Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh - Is That Today?

I remember as a child that Remembrance Day was a very special day. I remember that none of the stores were open. Only the corner store was open & they were only allowed to sell milk and bread. It seemed second in importance only to Christmas. Now, like so many of our times of reflection, it is just another excuse to get some shopping done.

I watched the services this morning on tv as I do every year - and yes, I paused for a moment of silence at 11 - and I was once again struck by the faces of those that we hope to honor through our remembrance. They stand so resolute as if they are right there in the trenches all over again.

I honestly don't think that we can ever hope to grasp the horror of war. Try as they might, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List are still just depictions. We eat popcorn while we cringe at what we see. But when it's over, we just turn them off and move on to the next thing. We don't carry it with us.

Then I see those young soldiers that are facing a new reality of war and again, my mind cannot wrap around what it must be like to be a soldier who leaves his or her family not knowing if this might be the last time. What is it like to be the husband or wife that is left behind with an empty spot at the table each night? What is it like to be the child who only gets glimpses of Mommy or Daddy and tries to comprehend why they have to keep going away? When will you be home to stay?

I remember the school services as a child - listening to a trumpeter come in to play The Last Post, the reading of In Flander's Fields, the poppy pins, the moment of silence.

Stuart Maclean says it best: "We have tried, but we haven't tried hard enough. We have been busy with other business, though I can't for the life of me remember what it was."

So I hope that in the midst of everything else that happens today that you take time to pause and reflect. It truly is the least we can do to honor those who have paid a price that we will never understand. I say thank-you to those who, at such a young age, selflessly gave of yourself so that I might be free.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Now I don't want to get off on a rant....BUT!

I saw this in the store the other day and almost fell over:

Cash is so "20th century." Use your card! This 21st-century version of Monopoly eschews the cash in favor of a debit system that keeps track of your money for you. It's a whole new twist on the age-old property trading game. Travel around the board, collect money, and punish your opponents financially as you have some good clean fun. Tokens include the Toyota Prius, New Balance Shoe, McDonald's French Fries, Labradoodle, Motorola RAZR Mobile Headset, and a Laptop Computer. As far as properties go, you've got Boston's Fenway Park, Las Vegas Blvd., Houston's Johnson Space Center, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, and Minneapolis' Mall of America. It's the same great Monopoly fun in a more modern format!

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't one of the great things about Monopoly that it teaches math skills and money handling? We play Monopoly - the original edition, sans french fry token - and the kids love it! Frogurt learned some incredible math skills from playing this. He knows how to make change, for example.

I think that we as a society have a tendency to change things that don't need to be changed. The toy industry has become more about seizing another opportunity to sell a licensed character or indirectly advertise to children when it should be about skill-building. Children learn through play - they learn how to win gracefully, lose gracefully, problem-solve, take turns, math skills (even rolling dice teaches them how to add in their head) and so much more. They don't need Dora splashed on the box to do it!

The saying is "Don't judge a book by it's cover" but packaging - not just toys but everything - is a huge industry. Packaging and image can make or break a product. How sad. What happened to what was inside the package? Isn't that what counts? Why do we always need to reinvent? Salad dressing is salad dressing, whether the bottle is round or a more trendy shape.

I guess what I am suggesting is to look past the glitz and glimmer this year. We are being more cautious with our spending so all the more reason to dig beyond the logo. Our children will follow our lead. So find a classic board game, pull it out & see if they notice that there's no debit machine. I think they will be thrilled just to spend time as a family. And they just might learn something while they're at it!