Thursday, November 29, 2012

Random Ramblings

Oh, why, hello there! It's been a while. A lot's happened since we last chatted. The big thing for our family was a trip to North Carolina to see my mom. It was an eventful journey, at least at the start, since The Eldest totaled her car after the rest of us were already three hours away at a relative's home, where we were planning to spend the night before the rest of the trip the next day. She was participating in an activity near home and was supposed to drive up and meet us, but instead we get a tearful call saying she'd been in a crash. Every parent's worst nightmare, at least until she calmed down enough to tell me she was OK and no one else was hurt. Seems the accident was the result of a police officer, without lights or sirens, running a red light directly in their path. Yep, she ran into a friend of hers who was attending the same event. We wound up driving back down to get her the next day then leaving for my mom's house the day after that, so at least we were still able to go.

But wait, there's more! Yesterday she was driving around in another county and sends a picture to her dad via her cell phone. The picture was his car... with a badly dented front fender. So that's two wrecks in 11 days. I can't even believe it. But no one was hurt this time either, and his car is still drivable so we don't think it's totaled. I am so beyond upset.

But I digress. We went on a trip! It was a very long drive, but thanks to Yelp and The Eldest's phone we were able to get a few really stellar meals along the way. (This is a very important issue for us- we are a pain in the tookus very particular about our food.) Once we were at my mom's house we went to a favorite restaurant she loves- twice!

The details- we ate at the Indigo Coastal Shanty in Brunswick, Georgia for one meal and it was outstanding. We ate another meal at The Floridian in St. Augustine, FL and it was also outstanding. While in Charlotte, we ate at Lang Van, a Vietnamese restaurant, and it was, you guessed it, outstanding. We also put together a very tasty Thanksgiving feast at my mom's house, with several of us pitching in and helping out. My brother really came through- he came over while I was cooking and asked how he could help, then he didn't leave the kitchen until we were all done eating. He even helped with clean up along the way. (We ate on very cute but way too small Thanksgiving paper plates so there wasn't a ton of clean up after the pots and pans were washed.) True confession time- I wasn't vegetarian on Turkey day! I ate the dead bird and savored every single delicious bite, but only on that day. (And I always do the pescatarian thing when we travel- with my soy issues it's too hard to find something to eat that's vegetarian, diet friendly, has some protein in it, isn't soy, and isn't covered with cheese.) (Told you I was a pain about food.)

It was so great to see my family and share a holiday with them. It's been a long, long time since I've been able to do that and I've really missed it.

Now if I could just get my daughter to stop wrecking cars...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Puzzling about Politics

I am mostly happy with how the election turned out. I am thrilled Obama was re-elected, my Democratic congressperson was re-elected, and a few of the more hateful Tea Party candidates lost. (Todd Akin, Allan West, etc.) I am upset that Proposition 37 failed in California- that's the one to require labeling of GMO food. That stuff is loaded with pesticides and herbicides, people- what the heck were you thinking??? And Michelle Bachman won, but barely. I wanted to see the hateful people go, people who can't seem to say anything nice about the "other side" whenever they get a second of attention. We are all Americans, and for any one side, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, libertarian, whatever, to dismiss anyone who doesn't believe the way they do is wrong, and I think a lot of voters have woken up to that. I think a lot of people rejected Romney because of his 47% comments, for instance. If you are a politician and you make it clear that you don't care about people who don't vote your way, then you have no business running for public office.

I have struggled with trying to do that very thing- finding a way to relate to the "other side". (But I'm not a politician!!) I found my common ground when I had this realization- we all want what we think will be best for our country. We have very different beliefs about what the best is, but that's what we all want. I can't imagine anyone saying "I'm voting for Candidate Y because I think he or she will be BAD for all of us", can you?

Unfortunately, the hateful rhetoric hasn't slowed down. The main place I am hearing it is on Facebook. "Shares" and comments that are downright nasty are going through my news feed; it's extremely disturbing. I'm not talking about my friends, who are all very cool people, I'm talking about the comments you see from strangers. The trolls are running rampant! There's not much I feel I can do about it; if you comment you only fuel the fire. But I can say here- I understand that we all want what's best, and it's disappointing, and maybe a little scary, to see the candidate you voted for lose, but Obama won both the electoral college AND the popular vote, so he is here to stay for the next 4 years. Please give him the courtesy and respect our President deserves, the President elected by a majority of the people. He may not do things the way YOU want them done, but he will not turn the US into a socialist country run by the UN, either. (I mean seriously- people have said that!) Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and I remember reading somewhere about how that is actually an ideal set up, economically speaking. A Democratic President checked by a Republican House- it's our best chance to fix the economy. (Well, that's IF the Republican House does their job.)

Additionally, if you are worried about the economy, don't be. Forbes magazine published an article showing the economic statistics under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and contrary to popular belief, we are a LOT better off under Democrats. Remember President Clinton? He left office with a SURPLUS. Remember President Bush? He left office with a HUGE DEFICIT, and that's just two of the examples they look at in the article. So why do the Republicans still claim the economic high ground? Beats me, 'cause they haven't got anything to back it up. Reagan didn't even follow strictly Republican economic policies when he was in office. He raised taxes 7 times, if I remember the article correctly. (He wouldn't get elected today- not hard core enough for the Tea Partiers.) I've even read a more recent article that talks about Obama's economic policies- his policies are more like a moderate Republican than a true Democrat. In other words, if you are worried about Obama as our president for the next 4 years because you don't think Democratic policies are good for the economy, then you can put your fears to rest.

If you are worried about our country for social reasons, then I don't understand you at all. I don't hate you, I just don't understand, and I'm curious about the life experiences you've had that made you feel the way you do. Personally, I am for all of the things the Tea Party platform is against; guess I'm the Anti-Tea Partier. I am for gay marriage. (BUT OMG IT MIGHT LEAD TO A SLIPPERY SLOPE WHERE WE'LL HAVE THINGS LIKE POLYGAMY... and to that I also say- SO WHAT? If it's consenting ADULTS, then more power to them. Wouldn't work for me, but if that's what makes people happy then who am I to judge?) I am pro-choice, I am for healthcare for all, I am for the environment, I believe in global warming, I think we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, companies need to be regulated so they don't kill us all, religious groups should stop trying to make our laws, etc, etc, etc. If you want a full explanation of why I support any of those positions, I can give it to you. (And in recent posts I have, for several of these topics.) I've thought about and read about and studied each and every issue, and I feel the way I do for good, solid reasons based on the wide reading I've done, the varied news sources I've watched and listened to, and everything I've absorbed from my own life experiences. It's a growing trend, too- look at the states who finally passed pro-gay marriage laws. It's a tidal wave that's going to come to a state near you, and it's not Obama's fault! It's the will of the people, who know that it's time we stop discrimination and start looking out for each other.

I actually believe the Republicans have it right in one area- school choice and vouchers. I taught in the public schools so this is probably sacrilege, but I am all for a wide variety of choices for education. There is no "one size fits all" solution when it comes to our kids; what works for some won't work for others. I think charter schools are a fantastic idea, even though some of them don't work out. You hear about them on the news- usually when they are closing down. But there are good ones, too, the ones people fight to get their kids into. Public schools still need our support and making them the best they can be should be a national priority, and vouchers and charter schools should never take away from that, but there should also be options. My kids, for instance, all started out homeschooled. The Eldest went into a dual enrollment program when she was 16 and started taking classes at our local community college. (She's finishing up her AA degree there next month.) Martha, Jr., now that she's in 6th grade, started virtual school. The Wild Child is still homeschooling but he's working with a private tutor on his reading due to his learning disabilities. We're not purely homeschooling any of them at this point because I am doing my best to meet their individual needs. I love that I have the options out there to make the best choices for them.

So we can find common ground. We are all Americans, and we all want to live in a great country. It's not going to happen if we keep up with the hatred, because as one great Republican stated, "a house divided against itself can not stand". (And he was quoting the Bible when he said that.) I challenge you- if you witness hatred, either from a news person, on Facebook, on a web site, wherever you find it, turn it off, block it, turn away. Reject those politicians who are spewing hatred and who refuse to compromise for any reason. Remember the McCarthy era and how many lives were destroyed because politicians ran rampant with hatred, and don't let it happen again.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I am Pro Choice

I am pro choice for a lot of reasons, so I'll wade right into a big one. I am pro choice because I am a mom. I cherish my children and give them everything I possibly can, starting and ending with love. I was fortunate enough to find a partner who is a good father and provides well for all of us, allowing me to stay home and spend more time with my children. They have healthcare, access to a good education, good food to eat, and a solid roof over their heads. They are engaged in numerous enrichment activities, we travel with them, we take them to shows and museums and out into the world, we share our values and teach them to care for others, and we provide them with as much as we possibly can to help them grow into wonderful, caring adults. That makes me pro-choice because I see that these things are something every child should have. Every child should be wanted and loved and given a decent start in life, whether with biological parents or adoptive parents, a single parent or same-sex parents.

Some believe life begins at conception. Like the decision handed down in Roe v. Wade, I believe life begins at viability outside the womb, not at conception. (And that viability is getting earlier and earlier thanks to modern medicine.) If life begins at conception, then why not take it back a step and say every egg in a woman's body is a viable life, after all it's only the difference of one cell, so that anything preventing fertilization should be outlawed. (And believe me, there are politicians who are going there.) Well, keep going just one step further- how about laws so that every woman of childbearing age should be doing just that- bearing children, because all of those eggs were placed in her body and they should all have a chance. We should all be like Michelle Duggar and have "19 Kids and Counting". (She is someone I admire, don't get me wrong, but I don't know many other women who could have 19 kids!!!) Where does it end?

Let's now go back in time several decades, to the time when abortion was illegal in the United States. It's not a time I remember well; I was 10 when Roe v. Wade was decided, but I've read about it and heard it discussed. Prior to Roe v. Wade, women still sought abortions. They went to back alley butchers and frequently died, so we lost the baby and the woman. Even after Roe v. Wade, when unable to obtain a legal, safe abortion due to parental consent laws, teen girls like Becky Bell died. She was a 17 year old girl, just starting her life, only to have it cut short by an illegal, unsafe abortion. No baby, no Becky.

Then there is the religious aspect. I understand and respect that some people believe it is a sin to end a pregnancy. So, don't have an abortion. That's an absolutely wonderful choice for people who feel this way. But don't expect me to follow your religious laws. I don't believe in your religion, and I don't have to. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion because our founding fathers knew what it meant to be governed by religion. England fought wars over which religion would be in control of the country- Protestant or Catholic. The Christian Taliban is a phrase that's been bandied about on the internet and it's not far off. The Taliban wants religious rule in their countries; the Christian right wants the same thing here. How horrific, in either case! Freedom of religion, as others have stated before me, also means freedom FROM religion. Again- I DO NOT believe in YOUR religion and I should not have to live under YOUR religious laws. You can live that way if you choose, and more power to you, but I don't have to. (And gay couples shouldn't have to either, but that's a post for another day.)

That goes for contraception, too. Healthcare should cover it, even if the healthcare is provided by a religious institution. After all, if their employees are good religious types, they won't actually use it or anything. And as for those "I don't want to pay for your contraceptives" types, well, I don't want to pay for your Viagra, either. Or your vasectomies, for that matter. Plus would you stop a minute and consider this- there are times when birth control pills are prescribed for purely medical reasons that have nothing to do with contraception. What then? Should insurance pay then? How will you differentiate? Gonna put little meters in the woman to see if she is really suffering from the medical difficulties she says she is? It's ridiculous.

It's not about the babies, either, in spite of what you might believe. If it were about the babies then every baby would have healthcare, and food, and a decent education once they are born, even if their parents are incapable of providing these things for them. There wouldn't be any children on adoption waiting lists. Foster care would be almost unnecessary. Many, many people have pointed out the irony in the Republican party platform- they care about the unborn but not the born.

Then there are the extremists. They are cropping up more and more lately, Todd Akin, for instance. Remember Todd? He's running for the senate in Missouri. He thinks women should be forced to bear children conceived from rape. So, a woman is living her life, minding her own business, keeping that aspirin between her knees, but she's raped. Maybe she's barely hanging on, supporting herself but not much left over, and now she's forced to have a baby she never asked for or wanted. Then, to add insult to injury, there are several states where the rapist-father gets parental rights! That's correct- the woman will have to see her child go off with a man she knows is a rapist. Now, let me ask you, on what planet is that OK? It's not this one, I'll tell you that. It's so wrong on so many levels I don't even have words.

I'm also pro-choice because I believe a woman's decisions about whether or not to have children at a given time are her own. Making abortion illegal is just another way to control women. Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant, and they won't be out there bothering the rest of the good old boys about things like equal pay and all that rot. Take away their right to decide what happens to their body and treat them like children, make them do what you think they should do.

Finally, what are the consequences? Say a woman gets an illegal abortion. Of course the practitioner is going to jail, but for how long? Then what about the woman? How long are you going to jail a desperate 16 year old who was too scared to carry a baby to term? How long are you going to jail a mom who already has kids, but feels she can't take care of another one because she's barely holding on already? How long will she be in jail, away from her children? Or are you just going to hang them, end it quick? What will the consequences be for women who want to make their own decisions?

Think it through, please.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Letter to the Editor

Bill O'Reilly wrote a column that made me so mad!! I am so fired up I had to write a letter to the editor. I doubt it will get published (it exceeds their suggested 200 words... by a lot) but here it is:

I am writing in reference to Bill O’Reilly’s article published Saturday, November 03, 2012 with the title “Major Lesson of Sandy: self-reliance, not government”. While Mr. O’Reilly makes two good points early in his article, and in spite of having lived through it, he fails to understand completely the full impact of a storm like Sandy. His two points: “First: no government agency can help you when disaster strikes. Any assistance will be after the fact…”. Well, yes, first responders should not risk their own lives to go out in a storm and we can’t expect them to. If the worst happens during the height of a disaster, unfortunately we are on our own. “Second: In order to ride out any storm effectively you should be self-reliant and resilient. That means you have to anticipate problems and have some solutions at the ready.” On the surface, that is a good lesson to learn.

But Mr. O’Reilly continues, and this is where he loses me. It seems the worst he suffered during Sandy was a loss of power and a malfunctioning generator. He was able to get it fixed because he had connections and continued blithely on his self-congratulatory way. He did not mention any damage to his home or car. He did not mention any other difficulties he is facing in the aftermath other than losing power. So now he’s an expert and proceeds to inform us all that we each should be just as self-reliant as he is. We should all have generators and people we can call at a moment’s notice to fix them if they break, like he does, and we should never expect the government to help us in any way.

Is the man totally blind? Is he completely insulated from what is happening around him? Entire neighborhoods have washed away. Homes and businesses have been lost. All the preparation in the world is no use if your house is gone, your neighborhood is gone, your car has been totaled, your generator has blown away, all of your supplies have been buried in the rubble, your business is wiped out, and all you have left is the shirt on your back. I’m prepared for hurricanes; I have food reserves, (which I donate when the season is over) I keep my car gassed up during hurricane season, I have storm shutters, and I have a generator, but I also understand that all of that can be gone in an instant if “The Big One” hits. A big one like Andrew, for instance.

I lived through Andrew. My parents lost their home but were fortunate enough to have relatives to take them in. Their cars were fine so they were able to get to that relative’s home, then to work. My mother was a nurse and my step-father was a telephone company employee so they had jobs after the storm. They were able to rebuild but are forever scarred from dealing with the trauma of losing so much, and they were better off than a lot of people. They didn’t have to rely on the government because they had a safety net in the form of family. They had insurance that paid their claim; they were lucky. So many lost so much more.

So I prepare for hurricanes; how can I not after Andrew? I do it with the understanding that it is my responsibility to be self sufficient, like Mr. O’Reilly talks about, as much as I possibly can. I can look after myself and my family if I only lose power, like Mr. O’Reilly, and I won’t be a drain on precious resources needed elsewhere. But I also know that if I lose everything, my neighbors lose everything, and my safety nets are all blown away, I can look to FEMA and organizations like the Red Cross for a helping hand as I try to put my life back together. That comfort is priceless beyond words.