Unhappy with ‘the media’? Then support real, good journalism

attack-the-media

Image courtesy of a news publication to which I subscribe.

Are you fed up with “the media” and all its liberal/conservative/insert-negative-adjective-based-on-your-personal-worldview bias? Are you utterly disturbed that Donald Trump may well be our next president because of people like this profiting off “fake news” sites? Or are you relieved Hillary wasn’t elected despite a constant barrage of “media bias in her favor”?

Then do something about it. Instead of simply complaining about “the media,” support real, good journalism, which is a cornerstone of any successful democracy.  Here are just a few suggestions on how to do that:

-Support a local newspaper or media organization, not just national orgs like NYT or WaPo, through a subscription. (After all, all national stories start out as local stories somewhere.)

-Be a responsible consumer/sharer. Always, ALWAYS check the sources of the story (both the website itself, and the people/organizations to which information in the story is attributed) before plastering it all over social media. If it’s not real, good journalism, don’t share it.

-Be aware of your own confirmation bias and question it whenever possible. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t mean it’s not true, and just because you agree with someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it’s a fact. I personally avoid sites like HuffPo because I know they have a liberal bent, and I would be tempted to just agree with what they publish without questioning it. It can be hard, but try not to only consume content that reaffirms your existing beliefs.

-Make consuming investigative journalism a priority. It takes longer than skimming a newsletter or Twitter or watching a two-minute segment on CNN, but you’ll have a much more nuanced understanding of the issue.

-In that same vein, I personally also avoid 24-hour cable news all together. The need to fill airtime, along with the use of soundbites and the constant punditry, is a disservice to journalism and the people it’s supposed to serve.

That’s just a handful of suggestions I came up with off the top of my head after a friend asked me on Facebook. I’m sure other journalists have more, and I certainly welcome those suggestions.

Because here’s the thing. Journalists, like you, are people doing their jobs. Also like you, they expect, and deserve, to be paid for doing that job. But when people consuming the service they provide expect to get that service for free instead of paying for a subscription, or use online ad blockers, or claim to be interested in investigative stories and “good” news, but actually only click on fluff and “bad” news instead, it stifles the sources of revenue needed to pay  journalists to do their jobs — and to do their jobs well. When revenues decline, the higher-ups employing these journalists order layoffs to keep the company somewhat profitable. The survivors are then expected to do more good journalism with fewer resources. This, of course, is a logical fallacy, so the quality of work produced by the organization declines, and even fewer consumers are likely to pay for what they perceive to be a sub-par service.

I’m sure you can see how this story ends.

You have the power to change that ending though. Support real, good journalism. Clearly, our democracy needs it more than ever.

I will choose love

My heart felt so heavy today. I cried. A lot. But, when it comes down to it, my white, middle-class, privileged family will likely not bear the burden of this election’s outcome, not like others will. My heart aches for them, and I currently fear for what our country’s future may hold.

But I will not let fear win. I will choose love. I will choose love, even for those who supported him, because I want to believe they made the choice they did because they were also hurting in some way, and sought to feel validated and heard. 

I will choose love because that is the only way I can raise this feisty little girl to treat others with kindness, compassion and respect, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, intelligence, socioeconomic status, education level, physical ability, or the millions of other qualities that make America so robustly diverse. 

I will choose love by treating others that way myself. I will choose love because I have succumbed to the fear in the past, and it was a pretty shitty way to exist. I will choose love because the world I want my daughter to grow up in chooses love, even in the face of fear. I will choose love.

Dear people who were parents before I was a parent: I’m sorry

 

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Confession time: Before Lily was born, I was a bit judgey toward people with kids who seemed to not always have their shit together 100 percent of the time. Not out loud, necessarily, but I’m sure they could see the judgey look on my judgey little face.

I remember smugly thinking to myself “I’m soooooo glad I am sooooooo god-damn perfect and have sooooo many good habits now, like making home-cooked, certified-organic-and-GMO-free-artisanal meals and exercising 800 times a week and getting 20 hours of sleep a night, which I will obviously keep doing even after I have kids, who will also be perfect and never melt down in the middle of the grocery store because I wouldn’t let them climb the paper towel display! I AM JUST SOOOOO AMAZING AND WILL NEVER NOT HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER!!!”

Well, ladies and gentlemen,  you heard it here first: I do not, in fact, have my shit together. I recently introduced myself (Allison) as “Lily” and my daughter (Lily) as “Allison.” Last week, I took my toddler to the park with her shoes on the wrong feet, and she noticed before I did. Yesterday, I ate an entire can of olives for lunch. Because I was hungry and tired and, well, they were there.

Here’s the thing. When you become a parent, every last cell in your brain is in some way devoted to making sure you keep your adorable offspring fed and diapered and otherwise alive. Couple that with severe sleep deprivation (which may ease up after the first few months but never really goes away), and what little is left of your “mom brain” is put toward only the most essential tasks, like guzzling coffee in the morning. And, if you’re lucky, not forgetting to brush your teeth afterward.

Other seemingly reasonable tasks — such as responding to a text the same week your friend sent it, remembering to fold laundry within seven days of putting it in the dryer, not getting yogurt on your pants, not remembering you got yogurt on your pants and wearing them again the next day, blogging more than once or twice a year, not wearing your shirt inside out, or knowing the name of that one actor, you know, the one who was in that one movie with that lady from that one show? He has hair and eyes and a mouth, probably? — are relegated to the back burner.

Having been a parent for a year and half now, I understand this. But before, I was Ms. Judgey McJudgerson and basically thought moms and dads just used parenting as a lame excuse for not having their shit together. And for that, I apologize. I now know that we’re all just doing the best we can, and we should give each other — and ourselves — a break.

And, if I could go back in time, rest assured that I would slap that smug, self-righteous look right off my smug, self-righteous face.

New life philosophy: Don’t be a dick

Well, I like to think that’s always been my life philosophy, but I know I’ve committed my fair share of dick moves in my life, intentionally or not.

But motherhood has made me soft, and the current shittiness of the world makes me feel powerless.

But there is one thing I can do, every day, that makes a difference, even if it’s small. And that’s to be kind. Or — if you have a propensity for crude language, like myself — to not be a dick.

No matter a person’s perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, intelligence, socioeconomic status, education level, physical ability, mental state, age, upbringing, attractiveness, weight, occupation, hometown, lifestyle, current mood, hygiene, relationship status, parenting style, annoying tendencies, apparent inability to use a turn signal, or recent history of screwing up your lunch order — we are not actually capable of knowing what it’s like to live their life, despite whatever preconceived notions we might have.

But we are all capable of not being a total dick to them. Even if they were just a total dick to us.

Is this oversimplying things? Of course. I might just be a privileged white girl in Montana, but I’m not naive enough to think that if we all just sing kumbaya and be nice to each other, it will magically erase the deeply ingrained prejudices in our country and the excruciatingly real pain so many people suffer because of them.

But is it going make things worse? In a world much too full of hate and indifference, is going out of your way to show kindness to a fellow human being going to make it worse?

Show compassion. Have empathy. Choose love. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. However it resonates with you, make a concious effort to do it, especially to those in our society who need it the most. Don’t be just another person spewing negative energy into the world.

Is it always that simple? No.

But sometimes, it is.

So when it is, make the choice to be kind. Or at least, don’t be a dick.

Dear Sesame Street: Please stop teaching kids it’s OK to feed wild animals

Not even the squirrels. That's how serious this is, folks.

Not even the squirrels. That’s how serious this is, folks.

Though I know I’m not “supposed to,” every once in a while I break down and let my toddler watch a limited amount of TV, because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps my sanity intact on a day that involves multiple meltdowns and outfit changes.

I make myself feel OK about this by putting on Sesame Street, since hey, at least it’s educational! Or so I thought.

Recently we watched an episode in which Elmo and Friend go on a camping trip. Elmo’s incessant need to piercingly narrate every damn thing they do apparently attracts all the woodland creatures within a 12-mile radius, and soon Elmo is inviting them to stay for dinner. Before you know it, a beaver, some turtles, a few raccoons and an entire flock of ducks are on their second helping of dandelion soup in what is clearly the start of their never-ending dependence on humans to provide basic sustenance.

All right. I know some of you might think I’m blowing this out of proportion. They’re not even real animals, for chrissakes. They’re puppets. PUPPETS. And it’s not like every toddler who watched the episode immediately started using Goldfish crackers to coax some new fluffy friends to live in their garage, dooming them to a life of human-fed captivity.

But hear me out. Less than 24 hours after watching this episode, I saw this unfortunate news:

Yellowstone

Think this is mere coincidence? Think again. It’s quite clear Sesame Street is at fault for each and every stupid tourist-wildlife encounter in recorded history.

OK, that’s a mild exaggeration. But sadly, it’s not unusual to hear a lot stories like this in Montana and other Western states, where it seems residents and wildlife intersect more regularly than in other parts of the country. Most of us grew up learning it’s not OK to try to feed or touch the wildlife.

Apparently, some idiot tourists don’t understand that Yellowstone National Park, et al., is not a goddamn petting zoo, and the animals don’t need you to feed them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order to survive. And that by doing these things, you’re actually risking both your and the animals’ lives.

Obviously, Sesame Street is not solely at fault for people thinking it’s OK to feed and/or touch wild animals. (And I admit, I’m making quite the cognitive leap by even trying to connect these two specific incidents.)

The thing is though, you also can’t only blame the idiots, either. When it comes down to it, most of them just don’t know any better. Where many of these tourists are from, close encounters with actual wildlife happen next to never, and when they do, they actually are in a goddamn petting zoo.

It’s kind of like when a tourist from Montana, who may or may not write a blog that rhymes with “Thuirrel Proughts,” stops in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City to stare up and take a photo of a skyscraper, because it’s something she doesn’t see every day at home. Doing so is apparently Extremely Annoying to resident New Yorkers (albeit slightly less Life Threatening than sharing a s’more with a wolverine, but I digress.)

Ya know what though? At the time, she just didn’t know any better.

You know what could’ve helped her know better? An episode of Sesame Street in which Big Bird’s country-born cousin Pudgy Pigeon comes for a visit, and someone with a thick Bronx accent yells “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” after she abruptly stops to take a selfie in front of the restaurant from Seinfeld. Then she would’ve known better.

(Or a quick Google search. That probably would’ve done the trick, too.)

Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that while the premise of this Sesame Street bit seems innocuous, who knows what seeds it’s already planted in the heads of tiny city-born tots who might try to hug a grizzly bear in Alaska a decade from now. Because according to a beloved children’s program, befriending wild animals and inviting them over for pizza and a sleepover is just a normal part of experiencing the Great Outdoors.

So, in a feeble attempt to counter the damage already done — and with that air of smug self-righteousness you’ve come to expect on Squirrel Thoughts — I’m offering some tips for any potential tourists who still might not know any better:

  1. DO NOT TOUCH THE WILDLIFE.
  2. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE.
  3. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BEFRIEND THE WILDLIFE. NO MATTER HOW CUTE AND FLUFFY IT LOOKS. YOU ARE NOT MOTHERFUCKING SNOW WHITE. THE ANIMALS DO NOT WANT TO BE YOUR FRIENDS. THEY WILL MAUL YOU AT THE DROP OF A HAT. OR CHEETO. ESPECIALLY A CHEETO.
  4. ENJOY THE MAJESTIC CREATION THAT IS NATURE FROM A SAFE VIEWING DISTANCE.

I apologize for the stilted Internet yelling, but it’s the only chance I have at drowning out the children’s media behemoth that is Sesame Street.

Also, if you prefer information from legitimate resources, here are few:

Four reasons not to feed wildlife

Wildlife safety in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone visitors place bison calf in SUV; newborn euthanized

(FOR THE RECORD: I realize that other states, even on the East Coast, have wildlife, and that not everyone who visits from those locales are completely oblivous about how to interact with wild animals. I also realize that many of the tourists who commit these transgressions are from other countries, and who knows what kind of access they have to Sesame Street. In turn, I hope anyone offended by this — including but not limited to Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and, especially, Snuffy — realizes that it’s all in good fun. Unless you have tried to caress a mountain goat. Then you should read that shit a few more times.)

 

Three very good reasons NOT to get your kids a bunny for Easter

 

Easter rabbit

Bunnies are family, too.

 

One Easter when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to walk down the stairs to our living room and find a real, live bunny wabbit lounging in my basket. I found a stuffed rabbit instead, because my parents thought they were so flippin’ hilarious, and that I would think so, too. I did not.

Fast-forward 15 years, and — in my most rebellious act of adult independence to date — I got MY OWN DAMN RABBIT, thankyouverymuch.

Fwuffy-wuffy wufferton

Pancake!

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However, we only brought Pancake home after doing extensive research on what’s required to care for a pet bunny. And now I know — though it pains me so to admit — my parents were right. Rabbits are not necessarily great pets for children.

I don’t know the exact statistics, but somewhere around a shit-ton of bunnies bought as Easter gifts end up abandoned in animal shelters only a few weeks later, because parents don’t realize what they’re getting into when they buy their little darlings a rabbit.

So, with Easter right around the corner, I am here to help you parents who find yourselves in this very predicament. Though I could ramble off dozens of others, here are three very good reasons NOT to get your kids a bunny for Easter, no matter how much they beg.

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1. Bunnies are not like other house pets. At all.

A bunny is not just a dog or cat with longer ears and a fwuffy-wuffy tail. If you and your kids think a pet rabbit is going to play fetch or purr when you scratch its ears, you will be sorely disappointed. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits are prey animals, meaning it takes them a while to trust that you are not going to eat them.

How long is “a while”? Well, we have had Pancake for six years, and until last year, she would not let us pet her without running away. It literally took FIVE YEARS to earn her trust. She still won’t let us pick her up without using the Bunny Burrito technique. And she certainly doesn’t care for our 1-year-old’s ham-fisted attempts at “petting” her.

So look. I’m sure your kids are perfect and deserve everything their little hearts desire. They are brilliant and talented and will probably discover the cure for alektorophobia some day. But I’d be willing to bet no less than a triplequadrillion dollars they don’t have an attention span of five minutes, let alone five years.

 

 

2. Rabbits live longer than you think. A lot longer.

Contrary to popular belief, when properly cared for, rabbits can live 10 to 12 years. They require the love and attention of responsible caregivers, which could — but probably doesn’t — include your precious offspring.

Bunnies are not just some pet you can buy for your kids that will die in a few months that you can use as a “circle of life” teaching moment. I mean, I guess you could purposely not properly care for a bunny so you can get that uncomfortable conversation out of the way. But that would be kind of a dick move.

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3. Rabbits chew. Everything.

Yeah, I know dogs chew up stuff, too. But rabbits aren’t just going to chew your favorite slippers that you can easily replace via Amazon. Left to its own devices, a rabbit could literally chew you out of house and home.

See this stylish combination of rugs and sheets here?

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Rugs and sheets

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The only reason these exist in our home is because we need something to cover the edge where the living room carpet meets the kitchen tile. Otherwise, Pancake would chew the carpet there into oblivion. We also have a giant cardboard box that covers the various cords behind our TV stand, because she will chew those — and possibly shock herself — if we don’t.

And this is just the beginning of what it would take to bunny-proof your home. If you’re not convinced, you can read more about what it’s like to live in a house with a bunny in it here.

Now, we love our fwuffy-wuffy Pancake to the ends of the earth, and we are willing to put up with these lifestyle adjustments for her. But are you willing to do this? For a pet that will likely bore your children in a few weeks because it doesn’t act the way they want it to? One that you will probably abandon at a shelter, where it could have an even more unfortunate fate?

If, after reading this, you are ready to make the commitment of owning a rabbit, then please consider adopting one from a shelter instead of buying one at a pet store. (Full disclosure: We got Pancake from a pet store, because we didn’t know any better. We do now, and so do you.)

If you’re not ready to make this commitment, please don’t buy your kids a rabbit. I promise they will forgive you, eventually. Or, they’ll hold it against you until they’re old enough to buy their own damn bunny. But at least by then, they’ll be more likely to accept the responsibility that comes with it.

The day I lost my Fitbit and my legs stopped working

Fitbit meme

 

When I got to work the other day, I looked down at my wrist. To my dismay, my Fitbit was no longer on it. I frantically searched every inch of my office, hoping it had merely fallen off upon my arrival.

When that proved unsuccessful, I started backtracking my steps, all 1,200 of them that it takes me to walk the five blocks from my car to my office. I scoured the sidewalks, hoping to spot my slate blue wristband against the white of fresh snow. No dice.

So I tore apart my car while refreshing the Fitbit app on my phone, longing to see the magic word — “synching…” — pop up. Negative.

I walked back to work, head down, my eyes flitting across my path, just in case I’d missed it on the way out. Nothing.

If you are a fellow Fitbitter, you know how perfectly rational this reaction is. Because if you’re not obsessively quantifying every single step you take every single day, what’s the point of even walking at all?

I got back to my office and posted a pithy Facebook status about it.

Fitbit status

 

Then my husband commented.

Fitbit comment.png

 

As you can tell, my husband does NOT have a Fitbit. Because if he did, his takeaway from all this would not be “Good news – it’s slobber-proof.”

I replied with a comment that properly conveyed the gravity of the situation.

Fitbig reply

 

Then I hardly got up the rest of the day.

 

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