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.

A Word on Justin Beiber’s Mom


Don’t worry…I do not have Beiber fever, and I am not one of those creepy cougar types who goes all gaga over a teenaged pop star.

Honestly, I’ve never really paid too much attention to the Justin Beiber phenomenon other than the basics. I know he was discovered because of a YouTube video his mom posted. I can see he’s pretty talented and a cutie patootie. He seems to have a good sense of humor when I’ve seen him on The Ellen Show and I respect the fact that he took time out of his day last week to acknowledge a young super-fan who passed away.

Basically, he seems like a sweet kid who hasn’t gotten too wrapped up in his fame, which is, at least in part,  a testament to his mom.

It wasn’t until the past week or so that I understood her story…a teenaged mom, raising a son on her own and she herself the victim of longstanding sexual abuse. Not exactly the blueprint for having a successful outcome to one’s life.

What is interesting is the rest of the story… She found religion and made different choices for herself than she had in the past. She concentrated on raising her son, and he turned into Justin Beieber. I, for one, am happy for her and very impressed with the struggles of her life and how she’s handled them so far.

Her memoir was recently released and she has been making the rounds doing interviews about her story. One topic that invariably comes up is her unplanned pregnancy, and her choice to continue the pregnancy in the face of pressure from her family to abort.

That is where the Pro Life camp picks up the thread of the story for their own purposes. I have had several postings on my FaceBook wall with basically the same message of “See what she would have lost if she’d  had an abortion.” (Implied here is that having an abortion would have been taking the easy way out)…..and that’s where you lose me.

We’ve seen this argument before….Tim Tebow’s mom comes to mind….and the anecdote about a college professor posing a scenario to his class in which they decide to abort a fetus that would have turned into Beethoven…such a flawed and simplistic argument for such a complex topic. As if a woman should keep a pregnancy in case they win the gifted human lottery and produce a child that becomes famous.

Because let’s face it, you could just as easily take the story of Ted Bundy‘s mom or Osama Bin Laden‘s mom or even Hitler’s mom (Hard to imagine Adolf Hitler having a mom isn’t it?) and say, “Wow, how many people would be alive  today if his mother had had an abortion.” Just a different lottery….in this case gifted for evil instead of good. It’s just as ridiculous an argument.

Here’s the thing…abortion is an immensely personal decision. No one should be pressured into getting one when they want to carry a pregnancy and bring a child into the world, and no one should be pressured to carry a pregnancy they feel they cannot.

As a woman, and a healthcare provider I am beside myself. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to make a choice about whether or not to continue a pregnancy, both of mine were planned and desired. My gut reaction is that I don’t think I could have an abortion, but  would I feel differently if I were raped and became pregnant or if the fetus I carried had anomalies which would have been incompatible with life, or if my life was in jeopardy which would mean risking leaving the two kids I do have without a mother? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone truly knows what they would do until they are in that situation.

But damn it, I have the right to make that decision. I believe that my husband has a right to some input. That’s it. No one else. Not my friends, relatives and certainly not the politicians in my state or my country. I am insulted that anyone thinks they know better than me about what goes on inside my body, and more importantly (as I am nearing the end of my reproductive capabilities) I am scared for my daughter and for any future granddaughters and great granddaughters I may have. I just shake my head in disbelief that they may live in a country that has stripped them of autonomy over their reproductive lives.

Honestly, I have no problem with anyone telling their story of how they could have had an abortion, and are so grateful that they didn’t. Nor do I have a problem with anyone telling a story about why they had an abortion and why it was the right decision for them. Everyone deserves to know their options and get many points of view, but when it comes down to it, everyone also deserves to be able to make their own decisions.

Did You Miss Me?


Clearly, I overestimated my ability to work, go to graduate school and write for fun. Since I last wrote about my brush with youth, I found myself hunkered down under a pile of books, research articles and study guides desperately trying to meet my course deadlines while juggling other responsibilities. Happily I can report that I passed all of my courses with flying colors and am now on break for a couple of weeks so I can spend some time writing for fun.

Things I wish I could have written about while studying:

1.) Rep. Todd Akin‘s ridiculous comment about “legitimate rape” which was only outdone by the comment of Pensylvania‘s Senate Candidate Tom Smith, who said that having his daughter come to him with an unplanned pregnancy is similar to what a father is faced with if his daughter is raped and becomes pregnant by that rape.

I may have to come back to that one.

2.) Clint Eastwood losing his mind.

Nothing to write at this point. You either watched in horror or missed it, but I highly recommend going to YouTube to see Jon Stewart‘s take on it.

3.) My town’s new high school football stadium. My friends from the Northeast would not recognize me come Friday nights in the fall because I turn into the looniest Texas Football looney there is. Our town has a brand spanking new stadium that cost $60 million dollars. I understand there is a lot of eye rolling and even some outrage about that, but I need a chance to set the record straight!

4.) Governor Romney’s secretly taped conversation in which he talks about non-tax paying Americans and why he’ll never reach them.

So much to say here, and I will definitely get to it, but here is my big question to all of my Republican friends out there (Which I am going to link back to my town’s high school football team):

In my rather large town there is only 1 high school which means that there is a huge number of kids funneling into the system as they get older. The most competitive activity they can get into and the one that is most important to most of the town is football, so you know that the varsity football team has the best of the best players, and even the second string is pretty damn good.

So why is it, in a nation as large as ours which is 50% (ish) politically conservative, can we not whittle down the field to one candidate who is the best and brightest the Republican Party has to offer? I’m not like a lot of my Democratic friends who like nothing more than to bash the Republican Party…..I tend to the liberal, but I understand fiscal conservatism and certainly support it in some circumstances. I have to believe that there are Republicans out there who can be as charismatic and well spoken as President Obama. Seriously, at this point the message of the party can’t even get out because of all of the mis-steps and out and out errors put forth by the candidates. (Not to mention the fact that all of the stuff that Republicans used to be good at, like foreign policy and budget…is overshadowed by morality issues.) Republicans, please do a better job. I beg you. And I think it’s too late this go around.

5.) Chik-Fil-A has (possibly…it’s not super clear) reversed it’s stance on the funding of groups that work against gay marriage initiatives. Love to hear this if it’s true, and the reports are good enough for my daughter who is happy that she can now eat there without feeling guilty.

6.) Is something I never thought I’d write about and will be the topic of my next blog…


Yup, Justin Bieber’s mom. Stay tuned!

Not Sure if I Feel Old, or Invigorated


I’ll warn you that I’m in a sentimental mood.

I haven’t blogged for more than two weeks, for two reasons,

1.) I’ve been writing a lot for school which makes for less motivation to write for fun. (My first term is going very well, thanks for asking.)

2.)Politics has me down, and I am really not motivated to write about that. Between the commercials, and telephone calls I’m already getting, I wish I could wake up in December and skip this whole election season.

Saturday, I took a break from studying and news watching to volunteer for my daughter’s high school band‘s annual march-a-thon. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to volunteer very much during the school year, I consented to the job they have the hardest time filling, marching alongside the band for the whole route. Everyone told me I was crazy for doing it, but hey, someone’s got to.

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

First of all let me fill you in on the high school marching band in my town. The Allen Escadrille is the largest marching band in the country with over 800 (yes, 800) members including the color guard and drill team. Every year they hold a march-a-thon to raise funds for their spring trip, and march 10 miles in August in TexasYee haw, and God bless America.

Confession…

I LOVED every minute of it.

For as little personal musical experience and talent as I have, I still consider myself a band geek, so I thoroughly enjoyed marching alongside the kids, listening to them play and living a bit vicariously through them. 10 miles, and they spent every bit of it playing music and performing these little marching chants and laughing and being silly. People from town line the parade route to cheer them on and spray them down with hoses to cool them off. It’s an event with a lot of joy and great energy. (It didn’t hurt that it was only in the 80s and overcast. The joy probably wears off around mile 4 when it’s 110 degrees out.)

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

Another confession…

I’m really kind of a jerk when it comes to my tolerance of teenaged shenanigans. I’d rather have peace and quiet, which tend to be in short supply when a group of teenagers get together. I feel badly that I feel that way, but I do.

Today was a different story. Maybe because the march-a-thon is all about them. Maybe I was in band geek heaven so I was feeling in a particularly generous mood. Who knows? I just marched alongside them and soaked in the fun and free spirited vibe they were giving off.

Midway through the march-a-thon the kids get loaded up onto buses (23 of them) and travel across town to do the second half of the march. I happened to be the only adult aside from the bus driver on my bus, and I did my best to be inconspicuous.

The music was turned up and the kids were dancing in their seats and singing. I smiled to myself as I watched, remembering my own high school days (mostly) fondly. Remembering when I could be silly with my friends and sing at the top of my lungs in public without anyone looking at me like I was crazy (or at least not caring if they thought I was crazy). Watching the looks on their faces as they sang the un-edited versions of the song on the radio, that tiny bit of rebellion giving them an extra twinkle in their eyes…especially when Enrique Ingelsias’s “Tonight I’m Loving You” came on. (If you don’t know the real lyrics, I’ll let you discover them on YouTube or Google.)

Next up was the song “We Are Young” by the band fun., and the whole bus erupted into singing. Just unrestrained, unselfconscious singing. The girls and the boys both singing that anthem to youth and wild behavior, and I couldn’t help but sit there and think about how little they understand the freedom they have being the age they are. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young.

But, as I’m writing this, I surely do hope that every one of those kids on the bus carry the sentiment of the refrain of that song with them tonight, and every day and night for as long as they can.

And I hope that just a little bit of that rubbed off on me.

As a post script to this story, let me say that while I felt fantastic for the whole 10 mile march and from basking in youthful exuberance, I got home and dutifully sat down for about an hour to study. After which time I got up, or should I say, tried to get up from the couch. Every muscle was sore and tight…ah well, forty is a far cry from sixteen I guess, at least physically. All I can say is, thank goodness for Advil and warm soaks…but I’ll be back to volunteer next year, you can count on it.

To Chik-fil-A or To Not Chik-fil-A, That Is the Question


VS.

A friend e-mailed me today asking if The Passionate Moderate was going to wade in to the Chik-fil-A conversation. I had been mulling it over, but her e-mail really got me thinking about it more. To be honest, I had been pretty ambivalent about the whole controversy, mostly because I never eat at Chik-fil-A anyway so my reasons for not doing so are irrelevant.

As you may know from my previous posts, I am very much in favor of marriage equality. My poor daughter who is all about gay rights is also a Chik-fil-A lover and has decided that she can’t patronize the restaurant any more because it isn’t in line with her most strongly held beliefs. I’m really proud of her for taking a stand, especially because it’s been so hard for her. Giving up Chik-fil-A is really a sacrifice.

That said, I’m not jumping on the boycott bandwagon.

Here’s why…

First of all, I’m not entirely happy with the snarky tone this boycott has taken. It’s all gotten a bit sanctimonious if you ask me. The owners of Chik-fil-A have the right to their opinion, and each of us has a right, as consumers, to voice our opinions through our dollars. If we like a company‘s product, and/or philosophy we buy it; if we don’t we don’t. More on that in a minute.

Secondly, most free-standing Chik-fil-A restaurants have independent operators who may or may not share the founder’s views on gay rights and marriage equality. I kind of hate the idea that someone who is brave enough to start a business risks failing because of issues outside of their control. Yes, yes, I know what you’re about to say. They should research the company they are signing on with, and that’s life. True, but I still don’t like it. I know that one of the owners a Chik-fil-A in my super conservative part of the world is in fact quite liberal. A tough situation.

The biggest reason I have for not necessarily jumping of the anti-Chik-fil-A train can be summed up in this great Gene Wilder meme posted on Facebook  earlier this week:

There it is in a nutshell.

In the highly consumer driven culture of the United States we buy a wide variety of products from many countries. We invest in companies we may not know a thing about. We do support the oil-rich and women’s rights poor countries of the Middle East. We buy cheaper products from China which has an awful human rights record, and on and on it goes. Where does your food come from? Where do your clothes come from? What companies do you invest in and what is their record domestically and/or around the world? It’s funny how we can ignore some  human rights abuses and we get so fired up over others. Dare I even mention our own government and what may or may not go on behind closed doors… torture, covert missions, lobbying, and not to mention how our tax dollars are spent?. How many examples do I need to give to make the point? We can make moral decisions in just about every area in our lives; to actually think about it is daunting. It boils down to the proverb our moms always told us, “Pick your battles”.

So I guess what I’m saying is that a boycott like this always seems a bit hypocritical to me. We can get super self-righteous over one issue while ignoring a mountain of issues behind us,  and while we should take stands for what we believe it and seek to shed light on the issues that concern us, maybe we do it in a spirit of meekness that acknowledges we are only making a tiny difference but that we hope that all of us making our tiny differences together will turn into a world changing force for good.

So if you’re moved to give up Chik-fil-A and take a stand. Good for you. Let people know why you’re doing what you’re doing and then let it go. They will either make their own change or not based on what moves them. And, if you’re really feeling the stress of not eating there anymore there are fantastic fake Chik-fil-A chicken recipes on Pinterest.

(The secret is in the pickle juice!)

Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you decided to take your business elsewhere or are you supporting Chik-fil-A? What other issues have you taken a stand on? We’d all love to know, and don’t forget to like or share this article!

Attempting to Be Fair and Balanced


 

I promised a “con” view of Obamacare, and this is the most well thought out one I’ve found. Definitely gives us something to think about.