Monthly Archives: February 2010

Breaking the Set

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Katie and David were sitting on the couch while their mother paced back and forth in front of them. She looked like a lawyer about to give her final argument, but they didn’t know what it was. Both of them were doing well in school, in soccer, in everything. They didn’t hang out with the “wrong kids.” They had no idea why they why they were summoned to the couch.

“I have something to tell you.” She began. Minds were racing –death, disease, moving…

“Your father and I are getting a divorce.” That wasn’t even an idea in either of their heads. Nothing they had braced for or imagined. By the look of shock on their faces, she felt she must continue.

“I really want you two to understand something. I know most kids think it’s their fault when this happens, and most parents try to explain that it isn’t –because it isn’t. But somehow, the kids never believe them. But here’s the thing, your father and I stayed together so long because of you –not for you, but because of you. What I mean is, as the four of us, we are awesome, aren’t we? I mean dad coaches the soccer team, you guys play, I’m the team mom who bakes cookies, and we all go out for pizza. We have fun. We are a great family. –But the two of us are just horrible. And when you two aren’t around, it’s miserable. When you start dating and hanging out outside without us, and go to college, we might resort to killing each other –that’s a joke…” she laughed nervously. “You’re getting close to that age, and we can’t face it together. I know this sucks. I know. It sucks for me too. I LOVE the four of us, but the two of us, just aren’t working.”

Katie and David just sat there stunned. You could see their minds reeling through moments. Did they miss something? How did they not see it? Were all of their great times fake? There was just nothing they could say. They didn’t talk at dinner. Since their father didn’t come home that night, it was a very quiet house. Both of them left the table after dinner mumbling something about homework. And that was it.

Their mother was left sitting by herself on the couch all night, hoping, praying they understood, hoping they didn’t hate her or resent her, hoping she could do this.

The next morning passed without a word. Both Katie and David woke up and got ready without any prodding. They had their usual toast with cinnamon sugar and orange juice. And they grabbed their packed lunch, without a word, without looking in their mother’s eyes, without looking at anything.

It wasn’t 30 minutes before the phone rang. The voice on the other side said, “Is this Mrs. Haley?”

“Yes, who is this?” she answered wondering if she should change that after the proceedings, or should she keep it to be the same as her children.

“This is the police, ma’am.” And he paused for a long time. Long enough to wonder what kind off trouble her husband –soon to be ex-husband was in. Or no, maybe David skipped school and he was picked up somewhere…

“You have a son, David, and a daughter Katie?”

“Yes.” She said almost quietly. David would cut school, but Katie, never. “What is this about?”

“Their school bus was in an accident this morning, and I’m sorry, but…”

Desperate statistics

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We all know that politicians and news reporters regurgitate statistics like a frat boy on Sunday morning.  We also know that statistics work for us to push our point or cause, because they are both easily manipulated and easily believed.  So the statistics for unemployment have gone down from 10.2% to 9.7% this month.  What that doesn’t take into account are people who have been out of work for more than six months (and therefore not collecting unemployment), people who have given up looking for a job, or people who are underemployed and therefore way below the poverty level –yet still employed.  If these people were included, I am sure the number would be staggering.

And then there are crime rates.  “Crime has gone down in the cities.”  (We swear!  Please don’t move out)! –The politicians plead.  Ask any police officer if crime has gone down.  What has changed are the definitions.  –Well, that and the number of first-time offenders.  Desperate times create desperate people.  A few weeks ago, a house blew up a few blocks from where I live.  This caused 10 families to be homeless.  The original house was abandoned and foreclosed.  Scavengers had taken all the copper piping out, and the gas company seemed to have forgotten to turn the gas off.  Which I find awfully ironic, because they are so quick to shut the gas off when you’re behind on your payment, but this house hadn’t been lived in over a year.  No one reported that theft, so thefts are down, right?  Actually, these foreclosed homes are often completely gutted from anything of value, but those numbers don’t fit in.

Here’s another, bit more personal example.  Last week, the night of my daughter’s third birthday, someone (or more than one) person broke into our home –while we were sleeping, and robbed us.  I am not going to go through the million “what ifs” that have plagued me for days now.  But the police officer, who arrived in amazing time, explained a few things to us.  We used in a district that they used to fight over because nothing ever happened.  However, according to him, it has gotten really bad, but he added, that it has gotten really bad everywhere.  He lives in a quaint little prestigious suburb and his building has been broken into 3 times recently.  He said they have been overwhelmed with first-time offenders who would never have done something like this, until they couldn’t feed their family.  That’s not who robbed us, but that is a reality.  The ones who got us were well-practiced.  The jails can’t hold all of these people, so the non-violent ones get off lightly, or no time at all.  Here’s the crux.  They won’t classify our type of break-in as aggravated anymore.  We were home.  A few years ago the charge could have been a lot higher –but we don’t want to scare those city-dwellers away, so we don’t have violent or aggressive crimes.

The criminals know the laws probably better than we do.  They know what they can inevitably get away with.  Our visitors took around $500 of electronics (T.V., cell phones, iPod, camera).  They did not take our computer or credit cards.  Why? Because that classifies as identity theft and carries a much stronger charge.  In fact, they took my purse and left all of the cards in my wallet neatly stacked on the kitchen table.  They took things they could sell fast and easy.  With all of these second-hand game and music stores, there aren’t any questions asked and it’s legit.

But, here’s another misnomer.  If we claim it on our renter’s insurance, the premium goes up, and there’s a $500 deductible, so we receive nothing anyway.  Therefore, even insurance companies can’t give accurate statistics, because I am sure so many go unclaimed.

We have gotten eight thousand pieces of advice since this happened, and almost all of them aren’t valid.  “I keep the lights on at night” –so do we.  “I make sure the doors are double locked before I go to bed.”  –They were.  They came in through the bathroom.  “I make sure I have security lights outside.” –We live in an apartment building, it has all of that.  “I would get a dog or a gun.”  This happened to my brother while he was at church on a Sunday morning in broad daylight and they drugged his dogs.  A friend of mine had a gun, but it was also stolen.  I, personally, would rather pay for a nicer, new T.V. than be responsible for anyone’s death.

I’m not looking for advice –given or received.  But the truth needs to come out.  Desperate times create desperate people and this economy is breeding crime on a much larger scale than anyone is really aware of.  And no politician or news reporter is going to tell you otherwise.