Why I Love America


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Today saw the inauguration of Barak Obama as a second term President of the United States, a peaceful re-affirmation of his leadership of this country for the next four years. I was happy to see him sworn in, but I would have been happy to have seen Mitt Romney sworn in as well.

Why?

Because every time there in an inauguration I am reminded of how lucky we are in this country to have peaceful elections and transitions of power without bloodshed (literally, if not figuratively).

The swearing in ceremony and all of the celebration that goes along with it, is not celebrating any one person, but, to me, is a celebration of the greatness of our system of government as flawed as it might be at times.

That’s all I have to say tonight. I am so very grateful to be American. I am grateful to be able to vote. I am grateful to be able to express my opinion in public, on Facebook or in this blog.

Mostly I am grateful that I don’t have to fear for my life or the lives of my loved ones with every change in power in my country.

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A Word of Thanks for a Great 2012


2012 has come to an end and it has been a year of change for me. In the midst of what may have been my mid-life crisis, I decided to go to graduate school and start this little blog as a way to voice the opinions I don’t always feel I can voice in my everyday life. Thank you to all who have visited, commented and followed….I am grateful you found me.

WordPress sends its bloggers a year end report and I’m sharing it with you. In a nutshell, The Passionate Moderate received 10,000 views in 101 countries. I’m pretty excited about that and I hope to continue to write posts worth reading in 2013.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

We Need To Talk About Connecticut


Capturing the grief that is so overwhelming we slump over without strength.

Capturing the grief that is so overwhelming we slump over without strength.

This post is going to be hard to write. I have too much to say and not enough writing ability to say it the way I think it. I’m heartbroken, but worse, I feel frustrated and helpless.

Why helpless?

Helpless because this is going to happen again and again. The variables that go into a situation where an individual decides to kill innocent people as some kind of statement are too diverse for there to be an easy fix. If you look at Facebook, of course, you’ll find all sorts of solutions.

  • better gun control
  • more people carrying guns
  • better parenting
  • better school security
  • more religion in schools
  • less violent video games and media

I could go on and on.

It’s easy to put a firm statement out there about what needs to happen so this doesn’t happen again. It’s human nature. If we think we know the solution then we can control the problem, and who wouldn’t want to feel like they have control over this problem? We never want to think of ourselves or our kids in that kind of mortal danger. We’d be paralyzed if we thought about all of the “what ifs” every day.

The primary issue here is not gun control, although I do believe it has a role to play, and it is certainly not about school prayer. Seriously, if you are trying to tell me that God needs to teach us a lesson by having someone kill 6 & 7 year olds and their teachers, then you need to take a hard look at the God you believe in.

WTF? Do people who post this think of the ramifications of what this actually means???

WTF? Do people who post this think of the ramifications of what this actually means???

The issue here is mental illness, and the lack of resources available to help individuals and families who are dealing with it. Even though it seems like there is an overabundance of little pills for all kinds of mental problems like depression and anxiety there is actually very little help for and understanding of major psychiatric issues and personality disorders. Add into that, the difficulty in getting services for psychiatric disorders and the stigma surrounding mental illness, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Psychosis

Addressing mental illness is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is fraught with difficulties. What do we do with a child who displays sociopathic signs? Lock them up and throw away the key…just in case? You may be thinking that, yes, that is exactly what we need to do to keep everyone safe, but what if it was your child? They haven’t done anything yet. You love them, and you’re scared of them at the same time. Do you condemn them to an institution? Do you hope for the best? Who do you turn to for help when everyone looks at you strangely when your child acts out? When everyone blames you because that is easier than admitting that mental illness is random?

I am not ashamed to admit that many members of my family have struggled with varying degrees of mental illness. Some have gotten better with intervention, some haven’t. Some refuse intervention, but they are adults and that is their right, I guess. Unlike physical illness, mental illness is still shrouded in shame and secrecy. It’s interesting to me how no one blames a parent if their kid gets leukemia, but if the child is diagnosed as bipolar then the parents must have done something to cause it. This type of judgmental attitude needs to change.

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As it stands, I don’t know what the answer is, unless it is to say that there is no one answer, but opening up about mental illness and how to treat it is a big step in the right direction.

To quote President Obama from his Newtown Speech:

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

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If you are a reader, I would like to suggest you read “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. It is a gripping and chilling book about a mother whose son has committed a mass murder at his high school. The story deals with the aftermath she must face but also tells the story of how she knew there was something wrong with him from early childhood and the desperation she feels to understand and change it.

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From the blogosphere, I think everyone needs to read this. It is currently making the rounds on Facebook under the title: “I am Adam Lanza’s Mom

http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/

Written by a mom who has a son who, by all accounts could grow up to be another name in the news. As a mother I am so sad for her, but also want to be sure no one ever gets hurt by her son. I hope that this family gets the help they need so they can all be at peace. A needed perspective from the other side of the story.

Finally, I wanted to confess, I hadn’t cried about this news story since it broke. I was just to stunned to process it properly. Watching the President’s speech from Newtown, got me choked up, until he read the names of those precious babies who were snatched so violently from this world. Then I was sobbing, for the fear they must have felt, and for the anguish their parents are feeling now. And yes, I even feel a great deal of compassion for the shooter’s father and brother. They are left alone, without answers and I imagine a great deal of guilt.

Thank you for making it this far. There are a lot of blogs being written right now on this subject. If you feel the way I feel, please like or comment, but most of all share. Get the word out and drown some of the noise out there on the internet.

Now, if you’re a parent go and give your kid an extra squeeze. They will look at you like you’re crazy (at least mine did) but that is because they are blissfully ignorant of the fragility of life, and that is part of what makes them beautiful and precious.

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Ann Coulter and the Republican Problem


I can hardly stand to listen to Ann Coulter. She is a hot mess.

Needless to say after Tuesday night she was despondent and took to the airwaves lamenting Mitt Romney‘s loss and discussing what she views as the problem that the Republican party has stating,

Mitt Romney was the president we needed right now, and I think it is so sad that we are going to be deprived of his brain power, of his skills in turning companies around, turning the Olympics around, his idea and his kindness for being able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas. It is interested in handouts.

It may be true that Mitt Romney was the president we needed, but she is wrong about why he is not packing up for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Most Americans are not looking for a handout; they are being given an impossible choice: economics or civil rights?

Those of us who consider ourselves political moderates often feel the same way. We have  great deal of concern over the economy, fiscal responsibility in government and the size of the national debt. We also tend to be socially liberal: in favor of marriage equality, reproductive rights, and if not fully pro-choice at least understanding that the argument has gray areas including issues of rape, and incest.

So on Tuesday anyone who feels this way had to decide where their priorities lie, and much to the chagrin of conservatives everywhere, a majority decided that civil rights had to trump economic concerns. Therein lies the Republican Party’s problem. When they aligned themselves with social ultra-conservatives they left huge groups of voters either without a reason to vote for them or with serious concerns about what a vote for them would mean. Women voters, Hispanic voters, LGBT voters, and the voters who care about them. In fact, the only demographic in which Mitt Romney soundly beat Barak Obama was white male voters, and that is only a small part of the population that makes up this nation.

I have found my Facebook wall to be a disheartening place all week. People who I care about and respect calling Obama voters stupid and idiotic. The level of anger was breathtaking and says one thing loud and clear to me: Everyone is happy to live in a democracy when they are in the majority, but boy, if you find yourself in the minority, democracy doesn’t seem quite so rosy anymore.

And whether you agree or disagree, conservative social values are quickly becoming a minority viewpoint. I’m not making a commentary on whether those values are correct or incorrect; I’ve made my own personal feelings pretty clear in other blog posts, and I’m not in any way saying that anyone needs to compromise their values in their own lives. However, facts are facts, and as long as the social conservatives are speaking more loudly for the Republican party than the fiscal conservatives, Republicans are going to have a hard time getting elected to the office of President.

It’s human nature to want people to see the world as you do, and when we feel passionately about a subject it’s often hard to understand how anyone could feel any differently. Sometimes, though, we have to take a step back and see the big picture…to see the forest, not just the trees…to understand that there is the world we might wish we lived in and the world that we actually do live in. To ignore that is not clinging to your ideals, it is sticking your head in the sand.

If there is anything all of us can agree on it is that politics in this nation is a mess. Everything that gets done or doesn’t get done is about what it will mean in the next election cycle, and that brings me to the second part of the Republican problem. Their spokespeople say they want bipartisanship and our government to work together for compromise.

To which I say:

When President Obama and Governor Chris Christie were walking through the rubble of New Jersey a few days before the election, how did you feel? What did you think bout Christie’s respectfulness and appreciation of Obama coming to see first-hand the destruction of the storm? The photo ops?

Because what I heard was a lot of complaining about how he shouldn’t have done that and shame on him for not keeping his distance.

I thought it was great. Not because I think it made Obama look good (which it did), but because Governor Christie did the right thing, in spite of the flack I’m sure he know he was going to get because of it. It was about getting a job done despite major ideological differences. It was about Obama prioritizing a trip to help citizens who were likely voting for him anyway, and leaving other potentially more beneficial campaign stops to do what was right.

That is what is needed at ALL levels of government right now. Men and women who are willing to hurt themselves or help the other party to get done what needs to get done, because let’s face it, we won’t be able to go on like this for much longer.

Shower the People


I dutifully posted a reminder on my FaceBook wall to watch last night’s final presidential debate.

However, I didn’t watch it myself, and here’s why.

I had better things to do, and not in the snarky sense of “debates suck and why would I watch” but in the very real sense of I had a choice to sit and watch my daughter practice for a band competition or watch the debate and I chose my daughter.

I’m a band geek at heart, so having a child in the largest marching band in the country is pretty exciting for me. They are also deep into marching competition practices which means they are working hard and perfecting every section of their show. And my daughter is a great marcher. And I love her. And I want to show her how much watching her do what she loves makes me happy.

The Allen High School Band at their last competition a week and a half ago.

I am most definitely not one of those super self sacrificing uber-moms. I wish I was, but I care too much about my own life to be totally selfless. (If you’re a fan of the Divergent books, you know I would never be in Abnegation.) I do however try to find balance between the time I spend on me and the time I devote to the people I love, and sometimes, the issues of the world just do not fit into that equation.

As much as I believe it’s important to be informed and news savvy, I also believe in retreating to that little cocoon that is my husband and kids…the rest of the world be damned.

This weekend an acquaintance of mine lost a child to SIDS, and an acquaintance of my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. When things like that happens, it is human nature to stop and think about your own mortality and the mortality of the people you love. We can’t always live each day like it’s our last, but we remember to appreciate that the time we have together is limited and do our very best to enjoy it.

And that it why I spent my evening with friends and with great music instead of fuming over the TV.

And I don’t regret it one. little. bit.

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The Vice-Presidential Debate, or “Honey, Can you Get Me the Tums?”


I don’t know how many people will know this term, but I have, what in my family is known as “agita” which is Portuguese for “stir” and basically means I’m agitated or all stirred up.

I had a tough time watching the debate last night for several reasons.

First, and least importantly, just looking at Biden and Ryan is off putting. If I had muted the debate and just watched the split screen of each of their faces I would have been almost as aggravated as I was with the sound on. I would have wondered what was so funny that Biden was LOLing every 10 seconds, and as for Ryan,  I see the type of look he was giving Biden on my teenagers’ faces on a regular basis and it’s the type of look that makes me want to slap it off whatever face I see it on. ( I control myself though!)

This is the look I see on my kids’ faces when they are thinking “How did someone as stupid as you ever manage to keep me alive this long?”

Hey Joe, can we stop the histrionics? (And BTW, you went a little too far on the tooth whitening this time.)

Second, the rhetoric, the rhetoric, the rhetoric. We are going to hear the same dozen or so catch-phrases over the next month until we run screaming from our televisions.

“The 47%”

“The Medicaid Death Panels”

“The tax studies (5 or 6 depending on the debate)”

“The $5 trillion tax cut”

And on and on it goes….and basically any non-partisan website will tell you that the facts and figures behind these catch-phrases are, at best, a stretching of the truth and at worst, out and out lies. Both sides are doing it, and it is such a perversion of what politics should be that it makes my stomach hurt.

But the thing that makes my stomach hurt even more are the folks who are gobbling up these “facts” without questioning them at all.

My FaceBook wall is a funny place. I grew up in New England and I now live in Texas. As you can imagine I have friends all over the political spectrum. So reading the posts regarding the debate was interesting to say the least.

What’s clear to me is that if someone’s mind is already made up, regardless of which side it’s made up for, nothing the other side can say is going to be given any consideration. Meanwhile, all of the BS coming out of the mouth of the candidate that person is backing is accepted without question.

It’s time for us to be more discerning voters. You may be conservative or liberal at heart, and you may back one party for the rest of your life, but that does not mean you should endorse the way the facts about the things most important to your country are distorted. Ask yourself this. If your child came home with a story that was as far off from the reality of what happened as the stories the candidates are telling us, you’d discipline them for lying.

We need to do the same thing with the men and women who mean to lead us.

Please, I beg you, check your facts….not on a website sponsored by any party, or by NBC or FOX, go to factcheck.org or politifact.com/truth-o-meter, or any other nonpartisan website. They are out there. It will probably not change your mind about who you’d like to vote for, but at least you’d be voting on fact rather than fiction.

 

The Best $78 Million I Ever Voted For


Oh, my hackles are up! I understand that folks all over the country have been making fun of my town, and our new high school football stadium.

Yes, it’s big and fancy.

Yes, it cost 60 million dollars.

Hell, no, I have no problem with it.

My guess is that if you haven’t been in Allen, TX you hear $60 million dollar high school football stadium, and you roll your eyes assuming that money that could (and should) have been spent on improving schools was sacrificed at the alter of football worship. I probably would have felt the same way if I didn’t live here.

I’d like to set the record straight, because I think that if more school districts could do what we did here in Allen, kids everywhere could benefit.

Let me say right off the bat that I recognize that my town is better off financially than most. Obviously that makes a huge difference in the money that goes into its public school system. That said, I think how our district handled the need for a new stadium was great.

You might have noticed that my title says $78 million, and the stadium cost $60 million. What happened to that other $18 million?….

Before they even broke ground on our fancy, shmancy stadium, the school built a gorgeous new wing onto the high school holding a Performing Arts Center, Art gallery, restaurant (for the kids wanting cooking and hospitality experience before going on to college), a TV studio (for kids interested in communications experience before college), new classrooms for all performing arts and visual arts students, and new classrooms, and labs for students learning what it takes to get into health-care professions.

Blu Restaurant: Where Seniors complete their hospitality practicum.

In short, they did it right. Unlike so many schools that are cutting music and art budgets to the bone, Allen is investing in making sure the Arts are alive and well. It’s impressive, and as a parent who’s children are NOT sports minded kids (both are in the band program), I appreciate that my kids have amazing facilities to learn and perform music.

Photo Courtesy: Yarberry Photography

So what about the stadium? Well, on Friday nights in the fall the whole town gets excited and goes to watch the games. The band, color guard and drill team  (with over 800 members total) perform. Oh yes, then there are the high school students who do all of the camera work for the game, and edit the graphics on the scoreboard, and learn how to sportscast in the booth. In my mind, football is just the event that provides a springboard for opportunities for so many other kids to get some real world experience while they are still in high school.

Photo Courtesy: Yarberry Photography

So yes, I love my new stadium, but I love the foresight of the people who planned ahead for our school district even more. I wish that all kids had the kind of opportunities mine do. Arts, sciences, technology, service careers, and sports too…..they are all fully supported by the school, and that is how it should be.