Posts Tagged ‘Economic Crisis’

Little League Needs A Stimulus Check

March 17, 2009

Let’s forget about the sucky economy  and who can or can’t afford to buy a new luxury car this year; the unsightly women foregoing their nail jobs and highlights, or the companies dropping the corporate deer lease.  This crisis is finally hitting home when kids can’t play Little League  baseball.

I imagine this news story reflects a reality that is affecting all childrens’ sports programs, after school activities, camping, fishing and scouting programs.  Not to mention the ripple down effect on the stores that sell athletic goods, uniforms, and equipment, or the motels and restaurants that fill up for out-of-town league play or field trips. 

This issue is close to my heart because both my boys have played Little League baseball for years.  I love the family-friendly, quality league we play with, McAllister Park Little League.  This from someone who was not particularly into competitive sports.  I’ve totally come around now that I see how important it is for children to be exposed to the good side of sports and sportsmanship, and strong, encouraging, adult role models.  A coach isn’t just teaching you how to hit a ball or swing a bat; he or she is teaching you what it means to be a responsible adult.

My oldest in Spring 2008

My oldest last Spring 2008

Yesterday was the opening day of the spring  season and my husband and I shuttled my 7 year old to practice then spent the rest of the evening watching my 9 year old’s game.  We chatted with friends under blue skies that faded to deep twilight; a beautiful Spring evening that had the smell of fresh grass and raked sand.  Bats flitted against the lights, deer came out to feed in the new grass at the edge of the fields and Killdeer wheeled low over the outfield and called to their mates.  And every  now and then the ‘chink’ of ball and metal bat and the excited calls and hoots of proud parents.

I see the positive effects of team sports and family involvement at least four days a week and I’m really angry and disappointed that so many kids are going to be deprived of this experience.  I hate to see our kids paying the price for the grown ups’ mismanagement of the economy, but there are so many culprits it’s hard to know who to be mad at.   How do you explain to your child they can’t be in Girl Scouts or play soccer because the failing banks and stock market have affected your take home pay and you can’t afford it?  That life has changed from one school year to the next and the money for family activities just isn’t there anymore?

I can relate to these parents.  Playing ball this year was a conscious choice but not an easy one.    The recession has cut into our income like everyone else, even though we’re fortunate to be in an area that has a low cost of living and a good job base.  We’ve had to make so many cuts and compromises I’m feeling pretty shocked by the whole thing (not to mention sinfully selfish, materialistic and put out with the change in my economic status).  I can totally understand why parents in other sinking areas of the country are being forced to make these hard decisions.  Our out-of-pocket expenses this season for registration fees, new uniforms, cleats, and batting practice hit $475 for two kids.  That’s three weeks of groceries, two electric bills, four months of DSL/phone service or half a mortgage payment. 

So next time you worry about overweight kids who don’t exercise enough or support school budgets that gut physical education programs, and curse the kids who are out tagging fences and burning stuff, remember there was an alternative.  In the long run it’s a lot more expensive for all of us to house and feed that kid in juvenile detention or state prison than it is to support sports programs and after school activities. 

Lesson Learned:  Try your best at all times

Lesson Learned: Try your best at all times

Politically Correct Eating

November 25, 2008


I was in Sun Harvest the other day, standing in the checkout line and this lady in front of me is being offered the opportunity to purchase a bag of goods for the local food bank’s Thanksgiving campaign.    She examines the bag, but doesn’t say yes or no, she asks the checker, “Is it healthy?”  I’m impatiently waiting my turn to check out and get home, while rolling my eyes and thinking “It’s Sun Harvest for God’s sake lady, of course it’s healthy, now move it along.”  The checker gives one of those non-committal shrugs that indicates she is obviously telepathic and picking up on my brain waves. 

Now I’d taken a look at those same bags a few days earlier and decided I didn’t want to buy one for exactly the opposite reason.  The $20 price tag got you one half-full bag of canned goods, all organic, all natural, but I can guarantee you, if I was dependent on feeding my family with those food bags, I’d be saying to myself, big freakin’ deal.  Organic, free range, fair trade are words that mean squat to people who have six mouths to feed.

Eating or rather what to eat has become so politically correct.  If you are upper middle-class you eat conscientiously, environmentally, societally.  I really started to think about the political correctness of eating when I saw a 60 Minutes interview  with the founder of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey about two years ago.   When he was asked about how pricey Whole Foods products were and how the poor could afford to shop there, he said

To me, you make a tradeoff.  It might be a little bit more expensive. But you’re getting a better tasting, higher quality food that’s going to be better for your health and better for the environment.

I guess the poor will just have to trade-off medicine for their asthmatic kids or bus fare to get to their minimum wage jobs.  How out of touch can you be!  The concern of the working poor and down-and-out is not quality, it’s getting the maximum amount of food for a minimum price.  The irony these days is that the current economic mess has started to blur the lines of the food haves and have nots.   Even middle class professionals are feeling the strain of making a paycheck cover the purchase of foods that cost 30% more than they did one year ago.  In my case, I plan meals; I cut out expensive ingredients, including free-range and organic if it costs more than about 10% of the non-organic stuff.  Wine and artisan cheeses are off the list, and so are many out of season fruits and veggies.  I’m buying more frozen veggies rather than waste money on letting the fresh stuff spoil before I can cook it.  I’m buying lesser cuts of meat and poultry and preparing them in ways I never would have believed before (my 2 cent tip – turkey thighs). 

I’ll be honest.  It’s been a bit of a snobbish let down for me.  I was a little proud of the fact I was a food connoisseur.  I labeled myself a “foodie” and read every page of Saveur and Eating Well.  I could go to the local foodie paradise, H.E.B. Central Market, and splurge on artisan cheeses, $4 per pound organic, heirloom tomatoes or single source honeys, and carry $80 worth of groceries out in three paper bags.  But quality over quantity is easy when the cost of living isn’t eating up your entire paycheck.  So I saved another $70 a year by dropping my subscriptions.  I am now fixing meals that aren’t PC and they aren’t extravagant.  In some respects I think my cooking has gotten better because I have to try harder.

But getting back to that $20 Thanksgiving food bag.  Give the poor a break.  Maybe their poverty has instilled unhealthy eating habits in them.  Eating habits are shaped by experience and custom – systemic poverty is a learned culture of neglect and calorie stretching.  Giving the poor a can of organic sweet potatoes and a free-range turkey for Thanksgiving might make your conscience feel better, but it isn’t going to make a light bulb go off in the head of a teenage WIC mother or fill up her table.  Her kids will still be drinking Kool-Aid out of a bottle because she either can’t afford orange juice or she just doesn’t know any better.  I’d say your money would be better spent buying the four-for-a-dollar canned beans.  And while you’re at it, buy the poor some pie and ice cream.  Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the time for making an object lesson out of peoples’ holiday traditions.

What Does The Economic Crisis Mean?

October 4, 2008


It means that I am forced to look straight into the face of a young Boy Scout and apologize that I can’t afford to buy popcorn from him today.  It means his troop might not raise enough money for camping trips or the Boy Scout Jamboree.  It means disappointment, crushed hopes and disbelief in the idea we’ve tried to teach our children – that hard work yields rewards.  I feel really lousy right now.