Sometimes reality is more interesting than fiction, as shown in the newly released film Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Based on the 2016 memoir by author J.D. Vance, the story chronicles Vance’s coming of age in Middletown, Ohio, struggling against abuse, poverty and a drug addicted mother.
We’ve seen the same conflict in stories before – a main character against society—but never in this setting. At every turn Vance is failed by the very government institutions that are supposed to be
safeguards, from education and healthcare to Child Protective Services. Though coarse, the hillbilly culture to which Vance belongs is what he and his community can depend on, stepping up for one another, like in how they honor their dead.
Since the pandemic began, more families have been searching for more connection opportunities and for many this has meant board games, cards, dice games and more. One highlight of my Thanksgiving was playing a game after dinner that everyone enjoyed, from my 12, 14, 16, and 18 year-olds, to my 73 year-old father.
We didn’t need the official “Left, Right, Center” set to play a variation on the game. Three dice and three quarters per person were all we needed.
1. Start with three quarters per person (you can substitute with just about anything - Halloween candy, dollar bills, poker chips that can be turned in for a prize, etc). You need at least three people to play, and the more the merrier. We played with seven people.
2. Decide who goes first and then take turns clockwise.
3. First player rolls three dice. If a “4” is rolled, pass a quarter to the left, a “5,” pass a quarter to the person on your right, a “6,” put a quarter in the middle, or in the prize pot. If you don’t roll a 4, 5, or 6 you keep your money. If you roll a single “4” for example, you pass one quarter to your left and keep your other quarters.
4. With three quarters in your possession you may roll three times. One quarter= one dice roll. If you don’t have any quarters left, you skip your turn but you’re still in the game because you might still get quarters from the people to your right and/ or left.
5. The game ends when the last person with a single quarter wins the whole center pot.
I won the first round and said, “I’ll throw the money back in if you want to play again.”
Everyone wanted to keep playing! That, to me, was a success!
In the past I’ve written about other family games that are also fun for any age. One that stands out is the card game “Kings in the Corner.” Even young who can count and can place cards in a red, black, red, black pattern can play this. This game spreads across the table so you’ll need space.
What family games have been a win-win for kids and adults in your household?
My husband and I have split political beliefs, which might be a head-scratcher to some because he and I are a great match. I understand from our life experiences why we have different politics and we both have learned to not only accept, but to even appreciate, those differences. Our conversations about politics are rich, sometimes heated, but always respectful. We are each other’s weathervane for what the other side thinks. Because of this, as my kids get older it has become evident that they have been exposed to both sides of political issues, and for this I am very proud as a parent.
A post on my local Nextdoor site grabbed my attention in a Twilight Zone kind of way. It was a few days before Halloween and a woman was conflicted whether she should answer the door to trick-or-treaters because last year, her first year in town, she had a terrible experience when kids bullied her on her own front porch as she handed them candy. The woman explained that she was born with facial abnormalities and has had several corrective surgeries during her life. She had grown used to the looks and stares children often give, but the brazenness she experienced from these children had left her “still shaken.”
When she opened the door to the trick-or-treaters– two small children and a teenager—without pause one of the younger ones fired off a chain of, “Why do you look like that?”
“Why are you smiling?” the teenager repeatedly barraged her with as well.
In 2008 I had an epiphany after listening to two acquaintances tell me why they thought their candidate- Barack Obama or John McCain- should be our next president. At the time, political rancor was boiling. Their stories were personal, capturing experiences they’d had as children that cemented how they would go on to vote as adults.
I defined these as “political shaping” stories and with every election since 2008 believe more strongly that hearing American citizens’ political shaping stories is what we need to mend the political divide we are suffering, to ease the national rancor that is now spewing over the sides. I brought sixteen of these unique stories together in my new book, How People Get Their Politics, which will be released by Motina Books on Sept. 22.
When schools shuttered in March most couldn’t have predicted it would be five months before children would go back and, even then, school wouldn’t be what they’d known. While most of our local children are starting school remotely from home this week, a few will be on campus for a little while, with how that looks varying. It felt like the Twilight Zone when my high schoolers were envious to learn their younger sister got to go back for half days before finishing the rest of her school day online. Less than a year ago my high schoolers were sent home because of a water line break and it was my middle schoolers who lamented the injustice.
All schools are in a no-win situation right now as they undertake an entire paradigm shift in quick time. The most controversial issue I’ve noticed surrounding schools is whether kids should be back physically and if so, how?
In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death #girldad began trending online. Among his many accomplishments, the basketball legend’s proudest role was being a dad. He was vocal about his love of having all daughters, so much so that when teammates teased him last year when his wife Vanessa gave birth to the couple’s fourth girl, Bryant responded that he’d “have five more daughters” if he could.