Beyond The Lights – A Movie Review

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“Beyond the Lights” was beyond predictable. I have to admit that I was very ambivalent about going to see the film and figured that if I didn’t make to the cinema it I would always be able to catch it on cable.

A fan of the film posted on Facebook that it made him/her believe in love again. Whoa. Really? That’s not what I got from the film. Maybe because I’ve seen the story a couple of times before. This one gave a glimpse into the life of a popular (fictional) musical celebrity, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is on the cusp of even greater fame.

Unfortunately, we see that some of that notoriety comes with its own baggage, not the least of which is being marketed like a commodity, where even though you’re the boss you’re really not the one in charge.  

The little girl who made the rounds – at her mother’s insistence – and paid her dues at numerous talent contests eventually makes it big with her “momager” in tow. Fueled by her mother’s insistence that second place is never good enough, she aims to please her and everybody else at her own expense.

Her cry for help as she tries to jump off a balcony goes unheard by her mother, and the only one who “sees” her and her obvious pain is the police officer who happened to be standing in for the one who was appointed to provide security outside her hotel room. 

Officer Katz, played by Nate Parker had the body of an Adonis but he lost me whenever he had to say his lines. He spent the entire movie looking so intense that my stress level was up by the time the credits rolled. Even when he delivered a memorable line (even though I can’t remember it), it just didn’t come off as natural. 

The pop star wasn’t the only one who was overly influenced by a parent. The “hero” policeman was starting to position himself for a run in politics because his father thought it was the natural progression after his stint on the police force. Unfortunately, his association with a singer known for performing in various states of undress would not a good First Lady make.

Luckily for him, she finds herself, which includes telling the truth about why she was hanging from the hotel balcony that night. Coming into her own meant divesting herself of all the props that we think being a celebrity requires – extra hair and nails included. 

And as she was able to sing her own songs, get help for her issues, find the man of her dreams and be her natural self, we can assume that she eventually finds true happiness.  

Sweet – and predictable.


Second Chances

I knew this day was coming.

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I had already realized that nobody sits their children down in the living room anymore, signaling to them that something important is about to go down when the parent is ready to have “the talk”.

These days, the opportunities are numerous for a parent to be able to start the conversation about the facts of life – and the sooner the better. Despite knowing this however, I completely missed my chance to do so. That’s probably because when the occasion presented itself, it caught me a little off-guard.

My son, in his Social Studies class was discussing the different types of families and the problems that some of them can experience. We’d gone through some of the problems, solutions and the agencies or organizations that could help, for some homework questions.

When the test came, and I was reviewing the results, I saw that he had mentioned teenage pregnancy as one of the issues that young people can face. I guess he got that from the discussion in class, because it was the first time I was hearing about it.

He was asked to suggest a solution that would prevent teenage pregnancy, and his answer to that age-old concern was – well let’s just say it’s something that involved sports. And I blurted out that the best way I could see that teenage pregnancy could be avoided was to not have sex in the first place.


This was not exactly how I figured I would be having my first talk with my children about sex. Or maybe it was a tailor-made opportunity. However, I lobbed it back.

But not before my daughter asked me whether I had ever had sex. And I answered that “I had kids didn’t I?”

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What should have followed was talk about penises and procreation, budding breasts and boys, and the fact that some things are a natural part of life, but that they shouldn’t take place before a certain time in life, that certain actions can limit your choices in life, and that I want to give them all the information to make proper decisions in life.

Instead, my son made a mental correction and we moved on to the next question.

And I breathed a sigh of relief, determined to be ready when my second chance came around.

What’s Your Story? – A Movie Review

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The “Book of Life” is dark – literally and figuratively. Well, it is at first. The heavy subject matter didn’t seem to lend itself to a children’s movie, but the vibrant colours associated with Mexican culture disguised the fact that this movie was basically about a wager between two spirits who rule two “lands” of the dead.

I was about ten minutes into the movie before I realized what was wrong. I thought there might have been a problem with low voltage in the theatre, but when I saw my daughter wiping her 3D glasses, I realized that it wasn’t just me who thought that things were a little overcast.

The movie is based on the Mexican celebration of “Day of the Dead”, which takes place every year at the end of October or the beginning of November. It is a day when people remember their loved ones who have gone on before them, so they build altars to them in their homes, clean and visit their graves, sometimes leaving their favourite items.

Visiting and cleaning graves (usually around Easter time) is a practice that I grew up with and which probably took place more in our village cemeteries than in the main cemetery on the outskirts of town. The movie probably got it right when they showed figments of the dead standing right next to their burial places, watching their devoted loved ones hard at work.

Here’s my only problem with the movie. I understand the main premise that we should never forget the ones who pass away because when we do, it’s as if they never existed. And which one of us wants to be forgotten? But the only thing resembling hell (or someplace to get one’s just due) in the movie, was The Land of the Forgotten which as previously mentioned, you ended up in if your people didn’t think about you anymore.

So it appears that even if you weren’t the best specimen of humanity but your relatives still bore you in mind, you could be up there in perpetual Mardi Gras. Which, might I add in the movie, looked a whole lot livelier than where we are now? It seemed to just be one big party – it was much more colourful, everyone seemed to get along really well, and there was food galore.

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So when Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna ends up in The Land of the Remembered after being twice-bitten by a snake, he is able to see his mother and his other relatives who got there before him. All of them. Even the ones who “killed the bull” and the one who wouldn’t stop singing. But I understand him wanting to go back on the other side of the curtain to be with Maria (Zoe Saldana), since he never got his chance to write his story with her.

That’s pretty much the take-away from the movie. There were many other side stories including bravery, trickery and friendship – but since everything we do forms a part of the story that is our life, we should probably choose carefully what we put into the narrative. All our stories won’t be best-sellers, but hopefully they’ll make for some good reading.


Desperately Seeking Attention

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When my children were younger, they did what all children do, which is follow their parent (usually the mother) to the bathroom when she has to leave something in there, but they usually don’t.

Now that they’re a little older they’ve graduated from that and moved on to – well they haven’t really moved on. They still seem to gravitate to the bathroom, choosing that particular time to make their requests.

It’s when I’m stepping into the bathroom that’s seen as the ideal time to talk to me about nothing in particular, or to get permission to have the piece of cheese in the fridge that’s calling her name, or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that she has been wronged by her sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so she requires me to have a chat with the offender so that she can satisfy herself that a beating will ensue.

It’s when I shut the door that’s seen as the perfect time to ask where his father is even though we came home without him, or to run an idea by me, or to negotiate what he’d like to get for Christmas, or to ask for permission to watch TV or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that he has been wronged by his sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so he requires me to have a chat with the offender so that he can satisfy himself that a beating will ensue.

Emergencies like these, as well as others that occur when I’m on the phone happen all the time. So I have to inform about the proper definition of an “emergency”, and warn that unless the house is burning down, except they hear an explosion or save for someone trying to get through the front door without knocking, I’ll need for them to wait until I finish my business – wherever that presently is.

Camping outside the bathroom door, or mouthing their query while I talk on the phone has not gone down well with me, but I think they’re hopeful that I’ll give them what they want just to get them to go away. They don’t realize that I’m counting the number of times I have to repeat what’s already been said and deducting it from their college fund. At the rate they’re going it doesn’t look as if they’ll be going anywhere.

Lately, any conversation between me and my husband is seen as the opportune time for showing us the newest drawing or telling us a joke that’s been running since I was a child. Even a recent episode of their favourite show with dialogue included just must be shared when both of us are seen to be speaking in earnest.

Whatever happened to children being seen and adults not being disturbed?

Holding It In

My daughter has never seen a bathroom that she didn’t like – to enter.

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When I say bathroom, I really mean a restroom. The public ones that I only use at the really-must have-to-go-if-I-don’t-want-to-end-up-embarrassing-myself times. Which happens a lot lately because I just can’t see the point of holding it in anymore. Back in the day, I used to be able to delay the inevitable for hours at a time, leaving my husband to wonder how I managed to do it. I told him that I acquired that useful skill by refusing to get up at three in the morning.

My daughter doesn’t feel the need to hold on to things either, so nothing can stop her from wanting to use the restroom when we visit the supermarket, the shoe store, restaurants, churches, government offices, the drug store, and every conceivable place where she (rightly) deduces that a bathroom should be provided for potential customers or the general public. I’m convinced she wants to go in just to have a look around.

That can be the only explanation, because even though she’s given a chance to empty her bladder before we leave home, she still finds something that she wants to leave in the ladies’ room of wherever it is that we’re going. And my foolish query about why she didn’t do it when she had a chance is met by a look of incredulity when she answers that she “didn’t need to do it then”.

I know one mother who made sure that she trained her daughters to suppress their desire to visit any bathroom other than their own. It’s a matter of pride for her, but I never got around to telling my daughter about all the dangers that lurk in the places that other people visit.

So because of her insistence on visiting the powder room of every place she’s ever been (and dragging me along with her), I suppose the least I can do is teach her the little details – such as the acrobatic skills that will be required when she’s faced with the items found in every bathroom, beginning with that most dubious of surfaces – the public toilet seat.

I remember being in a cubicle and noticing a public service message on the back of the door. I thought the placement was kind of odd, but I suppose they were hoping to provide me with some reading material while I waited – except that there was no way I would be sitting down to do it.

Sometimes fear is a great motivator, but I don’t want my daughter to be one of those people who can’t leave the cubicle she’s in because she doesn’t want to touch the door handle when she needs to get out. So I’ll remind her that toilet paper is also good for opening the door, and for pulling triple duty because when she’s ready for flushing, she can put it on the toilet handle too.

I hope she’ll be inclined to do some gymnastics, because faucets are another hurdle to be overcome. Only God can help her if it’s an old-fashioned model that she’ll have to grasp in order to turn it on. But since elbows are good for pushing, I’ll give her permission to ignore the soap if it requires pressing the dispenser- but she should really be able to do that since she’s still young and reasonably flexible. After that she can move on over to those hand dryers known more for blasting noise than air.

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If the bathroom door is open, she’ll be in the clear. Otherwise, she’ll have to keep her just-washed hands up in front of her and back out of the door like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed for an operation, as she makes her way back into the (germ free) world again.

I had resolved to ask my daughter what exactly her fascination was, because I think that when you’ve seen one bathroom you’ve really seen them all. But once while out dining, my husband came back to the table after having visited the restroom at the establishment. As he took his seat he said to me excitedly, “You should see the bathroom”.

Which told me that apparently, all lavatories are not the same.

This Girl Gone Crazy – A Movie Review

The local saying, “See me and live with me” takes on new meaning in the movie “Gone Girl”.

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Usually meaning that it’s after you move in with somebody that you get to see the true person – in this movie, it was after she “went missing”, that the husband (played by Ben Affeck), saw who he had really been sleeping with. He was no innocent by any means, and he deserves his own set of blows – a couple of them for stupidity alone, but luckily he knew her well enough to know which weakness he could exploit.

Most relationships aren’t perfect, but you have to really not like the person you’re living with to want to frame them for your murder which (at first) you have every intention of carrying out by yourself. But as the wife (played by Rosamund Pike), later realizes – him in jail, and her at the bottom of the river meant that she wouldn’t actually get to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Labour that included taking the time to painstakingly write several journal entries, partly burn the book, hide it in an oven and write a cryptic clue to lead someone to it. Work that meant befriending someone who she ordinarily wouldn’t give the time of day to, revealing to that person her innermost secrets knowing that they would be revealed to others when the time was exactly right.

Who wants to spend an inordinate amount of time and money online to purchase items that you neither want nor need, but must have in order to make the point about somebody else’s unhealthy spending habits? Who would actually want to drive that compact car she bought in her attempt to get away from it all while trying not to stand out? Which woman do you know wants to deliberately put on weight unless she doesn’t want unwarranted attention?

But you have to like how she thinks on her feet. When the people in the motel steal her money, she has to find a way to live without it. An old boyfriend who still holds a torch for her is the perfect resource – and when it turns out that he’s made a success of his life, well, that makes it even better.

When the CCTV system that monitors all movements in and out of his house means that she won’t be able to claim an intruder got in to kill him, she decides to use the cameras to her advantage and pretend that she can’t get out.

In the end, the husband saw what she was and still decided to live with her. My movie mates thinks this means that a sequel is in the works, because surely he must have something else up his sleeve.

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Now I don’t like calling people names, like “fooley”, because even someone like that can see that she (still) has something up hers.





Selfish or Self-Sacrifice?

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Image credit: falconchildren’

I recently heard a story about a local woman who was diagnosed with an illness which would eventually take her life. If what schoolchildren say is true, despite this diagnosis, she chose to become pregnant (or carry the baby to term), and at the time of writing this, is close to giving birth.

Some rumours make more sense to the person telling the story than to the person who’s listening, so I took the story with a liberal amount of salt.

Since I don’t like to be seen as judgmental, I tried to put myself in her shoes and determine whether the choice she made would have really been in her best interest or that of the child’s. Most women want to procreate, so I was hoping that this woman wasn’t marking “having a baby” off her bucket list – because carrying a child isn’t quite in the same league as wanting to take that trip to Turkey before you die.

It is awesome to be a mother, but what happens when you’re no longer here? Of course, since none of us is promised tomorrow, one could argue that any of us could very well leave our children motherless through no fault of our own. But therein lies the difference. If we knew that we wouldn’t be around to love and care for the child, would that be considered a tad selfish on our part?

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger, Dani, who writes at bloomingspiders, where she highlighted the story of an American woman who found out about her terminal illness after she had conceived, but who chose to carry the baby as close as possible, to term. By doing so, it meant that she missed out on arresting the spread of the disease because she refused the chemotherapy treatments that were necessary to do so.

The new mother, who had a legitimate reason for ending her pregnancy declined to do it because she saw it as ending a perfectly healthy life to sustain one that wasn’t. She will have at most a year to live, and I’m sure she’ll use the remaining time she has to bond with the child who will probably not remember her.

It’s likely that she will take lots of pictures and leave video montages for her daughter because of this. But the most vivid memory that will be left with the child is the fact that her mother made such a big sacrifice in order for her to be here. Should it matter that this woman will be leaving a 6 year old son behind as well? And a fiancée, with whom I believe she wanted to have this child?

Not being there for any of them probably doesn’t make any sense to most of us. If I was to guess, this woman probably looked at the odds of her long term survival and stacked it up next to that of her unborn child, and figured that she’d prefer to live without regret – for however long she had left.

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If my local tale is true, both situations will have the same outcome – so should it matter when each knew of her own physical condition? If both women see giving life to another as the ultimate and best goal, it’s obviously worth it to them – even though they won’t be a part of it.

“Celebgate” Is Just A Photo Opportunity

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I bet a lot of people are longing for the good old days when the only person who would see our precious memories was the person in the photo lab who would “wash” the film that contained them. I’d always wondered how much attention this person paid to the photos as they materialized – apart from the quality of course.  

Back then, my greatest fear was that the person developing the film would see how badly my pictures always came out, but because I never knew just how close the person would be looking, I knew that I wouldn’t ever take a picture (or have one knowingly taken of me) that would ever show me in a compromising position – since, you just never know.

The 2002 movie, “One Hour Photo” starring Robin Williams, in which he paid a little too much attention to the pictures, only fed my phobia. After that, I didn’t even want to take a picture in my bathing suit anymore, because I didn’t want to risk the developer laughing as he passed the extra copies around. 

So the introduction of digital cameras made me ecstatic – because not only did it mean that I didn’t have to take my roll of film to the photo shop anymore, but now I could execute all those poses that I hadn’t dared to try before. What made me happiest though was the fact that I got to see my pictures first and I could delete the ones that didn’t pass muster and not have to pay for a set of indistinct images that even I couldn’t recognize.

But improvements in technology always come with a catch. I love my body, sans clothes, as much as the next person, but I don’t feel the need to document it. Some people do however, (maybe to have the proof that they’ll need to provide later on?) but because of this, some of them have been experiencing their very own One Hour Photo moments. 

Because photos taken with iphone smartphones have been backed up by a platform provided by Apple, hackers have infiltrated it and have been able to gain possession of hundreds of photos that were stored there. They probably tossed mine (after a good long laugh) – because it’s clear that the only photos they kept and passed around, were the ones belonging to celebrities.

In the wake of the privacy invasion, ordinary (meaning non-celebrity) people have come forward to say that they know just what it feels like to have pictures of your naked person passed around for everyone to see. So apparently, it’s really nothing new, but the current uproar and subsequent changes prove that it’s all in who you know, or rather, who knows you.

Just another indication of what people do when nobody’s supposed to be looking.


Rihanna Doesn’t Take “Last Lick”

“Last lick”: an end of school game played by West Indian children where no one wanted to be the last one hit before having to leave for home.

Rihanna must be exhausted.

It can’t be easy to have to keep the public guessing about your next move as you try to stay relevant, try to get noticed or try to re-invent yourself if those things don’t work out. For some artists like my girl Rihanna, some of the behavior exhibited leaves me wondering where her good home training went.

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I remember one of Rihanna’s early interviews that I read in SHE Caribbean magazine when she was just coming on the scene. She talked about how her burgeoning success engendered some jealousy among some former classmates, but I think there were more of us who were happy to see this island girl make it on the big stage – and in the US no less. It gave hope to the rest of us still chasing our dreams.

But after her second album, she started to take charge of her own image and she shed the whole girl-next-door visage. Re-branding herself as a bad g(y)al means that she constantly has to do and say things that you would expect a naughty girl to do and say. When she and Chris Brown became an item I realized that the transformation was indeed complete.

I’m not exactly sure just when she began to turn me off, but some of her instagram posts and nearly naked poses probably didn’t help. Her unnecessary use of profanity reminds me of those youngsters who think it makes them look like bonafide adults, but one thing that the over-the-top behavior says is that the attention garnered on stage isn’t satisfying enough.

She’s a very attractive girl, but she now constantly pushes the envelope with regards to all forms of self-expression including speech and dress. She is frequently given kudos for taking risks in fashion and never looks the same twice. Down here we would say she’s suffering from a serious case of “overdo”. Up there she even manages to avoid being accused of, as they say euphemistically, “trying too hard”.

"The idea!!!" as my grandmother would say Image credit:

“The idea!!!” as my grandmother would say
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Her outfit at the CFDA Fashion awards for example, left most of us wondering why she even bothered to wear any clothes since what she did wear left literally nothing to the imagination. But since she was actually being honoured as a fashion icon that evening, she had to show why she deserved it.

She did have the grace to say that since her mother was back home in Barbados at the time, she saw the outfit at the same time we all did. Had she seen her when she was leaving the house even Rihanna knows that her mother (like most old-school West-Indian mothers) would have asked her where she was “going dressed like that”.

In her acceptance speech, she said that she didn’t have a lot of fashion role models when she was growing up, but she knew that she had a better sense of style than other girls. But her walk to the podium to accept her award while the adoring audience rose to its feet and applauded, somehow reminded me of the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

When I was younger our grandmothers (and some mothers), would grumble about the bad influence of all things American when they saw us doing things that they know they didn’t teach us. But it’s easy to blame others instead of acknowledging that things that used to be taboo have now become more acceptable, so we no longer have to watch our mouths or mind our manners.

Rihanna’s latest twitter outburst directed at the CBS network over them wanting to use a song on which she featured and then not wanting to use it, and then wanting to use it again, had her livid – and she wasn’t taking the disrespect. So she told them off as she is wont to do and added in a “cuss” word for good measure. ‘Cause she na ‘fraid nobody – and she will always be in demand.

I guess my age is showing, because I really can’t abide people who behave as if they were dragged up rather than brought up and who act as if they don’t know any better. As an adult I’ve come across the types of people who always feel the need to have the last word, and sometimes it’s better to let them have it. In much the same way, when I left the playground I grew to realize that it won’t ever kill me if (sometimes) I have to take “last lick”.


A Matter of Timing

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I read an article the other day that detailed some of the things that a new employee should never do. I clicked on the story because I wanted to see how many of them I could guess. Apparently the writer of the piece didn’t want to leave anything out – including the obvious.

Among the cautions was asking for vacation time during the first few months, complaining to your co-workers about your new boss, bad-talking your old boss or the people you used to work with, taking long lunches, spending time on Facebook and other social sites and calling in sick during your first month on the job.

The article expounded on each one as the writer attempted to spell out in black and white just why it was that the actions were unacceptable – at first. Apparently some of the behaviours become acceptable, (or should that be, expected), when the person has been there for a little while.

So while there was nothing inherently wrong with some of the requests – it seemed that when you asked was what mattered.

Take for example, asking for vacation before you even get a chance to hand in any “sick papers” – that is, within the first year.

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In this neck of the woods, we can’t expect any time off until we’ve toiled for at least a year, so if we really need a break from the job we have to invent a death in the family or an illness that requires a hospital stay – the last for ourselves of course, and the first for somebody else.


…Because we still want the job, we just need a little break from it.

I’ve heard that there are some people who actually like the people they have to report to. And there are others who just don’t.

After you’ve been there awhile though, you’ll find that the proper place to gripe about that, is not with the other workers where there’s likely to be someone who carries messages that you didn’t send, but on the phone with your best friend while in the presence of your employer. Bonus points if she is left without a doubt that the “she” being referred to is her.

…Because we could probably do her job better than she does anyway – we’re just waiting for the higher-ups to notice.

Less than glowing reports about the people you used to work with won’t be acceptable conversation for shooting the breeze – initially.

However, if you wait long enough your co-workers will show their hands first – and then you’ll simply need to add your stories to the already colourful plate. Personality comparisons (about others), is a great bonding activitiy and can make fitting in a whole lot easier.

…Because our knack for telling stories has got to count for something. 

The article spoke about a “lunch culture” and as a new worker, you’ll do the one hour thing and actually eat your lunch during this time…

…Until your co-workers come back raving about the one day sale at Payless, and you understand then, why all the calls were coming back to you. After that, you’ll realize that the “culture” is one where the time taken for lunch is used for anything but actual eating, since kids need to be picked up from school, errands need to be run and bills have to be paid – literally. So lunch will actually be consumed in that hour when you get back and should be working.

…Because Saturday is our day off, and we don’t want to spend it running errands when we can do it during the week.

You should expect to have to wait to catch up with your favourite fashion sites, online magazines and news portals when you get home – or during lunch.

Is it time for Facebook? Image credit:

Is it time for Facebook?
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But what would the workday be without being able to check out what’s happening on Facebook? Besides providing information, it is a source of constant entertainment during an interminably long day. Eventually, you find that being at home and being at work are much the same – you just have to dress for the latter. However, if you’ve been unemployed for a while, this habit will be a hard one to quit…

…Because before we got this new job, that was precisely how we spent our days.

The final infraction is really the biggest one for employers because it is frequently abused. Chikungunya notwithstanding, no sensible worker will want to have to take sick leave during that first month when you’re still thanking your lucky stars that you have a job.

When you’re more comfortable however, you’ll think it best to take those twelve allowable “sick days” before the year runs out. You might even see them as “personal days”, and think nothing of taking your kids for an ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, or catching an early movie since you’d be off the clock by then anyway.

…Because vacation days are not the only things we don’t want to save up anymore.