mister said I would like it and I keep seeing people rave about it on Facebook.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Dress for Success

United States Department of Education

 As many of my faithful are aware, we have lived all over the United States. As of this last move, my kids have attended schools in four different states. Between the two of them, they have attended 14 different schools. As a result, we are familiar with how different schools are run in different areas of the United States and in different school districts. All of them have had their good points and their bad points. None have been completely awful, although the Youngest Child's second elementary school in North Carolina came pretty close, and none have been completely great.

Every time we enter a different school, even if it's just been the transition from elementary to middle or middle to high school, we have had to learn all the new rules and policies. A learning curve, getting aclimatized to a new school environment, is something that all schools have in common.

What I Liked and Didn't Like

I want to briefly touch on one thing I did and didn't like about schools in each state.


Like:  I liked that the Oldest Child's high school allowed them to have coffee. I know. So what? But I thought that was very California. When we moved here to Florida, she was shocked that kids aren't allowed to have any drinks outside of the cafeteria except for water, lol.

Didn't Like:  The lack of boundaries. All the schools my kids attended had a dress code of some kind or another. Did they enforce it? Not that I could tell. Driving my kids to and from school every day, I saw what kids were wearing. Some of the outfits looked like they were hitting a club, not going to school. It was pretty appalling.


Like:  Almost everything. They only attended one school in Vermont and we loved it. Something that I really liked about it was that they strictly enforced having nutritional food at lunch and even at classroom parties. You weren't allowed to bring cakes and cookies and chips at all. Even at Halloween, kids weren't allowed to bring a piece of Halloween candy in their lunchboxes.

Didn't Like:  I didn't like having to park my car and walk into the school and sign my kids out at the end of every day. I understand the reasoning behind it, but in the middle of freaking winter, parking at the back of the lot and then tramping through several feet of snow (and then inches of mud in the spring) was a pain. They needed a different system.

North Carolina:

Like:  We had good experiences at almost all the schools in NC. We went through two elementary schools and one junior high. The first elementary school was excellent. What I liked about all the schools was that they taught the kids manners. All the kids had to address their teaches as "yes, ma'am" and "no sir". It's not such a bad habit to instill in kids.

Didn't Like:  The second elementary school was very bad about overlooking bullying. This resulted in pulling the Youngest Child (the Oldest was at the junior high) and homeschooling her.


Like:  I know it's way early to decide how we feel about the schools here, so I'm sure I'll be altering my opinions at some point. However, I like that the schools here enforce the dress code. I think that it shows that they have standards and will most likely enforce other school rules as well.

Don't Like:  The dress code. What? Yeah. I like that they have and enforce a dress code. However, there are so many rules and it's so strict that they may as well utilize school uniforms.

School Uniforms

School Uniforms

My kids have attended schools that had a school uniform policy and one school that had a pseudo-uniform policy.

School uniforms consisted of tan, navy blue, or white, collared shirts, sweaters, and slacks and skirts and belts. I'm not sure about shorts, but they should allow some type of shorts for hotter climates. Anyway, I thought they were cute. The good:  It was super easy buying school clothes, you didn't have to worry about violating the dress code, it was easy getting ready for school because you didn't have to figure out what you were wearing. The bad:  Kids grow and it's really hard to find school uniform items in the middle of the school year. It can cost parents more money because you have to buy both uniforms and "street" clothes.

Pseudo-uniforms consisted of:  collared, polo-type shirts, button-down shirts, conservative jeans (no holes, rips, stains, and they had to be worn at the natural waist), and belts had to be worn. I think this is a good compromise to school districts that are afraid to adopt a school uniform policy. And I truly think it's fear that keeps them from doing so and not anything else. School uniforms are often the unpopular choice despite the fact that they are usually the best choice. JMO. Anyway, this school's dress code policy was clear, concise, and applied to both girls and boys. I really think that's key, by the way. I think all school dress code policies are more complicated and pickier when it comes to girls versus the rules that apply to boys' clothes. Boys are basically allowed to wear whatever they want to so long as their jean aren't worn at the knees and their underwear isn't on display for all to be offended. Do boys get measured for shirts and shorts?

Dress Code

I was called into school today to bring the Oldest Child alternative clothes because the dress she wore violated the dress code. It was too short. They actually measured. I work from home, so I saw her this morning and approved what she was wearing. In fact, she has worn this dress to this school before with no problem. Today, they decided that it wasn't appropriate. And they actually measure! This seems very 1950's to me. They also measure the width of shoulder straps on shirts and blouses.

Consistency is an issue. How are kids to understand the respect rules if they are arbitrarily enforced? I don't expect one faculty member to keep one set of eyes on a couple thousand kids every day. However, she has six or seven different classes every day, so why didn't at least one teacher notice her dress the first day that she wore it?

Being 17, she has given her dad and me more than our fair share of teen angst to deal with over the last three years. However, dressing provocatively has never been something we've butted heads over. She has a couple pairs of shorts that I think are a bit too short, but I bought them, so what can I say? And do you know how hard it is to find shorts for teenaged girls of a decent length that aren't old lady long (no offense old ladies)? Most of my girls' shorts are too short for school. Most days, they have to wear either capris or jeans. Not a big deal in most areas, but it's still 90 degree here with the heat index in the 100s. That's really hot and uncomfortable to be wearing jeans.

All I'm saying is, if the school's dress code policy is so strict that it's uniform-like, they may as well make the unpopular decision of having school uniforms. At least then, girls could wear skirts and boys could possibly wear shorts. I already have to buy the girls two sets of clothes:  Dress code appropriate for school and regular teenaged kid appropriate for nights, weekends, and holidays.

What is considered conservative and appropriate is a relative thing. It varies by region in the United States and by state and school district and more specifically, person to person. I think my girls dress nicely. Their asses don't hang out the bottom of their shorts and their boobs aren't falling out the top of their shirts. They don't show a lot of skin. They don't wear all black (not that there's anything specifically wrong with that). They don't wear clothing with hate messages, drugs, or curse words written on them. They don't wear clothes that show their underwear. The Oldest Child's dress this morning was a mint green, knit type deal with capped sleeves and a square neckline. It looks very sweet on her. It being too short didn't even cross my mind. My idea of modest and appropriate is probably different from the next parent's idea and this is where a clear cut dress code or school uniforms should come into play.

All I ask for is some common sense and consistency when it comes to school dress code policies. I don't appreciate being called to take my daughter clothes in the middle of the work day. Or more accurately, right when I was getting into my morning work groove. The dress code here is so confusing and has so many different layers to it that the Youngest Child actually has anxiety issues about her clothes. She has clothes in her closest that she's never worn, clothes we bought for back to school, because she's been sticking with what she's previously worn that haven't gotten her into trouble. That, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty ridiculous. Amiright?

This time, the Oldest Child didn't get into trouble for violating the dress code because 1.) It's the beginning of the school year and 2.) She's new and 3.) It's her first infraction. The next time, she'll get an in school suspension.