Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Are We the Way We Are? (Politically Speaking)

Politically, I am a die hard liberal. I am pro-environment, I strongly believe we have to regulate big business, I'd like the money out of politics, I believe in a woman's right to control what happens to her body, I believe we should have universal health care, I believe in gun control, I believe consenting adults should be able to marry whom they choose, and I'm a softie when it comes to immigration. But why? Why do I believe these things, and why do people who are die hard conservatives believe what they believe? And why is it getting so nasty now, so that I'm even losing friends over politics? It's like we're at war, with clear battle lines and even casualties. (Gabby Giffords and the people who died around her that day, for instance.) Neither side seems willing to listen to the other any more. But why? Why are we so at odds with each other now? Why are people picking sides and standing their ground with no room for compromise? Why is the rhetoric so hateful?

I don’t have any answers but I do know it's truly sad. I kind of wish we had Vulcan Mind Melds so we could see other people's thoughts and understand each other better, because we are all the way we are for a reason. Or many reasons. Maybe I can explain some of my thinking. The only problem is where to start! I disagree with the Republican/conservative agenda on so many fronts and for so many reasons it’s hard to break it down. Since there are two major components to any political platform these days, the social and the economic, I’ll start with that. (There’s a lot more of course, but those are the big ones.)

Socially, I believe in letting people live their lives with NO DISCRIMINATION. If consenting adults, be they men, women, aliens from another planet, black, white, purple, or whatever, want to marry each other, then they should be able to do so. I understand that it may offend some people due to their religion but when I went off the deep end about it a few posts ago, I pointed out that we don’t govern our country by religion. We have a constitutional separation of church and state in this country. To govern by religion would mean we are sinking to the level of the Taliban, and that is not acceptable on any level.

I’m also pro-choice. I understand that from the point of the conservatives, too; they think life begins at conception, so to abort those cells would be the same, in their eyes, as ending something God allowed and against their religious beliefs. Once again, we do not run this country by religion, nor should we. I do NOT believe life begins at conception, I believe it begins when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. (And thanks to advances in medicine that gets earlier all the time.) To force a woman to endure the sacrifices that have to be made to carry a baby, and some of those sacrifices are life long, when she doesn’t want to for whatever reason/s, is unconscionable. It is far worse to bring unwanted children into this world than to allow legal, safe abortions. Of course, reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies through education and access to contraception is the better option, but abortion is ultimately between the woman and her doctor. I don’t even think the father should have a say in it. We have so many unloved children in this world; the crime would be bringing in even more. Looking at my own three beautiful, amazing children makes me mourn for those children who are unloved, uncared for, unwanted, and in many cases unfed and uninsured.

Once they are born, I believe all of our children need to be cared for. If parents don’t have the means to provide health care or food or decent housing then we as a society should make sure that happens. This also seems to be counter to the conservative agenda which favors a “pull yourself up by your own dang bootstraps” kind of approach. This is where I don’t understand the conservatives at all. If the conservatives claim to be all religious, then why wouldn’t they be the most ardent advocates of government social programs? Jesus believed in helping the poor, after all.

That brings me to economics. I went at it with a conservative Facebook “friend” a while ago (he was rude about it and has since been unfriended) about Obamacare. His argument boiled down to “we can’t afford it”. Well, we can afford two wars readily enough, so if there’s a will, there’s a way. This is the United States- we can work things out if we choose. It all depends on what our priorities are. We can’t afford not to provide healthcare for everyone- we lose too much in the face of overwhelming medical expenses for our middle class as a whole, and for someone to die for lack of ability to pay for medical care is criminal. When good people have to die or declare bankruptcy due to medical bills something is wrong. Access to decent healthcare should be the right of every person in this country. Yes, that will create problems, but I believe in our ability to solve each and every one of them if we let our government know it's important.

One final point about economics. I STRONGLY believe we need to regulate big business. If we don’t they’ll kill us all in the name of profits. My awareness of this issue came about when my son was younger. He had Thomas the Tank Engine toys that were recalled due to lead paint. Now he has learning disabilities. While I can never be sure that those toys were the cause of his problems, I can never be sure that they weren’t, either. I can’t express how betrayed I feel by the toy company that sold those contaminated toys. I do my absolute best to keep my children healthy and safe and give them mental stimulation to help them develop into happy, well adjusted adults, and I spend extra to buy quality toys, and then this happens. How? How can that be allowed? Thank goodness for the laws that required the recall so that I could take the toys away from him before he died from it.

That betrayal led to an awareness of how big business can harm us. The toy manufacturer decided to cut corners and have their toys made in another country in the name of profits. That decision could have cost me my son, so when I say profits before people this is something I have experienced personally. Other businesses that I have come to distrust include the oil and gas companies (BP in the gulf, Exxon in Alaska), financial institutions (who caused the mortgage crisis and our subsequent economic free fall) and Monsanto, because they have such a blatant disregard for human life. This post is already long enough so I’m not going into what Monsanto is up to, but it’s scary. These betrayals of my trust leave me with one alternative- I want to see businesses regulated. I want the government to stick up for me and my children and protect us from that “profits before people” mentality. I voted for Obama originally because he put forth legislation as a senator to regulate the toy industry and get the lead out of toys. Conservatives say they don’t want business to be regulated because they don’t want anything to hinder the free market. The free market won’t do us any good if those companies lie to us about the safety of their products, make us all sick, destroy our environment, and cheat us out of all our money.

This is not a comprehensive post by any means but it is getting long so I’m going to end here. I may revisit the issue; things are getting so heated now with the election coming up. I usually try not to post anything inflammatory here or on Facebook but these issues are so vital now. There’s too much at stake to be silent.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hurricane Strategy

With all the information thrown at you when a hurricane is approaching it's important to develop a strategy for what you plan to do based on the expected intensity of any storm headed your way. DH and I follow the forecasts closely leaving plenty of room for error. For even the most pitiful and weak of hurricanes we clean up the yard and DH closes up the shutters that involve climbing on a ladder. If conditions intensify and things get windy, you want that job done and over with. We have accordion shutters (worth every penny) so we can close up the rest of the windows quickly at the last minute. We move all of the potted plants, lawn furniture, and other yard items up under our patio overhang by our back door so we can either leave them where they are, protected from the wind on 3 sides, or move them indoors quickly if the storm will be a doosey.

Indoors, I get my laundry caught up so I don't have to worry about how or where to wash clothes if we are out of power for a while. That's a big job since my laundry pile hovers just under ceiling height most of the time!

During storm season I try to keep my gas tank full so I refuel when I hit the half way mark. I'd just done that before this storm popped up so I was good to go on that one.

I recently updated and rotated my 10 meal box so that was good to go too, but I still did some last minute shopping. Mostly for things we use on a regular basis more than emergency supplies, but it never hurts to round out your stock. One thing I got caught short on is D batteries, but we don't have many things that use them. Most of our flashlights are LEDs and use AAA batteries; there were plenty of those in the stores. I picked up a box of outdoor garbage bags for debris pick up post storm. We keep those on hand but our stock was running low. I bought some produce and a few other non-perishables and avoided anything frozen or cold. We ate meals using our freezer inventory to get that down. I'll refill the space with water bottles which will make big blocks of ice and help keep everything cold a little longer, plus we can use the water for drinking when it melts. (For us or the dogs!) I picked up more bottled water since we haven't been using it as much lately; the kids are using reusables and I drink seltzer water. It's good to keep some water bottles on hand, though. (And one more thought for my rant from my last post- I like to have cold water bottles in our garage refrigerator for any workers that we hire, like yard guys or tree trimmers or repair people of any kind. It would be kind of weird to offer them water in a regular cup. They would have to drink it right away so the water wouldn't spill or get bugs in it and not when they chose to take a break.)

I haven't decided yet about filling my reusable water containers. If we get a boil water order I'll kick myself if I don't fill them, but if there isn't any problem that water goes down the drain. We've been getting so much rain lately I don't have any need for extra water in the garden.

This is our first storm with dogs. I went to the pet supply store and stocked up on kibble and canned food first thing. We usually feed them a little bit of kibble with some freshly cooked meat on top (spoiled puppies) but if we lose power we will have to resort to canned food. I also bought piddle pads in case the storm parks over us and rains for a long time. I don't know how we'll get them to use a piddle pad, but we'll see how it goes. (We'll take them out in the garage, for sure, then see what happens.) Hopefully that won't be a problem!!! I also got them new bones for the worst of the bad weather. Greyhounds can develop anxiety problems at any age so I want to give them something to distract them if there's a lot of noise from thunder and wind. (Thank you Never Say Never Greyhounds for that idea!)

Oh, there are so many things to consider before a storm strikes, even a category 1! This is just a sampling of our plan. I hope you develop your own plan for whatever emergency you may face in your area. It could be a life saver!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bottled Water Rant part 2

I'm an ardent, tree hugging environmentalist. I'm a proud member of Millions Against Monsanto, the epitome of evil. I was using reusable grocery bags before reusable grocery bags were cool. I grow veggies in my back yard and gave up meat. There is one area, however, where you will find me speaking out against the rest of the eco movement, and that's on the subject of bottled water. I know water bottles are adding all sorts of plastic to the world that we don't need, I know that some of the companies that bottle water victimize all sorts of people and take their clean water away to sell for profits, I know some bottled water is just local tap water, and I know that the bottled water companies do not have to meet the same water purity standards as good old tap, but I still defend bottled water. Why, you may wonder? Because it is absolutely essential, because I like the taste of my favorite brand better, because I remember the time when I couldn't get decent water to drink when I went out, because I care about my body so I don't drink soda or sugary drinks, because a lot of places won't let you take your own water containers in, and because Martha Jr. almost had heat stroke for lack of clean, cold water at a "green" event we attended recently.

That last reason is the scary one. We attended a big outdoor event during the heat of summer. We were out of town staying in a hotel and could not prepare as I would have here at home. I was not able to pack up a cooler full of ice and reusable bottles of water; I had to rely on what I could find at the event. The event promoters were encouraging everyone to "be green" and said they would not sell bottled water, but would have water stations. When we got there we quickly used up the water we were able to pack with us. (Hotel tap with some nasty ice from the machine down the hall.) We headed to the water station and found.... a hose. An old, used, disgusting garden hose. The water that came out of it was warm and yellowish and not something I wanted to drink. That was after standing in the sun for 20 minutes just to get to the hose to begin with! It was awful. We tried dousing a towel and using that to cool off but it wasn't any use. The warm water just didn't work and Martha Jr. started to get dizzy enough that we had to leave the event to seek out air conditioning. Turns out we weren't the only ones- there were so many people suffering the symptoms of heat stroke they had to call out the local mass casualty unit. Dozens of people went to the hospital. Yep, it was a green event all right, so green it put all those people in the hospital for lack of cool, clean, drinkable water. I know some of them would have suffered heat stroke anyway, it was that hot, but I also know my daughter would have been fine if they were selling cold bottled water.

And now we are facing yet another hurricane. The bottled water was the first thing to go at the local Costco and I was happy to see it. It means people know what can happen in a storm and are taking the situation seriously. I picked up some extra bottles myself when I found them at the grocery store. I have several large containers that I will also fill if the storm hits our area, but I use those for hygiene, not drinking. I keep a large 5 gallon water cooler (the big ridged orange ones with a spigot) by two sinks and those are used for hand washing. I have two large garbage cans (that were never used for garbage) I put in two of our showers and fill with water for hand washing and flushing toilets. Now that we have dogs, I'll also fill some smaller containers with water for them. I also buy 5 gallon containers of bottled water, the kind that you up-end over a dispenser, and keep those on hand every storm season. (Whole Foods sold the dispensers several years ago; I'm so happy I bought one!) I have water in a variety of containers, from single use/single serve bottles to large containers I fill myself, and they are each necessary for my storm prep.

After a storm and in the event of any emergency bottled water is the absolute first thing survivors must have. They need it before food, they need it before shelter, they need it before electricity is restored. You can not survive more than a few days without clean water to drink, and sometimes those plastic bottles are the only way to get that water to the people who need it. (Even better if they already have their own supply on hand, but you have to remember that if someone's entire house is wiped out they may have stored plenty of water but not be able to get to it, so once again bottled water from first responders is essential. And I say that because I've heard comments from people who haven't been through a natural disaster that everyone should be prepared, and if they aren't then too bad. They don't consider that people may have prepared but having your house flattened kind of makes that a moot point.)

Finally, I say to those who would ban my bottled water, ban sodas first!! They cause a lot more harm than water in terms of public health; I mean, look at the obesity rates in this country! If I didn't have bottled water to drink and I was absolutely dying of thirst, and sodas were the only choice, I would drink regular Coca Cola (OK, I confess, I love Coca Cola... but I never ever drink it due to the calories) and get fat, fat, fat. Those liquid calories are dangerous! (I would NOT drink diet soda; it tastes disgusting and artificial sweeteners give me headaches, and they make people fat too because they make you crave sweets.)

Yes, bottled water causes all sorts of problems, but maybe the answer is to address those individual problems, not by banning bottled water but by making it better. Greedy corporations are preying on third world people and stealing their clean water? Well, that's where government needs to step in- make laws against that. The water isn't safe or pure? Make laws for that. (Which they should have done already anyway.) The soda companies are just selling bottled tap? Make them say so! (Sometimes you just need water... in a single serve bottle... and people will buy it anyway even if it is tap, but it's good to know.) They use too much plastic? Figure something out- one brand claims to use less plastic. (My favorite brand, actually, when I'm not drinking seltzer water.) Make that mandatory, or come up with some other type of packaging, like the biodegradable corn starch containers some manufacturers are using. There are solutions to every problem, but banning bottled water completely is not a good solution in this case.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Start the Garden

It's time to start our garden! Most of the country is finishing up but way down south it's time to start our seeds. We've had a lot of luck with cherry tomatoes so those are first on the list. I'm going to try some larger tomatoes again this year; maybe by planting around the correct time of year we'll have better luck with those. Collards were wonderful for us last year. I picked up some collard seedlings at Home Depot and those 3 plants were terrific producers. We were able to eat Southern Style Beans with Greens (veggie-fied) about once a week. We grew watermelons once that produced inedible, tasteless fruit after the rest of the garden was done so I want to try a different variety this year. I've been warned that watermelon will take over the garden so I'm leery about planting it along with everything else, but it's a favorite (when it's sweet and delicious) so I want to see what happens. I'm not sure what else to try; I haven't had any luck with strawberries so I'm not going to bother with those even though we love them. (I'll stick with our yearly road trip to some lovely strawberry u-pick fields.) Broccoli doesn't seem like we would get enough from a plant or two, which is all we have room for. I have some cabbage seeds pulled out to give those a try. It's too early (and HOT) for lettuce. I have some basil in a container. A basil plant went berserk for us and grew into a HUGE, lush bush one year, but I've never been able to repeat that particular fluke, try as I might. Beans grow well for us but they don't produce enough per plant to even make a side dish for the whole family; I'd need 20 plants but we don't have the space.

I bought a blueberry bush last year that was developed to grow in our area but we never got it into the ground and it finally died, which is sad. I've been keeping an eye out for another one but I got it at a farmer's market I haven't been back to. One reason I never planted it was because I wasn't quite sure where to put it!

I would love to put in a fruit tree of some sort but we don't have a lot of space for it. What we do have is squirrels, possums, and raccoons, and I'm not sure what to do about them. So far they haven't bothered our garden, maybe because of the dogs, but I think it's only a matter of time. If we had a fruit tree they'd be all over it for sure since it would have to be outside the fenced area where the dogs run around. I don't want to go over board attracting the critters since neighbors have had trouble with them getting into attics.

DH and I have spent some time recently getting the garden prepped for planting. The weeds grew in since I pulled out last season's crops so weeding was called for. We expanded; DH built a pre-fab raised bed from Home Depot for me. He put down purchased compost and organic garden soil for me today so it's all ready to go. The new bed will be devoted strictly to tomatoes. The older, larger bed will be for everything else.

I'd like to get a rain barrel one of these days to use for the garden but we don't have gutters so the rain falls off the roof everywhere; there isn't a good place to collect the water. Oh well; that's a project for another day. Maybe it will be our Earth Day Resolution for next year- gutters and water barrels.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Wrap Up

It's been one heck of a summer, but in a good way. It started out with a bang with the trip to Washington, D.C. with Martha, Jr.'s Girl Scout troop for Rock the Mall back in June and hasn't slowed down much since then, in spite of cutting back on some of our regular activities. The Wild Child spent a lot of hours with the reading specialist and made considerable progress with his reading; she raved over how well he did when he had his last session. (He'll start up again in a couple of weeks when she gets back from her vacation.) The younger two both started Taekwondo (good for The Wild Child's gross motor skills) and they'll be testing for their next belt toward the end of the week. There's another benefit to Taekwondo for The Wild Child that I didn't know about going in. They have to memorize "forms", or special sequences of movements, to advance to the next level, and since The Wild Child also has working memory issues the memorization aspect will help him considerably. They are taking their classes at the same place where The Eldest takes Krav Maga so we got a family membership and she's back in her classes too, which is really good for her. She has a tendency to park in front of her computer and not get any exercise at all so this is a good thing to get her up and moving.

And The Eldest has a boyfriend! He seems like a really nice guy; he's funny and sweet and he's got her going places and being all social and stuff like a regular college kid. They met through friends and went to a comics convention together. All of the friends rented a hotel room near the convention and hung out for 4 days, and by the end of the 4 days they were an item. That was after hanging out in my house for a week, where they worked on costumes to wear. (They are into the cosplay big time.) The Eldest and The Boyfriend are also getting ready for the next convention where there will be dancing, so they are taking dance lessons once a week; more physical activity, yeah!!

I had physical therapy for my back problems and that went well, too. I have a lot of exercises I can do now to build up my endurance so that I can be on my feet for longer periods of time which will be a big help in the long run. I'm done with the therapy sessions for now so I'm going to try to sign up for Pilates (with the encouragement of both the physical therapist and the doctor) to keep it up. I need to strengthen my core, just like The Wild Child, and Pilates does just that.

So now summer is just about over and we'll go back to the regular school year schedule. Even as homeschoolers we are affected by the school calendar! 4H, Girl Scouts, and our homeschooling group will kick in again. It will be good to see all of our friends in each of those groups. My book club will get going, and I hope I'll be able to go! I wasn't able to attend many meetings last year due to one thing and another so I hope I'll be able to find time this year. I'm looking into enrolling Martha, Jr. into an on-line school so that will be a big change for her. She's starting middle school so I think the on-line option will work well for her. She doesn't have any of the learning issues The Wild Child deals with so she'll handle the academics easily. The Eldest has three classes to go to finish up her AA degree and she's enrolled for those already; they start in a week or so. She's also finally managed to find a job, after looking all summer. She'll be working with an after care program for elementary school kids; that will keep her busy, busy. She's excited that she found something that won't involve weekends since she wants to keep them open for conventions. The Boyfriend and at least one of her other friends will be working for the same company, although not necessarily at the same location.

The busy summer leads to a busy fall, and I just keep plugging away. I'm counting my blessings; we are so fortunate that we are able to lead a life with so many opportunities for positive things.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I've unfriended a second person on Facebook. It's uncharacteristic of me to put my foot down and basically tell someone I don't want to be involved with them anymore, but these are extreme times. There is a fight for civil rights going on in this country and I will NOT tolerate people who don't understand that denying other consenting adults the right to marry whomever they choose is pure, ugly, unadulterated discrimination and makes them a bigot. In case anyone disputes the definition of the word bigot, here it is, thanks to the on-line Merriam Webster dictionary:

Definition of BIGOT
: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

So, those who find themselves saying gay people should not be allowed to marry, I am not interested in being friends with you. What if I were gay? (I'm not, but just for the sake of argument.) You wouldn't be friends with me, or not a true friend, anyway, because you wouldn't want me to have the same rights you have. What if one of my children turns out to be gay? You would shun my child or deny my child rights? No, I'm sorry, I don't want to be friends with you anymore.

Oh, you say, but my RELIGION tells me it's wrong to be gay. Well, SO WHAT!!! Your religion is not the government of our country and you DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SHOVE YOUR RELIGION DOWN ANYONE ELSE'S THROAT. I don't have to believe in your religion, and I don't have to live by your religious beliefs. Ask the people in Afghanistan how living under religious rule worked out. Not too well, I'm afraid; it wasn't exactly a happy place under the Taliban. If you think being gay is wrong, then don't live that way. (And if you think that, and you are gay, then I feel for you since you are living a lie.)

I also believe being gay is innate, not a personal choice. There is one simple reason I believe that, and it's this. I am not attracted to women and couldn't make myself feel that way. Men make my little heart go pitter pat. I like men. I like looking at men. I like the way the men on the US Olympic swim team wear their bathing suits waaaaaay down low on their hips; yowsers!! I love my husband; he's a hunk. While I can appreciate health and beauty in either sex, looking at a lovely woman is like appreciating a piece of art. I can see the beauty but it's not something I'd want to cuddle up in bed with. I also think about how it would be if the situation were reversed and being gay was the norm and heterosexuality was somehow deemed aberrant- would I be able to force myself to be gay? Nope; not going to happen. I could partner up with someone and be friends but the physical attraction wouldn't be there. That's why I think it's so ridiculous when the religious types go spouting off about "they can change, it's a choice". No, it's not; you love who you love and to do less is living a lie. I won't ask that of anyone.

So get your religion and your bigotry out of my legal system. I do not believe in your version of religion and I don't have to. It's a free country, although it's getting less and less so every day, and all consenting adults should be free to love as they choose and marry as they choose.

There is no room for debate on this one. It's all or nothing; no agree to disagree. I can debate until the cows come home about a lot of other topics- taxing the rich, how to implement health care, how big government should be, how to bring down the deficit, and so on, but if you are against same sex marriage and equality for all, then you are a bigot and I don't want to be friends with you. I don't have room in my life for that. I'm taking a side and taking a stand and proud to do it.