Monday, December 13, 2010

The Best Gift Of All

It's the most wonderful time of the year...for crappy gifts and hurt feelings.  No matter how much we talk about it, or read about it, there always seems to be some glitch in the gift giving process.  The Guilt Trip curtesy of your mother-in-law, the Material Trip coming from your kids, or maybe it is the Useless Gift coming from your spouse.  We still laugh at the year my dad gave my mom a square egg maker-as if the eggs taste different when they change shape.
Thanks to a person in my life who shall remain nameless (even though they claim to never read this, it is a public space), I have been elevated to "EXPERT OF CRAPPY GIFTS".  That is my official title after "Head Maid" my kids bestowed on me.  For many years in a row, I got horrible things-things that made me growl and howl at the injustice of it all.  But when all is said and done, I learned a couple valuable lessons from "Gertrude", that I am now passing onto the rest of the world.

A. Gift Giving isn't about the giver, it is about the receiver.  Sometimes we feel pressured by business, sometimes we feel pressured by social customs, but either way, when I pick out a gift, it isn't about me.  Truly think about the person you are buying for-what do they like?  What would make them smile?  What floats their boat?  I have stood in line for over 30 minutes to buy my mom perfume I think stinks, but mom loves it.  I have searched high and low for Oregon State Univ. items for my black and orange husband, even though I cheer on their rivals, the Univ. of Oregon Ducks.  It is always with the same motto in mind-what will make the other person happy.
B.  Every year, I seem to get a request for "what's on my list", whether it be in jest (George Clooney), or seriousness (World Peace), or affordable (books).  Right after that, I get the complaint from Gertrude,"lists are so impersonal-I want to get something special."  The first time I heard that, I thought it was sweet-like going above and beyond the duty of buying and putting something extra special in the whole process.  Now when I hear that from her, or anyone else, I cringe.  Very few of us claim to have psychic powers, and even those that make the claim admit the power can be sketchy at times (no lottery winners amongst that bunch).  Unless you are absolutely sure, stick to the list.  Now when someone says "I am not using their list", what I hear is, "I could give a rats ass what they want."  When you purchase something using a list, you are getting someone what they want.  What can make a person happier than that-getting what they want?  It is a shoo-in for happiness, and you blow it by assuming your ego can out think the gift recevieree (okay, maybe that is not a word but it sounds good.)  There is no shame in sticking to a list-it means you care to get someone something they want and if you think I am repeating myself , you would be right.  Stick to the list!  Make someone happy!
C. Now, what if you don't have a list?  It happens, and it is no reason to panic.  Some families like to go off the fly, and sometimes it is a work party.  However, put on your thinking cap, and use some self-honesty.  My first piece of advice still holds true-the gift is NOT about you.  What makes most people happy?  Food?  Luxuries?  World Peace?  (My second mentioning of that-let me know if you can make it happen.)  Think about what you ALWAYS get at little parties (ie. bridal and baby showers) and do the exact OPPOSITE!  No more candles, no more bookmarks, no more teachers dirty looks...or something to that effect.  My favorite "go to" gifts are gift certificates/cards.  They get a lot of flak because people forget to use them...not my problem.  Somehow I have NEVER had a problem collecting free stuff.  Starbucks is popular, and I wouldn't sneer at their gift card.  Baskin and Robbins is great for gift certificates because they come in $2 increments-great for a tight budget and their ice cream is yum yum yummy.  Think locally too though-the mom/pop theater is another one of my favorites.  Locally is always nice, and the buzzword right now, but don't worry if it ins't practical.  When I sent a wedding gift out of town, it was much easier to get a gift card to a chain I knew we both could get to, rather than research what was available in an area had I never been too. 
D. People seem to think that gifts should scream individuality, life long purpose, and the best thing since sliced bread.  But the truth is, we are really just bringing brief moments of thoughtfulness.  I said it once before, however it bears repeating-truly stop and think about the person you are buying for.  The year my aunt and uncle moved to a new town, we got the them gift certificates to three different restraunts.  They loved trying new places.  My sister and I both love receiving our zoo passes, a place we couldn't afford to continually take our children otherwise.  One of the best gifts I ever got was a used book, with writing all over the front page.  A very hard to find book, Katie knew the series was one of my favorites, and picked out the book as a bridal gift for me.  (Okay, that wasn't on any list, but I didn't know it existed-score A LOT for Katie's psychic powers.)  Also, in this tight economy, think about the little things people need, or the little luxuries they might enjoy but are scrimping on.  Pedicures and Starbucks are just plain fun, but for someone on a very tight budget, they might really appreciate stamps or public bus tickets.  Those things aren't fancy, but when money is so tight you are debating between those bus tickets or some groceries, the strain of not having to worry about those items for a few months is a gift in and of itself.
(If you noticed a pattern to the above gifts, gold star by your name.  Not one thing I mentioned is "stuff".  Most of us have the things we need-another decorative snowman or Menorah is NOT what I need, and lots of you are in the boat.)
E. A quick word on homemade gifts.  Every year, Martha Stewart and magazines trot out homemade gifts as the cure to all Christmas woes.  They aren't.  For one, we all have a Gertrude on our list who is not happy unless you hand them the moon.  And while I am not upset when I don't meet Gertrude's "demands", I can understand her aversion to homemade gifts.  I once made my aunt a bracelet from yarn, in part to show my kids how great homemade gifts can be.  Yep-the braclelet looked like what it was-yarn in knots.  Plus, unless you are Bob Villa or Martha Stewart, what you make will not look nearly as good as you think it should.  If you are crafty and can make things look special go for it, but for the rest of us with 9 thumbs and a pinkie, the amount of time, money, and effort it takes to make something homemade, it would be just as much fun to invite someone over for a "drinking" buffet and call it good. A nice time out is never out of style and spending time with people is a great "gift" idea. (I did this-rather than make myself cook, I invited people to just relax and hang out.  I offered hot cider, a bottle of wine, some water, beer, wine coolers, punch, milk, and some type of juice.  WAAYYY easier, gave me time to chat, and clean up was a BREEZE!)

So, after an article like this, people always want to know what was the best gift, and worst gift I ever received?  Well, luckily, the best gift is to hard to nail down to just one.  I got ski's when I was 13-I was so excited to get them I fractured my ankle and had to wait almost 2 months before I got to use them.  And my first Christmas with my new boyfriend (now graduated to husband), instead of getting me jewelry like his friends told him too, he got me this really nice book I had wanted.  He and the book were a keeper-I hate jewelry.  I am sure the first gift my kids truly pick out will put a tear in my eye.
The worst gift I got is much easier.  I won't describe it here-it is too distinctive and the person who gave it to me would recognize it.  And the item itself isn't bad-it is on the expensive side and many people would enjoy it.  When it was handed to me, all wrapped up on Christmas Eve, the Giver said to me "I know Dena won't like it." WOW. Nothing makes you feel respected and well-liked as knowing the person is purposely handing you a gift they know you won't like.  Did you shop long and hard for that, or did it come to you out of the blue?  That is when I learned that if you really want to make someone's holiday special, shop and give with the receiver in mind.

Regardless of what you are celebrating this time of year, may your days be merry, your evenings cheery, and family and friends by your side.  Best Wishes to all.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Great Voting Debacle

Another year, another vote, another year of relief that the season is over.  I know I speak for many people when I say that between the advertisements and smear campaigns, November is almost a relief despite the advent of crappy weather in our part of the world-Oregon.
The most disappointing thing, obviously, is the lack of voters.  However, I can't say I blame people.  It took everything in me to vote, because I really didn't want too.  And I am not alone-millions of people out there feel like I do-what the hell am I voting for?  Jane Doe accuses her opponent of not supporting the elderly.  So Joe Nobody fires back with accusations that Jane is going to cut school funding.  Jane lobs a "he is against civil rights".  Joe fires back with "she is for the rich".  After weeks of slinging, Election Day arrives and I have no idea what these 2 candidates stand for.  How will they pay for social services?  What is their stance on raising the minumum wage?  Toll bridges?  Farm subsidies?  Water rights?  Distribution of lottery money?  Establishing a rainy day fund?  The Rose Festival?  Anything besides attacking their opponent? 
It used to be that we taught Ethics in school, but that is out due to lack of funding.  I am not talking about right and wrong-that is still taught despite what some people think.  I am talking about Ethics in relation to the Government-another class we don't hear much about either.  The big push is for Math and Science-as if nothing else is an indicator of how smart or well-adjusted we are.  Math and Science obviously have their place in  society-says the girl communicating via one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs ever-but there are other subjects out there equally important.  Knowing how your country is run, and where your taxes go is pretty far up my list of what should be taught in schools too.  Knowing how voting effects your life, and what your representatives actually do at the Local, State, and National level also seems important, but apparently not in relation to Math or Science.
I also think special interest groups are bogging us down.  Granted there are some causes I find more important than others-while I am paying close attention to school funding, I have to admit that my knowledge of crops imported overseas is pretty spotty.  However, some people are making one cause the whole point of their existence over the exclusion of everything else.  The election a few years back asked us to vote on whether we should cut spending to parks and wildlife, and give the money to schools.  I admit schools need funding, but at the risk of gutting our state treasures?  Of sacrificing clean water and a diverse bio-system?  Reading the Jewish Review, Jeff Merkley, current US Senator for Oregon, stated that often, when voting on an issue, one Senator will  delay the vote on passage of a bill and often times the bill is re-written, or never brought up again (I am NOT quoting Jeff Merkley directly).  What is the point of voting if you know your representatives can't get shit done?  That one special interest will make sure that nothing opposes THEIR interest?
My minor in college was Political Science.  While I am no expert, I took classes on International Relations, The UN, and Local Government.  The NUMBER ONE reason I vote isn't because I think I am being heard, or that I think my interests are being fairly represented.  While one vote can count (we covered that in class), I am pessimistic enough to think it isn't usually my vote.  I vote simply for those who can't.  Somewhere, right now, someone is willing to die so their country can experience a taste of democracy.  Right now, someone is probably dying just to have a voice in local politics.  Over 200 hundred years ago, a group of men, and women, gave up almost everything so their children wouldn't be British subjects, but have control from this side "of the pond".  Some of them sacrificied personal fortunes, some of them their lives.  To look all these people in the face-ancient or more recent-and say "sorry, I didn't vote because...who cares?" seems to be rude, and shitty.  I can't do it.  I just can't do it.  To all these people who are currently living under totalitarian regimes, dictators, and despots, I owe it to them to continue to vote so they have some small shred of hope that one day they can vote to. 
If you didn't vote this time, do it next time in honor of someone who wants to, but can't.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Financial Aid, and Aid, and Aid......

My sister and I are only one year a part.  I won't bore you with the usual sibling arguing and what-not, but the upshot is, my mom and dad had 2 kids in college at the same time.  (Okay, at the time I didn't think I was a kid, but add a few decades and the perspective changes.)  We both attended the local, and good, community college, and then with the help of financial aid we both transfered to bigger schools and got degrees.  We both had a small savings but it was meager-I think I could have purchased two books with it.  The reality is, we were in no way prepared for the expense of college.  Thank goodness for financial aid-the job I have today was dependent upon my degree.  And I LOVE my job.
Now that I work at a college, I am more prepared for what college can cost-and I assume the price will continue to rise.  So for my sons I have a savings account.  Right now, they cannot afford college.  However, right now it is not an issue.  We have a few years to save.
Apparently this is the wrong thing to do.  Every article I have read on saving for education says DON'T.  Why you ask? Because if my kids have a savings account, they may not get financial aid. 
When did financial aid go from "helping those who need it", to "a way to avoid paying for college if you don't have too?"  Obviously I believe in financial aid.  I also believe that as college costs continue to rise at astronomical rates, more and more people will need it.  But whatever happened to "paying for college yourself"?  And what happens when A) you don't get that sports star scholarship?  B) your great grades are nothing special?  C) they simply run out of money and no matter how much you need it, it won't get it?  Not everyone who applies, gets financial help and if you have spent the last 18 years avoiding a savings account because of the assumption you will get some kind of financial aid, it's going to be rough.
Maybe I am leaping here, but it seems a repeat of the message "don't do for yourself what you think the government can do for you."  No fears-I am not turning into a conservative.  But I see a lot of good ideas morphed into something the were never intended to be because suddenly everyone wanted a piece, not just those the help was intended for. 

*The wealthy collecting Social Security because they think they are owed it. 
*The person Nick knew who got financial aid, then worked under the table for his dad and used the money for a new car instead of his education (why would he-financial aid paid for schooling.)
*A single parent receiving gov't aid even though child support is current and sufficient (dead-beat parents are a different issue).
*Collecting death benefits, even if a life insurance policy ensured it's own set of benefits.

There are legitimate reasons for using social programs, and that is what they are there for:  to help people.  But I get frustrated that everyone seems to think they are owed this help, whether they need it or not.  Hopefully, we won't need financial aid.  But I have no idea what the future holds and if our position changes, and we face financial hardship, I will apply like all other parents.  Help is there because you NEED it, not because you WANT it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Did You Do When You First Got Here?

It seems like I keep going back to History when I blog.  Not sure if that is because I like it, know about it, or a combo of all of thee above, but it seems natural to me to explore what we used to do, and compare it to what we do now.
I got an interesting e-mail stating that if the current immigrants would quit causing trouble, like being drug dealers and driving drunk, and be more like the immigrants of old who came as hard-working citizens and caused no trouble, then no one would have a problem with them.
Whoa boys-hold the can of whoop ass.
Maybe that is why I keep involving the badge of History-people throw it around like it is a shield of purity.
First off, immigrants have never been welcome in this country.  From the time the first white man set foot upon the shore and declared HIMSELF (yep, a man walked off the boat first) waayyyy better than the locals, there has been friction.  Can't say I blame the Native Americans.  You live here for thousands of years, a newcomer shows up, and you are the bad guy?  Boy does that sound like fun.
Once the Natives were tossed off the land, and the white guys proliferated like rabbits, future boat loads of people were greeted with suspicion at best, and derision and chains at it's worst.  The Irish came in the early part of the 1800's, only to be greeted with signs in the store windows denying Catholics entrance.  Eastern Europeans came in the late 1800's, only to be greeted with claims that they were dirty and basically shuttled to their own neighborhoods so the genteel public didn't really have to mix with them.  And I am just talking about Ellis Island here.  On the West Coast, despite a very low crime rate, any and all Asians were assumed opiate addicts and they never lost their "foreigner" status no matter how long they stayed in this country (internment camps during WWII prove this).  And the slaves stolen from Africa never stood a chance-they weren't even labeled human, but poor farmers in the South hated them just the same for being cheap labor.
Once here, immigrants faced the same challenges then, as they do today.   Lack of language kept them out of jobs, discrimination kept them from education.  The Irish took over local politics to get jobs for other Irish.  Good beginnings went wrong and we ended up with Tamany Hall and corruption in numerous states back east.  The Italians organized and established the Mafia in their new country-USA.  AL Capone is the most famous but there were others, either from Italy, or born to Italian immigrants, who created murder and chaos wherever they went.  The Jews basically started Hollywood, which depending on where you stand, can be the root of all evil, or a dream factory.  Okay, Hollywood and the Mafia aren't exactly the same on the Evil Scale, but back in the day, that kind of entertainment was considered more sinful then it is today.  Despite his star status, Clark Cable's dad never accepted his son's profession and it took Walt Disney years to convince his dad that Animation was a legitimate career choice.
So to ask a new immigrant to be like an old immigrant of yore, well that could be asking for trouble. 
So what should we ask the new immigrants?  How about coming here legally?  Thousands of Catholics, Jews, Asians-all groups traditionally discriminated against in this country-sold EVERYTHING they had to get passage to a country that they HOPED would be better.  Even as late as the 1950's, refuges out of Europe (my father-in-law's family) waited years in European refuge camps, and months on Ellis Island, before they were permitted to enter the USA.  Hell, depending on what decade you showed up, you couldn't stay if you couldn't prove you already had either A) proof of employment or B) a relative waiting to take care of you so you didn't need public assistance.  How are we racist today, to demand the same things?
The racist comments really bother me.  I don't think I am a racist for demanding immigrants be here legally.  I never even said what nationality I was talking about, since I mean all of them.  But it sure is a lot easier to cross an invisible line than it is to come thousands of miles by boat, or even airplane.  And I don't expect every single one of them to be paragons of virtue-the weren't in the past and they won't be in the future.  But if we are going to use History as our example, and everyone seems to be, how about demanding everyone be here legally?  Can I repeat that?  Everyone be here legally-that s it.  So simple.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

History, History, History

I seem to be in a pattern.  Don't blog for months at a time, and when I do, be sure to bring up History.  Why break the pattern now? 
The funny thing about History though, is that as much as everyone readily admits to not liking it, it gets used a lot.  Especially Politics/Current Events-people love to bring up The Good Old Days. 
In the Good Old Days, no bad happened.  It was a bucolic time with less violence, less selfishness, more time to stop and smell the flowers.  An era when people used their time wisely and really connected to nature and her environs.
Can we say bullshit?  Horse-puckey?  Rose-colored glasses?
Okay, some things were better.  People did connect to nature more.  When you are shoveling horse poop on your farm, or smelling it through your tenement apartment, you were forcefully reminded of nature.  People did connect with one another more, as the only "media" that existed was the newspaper (depending on how far back you go).  The whole community could usually tell you what your children were up to, and you usually knew the whole community so that was helpful.
But it was not all easy.  Statistically, most children died before their 5th birthday.  If you spoke a funny language, or even had a weird accent (think of all the regional areas of the United States) you could be denied service ANYWHERE.  Violence was rampant but not talked about in the form of spousal abuse and child abuse.  Was someone in your family handicapped/mentally challenged?  That person faced a life if derision and outcast.  And don't get me started on drugs-most order-by-mail drugs were rife with drugs that were legal, but knowingly harmful.
Life in the city sucked for a lot of years.  Horses, that look so quaint in pictures, pooped-everywhere.  The city smelled, and sanitation wasn't so hot, so people smelled too.  Disease was rampant, hence the reason so many young children died of diseases most of us can't pronounce anymore.  The work week was 6 days a week, if you were lucky, and an employer could let you go for any reason-from being to ugly to pissing off your boss.  Plus, there was discrimination, sexism, etc.  You know the drill.
The countryside had it's own perils.  Farm accidents claimed a lot of lives-children and adults a like.  Nutritional diseases were rampant-when there was no crops, there was no food.  If something went wrong, and it often did, your nearest neighbor was available by foot only after walking many miles. 
Also regardless of where you lived, life was a struggle.  Food preparation began with growing it, or getting it fresh somewhere.  Then you washed it, preserved it, and hoped to God it was there in the lean months.  Light in your house was candles that you made.  Clothes were ones that you made.  There was NO leisure time. 
There are things about The Good Old Days that sound nice.  I am still learning about growing food, and learning to do without so much materialism.  I also work to make sure my kids can actaully play a game that doesn't involve batteries and identify some of the animals in our area.  But I think most parents will agree that we don't want to lose our kids at age 5 and there is no way I want to go back to a time where all cooking involved a fire. 
Instead of hearing about The Good Old Days, let's hear a politician talk about how they can Make The Current Days Better.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Founding Principles

Usually this time of year (Christmas being the other time), the fight over which religion is right, is more frantic than ever.  I guess birth and death does bring out the worst or best in people.  It is like multiple siblings arguing whom mom/dad loves best. Guess what? They love us all. 
I for one want to state yet again, I think Religion is a gift from God.  He looks at us, His children, and helps us decide how best to know him.  And just like we are all individuals, so is the way we pray to Him, and bring Him into our lives.  God knows what His individual children need-who am I to question that?
But the healthcare battle has brought this yearly shout-match to new heights.  All over the news, I hear people shouting about the "Christian Principles" this country was founded on, and how we need to get back to that.  Granted, I won't proclaim to be a world scholar on Christian Principles, but I am pretty confident that Jesus was kind of a peaceful fellow.  And there is nothing in the Bible that says he stuck out his tongue and flipped people off as he walked across the water.  So a little less shouting and screaming would be nice.
My second point would be that this nation was NOT founded on Christian Principles.  I feel like I am beating a dead horse here, but the Constituion that these loud mouths keep waving around has a brand new idea in there-Freedom of Religion.  Okay, The Constitution has been around for a few centuries now, but in the larger scope of history, that isn't long.  And although the Founding Fathers were pretty much hoping that everyone was Christian when they put in the Freedom of Religion part, the fact of the matter is, they didn't say Freedom of Any Christian Denomination You Choose.  They said Freedom of Religion.  That wording matters, way back then in thar good al' dayzzz, just as much as it does now.  Freedom of Religion is exactly what it means-that this nation was founded on the belief that people have the right to worship as they choose.  That no matter what the current leader may be, you as a private citizen does not have to follow that and at no penalty to you or your family.  The Mother Country didn't have that provision.  When Mary was queen, Catholics every rejoiced.  As soon as her sister Elizabeth I took over, Catholics ran for their lives.  Our Constituion was designed to protect us from the religious winds that can blow which ever way.
So should we start agitating to get back to the principles this country was founded on.  Yes, we should.  But the principles this country were founded on include Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Opinion, and Freedom to Assemble-Peacefully (I paraphrase here).  Let's get back to that, and quit giving Christianity a bad name. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The American Dream

A lot of talk recently about the death of the Amreican Dream.  It actually makes me sick to here people talk about that because it shows two things:  one, their ignorance, and two, their selfishness.  Anybody remember what the American Dream was?  And don't ask the idiots running the new Tea Party.  Freedom of Religion.  Freedom to own property.  No taxation without representation (ie. voting).  Does this sound familiar.  It should-between the US Constitution and The Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers and Mothers pretty much hit the highlights. Oh, it wasn't perfect.  Minorities had to fight another 200 years to even BEGIN to get rights, but just the fact that someone tried to do something in 1776, to give the general populace rights at all, is amazing in itself. 
Europe surely wasn't offering much.  It was pretty much guarantee'd, other than a lucky few, you would die where you were born in pretty much the same economic demographic.  Property was inherited, and you worshipped like your neighbors, or it got ugly.  The Colonies across "the pond" may not have been treating their slaves right, or the native inhabitants, but they were offering more freedom then Europe. 
Nowhere did the framers of our government expect everyone to agree, promise everyone a house, and the right to a perfect life.  They didn't offer equal access to education (although Jefferson advocated for it), jobs, or a chicken in every pot (that was later-Hoover I think?).  In a nutshell, they wanted a government where people had a say in how things were run, with a few "inalienable" rights, just to make it solid and better than what they had.
So how is the American Dream dead?  Because the housing market crashed?  Because unemployment is so high?  Because we can no longer pick our representatives in government?  Because we have to pay almost $10 to see a movie if we go during prime-time?  Because we can longer worship as we see fit?  We have problems here in this country-I am not denying that.  And not everything is going the way I want it too.  But as for the American Dream being dead-no way.  It is alive and well, and continuing to shape this country, just like it always has.  People just need to remember what the American Dream really was, and not what they think it became.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

As We Age

Wow-second blog in a week!!  I am on a roll.
It isn't even my birthday, but you know what, it sucks to get old.  My back often feels like someone threw a steel rod in there via my butt, and let's say my boobs have repositioned themselves, by themselves.  When I get a headache, I have no idea if my bad neck caused it or it is actually a true headache.  Oh, and I have gained the notrious "Freshman Five" (5 lbs. at the start of the school year), repeatedly!!!
But the one nice thing abut aging is what you learn.  Not to sound like some Sage on the Mountain, but I know things now I never thought I would.  I understand some of the decisions my parents made, or at least know enough to be more critical of them (sorry mom-still don't understand why we didn't ride first class to Vegas in '95).
I know it isn't earth-shattering, or very exciting, but it is a good feeling.  It allows you to give up the foolish dreams of the past, and make better dreams for the future.  And it keeps me curious.  Who knows what I will learn tommorrow.  Maybe even a way to hoist up the old chest!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Follow-Up

Won't even excuse myself for not writing recently-this sinus infection has gone on TO LONG!!!
But there was a discussion on Facebook about the Texas State Board of Education approving more conservative textbooks, and honestly Facebook is to small so I thought I would do a blog.
Be forewarned-this is a public space but not quite like Facebook, so I will be expressing my opinion about more forcefully.
Let me throw it out there-PUBLIC SCHOOLS are no place for religious dogma.  Learning about other religions, yes.  A learning institution of any kind is about...learning.  Go figure.  But it is not the place to teach the morality of The Ten Commandments, what you think God did on the Sabbath, or if he created the world in 1 day or 10.  Tell the kids what the Christians think, be sure to let them know what the Jews and Muslims think as well.  Throw in the Hindu's and you have a lesson plan for a whole year.  But in a PUBLIC SCHOOL, it is not your place to determine who is right.
PRIVATE SCHOOL is different.  Hence the title, PRIVATE.  It is the perfect place for religious dogma-or any other dogma for that matter. 
So Texas decide's that the liberal bias has gone on long enough, they want a more conservative opinion expressed, and they have bought re-written textbooks to push this agenda.
So on Facebook, I agree'd that while we have not always written our textbooks without bias, or political gain (think Cold War) at least recently we have tried to correct that and be more fair.  Texas is taking a huge step BACKWARD.
Then Aaron expressed an opinon that we need a national standard.  I had to think about that.  We can't agree on a national health care plan-what kind of agenda can each state push in a textbook?  And do we really want to have to form a consensus with the people in the South who apparently want to make sure their kids are learning according to 1950?  Hey, lets bring back smoking inside and really give kids the advantage.
But after carfeul thought, I have to agree with Aaron-it is time for a national standard.  The biggest point in favor is that bascially, the textbook comapnies make one copy of a textbook-and the largest buyer pretty much dictates what goes in there.  Surprise-Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks.  Sooooo, with no input from anyone else, we all get the textbook the moral police in Texas want.  Market Economy-lovely.
It is true that most people in this country follow some type of Christian background.  And it is easy to say, "what is the big deal?"  But, "most people" IS NOT everyone, and it isn't what this country was founded on.  We have spent over 200 years trying to create a place where everyone is actually welcome, and to non-christian such as myself, it feels like Texas is taking a step back to the days of only the WASP's being actually invited despite what the fine print says.
So, national standard for textbooks and education it is.  I am in favor of it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I No Longer Agree

When the Oregon Dept. of Human Services, hereafter noted as DHS, first came under fire a few years ago, I defended them. They are under-staffed and under-funded.
Then a little child was severely beaten and people wanted to know how that fell through the cracks. I defended DHS; little kids hurt themselves all the time. My own son has two bruises on his face from falling into things-thank goodness everyone who knows me realizes that these are true accidents. It would be easy enough to explain away bruises on young children.
When another young child died during a parental visit, I still did not lose faith. After all, every organization has their bad employees and who knew the parent was so over the edge.
In the past month, a 15-year old girl was killed via a brutal beating from her own parents. Numerous people reported to DHS that this girl had been beaten for months, possibly years prior to her death; the bruises were visible to her friends, other family, and her teachers. You cannot excuse the bruises of a teenager as the beginning steps of a new walker like my young son.
I no longer offer any support, verbal or otherwise, to DHS. Yes, they are under-staffed and under-funded, but enough is enough. Clean house, utilize your dollars, and start saving children. Catching the radar of DHS should not be a death sentence.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Out of Context

In my last blog, I talked about the crazies, and my sister made a good follow up remark that the Jews are just defending themselves. She makes a good point-I am not entirely wrong, but the Arabs do seem to be led by a group that refuses to compromise.
However, that does not exempt the Jews from having their own crazies. The Jewish Review, which I would NOT consider mainstream news media, has been reporting about a group of hard-line Jews in Israel, who are being very demanding about how that country is run. They were upset when more liberal Jews opted to sell bread during Passover, and they have objected to women praying at the Western Wall. In fact, they have called for laws to make sure that the country is run the way THEY want things. Um, I don't see how that is any different than the Taliban?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Crazies-Ruining It For Everyone

With the holiday season well and over, I have one question for everyone:
Why is it, this time more than any other, everyone has to fight over religious symbols?
The arguments over Christmas Trees continued this year un-abated. I read arguments pro- and con- for public menorahs. The gluttony of the season is always compared to Jesus-I hear the cry "Rmemeber the reason for the season" almost as much as I hear "grab the credit cards".
I don't get it.
It helps that my thoughts on religion are all encompassing. In my humble opinion, one of the greatest gifts God has given us is the numerous ways to pray to Him. We are his children; if God says you are better off a Christian, lo and behold, you are a Christian. If God thinks you make a better Buddhist, lo and behold, you are a Buddhist. All of the world's major religions have the same tenets of one, all powerful God (although some of the religions have lots of helpers), the idea of helping those less fortunate then yourself, and peace on earth. As a bonus, all major religions have their crazies too. Christians get the KKK, Muslims get terrorists, Jews are bombing Arabs over land. But the main point here is that God leads us where we need to go.
A winter holiday has been going on for thousands of years. So the Church borrowed it, re-packaged it, and gave it another name. What this says to me, that on or around Decmeber 25, spend the day the way you want. Go to church and pray for mankind. Give gifts like it is 1999. Go for a hike for thoughtful reflection. Eat a big meal. Or take your family to a truck stop.
Does it matter that we all do it differently? Does it matter that some of us want to remember Jesus, who when all is said and done was a kind and thoughtful man. Does matter that some of us eat till we are sick? Does it matter that some of us light candles instead of plugging in a string of bulbs?
At the time of winter solstice, in the Western Hemispere, I say we do whatever we need to (as long as we respect ourselves and others) to tackle the shortest day of the year and look forward to lengthing days and stop fighting over how we pray. It is driving me crazy! But not terrorist crazy.