Saturday, April 14, 2012

I declare a war on wars

Ending warAs if it’s not bad enough that we are in two actual wars, we seem to have a tendency of late to take any contrary viewpoint and turn it into a faux war.

War on Christmas. War on religion. War on traditional marriage. War on women. (It won’t surprise you to know that I think there is a legitimate effort to harm women with restrictive policies, but then I’m what Rush Limbaugh would “affectionately” refer to as a Feminazi. Because standing up for equal rights for women is just like persecution of ‘undesirables,’ death camps, and invading Poland. Just. Like. It.)

Now we’ve got the war on moms, also called the Mommy Wars. I thought we’d been through all this when women started entering the workforce en masse, and we had the discussion about how working women can balance their jobs in the public sector with their jobs at home, bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, and juggle all of these aspects without going batshit crazy. It seemed to have worked itself out pretty well, despite plenty of infighting among women themselves, with moms who stay at home saying that working moms are neglecting their children, or working moms saying that they can’t be really fulfilled unless they also work, and on and on. But things did seem to settle down, for the most part, or we at least reached a truce. The reality is that I’m sure a lot of women would choose to be able stay at home with their kids if they could afford it; it has become increasingly difficult for a family to live on one income, so many moms work out of necessity. Of course, for single moms, that goes without saying.

[Note: I’m sure there is someone sitting there in their cozy little cottage, thinking “Hey! You never had kids, so you can’t write about this! Stop writing! Now! Right now!” I laugh at your demands and your exclamation points. HA! As a woman who supported herself for many years, I feel I have the right to have opinions about women in the workplace. I also have friends who have dealt with these issues. As I’ve written before, you don’t have to have experienced something directly to have opinions on it. So get over it.]

Hostilities have resumed in the Mommy Wars because a Democratic analyst on CNN (Hilary Rosen, a mother of two) said that Mittens’ wife Ann doesn’t understand the plight of working moms, because she’s never worked a day in her life. Cue the outrage! Unleash the uproar! ::sigh:: Listen, it was poorly worded, and it was kind of a dick thing to do. But then it was framed as Democrats ridiculing women who choose to stay home with their kids, and that is just absurd. Rosen clarified her remarks (and Joan Walsh strongly defended Rosen) and I think it’s important to understand what really is going on here.

No one is attacking stay-at-home moms. If a family is able to have the mom (or the dad, if that works for them) not work outside the home, more power to them. Ann Romney could afford to do that—and then some. Did she work hard raising five boys? I don’t doubt it. Did she have struggles to deal with? She sure did...breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. She is, by all accounts, a decent and good woman, and no one is attacking her for choosing to stay home and raise their kids.

Stop all warBut let’s be very clear: it was a choice for Ann Romney. For millions of American mothers, there IS no choice. They must work in order to help pay the bills, or to put money away for their kids’ college expenses. Ann Romney’s hard work in raising five boys and dealing with major health issues are in the context of a very wealthy woman. She undoubtedly had help with the kids, and if you think she was the one doing all the cooking and cleaning in however many houses they own, you are a silly person. She had outstanding health insurance to get her through her medical problems.

Whatever Ann Romney’s struggles are, they are not that of the typical American mom or working woman (whether a mom or not).

Imagine a single mother of three working a minimum wage job, or slightly above minimum wage. She is struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, let alone put money away to send her three kids to college. Her job doesn’t provide health insurance, and when she starts getting progressively weaker, she begins to call in sick a lot. She misses so much work, she gets fired. One day she can’t get out of bed, and her oldest child calls 911. She is taken to ER, and after thousands of dollars in extensive testing, it is determined that she has MS. What is going to happen to her? How will she continue to support her children and how will she care for them?

Now let’s consider a single woman, no children, working a decent job with good health insurance. She left the Midwest for better job prospects and a better climate, so she doesn’t have any relatives in her new location. She’s young and healthy, and she’s putting money away for eventual retirement...and one day she finds a lump in her breast. Surgery, a combination of radiation and chemo, and an eventual bone marrow transplant. Her savings are wiped out, she can’t afford to have anyone come in and help her, but she not only manages to get by, she makes a full recovery. But she’s got a half a million dollars in medical bills to pay off, and that’s going to take her a long, long time.

Now tell me how Ann Romney’s struggles are similar to either of these women. Hypothetical women, but such stories happen every single day in our country. The wife of a multi-millionaire can afford the best health insurance possible, she can afford to pay even a million dollars in medical bills, she can afford help around the house whether she is ill or not, and she can afford to send each and every one of her five children to the best colleges possible. In no way does that mirror the experience of most American women, and although she may empathize with the plight of such women, she is far from Everywoman. Her husband’s policies will not do average American women any favors.

THAT is what Hilary Rosen was trying to say. She was not condemning Ann Romney for staying home to raise her kids. She was not even condemning the Romneys for being multi-millionaires. She was condemning Mitt Romney for being so out of touch with how average people—especially women—are struggling that he has to rely on his wife to relay to him what she hears from people when she’s campaigning, and she was condemning Ann Romney for thinking that her struggles are just the same as working women who don’t have a fortune to rely upon.

So let’s just stop this bogus “war on moms” and the hypocritical outrage coming from people who want to cut programs and assistance for moms who actually have
to work. Mmkay? There is going to be plenty to fight about in the coming months, but let’s keep the sparring in the realm of reality.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nothin’ but good stuff today!

To counteract the bad/sad mojo of my post the other day, this entry is going to be filled with good mojo. And on Friday the Thirteenth, even! Yay!

Ridiculously Photogenic GuyFirst up is Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, the young man who ran in a race and became an internet meme. I don’t know why I was so charmed by this story, but it got even better when it turned out that he’s a pretty decent guy in real life, quite modest, in a five-year relationship with his girlfriend, and will soon be running a marathon for charity. He recently appeared on Good Morning America, and seemed like just a really sweet guy. When he flashes that smile, how can you not smile back? And he's been a very good sport about all of this attention (it seems that he's trying to break into public relations in NYC, so he probably doesn't mind all that much). I think a lot of us liked this story because it’s a matter of something good happening to a nice person; my buddy Mark also thinks it’s because people are tired of all the discord and just wanted a good story. They got it with Zeddie Little...but there was more to come!

SnackmanOur next happy story involves the guy eating chips on the subway in New York. A fight broke out between a man and a woman, and it was starting to get seriously ugly, with kicks to the chest (and maybe elsewhere, I don’t know). Snackman calmly stepped in between the two and kept them from going at each other, without spilling a single chip. Indeed, he just kept eating those chips, imperturbable in the face of angry chaos all around him. He averted any further physical confrontation, all without saying a word. Hey, he couldn’t, because he was eating those chips! This is a great example of how people can make a difference without being confrontational (I can think of a few people who need a lesson in being nonconfrontational!) and without even saying a word. Charles Sonder’s (yes, Snackman’s true identity has been revealed) reward was not only knowing that he stopped further physical harm from happening to these people but he also became Snackman the internet meme! Thank you, Snackman. Us citizens will carry on.

Cory BookerBut wait...there’s more! Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker (who could probably qualify as another Ridiculously Photogenic Guy) was heading home Thursday night and found that his next-door neighbor’s house was on fire. Most of the people were out of the house, but one daughter remained inside. Ignoring his security detail, who tried to hold him back, Booker entered the burning house and managed to find her in an upstairs bedroom when she cried out. He got her, slung her over his shoulder, and was able to make it out of the house. A few people, including Booker and his neighbor, were treated for burns and smoke inhalation. Not only was Cory Booker a hero during last year’s blizzard (he helped people get needed supplies when they were snowed in) and Hurricane Irene (he went knocking on doors to get people evacuated), now he puts on a superhero cape and actually enters a burning building to save one of his neighbors. Damn, Cory Booker!

These are the kinds of stories that make us all smile and renew our hope for humanity. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy may not have rescued anyone, but he’s obviously a decent person who is trying to do good for others. Snackman calmly and quietly and chippily intervened and calmed a volatile situation. And Cory Booker, well...he went into a freakin’ HOUSE ON FIRE and pulled someone out! Damn, Cory Booker! (Perhaps we’ll be referring to him as President Booker one day...! I’ve thought that ever since I started following him on Twitter, and reading more about him. He’s impressive.) With dire things happening around the globe and continued economic, political, and racial woes here in the U.S., sometimes it’s a welcome gift to hear and read something that just makes you smile. Thank you, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, thank you, Snackman, and thank you, Mayor Booker.

On the home front, the good news continued with my lab results in from my doctor’s visit the other day. The doctor said that my results were “excellent,” and although my total cholesterol was a little high, it was because my HDL (the good cholesterol) was “so high.” I don’t know what genetic quirk causes that in me, but that’s the third or fourth year in a row with those results. The first year it happened, the wellness consultant said that those are the results of a person who works out for like six or eight hours per day. I wasn’t even working out then! So thank you, Mom and Dad, for concocting that special genetic gift! The only bad thing is that my Vitamin D levels are still low (I didn’t know she was going to run that on me, but that’s cool), so I bought a bottle of Vitamin D today. It’s called “Bailey’s.” Haha, no it’s actually a supplement, in pill form. I sure wish I liked milk more, but I just don’t. Unless it’s in White Russians!

Finally, my stupid shoes have shipped! I should get them tomorrow, although probably not in time for tomorrow’s workout. New shoes always make me happy, no matter what kind they are.

In a world filled with bad news, I take my good news and victories where I can. It helps to shore things up for later.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don’t tear down that Wall!

Attack of the TheocratsToday I finished Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms All of Us—And What We Can Do About It by Sean Faircloth. Don’t be put off by the long title. This is a book well worth reading!

Faircloth provides background for Jefferson’s “wall of separation between the church and state” with various quotes and writings from Jefferson, Madison, and other founding fathers. I know there are people who disagree, but I honestly cannot understand how anyone can think that the framers of our republic intended anything other than this separation. Faircloth then discusses the rapid erosion of this barrier over the past three decades or so. With Kennedy’s speech concerning his Catholicism, it seemed that we had left much of this behind us. Then came the religious right in the ‘70s, and they proceeded to do their best to take us back to the Dark Ages...and unfortunately, they have succeeded to a great extent, and are still working hard at it.

Faircloth provides numerous examples of how much we’ve regressed, including our decline in funding for science education and the inevitable loss of standing in the world when it comes to cutting-edge research, but he saves particular ire for parents who refuse medical treatment for their children because of their religious beliefs. I share his outrage, and agree that this medieval practice of treating children like possessions must stop. We must end medical exemptions due to religion when children are involved, and I believe we should prosecute parents who withhold medical treatment.

Sean lays out a detailed plan for how we can plan for a better future and get the message out, and advocates involvement and activism. He makes the point that although it’s a good thing to protest religious displays on public grounds or in government buildings, we might be better off focusing on the physical harm done in the name of religious freedom. I think one of his most important points, Sean Faircloththough, is how to better communicate. We can often be rational and unemotional to the point of being robotic. I am guilty of this myself. He recommends giving a human face to the dangers of religious bias in our laws; for example, instead of merely providing statistics about the increase in cases of preventable infectious diseases because of parents’ religious beliefs or faulty science beliefs, we can provide examples of real children who were harmed by such beliefs. There are real and serious consequences to these things, including deafness, blindness, permanent organ damage, and even death; although we value our objectivity and rationality, sometimes you just need to tell the damn story.

To be perfectly clear, Faircloth’s position is not one of prohibiting religious freedom. In fact, I don’t know of anyone advocating a secular approach to government who demands this. Everyone is free to practice as they wish. But the lines must be drawn at allowing harm to come to children because of religious bias, or basing laws on any religious tome. Those who believe we should have prayer in schools or teach creationism in our science classrooms are invariably advocating for the Judeo-Christian religious viewpoint. I don’t see anyone clamoring for a muezzin calling our children to prayer every day!

Church and stateAnd that is the broader point here: the First Amendment is a protection for the government from religious bias, and a protection for religion from government bias. If the government endorses Christianity, what is to stop them from one day enforcing another religion? A religion that Christians don’t like all that much, or maybe even a religion some Christians think is evil? It is a sword that cuts both ways, and it is to everyone’s best interest, as well as the best interest of our country, that we abide by what Jefferson and other founding fathers intended. I am certain that their intentions did not involve basing our laws on the Bible or any other religious book, planning foreign policy in accordance with Biblical prophecy, or allowing American children to perish because of religious beliefs, no matter which religion.
I think anyone, religious or nonreligious, would benefit from reading this book. Faircloth makes excellent points about the danger of tearing down the Wall. He is non-confrontational, but makes it clear that the senseless maiming and deaths of children or of anyone because of religious bias is simply not an option in 21st century America.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


New shoesI love it when I’m on the ball and can get dinner together early and ready to pop into the oven. I can’t do that with every meal, but when I do some sort of casserole I can, and that Mexican casserole is all done and waiting to be baked! Just need to make guacamole and chop up some green onions.

I’ve been noticing when working out that my feet are starting to hurt a bit. I rotate between about three pairs of shoes, but a couple of the pairs are older, and I’m sure the support is breaking down. When I was working, I’d go through about two pairs of shoes per year, because I spent so much time on my feet. I’m up to twenty minutes on the elliptical, and I’m starting to feel it in my feet. So I got these new shoes on order, and I am not-so-patiently waiting for them to arrive. Hurry up, shoes!

But this is all trivial stuff. I’m trying not to dwell on some things that aren’t so great, and I’m feeling very antsy about it. My Mom is having some tests done to try and figure out why she’s experiencing so much dizziness lately; my mother-in-law is in Missouri, and although she’s having fun, she also went to her husband’s grave and saw the headstone for the first time...that was tough on her, I know; and a very close friend of my family, almost more of a relative, is not doing well tonight. One of my best friends recently had to say goodbye to his Mom. I’m also concerned about some online friends who are going through some tough times.

It’s never easy to deal with such things, whether you’re going through them or friends and family are going through them. All I can do is try to provide as much support and love as possible and let them know that I’m thinking of them and will do what I can to help. In order to not let myself get too caught up in the bad stuff, I tend to think about other things to distract myself. This is not ignoring things or being’s just gathering my strength in case I need it to give to others.
I understand putting things into perspective. I know what is important and what is not. Self-preservation dictates that I balance the bad with the good and sometimes even the mundane. I feel sad for anyone who seeks out the bad and constantly focuses on that. I really can’t imagine going through life that way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Double shock power!

It’s been a while since I did two posts in one day, but I just had to share this vintage ad I came across on one of my feeds. I find this hilarious on so many levels (and a handful of people will understand why).

I do not like to iron, and I make no apologies for it. In the past, I have rewashed things rather than ironing them. This is why Downy Wrinkle Releaser is one of the greatest products of ALLLL TIIIIIME! I suppose some people enjoy ironing, but I’ve got better things to do and bigger fish to fry. Perhaps it provides enjoyment to some, but not this gal. I did
enjoy ironing my Dad’s handkerchiefs when my Mom asked me to...but I was maybe ten years old at the time. I kind of grew out of that. [grin]


Double poke

VaccineI had to have blood drawn this morning for the wellness program through Ken’s work. It was fasting, and although I don’t have any problem going all day without eating, I sure missed my Trop-A-Rocka Snapple this morning! I went to the grocery store afterwards, and managed to not buy the store out, but I scarfed down a bowl of cottage cheese when I got home. I was getting pretty hungry!

While I was at the doctor’s office, I decided to put my money where my shoulder is...or something like that. I can’t recall the last time I had a tetanus shot, and with living out in the country, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to get a booster. Also, I’ve been reading about outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) in various parts of the country, and figured I’d go for the trifecta and get the Tdap, which includes diphtheria in a lower dose for adults. As a strong vaccine advocate, I did my part to help with herd immunity.

As an adult, I wasn’t worried about getting pertussis myself; it’s mild and self-limiting in adults. But with a couple of young great-nephews, as well as an elderly mom and mother-in-law, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get it. I had the vaccine when I was a kid, of course, but the whole-cell vaccine used at that time is one of the least effective vaccines and immunity wanes over time. I’ve been reading that the acellular vaccine used now might not protect as long as anticipated, so I suspect there will be more studies to find out what is going on.

The current outbreaks I’m reading about, though, are due to unvaccinated populations. And if you’ve been paying attention, I think you know how I feel about THAT! I’m to the point where I don’t think there should be any religious exemptions—you’re not just endangering your own child, you’re endangering others around your kids—but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. To take it a step further, I think anyone who doesn’t obtain medical treatment for their kid based on religious/personal beliefs should be prosecuted for negligence and endangerment. I am just appalled by such behavior. Those kids aren’t making their own decisions.

Anyway, I’ve got a slightly sore arm, but nothing major. However, if I suddenly develop mental retardation, you’ll know what happened. You’ll be able to see the signs, I’m sure. I’ll start talking about voting for Mittens, and about how Planned Parenthood should be defunded, and demanding to see NOBAMA’S birth certificate. [snicker]

Monday, April 9, 2012

One step forward, two steps back

Blue SwallowToday I took a step forward and started trying to book the motels that I most want to stay at on our trip. Got the Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri booked online (although they’ll need to contact me for credit card info), got an email out to the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, and what was most important (because everybody wants to stay there), the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The Blue Swallow sign is one of the most beautiful on the road (in my opinion), and the motel has been renovated and does great business. As I said, it’s probably one of the best—if not THE best—known motels on Route 66. I’m thrilled that I was able to book it!

What a shame that the Coral Court Motel in St. Louis is long gone. That would have been such a cool place to stay. At least they preserved one unit, and Shane and I got to see it at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

Completely different subject...I said I wasn’t going to write constantly about getting ready for our trip!

Yesterday, I watched “Meet the Press,” as I always do on Sundays. Because it was Easter Sunday, they had a roundtable discussion about religion and politics. (The clip is about 30 minutes, so be warned if you want to watch it.) A good idea, because the wall is eroding. However, not a one of the people was there to discuss the secular viewpoint, which is that you are perfectly free to practice your religion as long as you don’t inject your religion into politics.

Let me make something perfectly clear. That does not mean, as Rick Santorum asserted, that people of faith need to stay out of politics. That is simply not true, and that is not what is happening. The oath of office directs our elected officials to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible or any other religious text. While your faith may shape your outlook and form some of your policies or decision-making processes, you don’t legislate because of the Bible. Prime example: opposing same-sex marriage because “the Bible says so” just doesn’t cut it. That is simply not a valid argument. The Bible also says to not wear mixed fabrics, but I’m betting there are plenty of poly-cotton blends in the church pew on any given Sunday.

Anyway, they have this discussion. There were some good points made, but virtually all of it was from a religious viewpoint, including some of the panelists stating that morals and ethics can come only from religion. This is absurd. How I wish they would have had someone like Sam Harris on there to talk about the “moral landscape!” Morality, kindness, and decency are not the sole purview of the religious. I shouldn’t have to point that out, but it’s obvious that I do.

Silverman memeThe height of absurdity for me came when Billy Graham’s daughter Anna, who had earlier stated that religious preference should not be a part of the discussion and that people should vote on policies rather than religious views, flatly stated that she “would not vote for an atheist.” I swear, I don’t know why her tongue didn’t jump out of her mouth and run screaming down the hall. Two giant steps back. This is the kind of disconnect that is so infuriating to me. There she was, sounding fairly reasonable when it came to not voting based on religion, and it’s like okay, that’s good. Then she turns right around and says but an atheist?! No way! It makes no logical sense whatsoever. But then I’m probably asking for too much if I expect logic. Or sense.

I was also very disappointed in David Gregory for not following up on such an irrational comment. For shame, David. I still love ya, man, but I’m disappointed.  

At least President Obama has mentioned that we are a nation made up of all religions...and no religion. The numbers of the nonreligious are increasing all the time. A recent Gallup poll on religion showed that 32% of Americans consider themselves nonreligious, stating that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they rarely if ever attend church services. Almost a third of the populace is not an insignificant group, and politicians would be wise to take notice.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A lazy Sunday

BateggHappy Easter!

It’s another pretty day here at Nutwood, although it’s a little cooler and breezier than it was yesterday. No grilling today. Instead I’ll be roasting a chicken and some vegetables. I’ve been working hard to clean out the big freezer so that we have room for the side of beef we’ll be getting soon. It’s been a real festival of meat around here lately as I try to empty it out! Before we put the new stuff in, we’ll empty the freezer and defrost it, so it’s a lot easier if I clear as much stuff out as possible.

We didn’t plan anything with family today, because my Mom was really busy with her church activities, and she had to make food yesterday for their big hymn sing this evening. She looks forward to that every month, but it’s going to be a long day for her. I hope she took my advice and took a nap this afternoon! Ken’s Mom is visiting family in Missouri, and it will be the first time she has seen the headstone for her husband Jim. She was doing that today, so our thoughts are with her. Also, Ken was originally supposed to work 12-hour night shifts this weekend, so we were going to have a very quiet weekend here. It turns out he didn’t have to work, after all, but I guess we still ended up having a quiet weekend by ourselves!

Ken is doing some work, and I’ve been catching up on correspondence and reading personal blogs, as well as reading my book and doing a little more to plan our Route 66 trip. I’m to the point where I’ll be able to call and make reservations at the restored motels we want to stay at, since I know when we’ll be in certain towns. Some of them, like the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, are in very high demand, and Laurel advises to book now. Still plenty of planning to do, like some of our side trips (the Petrified Forest, cliff dwellings, possibly the south rim of the Grand Canyon), but I’m starting to get a handle on it. I’m really getting excited about it, but I’m trying to keep my cool and not wig out. My philosophy on this trip is to just enjoy the journey, and not plan out every last detail. That kind of defeats the purpose of a Route 66 trip, which is all about enjoying the little unexpected things that you come across.

Hannibal eggI know I’ve told this story before, but one of my fondest memories of my short Route 66 trip with Shane back in 2001—to be honest, it’s one of my fondest memories ever—was a bizarre encounter at the Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois. (Note: the linked writeup mentions that the sign is scheduled to be restored. It has since been restored, and I’m looking forward to seeing it!) We went in there to grab dinner, and when I said I’d have the taco salad, the guy told me, “Ohhh, you don’t wanna have that.” hahaha After some discussion of what they had and what I did want, he had me come back to the kitchen to pick something out. I can’t recall if it was me or Shane who had a chicken sandwich, but I remember it being not cooked all the way. Yikes! I think we’ll just stop in for a beer this time and eat somewhere else. But it’s a great place that’s been around almost a hundred years, and those kinds of adventures are part of the fun of this kind of a trip! Getting Salmonella is NOT part of the plan, however.  

I’ll try not to write too much more about it before we go, because you’ll be reading plenty when the time comes! I thought about creating a new blog just for this trip, but I’ll keep it here on the Junction. I think I can create a separate page, though, and I’ll look into that. I want to keep a written journal, as well as an online one, so dang...I’m going to be busy!