Friday Fun: Labor Day

I know most of my readers/commenters are Americans, and as Monday is Labor Day, I figured what better topic for a Friday Fun post than Labor Day itself?

Practically every American “celebrates” Labor Day in some shape or form; some go to barbecue parties (usually the last one of the season!), some just chill at home, and some plan in advance to take advantage of the holiday sales (what is it with Americans and our holiday sales anyway?).  But do you actually know what Labor Day is all about?  I have to admit my own ignorance – I was never really sure.  So I did some googling and came up with this:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

I’ll save my thoughts on what that says about America and her materialism for another day (‘cuz, y’all, this is supposed to be a Friday FUN post!), but it’s definitely interesting to read all of that.

Growing up, Labor Day was always the last big family party of the summer.  Barring an unexpected special occasion (like a wedding or some such), my family probably wouldn’t get together like that again until Thanksgiving.  So for me, it was always something to look forward to.  My grandmother and I would start the day by cleaning the house and mowing the lawn if it needed it.  Then we’d get to chopping veggies and preparing dishes.  Barbecues in our family were usually quintessential American fare: burgers, hot dogs, sausages (here’s where our Polish ancestry showed through: sausages were always Polish and Bratwurst), and usually a few pieces of chicken.  Along with all the cold stuff: the potato salad, the coleslaw.  Chips and dip were on offer, of course, but so were chopped raw veggies (I was always partial to the cucumbers and sweet peppers myself).  Usually somebody would bring a dessert of some sort – maybe a fruit jello or a fruit salad.  My grandmother and I would usually make the main courses but everybody brought something to the party.  (Made it a hell of a lot easier on us, that’s for sure!)  Music would be played, children would play games in the (HUGE!!) backyard, and it would mainly be a relaxed day of food, conversation, and companionship.  I, of course, being younger, would inevitably have to field questions to the effect of: “So, you excited to be going back to school?”

Unfortunately, the older I got, the more scattered my family became (aunts and uncles moving to far corners of the country; people dying), and so the Labor Day family tradition became less and less of a tradition.  And now?  Hardly anybody in my family gets together for Labor Day anymore.  But I remember those Labor Days of my youth with a smile.

So… ya got any plans?  Parties?  Staying at home?  Shopping like mad wo/men?

Spill!  😀

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How did I become a feminist without knowing it?

Answer: I was raised by my grandmother.

I started thinking about this after reading a post that The Rotund has up on her LiveJournal*, dealing with a blatantly sexist comment.

Here’s the part of my comment that really got me thinking:

But then, I was raised to believe that I was just as good as any man. I didn’t learn about feminism, as such, but a lot of the standards by which my grandmother raised me were, in fact, feminist. We just didn’t call it that.

See, my grandmother came of age in the 50’s.  You know the stereotypical image of a 50’s housewife?  That was her.  She would bake cookies and was on the PTA and all that shit.

But she had another side to her.  Once her children were old enough to be left on their own (or to be left in charge of their older siblings), she went to work.  Not on a permanent, full-time basis, but when they needed the extra money, she would work.  (My grandfather was a carpenter, which meant money would get extremely tight in the winters, or when the housing market was slow.)  And when she went to work?  The family helped.  She didn’t go to work all day and then come home and do all the housework.  My father and aunts and uncles had jobs, and they did them.  She did every job you could think of – including working in a bomb factory during the Korean War.  Seriously.  If you ever piss this woman off, she could literally blow your ass up.

And she raised her children, even then, to believe that they could do or be anything they wanted, regardless of their gender.  In fact, when my aunt B became pregnant at 16, the biggest problem my grandmother had with the whole situation was that it would prevent aunt B from getting an education (meaning beyond high school) and being able to “make something” of her life.  She had the same problem with me when I became pregnant with Number One Daughter at 18.

She taught all of us girls – my 2 aunts and me – that we didn’t need a man for anything.  Despite the fact that she was married, she was a very independent person, always.  (Of course, the fact that my grandfather seemed to think that his role in the family was simply to go to work and then come home and sit in a chair might have something to do with that; my grandmother had to learn to do a lot of things herself, simply because my grandfather refused to do them.)  But she didn’t teach us to hate men.  While she seemed to give up on men after the one and only relationship she had after divorcing my grandfather, I don’t remember her speaking hatefully about men in general.  Specific men, maybe – but if that was the case, then believe me, they deserved it.

My grandparents divorced in the early 80’s.  Shortly after that is when I went to live with her full-time.  And I think, being raising me (in a single-parent setting; by that time all my aunts and uncles had left home so it was just her and I) after having gone through all of that may have had an effect on the WAY she raised me.

The first time I remember hearing the word “feminist” was in high school.  I studied Sociology and Current Affairs and the word kept coming up.  Thankfully for me, my sociology teacher was a great woman that did a whole section on Feminism.  At the time, I was more concerned with learning and getting good grades than really thinking about what I was learning, but now that I look back on it, I realize why I agreed with everything she taught us.

Because that’s how my grandmother raised me.

I don’t think – even now – that my grandmother would have ever called herself a feminist.  But that’s exactly what she was and is.  She has never let the fact that she is a woman stop her from anything.  And I’ve always admired her for that.

And I would never stoop to call myself an expert on feminism, nor a perfect feminist, but it’s struck me repeatedly the surprise I’ve felt when I learn more and realize that the beliefs I’ve always had were right in line with feminism.

Why the hell should I be surprised?  I was raised by a strong, independent woman.

* – The Rotund has mentioned her LiveJournal before, but as she has it friends-locked, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to link to it.  Normally I would have, but I don’t think that would be right in this case.

Mother, you’re breaking your Daughter’s heart.

nuff said.

'nuff said.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write this.  I knew I wanted to write about it, from the moment I had this conversation with her, but I just didn’t know how to approach it.  I’ve decided to make it an open letter to my mother.

Mother,

My heart is breaking for you.  This year has been terrible – first the thing with Baby Sister and Nephew, and then Stepfather died in the Spring.   I’ve been amazed at how strong you sound every time we talk on the phone.  I wouldn’t blame you if you just broke down, but you just keep going, no matter how hard things get for you.  You truly are an inspiration.

But then you talk about having lap-band surgery.  And my heart breaks even more.

You say that you “need” it.  That your health is just “so terrible,” and it’s the only thing that’s going to save you.

But Mommy, you’re going to do yourself more harm than good.

You say that it’s going to cure your diabetes, high blood pressure, and back problems.  All of which you know are inherited.  Grandmother had every single one of those problems, and Grandfather has at least two of them that I remember.  You say Grandmother was once as big as you are now – and honestly, I haven’t seen you in 5 years, so I don’t know how much you’ve gained – and you use that as an excuse to prove to me that you have to have this surgery.

But Grandmother wasn’t always very heavy.  I remember her being roughly the size I am now.  And I know that when she died, she was pretty small.  Just because she was heavy at one time in her life does not mean that one time caused all those health problems.

Having the doctor close off part of your stomach is not going to do you any good.  You’re going to become malnourished.  Sure, your diabetes might get better.  Because you’ll be starving yourself. Your body needs more than just a few ounces of food a day.  And it would even if you were thin.

I know it’s hard to fight the fatphobia that you see every day.  Even people who are well meaning are a lot of the times, unknowing fatphobes.  It’s institutionalized and it’s almost impossible to get away from.  I understand that, I really do.

But I hate to see you taking all of that fat hatred in and turning it on yourself.  Don’t you get enough hatred pointed your way from others?  Do you really have to hate yourself, too?

Part of my reaction is our relationship.  Since finding each other again six years ago, we have developed the kind of relatioship I only thought we could have in my dreams.  I have been able to turn to you when things got bad, and you supported and encouraged me.  I never thought I’d have that.

Part of it is my own rising self-esteem.  I can hear the self-loathing in your voice even when you don’t outwardly express it – because I’ve been there.  And I know how good it feels now to be able to say I like myself just the way I am.  I want you to know that feeling, too.

And part of it is that I’ve learned so much in the last few months, and hearing that you’re seriously contemplating surgery – to fix one thing that’s not broken, and to fix others that it simply won’t work for – seriously terrifies me.  You just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.  And while I know that there are serious statistics – X amount of people have serious health problems, X amount of people actually die as a result of the surgery, X amount of people will actually end up gaining all their weight back – I never thought to save the URLs of the blog posts/studies/news articles I read, so I can’t “prove” it to you.  I know what I know, but without that “proof” I know you’ll just dismiss me as being a worried daughter.

And I am a worried daughter, no question.  But I also know that what you’re contemplating doing is going to be so much worse for your health than doing nothing at all.

And it makes me want to cry.

Sometimes kids can be great for your self-image

Note from The Little Helper

I went into the kitchen earlier to make some toast, and this is what I found stuck to the fridge.

Need I say more? 🙂

Edit: I just found out it wasn’t just The Little Helper.  It was The Little Chatterbox’s idea to make the sign, and The Little Helper did it.  That actually makes it even nicer.  Not just one of my kids decided to be sweet to me today, but two of them.  *tear* 😉