123 posts categorized "Kathy Sweeney"

December 27, 2011

Bill of Rights, TLC Style

Bill of Rights, TLC Style

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

One great thing about blogging at TLC is that there were very few limits. We blogged about everything from voting to vibrators.  The other great thing is that the comments were usually better than the blogs themselves.  I am going to miss it - more than I imagined, in fact.  I debated about how to use my last blog and decided to just do exactly what I've done since I started blogging here - type whatever came out.

Thus, I present to you my TLC Bill of Rights, and I hope you remember them when the situation calls for it.

THE RIGHT TO READ.  We have the right to read whatever the hell we want.  That means nobody gets to burn books or ban books or restrict your access to books.  Like all Rights, this one comes with Responsibilities.  If you want to continue to read a favorite author, you have to buy the books.  You have to ask for them at your library.  You have to recommend them to other people.

THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE.  This is a tricky one, and I was 40 years old before I really got it.  You have the right to choose how you spend your time and WHO you spend it with.  If you find that you've somehow accumulated companions that are racists, homophobes, jagoffs or just plain toxic, it's time to weed the garden, baby.  Nothing new can grow if there is a tangled mess around you.

THE RIGHT TO WRITE.  Not everyone can (or should) be a published author.  Most published authors - if they are honest - will tell you not to try to make it a career until you've published and sold several books.  That doesn't mean you should stop writing.  Writing is good for you.  It not only keeps your brain in shape, but it can be a fantastic exit valve for all the toxic crap you have brewing in your subconscious.  

THE RIGHT TO SAY NO.  This is a big one.  It means more that the fact that you have the right to decide who can put their hands on you. It also means that your resources - time, energy, funds, emotional fuel - are limited and the only way to keep from stressing yourself out completely is to learn to say NO.  It's okay - the first couple of times are really, really hard, and then it gets easier.

THE RIGHT TO VOTE. One wouldn't think it would be necessary to remind people of this, but it is.  There are people who died and women who went to prison to assure that we all have the right to choose our elected officials and otherwise direct the destiny of our country.  Don't neglect it.  

THE RIGHT TO BITCH. This one is, of course, my favorite.  You have the right to call or write to your elected officials, or school principal, or retail outlet or television station and bitch-slap them when they deserve it.  You might think you are a voice in the wilderness, but if everyone thought that, nothing would be fixed.  Instead of sitting in front of the TV, or in front of your computer and ranting to yourself, make a call, or e-mail a note or write a letter.  Otherwise, shut the hell up when nothing gets better.

THE RIGHT TO HELP.  This is a two-way right.  You have the right to ask for help, especially if you do not feel safe.  Any person who abuses you does NOT love you.  Something that hurts you - whether it is a pain in your chest caused by heartache or a heart attack - needs to be addressed. This bullshit about "toughing it out" is just that.  Social services are being massacred in this country, but there are still places to call for help.  Start with 911 if you don't know where else to begin. But if you are reading this, then you have access to the Internet, and you can find options in your area with a simple search.  The first step away from abuse is the hardest, but it is so worth it!  The other side of this right is that if you see someone who needs help - whether they fell in a parking lot, or have kids who don't have winter coats - you need to step up.  If you have limitations - physical, financial, or whatever, then you can at least get someone else to help.  Yes, it takes time and energy, which are not unlimited resources.  Boo fucking Hoo.  It's called humanity and even though you can't always tell, it is the mark of a civilized society.

THE RIGHT TO KNOW.  We all have it, but if you don't ask, you're not going to get any answers.  This applies to so many things, but today I will focus on just one: early detection.  Nobody looks forward to medical tests.  Mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, prostate exams?  Not on anyone's wish list for ways to spend time.  And sometimes they hurt.  Plus, denial is one powerful weapon - hey - if you don't follow up, or have a recommended test, then you don't have to worry.  That's how you end up sick as hell or dead.  If you need someone to hold your hand, ask.  If you need a ride to the doctor's office or hospital, ask.  If you need to have something done and you don't have insurance, ask.  There are programs, including the one right here on the TLC website, that provide free tests and screenings.  Remember our TLC Bumpersticker - Bitch Slap Cancer!  You can't fight if you don't know your enemy.

It has been a real honor to meet all of you here on TLC and I hope we can stay in touch, at least electronically.  I won't be blogging anywhere for a while - the semester starts soon and I will have three classes - almost 200 kids - plus my day job, so no time to figure out a website or anything.  I am on Facebook, though, where I make wisecracks and post funny links, so I'd be happy to be your friend - search for Kathy Reschini Sweeney.

And to the Book Tarts, I am grateful for this forum.  It's amazing how far this blog has spread - I still hear from people all over about some of my blogs.  Very cool.

This is the longest blog I've ever written but I have to add one more thing, because music is such a huge part of life.  This is my current favorite song.  Pray for peace!








December 13, 2011

The Year of the Epic Fail

The Year of the Epic Fail

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

Epic-failI am a sucker for the year-end lists.  Love them.  But it's only the 13th of December, not the end of the year, so today we are going to take a walk down 2011's lane and revisit some of the stupidest things ever.  Let's face it, my friends, humans are dumb.  As in moronic.  Just when you think you've seen the most idiotic public behavior possible, here comes Charlie Sheen.

We really need to start with him.  The Tiger Blood - the Vatican Assassin- the hookers and the blow - it was a real circus.  Months later, nobody cares, the guy is in a fight to spend time with his own kids, and he lost one of  the sweetest gigs an actor can have.  Verdict:  Massive FAIL.

More recently, we had the Kardashians.  This whole family's "celebrity" is still puzzling to me.  I guess when people finally got tired of Paris Hilton (good riddance) there was a void to be filled with vapid egocentrism.  The apex of the greed and self-indulgence was some kind of multi-million dollar product-placement funded joke of a wedding. I've had sinus infections that lasted longer than this sacred union.  And they had the gall to seem surprised when the TV people cancelled their Christmas Special.  Verdict:  Artificially-enhanced FAIL.

On to politics.  Really, Herman Cain?  Did you think none of your hanky panky would become public? Nobody gives two hoots who you have sex with, dumbass, but people care very much about the lying. Just as well, because frankly, I don't think people who quote Donna Summer lyrics from a Pokemon movie need to be anywhere near the secret nuclear codes.  Note that I am limiting my politician fails to this one.  That is because there are plenty to go around and your comments are always funnier than the blog. Herman Cain Verdict:   Stupid FAIL, with extra cheese, hold the candor.

Failtacular-FailLet's talk about bizarre pseudo-religion.  According to some whackjob on the radio, May 21, 2011 was the End of Days.  But wait, he didn't mean that actual day - that was just the beginning of a very long day that lasted until October 21, 2011, which was the for real end of days.  Nice going, Nostradumbus.  I'm no biblical scholar, but I don't think the Bible is a giant sudoku puzzle either.  Verdict:  Fire and brimstone FAIL.

It was also a tough year for maniacal dictators - and thank God for that.  I have to highlight one of the best lines ever in this section of the year's news: "Quaddafi said he will fight to the death; I'm cool with that."  Verdict:  Fittingly humiliating FAIL.

Before I turn the TLC Community loose on this topic, I have to mention one more - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 112th Congress of the United States, who's motto seems to be "Shutdowns and Stalemates R Us".  I'll let you fill in the blanks (the Super-committee: Unconstitutional and Inept all at the same time!) but I am not kidding when I say I've seen a group of babies who do not yet speak any language whatsoever solve toy-related problems and the equitable distribution of Cheerios with more class, ease and maturity than these asshats in Congress.  Verdict:  FAIL to be remembered in subsequent Novembers.

Okay - your turn.  And yes, I will take the pledge to forever ban the term "epic fail" as of January 1, 2012. Unless the world ends before that.  I can't keep track.






November 29, 2011

The Love/Hate Conundrum

The Love/Hate Condundrum

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney, who knows what she likes

Are there things you want to love, but for various reasons, you just hate? Maybe those reasons have to do with your preferred vocabulary, or your GI system (and no, that is NOT an invitation to talk about it), your sensibilities, allergies, or the fact that you have eyes that register things that cannot be un-seen.  

Here is what I mean, and since everyone is still a bit hungover from the whole Thanksgiving/shopping/decorating thing, I'll break it down to make it easy to follow.

Food.  There are certain foods I want to love - coffee for example.  I love the smell of coffee.  I love the taste of the coffee bean. But I simply do not like regular coffee - it's too bitter and it gives me heartburn.  I prefer mine in Frappuccino form - which is really just liquified and diluted coffee ice cream.  Then there are peas.  They add color and they can look very festive, but I hate them.  I mean, I hate them so much that I am now allergic to them.  Don't tell me there is no body/mind connection. And never,ever, try to sneak in a pea on me.  One pea buried in a casserole, and I will taste it.  I do eat snap peas and I do eat soy beans/edamame.  Go figure.

Music.  I love all kinds of music.  I appreciate poetry and the art of lyrics.  But I hate most rap music. I like the percussion and the beat.  But I cannot abide the N word.  I know George Carlin said there are no 'bad' words, but that one is on a short list (along with a word that begins with C) that will result in me calling out a perfect stranger who uses it in public.  I do like more hip hop than rap (FYI - Hip Hop came first and there is a difference, but we did a TLC survey a couple of years ago and they told me enough with the music blogs, so I'll leave it at that.)

Fabric.  Ever since I joined the Sisterhood of the Eternal Summer, I have been focusing on natural fabrics - cotton, linen, silk.  They breathe.  And I want to like wool.  I really do.  It is beautiful and it's warm and it's natural.  But no matter what they do, it makes me itch like crazy.  Yes, I know they make lovely wool and poly blends, but I have to stay away from the poly because if I have a hot flash, that stuff is combustable.

Comedy.  I love comedy - and I think comedians are some of the smartest, most clever people on earth (my dream day includes an afternoon in the Writers' Room of The Colbert Report) but there are certain types that just make me, well, cringe.  Cringe comedy (you know, the Larry David or Jack Black or Ricky Gervais stuff that just crosses too many lines); raunch comedy (this includes South Park and anything else with scatalogical or genetalia - oriented jokes) and - don't kill me - much of British comedy are not my cup of tea.  Yes, the dead parrot bit and the Monty Python movies have some great laughs, but the dressing in drag, the boob jokes and the snoot factor make it difficult for me to enjoy.  Maybe it was the early (and thankfully, limited) exposure to Benny Hill.  Idiots.  Also - dumb people hurting themselves are not funny.  It's not just these idiots who set themselves up for bodily harm on YouTube either - the 3 Stooges have always been on my last nerve.

Stomachs.  This is a new one.  I think people of all shapes and sizes and colors are beautiful. With restrictions. If you are a baby, or a little kid, or even a teenager, I don't care if you wear a shirt that doesn't quite meet your pants/skirt/shorts/whatever.  Otherwise - and I do not differentiate by body type or weight or anything else - I do not want to see your stomach.  (I hate the word belly - don't know why - I just do, so I use the word stomach even though it is an internal organ. These aren't the MCATs.)  On the flipside, I do not want to see the top of your bum either.  Get a longer shirt or bigger pants or some damn thing because that is just rude and I am calling it out. (Restrictions do not apply to swimming pools or strip clubs, neither of which are high on my list of preferred destinations).

And finally:

People.  Don't tell me I am the only one here, either, because I know many of you better than that! I try to find the best in people - I really do, especially as I get older and more patient (hah! As if.) Unfortunately, there are some people who are just stone jagoffs and that's all there is to it.  Racists, bigots, anti-semites, homophobes, cheats, vocal ignoramoses (see most politicians) - I can't stand them.  My friend Robin and I had a real epiphany about ten years ago - we don't spend time with people who are certified asshats.  I used to tangle with these people - challenge their illogical thinking, or embarass them into shutting up.  Now, I really try to avoid them.  Because these people do not understand reason or fact.  They have no bullshit meter, and still think if someone on TV says it, it must be true.

What about you?  What is it that you really want to love, but cannot.  And I wasn't kidding about the medical stuff - I don't want to hear the details about any substance that leaves your body in any form whatsoever.  That stuff?  No love there.  That's why I treat words and not people.










November 15, 2011

Wars, Bores and Whores

Wars, Bores and Whores

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney, with apologies to legitimate prostitutes

I am back on a "news" boycott.  Do I need to explain why?  My sanity dictates it.  Just when I think I have already seen the most grotesque, or the most idiotic or the most craven or the most inhumane behavior a human can exhibit, some sub-human disguised as a person surprises me.  And not in that good - hey, I found a $20 in last year's winter purse - way.  

We've had a rough couple of weeks in Pennsylvania.  One revelation after another seems to lead to more disgust.  So many victims and way too many people to share the blame.  Do I need to explain what would ensue if I walked in on someone molesting a child?  There would be many things broken. Body parts would be separated from other parts.  Talk about Thunderdome - only one adult would have been able to walk out of there - who are you going to bet on: (a) a sadist with a perverted hard-on or (b) a Mama Bear.  Please. I must also note that the lack of women involved in any high level in any investigation on this terror may prove to be significant.  No insult to men, but everyone knows that the Lion may be King of the Jungle, but a Lioness guarding cubs is the most dangerous. 

Tired of hearing about corruption and pedophiles?  Try changing the channel.  Oh look, more of our warriors are coming home in caskets.  Or on stretchers - we seem to have the money to send them out to fight and die, but when they get home and need support - I don't know - things like food, jobs, health care, housing - your basic luxuries - oops - no dough.

Well, that was more vomit-inducing.  Let's try another channel.  Gee, it's a bunch of people standing between podiums and giant flags.  Don't even try to listen to them - your head might explode with the horror of realizing one of them could be your next Commander in Chief.  I used to hear the Charlie Brown Teacher voice - wah, wah, wah wah - and now I hear hissing and snapping, more vipers trying to get into the nest that is our political system.

Good times.  Let's try the another channel.  Oh look - movies with funny names like "The Lovely Boner" and "The Devil Wears Nada".  I think actual porn is boring but a review of the titles is always good for a laugh.  My favorites are ones with numbers like 7 or 8, as in "Big Mamas Melons 7" or "Brazilian Babes with Balls 8".  This tells me that successful franchises need not involve Batman or even the Corleone family.  As a matter of fact, it should come as no surprise that the "Iron man" franchise has more than one rating category; ditto with "Die Hard/Harder/Hardest: the Oh Baby Do Me Trilogy".

It almost makes me long for the days when Anthony Wiener was the headline.  Those jokes actually wrote themselves.  If you ever get really bored, play the Movie Title Game.  You take a funny noun - like wiener - and substitute it for a noun in a famous movie - like "Saving Private Wiener" or "Cool Hand Wiener".  Keep at it until someone in the group falls off the chair from laughing too hard.  By the way - laughing can be aerobic exercise.  I think I might pitch that idea for a Dr. Phil Oz show. 

Well, so much for TV.  Stick to The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.  Both sources of regular aerobic exercise.

"But Professor Sweeney," you may be asking yourself, "whatever shall we do with our free and stationary time?"  Glad you asked!  Read a book!  You get to pick the author, and the plot and the characters.  You can leave it and come back to exactly where you left.  You can use your own imagination to turn the words into mental images.  

We are into the holiday season and books make fantastic gifts.  Our own book tarts have new books this year that would delight someone on your list. Or start a new reader on the first in a series and be a hero for years to come.  

Please shop local.  I was going to do this blog on how Amazon is really dicking around authors, publishers and real book stores, but all that unmitigated greed makes me sick too.  Suffice it to say that the dollars you spend there cost more than you think in terms of lost jobs, revenues to authors and independent bookstores.  Think before you click.

Now, I am going to make sure the TV is off and curl up with a good book because it may be the only thing that keeps me from becoming a psychotic criminal.  The last thing I need is to have to watch myself on the news.

So - what are you watching and reading that keeps you sane these days?  Or just play the Movie Title game with me.  You know you want to.









October 18, 2011

We're Calling it 'Harvest'

We're Calling it 'Harvest'

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney, retail veteran

FalldecorationsIt's fall.  School is back in full swing.  Apple orchards are booming.  Corn mazes, hay rides, Halloween is in sight, and that kicks off the holiday season.

If you've ever worked in retail or in marketing, you know that the most important thing about September-December is sales.  Hence, the need to come up with a reason for people to buy more stuff. This year, it's the concept of Harvest.  Have a Halloween wreath for the front door or a pumpkin for the hall table?  Get with it.  It's all about the Harvest this year.  Fall leaves, tree cones, branches, squash and other fall vegetables, stalks of wheat or whatever - that's what everyone needs to say "Oh yeah, I'm hip to the home decor scene."  Or maybe not.

Perhaps in a nod to the economy, most stores and catalogs are no longer trying to push the expensive stuff - the Hammacher Schlemmer $5,000 life-size hay wagon, for example, is long gone.  Which reminds me - I have to say it - who in the HELL spends that kind of money for something they've only seen  on glossy, photoshopped paper?  Seriously! Must be that 1%, or their staff.  

Images-4Which is the other big harvest concept this year.  We the People (you remember us, the ones who sought to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility?) are finally starting to gear up to clean house.  For the first time in at least a decade, people are demonstrating - in large numbers and in an overwhelmingly peaceful manner, in an effort to get our elected officials and the bagmen who elect them, to pay attention to what is actually going on outside of their leather and marble offices.

It started with a young, grass-fed, I mean, grass-roots, group of people who didn't even have a clear vision of their grievances or goals.  And it grew - across the country and across the world.  There have been public governance and public safety problems (that is smooth talk for political chicanery and police brutality) but the movement grows.  Just last weekend, OccupyPittsburgh set up its formal protest area.

If you want to support these movements, there are ways to do it other than camping out.  They need supplies and water and blankets and all kinds of things.  If you do not want to support these movements, then stay the hell out of it.  Nobody is making anyone join, or camp, or protest, or anything else.

But pay attention.  This is democracy in action.  This - the peaceful assembly and speech of The People - and the resultant non-violent transfer of power that occurs with each November election, is our greatest gift.

Democracy is hard and messy business - if it were easy, more people would do it without bloodshed. And, as our young country ages, we are having growing pains.  It's a little scary, when we look around and realize our executive, legislative and judicial systems may no longer be truly representative. There is no glib answer, except that we cannot simply let it disintegrate into a form of government that no longer protects and defends the rights of all The People.

The answer is not name-calling or vilifying or violence - not that I don't personally enjoy all of those things.  Those tactics are the marks of the ignorant and close-minded.  The answer is peace and collective action - to take the country in whatever direction you think it should go.

Because you could have the most sublime decorations in the world on your front porch, but if the inside of your house is chaos, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.







October 04, 2011

Reality Check for Book Lovers

Reality Check for Book Lovers

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney, the Tart who is not a published author and thus can tell you the hard truth

For those with no attention span: BUY BOOKS.

It sounds so simple and so obvious, but apparently it is not sinking in.  Let's infer that everyone reading this blog loves books.  Let's also infer that everyone reading this blog loves at least one of the authors listed up there.  Heaven knows there is a bounty to choose from, no matter what you like to read.

The purpose of today's blog is to clear up some confusion.  If you already know all of this stuff, maybe you could print it out, or link it, or share it on Facebook, or otherwise pass it along to another book lover who is not similarly educated.  

Thus - some great misconceptions about published authors, like our own Book Tarts, whose smiling faces greet you at the top of the blog and whose stories delight, entertain and move you.

1.  They publish books for a living.  Not for fun, and not just to see their names on a shelf.  Many of these women have other jobs - some have full-time jobs - so they don't end up on food stamps while they pursue their career as an author.  I love this analogy: If I painted houses for a living, would you ask me to paint your house for free?  Of course not.  So why would you view their books differently?  Most of these authors are too polite to say no if you ask for a freebie.  Me?  Not so much.  Please don't ask for free books for yourself.  It's rude and frankly, it's cheating.

2.  They don't make big up-front money; they don't make any money unless they sell books.  Unless you are an author with enough juice to merit an initial print run that guarantees a best-seller, don't expect a big advance.  Maybe it used to work that way, but no more.  Plus, no matter how small the advance is, the author has to pay her agent, her expenses and the IRS. The only way these authors make any money is by selling books and earning out on royalties.  These are not trust fund babies who write as an antidote to the crushing ennui of bon-bons and pool boys.  These women write books in the style and form the publishers demand so they can sell them.  (Side note: if you think the best-seller lists are based solely on merit, think again.  But that is a subject for another blog.)

3.  They work hard.  No shit.  I can confirm this because I did write a novel once.  It was fun.  Got an agent and everything.  Then I got into the re-writes and editing.  No fun.  In fact, I wasn't even through the second chapter before I had a headache.  Like I need another source of those.  Since I already have a day job, and I try to avoid pain, rather than exacerbating it, that was the end of that. Writers write because they have to. Published authors edit because it's their work, not their recreation time.  Some of the book tarts have re-written entire books during the editing process. Plus, if I told you how many published authors hate their books by the time they are done, you would gasp.  It's like being in labor with no discernible end in sight.

4.  They don't make any money from borrowed or shared books.  This is a tough one, but since I have the liberty of not giving a shit whether you buy my book, I am going to tell you the unvarnished truth.  When you buy one copy of a book and share it with a dozen friends, that does not help an author unless some of those friends actually buy the next book.  If you buy a book at a used book store, it does not help the author.  Authors are only paid on original sales. If you wait for a book to be donated to your local lending pool, it does not help the author.  Think of the music business.  Remember Napster and how it was shut down because it was criminal - as in theft?  Why would you think books are any different? This is where people can get huffy and point out that books are expensive.  Yeah.  Everyone gets that you can't buy every book.  But at least if you get it from a library, you encourage the library to buy more books by the author.  Libraries actually buy books.

5.  A special note on author events and book signings.  I am just going to say it, so brace yourself.  If an author and a book store go to the expense of traveling and setting up an event - at their own expense - because publishers don't pay for tours any more - it is great if you go.  But you at least have to buy a paperback.  I mean it.  

In addition, if you do go to an event, keep in mind that the author is there to sell books.  She may be kind enough to indulge you while you ask questions about how to get published, or to even critique your book pitch, but have some common courtesy and don't do it while there are others waiting to meet her and to BUY HER BOOKS.  Every person that gets tired of waiting in line while you chatter is money out of the author's pocket.  Seriously.

And I've seen this a hundred times - if you have the stones to ask a professional to critique your work-in-progress, or share her hard-earned wisdom, and you don't even buy her book, there is a special place in hell for you.  Get a clue and some class.  

I have to throw in a pet peeve here.  I think it is really gauche to have an author sign a book just so you can sell it at a premium online.  That hurts both the author and the book store.There may not be anything illegal about it, but come on, these are good women.  Don't be greedy. 


Buy Books.  I mean it.  If you like books, you have to buy some.  The industry is in a damn mess right now, through no fault of most authors.  They only way to be sure we'll continue to have good books is to make sure people buy them.

No one has an unlimited budget (Oprah, if you are reading this week, no offense, girlfriend) so ask for books as gifts.  As Mary Alice says, a candle never changed anyone's life.  Many men and women are tough to buy for - do your family and friends a favor and make a wish list of books. Birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers' Day, Groundhog Day (hey, if you live near Punxsy, this is big) and - oh look at the calendar - the holidays are just around the corner!  Do you really want another sweater or a pair of slippers with squeaky clown noses?  

Buy books as gifts. Duh.  Just about everyone loves to read a good book.  If you're not sure what book to buy, get a gift certificate from your local book store.  Want to get something for a teacher, or hair stylist or delivery person or cleaning crew?  Paper back books cost less than half the gimcrack you've probably purchased in the past.  Also - just because you think some tchotchke is cute doesn't mean everyone else does.  But that is also a blog for another day unless you are someone who likes to buy trolls.  Those things are just plain creepy.  Ditto for grown men and ponies with pastel, comb-able manes.  Right, another blog.  Moving on.

Buy books as donations.  Want to support your local library AND your favorite author?  Buy a hardcover book and donate it to your library.  I would tell you it's tax deductible, but then I'd have to put a disclaimer to check with your own tax professional.  Who would probably love a book, by the way.

Use your words.  Talk about it.  Encourage your friends to support author events and your favorite authors.  Lend a favorite book to a friend in return for the promise that they will buy the next one.  Support your local bookstores.  And if you don't have one, you are always welcome at my favorite: Mystery Lovers Bookshop where the recommendations are priceless and the shipping is free!  

I'd ask the other Book Tarts to elaborate, but I don't want anyone to be offended.  So don't worry if they don't comment today.

As for the rest of the TLC community - what else can we do to help?





September 06, 2011

The Most Important Thing About College (that nobody tells you)

The Most Important Thing About College (that nobody tells you)

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

Ready - here it is: Some People Shouldn't Go to College.

I am pausing now to let this really sink in.  Also, I am wondering if I still have a job teaching tonight.  (Kidding about the last part).

Images-3 College is an expensive, time consuming project.  It's even more expensive this year, as state and federal grant, loan and other funding is cut so we can continue to pay for our wars all over the globe.  Yes, there are other reasons, but that is the big one, and anyone who tries to talk about the economy or the budget without admitting it is lying to you.  

It also takes longer than it ever has, because most places are cutting full-time faculty and class offerings, which makes it a real tetris project to schedule all the classes you need, in the right order, and get out in four years.  It used to be that if someone took five or six years to graduate, it was because they were under the influence of something other than the thrill of learning.

Unknown-1 And then there is the biggest reason: a college degree is no longer any kind of guarantee of employment.  Factor in the cost of a degree, the resultant student loans, and it's less likely than ever before that a college graduate can find a job that pays enough to cover school loans and still allow the grad to live independently.

Now let's talk academics.  Just because a person CAN get into college, based on their high school transcript and test scores, does not mean they should.  Any teacher will tell you that we are still graduating kids from high school who do not have the academic background to do anything other than take tests.  I could tell you a hundred stories, but will stick with my all-time favorite.  In one of my first classes, on the very first day, I posed a series of basic questions to try to establish a baseline.

Images-4 I asked the class of 50+ students to name the three branches of the U.S. Government.  Only THREE of the students could do it, and one of those students was Canadian. After  I recovered from the shock, I jokingly announced that I would have to bring in the Schoolhouse Rock videos.  It is no longer a joke.  I carry the DVD with me now, because I never know when I'm going to need it.

This is not an isolated incident, nor is it a reflection upon my university.  Once I started telling the story, I heard things from other teachers that would make you blanche.  You can blame NCLB or budget cuts or the fact that many public schools don't have enough textbooks or paper for everyone.  It's still true.

So -- let's assume a young person wants to get a job that allows them to live independently (as in, not with their parents).  Please do not assume that choosing the right college is your only choice.  Ask some tough questions. Then consider that there are lots of professions that do not require a 4-year degree and provide a good living.  The key is finding a job that fits your interests and skills, and provides services that are in demand.

Look for something that has a license.  I don't mean medicine or law.  I mean electricians, and manicurists and plumbers and appliance repair.  When I was in high school, we had a Vo-Tech school as an option.  By the time of high school graduation, my friends in the Vo-Tech were already at least half way to receiving a license, and had real-life experience in their chosen field.  Guess who is actually going to retire at 65?  

Kaley-Cuoco-hair-feathers A disclaimer - I wanted to go to the Vo-Tech and be a beautician. My parents forced me to go to college.  No argument that it turned out well for me, but there are many days when the thought of packing up my tools and going home holds great appeal.  Although, given me and my family, I would probably be running some kind of "Fantastic Kathy's" chain now, and worried about INS compliance.  I would also totally be wearing feathers in my hair, because they are very cool and you can wash you hair and everything with them in, but that is another story.

All kidding aside, I think education is important.  However, a college education has become much more expensive.  There are other, more efficient ways, to prepare for the workforce.  I'll be talking to groups of high school kids during the next several months about this (what were they thinking, asking me to do that?!) and I am going to try to explain it as a cost-benefit analysis.  Even if you have the financial means, an undergraduate degree no longer provides the same return on investment as it did in the past.

What do you think? And let me know - what else should I tell them?





August 23, 2011

News Vacation!

News Vacation!

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

Images-2 In case you have no idea what is going on in the real world, we are on Day #2 of the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert 2-week vacation.  When I lamented that my only sane source of news was MIA, a certain genius who will remain nameless (okay, it was Ramona) suggested a News Vacation.  Genius!  After due consideration (okay, five seconds) I decided to try it.  No 'official' news for a week.

This does not mean I am going to plug in my Dr. Dre headphones (no kidding, it is like you are THERE) and crawl under the desk. Although, it is nice and cool under there and sometimes when people look in they don't know where I am.  Anyone who has spent any time under desks can tell you that it's not a bad place to be, assuming you have a good cleaning crew.  Moving on.

What it means is that I am not watching anything that claims to be news.  I'm not just talking Brian Williams and  Diane Sawyer here.  I am talking all of CNN, MSNBImages-1C, Fox, the whole segment.  No newspapers.  Which is no big deal because we cancelled the local paper a couple of years ago when we found out they out-sourced all the support jobs.  No online news sources - NYT, HuffPo (home of the most misleading headlines on the web), People (yes, I know it's a stretch but they claim to be news).

This experiment will not work for everyone.  Hank, for example, cannot just stop watching the news. It's tough to read the teleprompter if you don't look at it.  Also, rude to just walk out while the rest of the news team is doing their jobs.  Same with our friends in the investment banking sector, whose fortunes can rise and fall based on a single news blurb.  You get the picture.

I am confident that I will find out the really important things without subjecting my brain to the garbage dump that contains the real news, albeit covered in crap. Weather?  Please.  I can see that there is a thunderstorm out my window, but thanks for the timely (not) emergency (not) warning. This weather news business has become a real life boys and girls who cried wolf.  Sports?  In this town?  You can tell by the flags and banners on the houses what is going on.

471859865v_200x200_Front Politics?  Good grief. I am already exhausted by Undecision 2012 and we are only in the third quarter of 2011.  World News?  Wars.  Economic crises. Anyone who doesn't think those two are related needs to take three big steps back and look around.  Local news?  It's a full time job just keeping up with my extended family and friends.  I do love my Regent Square Patch News, but there is a big neighborhood event this weekend, so I will catch up with Stephanie Rex and see what I missed. (Seriously - find your local Patch news - it's a great development in online communication. Here is the link to ours: http://foresthills-regentsquare.patch.com/)

In real life events, we are approaching the 10th anniversary of September 11th. I have mixed feelings about the upcoming media coverage.  I understand the 'never forget' concept - I have both the music and the t-shirts - but there is not a chance in hell I could forget.  But then, not everyone had friends and family in the towers or the Pentagon, or even in an airplane, that day.  Hell, some people weren't even born.  BUT-  I fear that we are going to see a lot of hate and fear-mongering masquerading as patriotism for the next five or six weeks.  Before you label me as a pinko-commie bastard, I must tell you that I wasn't kidding about the music or the t-shirts.  Or the donations to survivors and memorials.  I still get teary when they sing "God Bless America" at baseball games because I remember the time Ronan Tynan did it at the Yankees game in September 2001 - you could hear the anguish in the crowd's voices as they sang along, their grief slowing parts of it down to a dirge.  Hell, I get misty watching the Clydesdales tribute, and that is just photoshopped horses!  But I am also older and wiser enough to know that emotions are easily manipulated, especially by people with political agendas and tricky methods.     HPps_0401 I defer to the great Hagrid and remind you that "Not all wizards are good."

So that's my plan.  A week's vacation from talking heads and inflammatory headlines and useless dreck that pretends to inform and enlighten.  I feel refreshed already!

Want to join me?



August 08, 2011

Family Vacations

Family Vacations 

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

I am writing this from Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  Stone Harbor is between Atlantic City and Cape May in south Jersey and we have been coming here for at least 35 years - we can't seem to remember the first year we came.  It's a pretty straight shot across Pennsylvania so we usually see lots of familiar faces from home.  After so many years, we also see familiar faces here.  Places, too.  Uncle Bill's Pancake House for breakfast.  Hoys 5&10.  Miniature golf courses.  The Fudge Kitchen.  Springers for ice cream.  New places too - like Tutto Gelato - the Queen to King Springers.

Every summer, we come here and spend time with my Mom and with each other.  We do things here that we don't take the time to do at home.  Jigsaw puzzles.  The annual viewing of "Murder by Death" (this year, a special occasion in honor of the late Peter Falk).  A trip to the Christmas store - is there a law that says all beach towns must have at least one Christmas store?  Lots of fish and seafood and fresh fruit - plus Jersey tomatoes and Jersey corn - yum!

This year, we pulled out the DVD sets from the television show M*A*S*H*.  None of our kids - mine or my nieces and nephews, had seen the show and I have to tell you, it aged very well.  I dare any one of you to watch an episode that involves Frank Burns and Col. Flagg without laughing out loud at least once.  It's funny, in a sad way, how a show that aired 30 years ago written about a war that happened over 50 years ago that became a critical commentary about a war that started  40 years ago resonates equally today, when we have 5 wars going on with no end in sight.

Over on the news channels, it's all bad.  Apparently, no country in the world has enough money to pay their bills, and the markets are in a panic.  Everyone is appalled at how much money we've spent.  Where the hell did it all go?  (Hint: see paragraph above).  In other highlights, people are running around killing other people - and that's not counting the wars.  Maybe it's because we have instant access to news, but I don't remember a time when there was such widespread deadly violence that crossed all borders.  Race, economics, age, gender, urban and suburban, academic and secular.  Humans are shooting each other.  Madness reigns.

But when we are all together in Stone Harbor, whether it's over slices from Peace a Pizza, or the fabulous deserts Miss Sloane made, we do the only thing that saves our collective sanity.  We laugh. We rented an electric car that we dubbed the "Flintstone Mobile".  We drive around and sing songs - everything from Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You" to Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" to Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" - (PG lyrics only).  We do puzzles and riddles and we crack each other up constantly.  My jaw hurts from smiling and my stomach hurts from laughing.

Here on this 7-mile island, between the ocean and the bay, we return to our family's place, summer after summer, because it is a place that holds great memories and the promise of new ones.  Amid the chaos and turmoil in the real world, this is our place of emotional refuge.  We are so, so lucky to have one.

Where is your family's place?













July 26, 2011

Broken Promises: The Working Poor

Broken Promises: The Working Poor

This has been a miserable summer.  The weather is breaking heat and humidity records, we have no more Harry Potter movies to anticipate, kids can no longer dream of being astronauts, and the politicians in DC seem particularly asshole-ish.  To mangle a Jon Stewart bit, it's like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gets Drunk, Tells His Constituents to Go Fuck Themselves, and Blows up The Smithsonian."

This isn't a political blog - in fact, it's hard to tell the difference between the alleged parties these days.  One Asshat looks just as moronic as another.  I think, though, that there is something we can clear up, if we work together.

One of the greatest promises of our country is this: if you work hard, you will be secure.  This is the basis of the American dream.  This is what called most of our families here from other countries. This promise fuels our work ethic, our sense of pride and accomplishment, and the lessons we teach our children.

Right before our eyes, that promise is being broken.

Most people could care less about a debt ceiling that is already so obscene that we cannot imagine its volume.  Most people just want jobs.  Jobs that allow them to feed their families, hold their heads up, own their own homes, and contribute to our society as a whole.

In case you haven't been paying attention to what is really going on in DC, the people in this country who are really getting shafted by the cuts in government programs are the Working Poor.  They are NOT, as many people seem to believe, made up exclusively of crackheads and people who hold up convenience stores.  Sure, there are deadbeats, but the majority of the people who need support are the ones who are working their asses off and still losing their homes. These are people who work more than one job - they work more hours than most of us reading this blog, but they can't keep up with expenses because costs are going up and their wages are not.  These are people who have no health insurance, and rely on state and federal programs so they can take their kids to the doctors.

These are people who have to decide which bill to pay - medicine, food, or utilities.  And now we need to include the elderly - you know - the people who already spent a lifetime working based on the understanding that all the money they paid in to Social Security would provide for them after retirement.  Pension plans?  Most people lost the money they earned when their former employers went bankrupt/got refinanced/sold out/etc.  Don't miss the important part - they money they earned - by working for 40 years, only to lose it because someone got greedy and/or cooked the books.

These are not people spending money in casinos, or buying $200 pairs of shoes.  These are not people who choose between eating out at Red Robin or at Applebees.  These are not even people who get to decide whether to buy two tubes of toothpaste if it's on sale, because they barely have enough money to buy one for their family.  These are people who's souls are seared because their children go to bed hungry.

Before you tell me that I sound like a bleeding heart, or a liberal, or a socialist, or whatever term is fashionable to connote: "Tax and spend irresponsible reprobate", take a step back.  If it weren't for the whole pacifism thing, I'd be a true Libertarian.  I don't like anyone telling me how to live, especially elected officials who wouldn't know the Constitution if it grew fangs and bit them on the ass.

This debate has more to do with humanity than it does with political labels.  This is no hypothetical. People are losing their homes and can't feed their kids.  This is crisis time.  Unemployment is a reality.  People - regardless of education or experience or race or gender or religion - are losing their jobs every day.  You could be next.

What kind of country do you want to live in?  Because if America has become a country that disregards the fate of innocents in order to maintain an intransigent position on some kind of political theory, it's not a country I can be proud of.  If we sit silently by, and allow these elected officials to make decisions that break the backs and hearts of the people who just want to make a decent living, then more shame is on us than on them.

Whether you agree with me or not, the time for passive behavior is over.  Take a position.  Research the primary facts to support it.  And then demand that the men and women in Washington, DC fulfill their promise to represent their constituents.  

Enough with the broken promises.  We are better than that.  Time to stand up and act like it. 




**Please note that I wrote this blog prior to the Monday night addresses/commentaries/"news" coverage and other discussions regarding the debt ceiling crisis.  You should take whatever parts of those developments into consideration before you finalize your position.