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Hoping for change

“If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.”

–Barack Obama, 2008

Funny how your own words will sometimes come back to haunt you. In the waning weeks of what has been the most divisive presidential campaign in my memory, President Obama has made this election about small things. Not because he doesn’t have a record to run on, but because his record is not a good one. Blaming your predecessor only goes so far. Blaming a do-nothing republican congress doesn’t wash when your party had control of both houses for two years with precious little to show for it.

I’d hoped for change.

I’d hoped for compromise and an end to partisanship in Washington.

Yes, things have changed, but from where I sit it’s not been for the better.

I’ll be staying away from all forms of media on election day.

I’ve cast my vote already. Regardless of who wins the White House, something’s gotta give.

I’m weary and tired of politics as usual.

I think we all are.

Choose your Chia

Not to sound all alarmist and whatnot, but the vote you cast for president this November is an important one. Maybe the most important one you’ll ever make. Because you’re not just voting for president, you’ll be voting for what kind of country you’ll be living in. The country is equally divided as to which course is better–more government versus less government, and how those choices affect every American.

As disheartening and depressing as it’s been to watch, I’ve been following this race closely. I made up my mind a long time ago. As for the undecideds? I’m sort of at a loss as to what they’re undecided about. Maybe they’re simply trying to decide between the lesser of two evils.

But regardless of who wins in November, the fine folks at Chia prove that catering to the needs of Americans obsessed with buying stupid crap is always a win/win. Yay capitalism!

Tina, me and the junior high bullies

Junior High Me

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grade year, I made a new best friend. Tina’s family was new to the neighborhood. I met her one day while walking to the local swimming pool. She was friendly, outgoing and funny. We hit it off immediately, and for the next few years we were inseparable.

When we started junior high in the fall, Tina was immediately popular. Not only was she friendly, outgoing and funny, she was also exceedingly beautiful–athletic but feminine build, dark hair, flawless olive skin and impossibly long eyelashes. She looked a lot like a young Elizabeth Taylor. That she seemed so completely unaware of her beauty and its effect on others endeared her to me and made her that much more popular. What took her completely by surprise was a group of older, much larger girls whose mission was to make our junior high existence miserable. She couldn’t understand why they hated her so much–she didn’t even know them, we didn’t have any friends in common.

Unlike me, Tina went out of her way to be nice to them. She smiled at them when we passed them in the halls. They responded by calling her names. She even went so far as baking them cookies and bringing them to school. Their response? They accused her of implying they were fat and threw the cookies back at us.

While all the drama played out, Tina kept a stiff upper lip at school, but I remember her breaking down in tears in the privacy of her bedroom. “Why do they hate me so much, Kathy? I’ve never done anything to them. I don’t even know them!” My response to her then was the same response I give now to those who wonder why there are those who hate America:

Nothing you do for them will soften their hearts towards you because they don’t hate what you do, they hate what you are. Furthermore, they see your attempts at kindness and accommodation as weakness, and that perceived weakness only strengthens their resolve to destroy you. (Okay, I probably didn’t say exactly that. I was only 11 or 12 at the time, but that was the gist of it.)

From that day forward, when they confronted us in the halls, instead of ignoring their name calling or running away, we confronted them. When they threw cans or rocks at us, we picked them up and threw them right back.

Tina moved again in the summer after 8th grade. The bullies did not. And while they gave me plenty of dirty looks over the next four years of high school, they never bothered me again.

They never stopped hating us, but once we stood up to their hatred, it lost its power. Once they realized what they thought of us wouldn’t change who we were, the bullies found another outlet for their anger.

Because hate for the sake of hate always seeks a vacuum to fill, and this world is full of opportunities to nourish it.

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Parts 1 and 2

The start of school for a 6th and 9th grader, both with extracurricular activities, has been kicking my butt. I barely had time to return emails, let alone sit down and write anything. I have had the opportunity to watch portions of both the republican and democratic conventions and the associated commentaries/opinions of the talking heads on both the left and right. I mostly steer clear of politics on this blog, but the discussions of what the government should and shouldn’t mean to us as Americans reminded me of two posts I wrote last year. If you’ve been wondering which side of the political aisle I gravitate towards, these should probably clear up any mystery:

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 1

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In 1992, Swiss author Marcus Pfister wrote and illustrated the award winning children’s book The Rainbow Fish, which was translated into over 80 languages and sold over 15 million copies. The moral of the story was “Love is giving a gift, not receiving gratification. Where the rainbow fish realised that giving of itself is better than being praised for its beauty.” (from Wikipedia) Pfister went on to write a series of books that addressed other topics: fear, acceptance, modesty and arguments.

While I do agree with the intended message, something about that book never sat right with me. So I decided to read it again. The following is an abbreviated version of the book which I feel hits on all the major themes:

In the deep blue sea, there lived a beautiful fish–the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, with scales every shade of blue, green and purple with sparkling silver scales among them.

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The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish. “Come on, Rainbow Fish! Come and play with us.” But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent.

One day, a little blue fish asked him to give him one of his shiny scales. “They are so wonderful, and you have so many.” said the little fish.

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The Rainbow Fish refused. “Who do you think you are? Get away from me!” Shocked, the blue fish swam away. Upset, he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with Rainbow Fish.What good were the dazzling shimmering scales with no one to admire them? He was now the loneliest fish in the ocean. One day he asked the starfish why no one liked him. The starfish told him to seek the counsel of the wise octopus, so the Rainbow Fish goes to visit the octopus in the dark cave where she lived.

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“I have been waiting for you”, said the octopus. “The waves have told me your story.” The octopus told Rainbow Fish to give away a glittering scale to each of the other fish. “You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy.”

The Rainbow Fish didn’t think he could give away his scales. He felt he couldn’t be happy without them. Just then, the little blue fish returned and asked again for just one scale. Rainbow Fish wavered and gave one small, shimmering scale to the blue fish.

The little blue fish thanked Rainbow Fish and tucked the shimmering scale among his blue ones. A peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish as he watched the blue fish swim back and forth with his shimmering scale in the water.

Before long, Rainbow Fish was surrounded by other fish, each wanting a shimmering scale. Rainbow Fish began giving away his scales. The more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.

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Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left. He had given away his most prized possessions, yet he was very happy. “Come and play with us, Rainbow Fish!” And the Rainbow Fish swam off happily to join his friends.

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 2

Today, I will share my version of what the rest of this story might be…or not.


As the Rainbow Fish was swimming around with his new friends, he noticed a blue fish without a shining scale. “Who is that fish?”, he asked one of his new friends. “Oh, that’s Seymour. He didn’t get a shiny scale from you.”

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Rainbow Fish frowned. “Perhaps I should give him my last shining scale”, he said.

“If you give away your last scale, there would be nothing special about you. Besides, Seymour said he didn’t want a shiny scale. He’s happy being a plain, old blue fish. Come play!”, said the blue fish with the shiny scale.

But Rainbow Fish was confused and curious why Seymour would refuse his gift of a shimmering scale and the chance to be beautiful like all the other fish. He left his new friends and swam towards Seymour.

“Hello, Seymour. My name is Rainbow Fish. Little Blue tells me you didn’t want a shimmering scale like the others. Do you not find them beautiful?”

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“Oh, yes”, said Seymour. “They are quite beautiful. I often admired your beauty before you gave them away to the other fish. Now I am wondering why you chose to give them away.”

The Rainbow Fish replied, “Those beautiful scales made me miserable and lonely. None of the other fish would play with me. So I took the advice of the wise octopus who told me to give them away. Now I am happy.”

“Was it the scales that made you miserable, or was it your vanity?”, asked Seymour. “You seemed to be happy until the other fish shunned you for not sharing your scales. Your beauty’s reward was the attention of the other fish. Once that was gone, you could no longer find worth in beauty alone.”

“But when I gave my scales away, I gave the opportunity for all the fish to be beautiful, and they loved me for it.”

“Do you think the other fish would be your friend if you hadn’t given away your scales to them? Is their friendship based on what you provided for them?”

“That I can’t answer”, said the Rainbow Fish. “But I’m happy I gave them my scales. Now we all are equally beautiful. But I still don’t understand why you refused a scale for yourself. Don’t you want to join us? To be beautiful, too?”

“To be honest, I did want a scale. Who would refuse such a beautiful gift? But as I was waiting my turn to receive a shiny scale, I observed each of the fish after they received theirs.

Little Blue, who had always displayed leadership and a quick mind, seemed to abandon his role as leader, so enamoured was he with his new found beauty. Mariel, who once filled the ocean with her beautiful voice, stopped singing and instead joined the shiny, shimmering dance of the other fish. Each fish, who had something special to offer forgot about their own gift in pursuit of what someone else possessed that they did not.

I may not be beautiful, but I am very agile and fast. This is my gift, and I am grateful for it. Your gift was your beauty, and while you are still beautiful, no more so than anyone else. What sets you apart now?”, asked Seymour.

“I suppose my generosity sets me apart.” said Rainbow Fish.

“You gave away your scales in return for friendship. You traded your vanity for acceptance. True friends would not require payment for their friendship”, said Seymour.

The Rainbow Fish was sad, but very grateful for Seymour’s honesty.

“I am going to talk to the other fish. I will not ask them to return my scales, but I am going to ask them to remember all the ways they are special and encourage them to use the gifts they have been blessed with. Thank you, Seymour!”

Seymour watched as Rainbow Fish swam towards his new friends, each of their shimmering scales reflecting the light. As the fish gathered around Rainbow Fish, the wise old octopus came out of her dark cave.

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Living in darkness all those years had made her eyesight very weak, and catching her meals had become increasingly more difficult.

But now that all the fish each had a bright, shiny scale, she was able to pick them off quite easily.

She was, after all, a very wise octopus….

Who’s the real bully here?

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Apparently, this PSA has been out since 2008, but I saw it for the first time yesterday:

This post is not meant to be a moral debate about homosexuality. I’m young enough to understand that the word “gay” bears no resemblance to its original definition: Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry; bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room. I’m okay with that.

I’m also okay (mostly) with the fact that the favorite drawing subject of almost every young child with a new box of crayons–a rainbow–is now the symbol for an entire movement of alternative lifestyle. A rainbow is still a rainbow, even though now a new meaning has been attached to it.

I agree with what Wanda Sykes says at the beginning of the ad. The word “gay” should not be used as a derogatory term meant to insult an entire group of people.

But she loses me at the end with the line: “It’s like if I thought this pepper shaker was stupid and I said, ‘Man, this pepper shaker is so 16-year old boy with a cheesy moustache'”.

With that 30 second ad, she manages to sum up my disdain for the entire political correctness movement. If you question or disagree with a political or moral opinion, you’re a hate monger and therefore free game for vicious personal attack.

There’s no such thing as tolerance unless you agree with what they stand for.

Which is pretty much the definition of intolerance.

We’re never going to get anywhere but further apart if we continue to view people with different views as somehow less human than we are–and I’m talking to both sides of any controversial topic.

As Wanda Sykes is fond of saying, “It’s a crazy world.”

What the world needs now…is the lighten up

I have some fairly strong opinions about any number of subjects, and I’m pretty stubborn about most of them. But I’m also completely okay with people expressing opinions I don’t agree with, however wrong they may be.

Oh, I’m kidding…sort of. Not really.

What I have noticed is that there are a whole lot of people who have become so polarized in their belief systems that they become irrationally enraged about the littlest things. They become offended by the mere fact that anyone would have the audacity to think differently from them, and that’s a shame.

Katy Hudson

When former gospel singer Katy Hudson changed her name to Katy Perry and released the song “I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)” she was well on her way to becoming a superstar and media darling. The more outrageous she became, the further away she seemed to be drifting from her Christian upbringing, the brighter her star seemed to shine.

Katy Perry

But recently she crossed the line. She committed an egregious sin. She dared to star in this video:

Girl power? Empowerment of women? A message that the affection of a man does not define who a woman is or can be? Well, yes. That’s all great. But to use actual female marines and the military as a metaphor for those messages? Katy, what were you thinking???

From the New York Daily News Music and Arts:

Activist Naomi Wolf says Katy Perry’s latest music video is “propaganda for the Marines,” and is even calling for a boycott of the bubblegum pop star’s music.

Wolf, best known for her book, “The Beauty Myth,” wasn’t buying it.

On Sunday, the famed feminist posted this on Facebook:

“I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making it . . . it is truly shameful. I would suggest a boycott of this singer whom I really liked — if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am.”

Um, what? Which part of that video glorified violence? How is showing marines in basic training a glorification of violence? Maybe Ms. Wolf’s problem with Perry isn’t that she featured marines in her video, but that said marines weren’t committing violence against women and children. Something tells me she’d be a-okay with that, but what do I know?

The article continues:

Public relations expert Glenn Selig, who founded The Publicity Agency, told Fox News he thinks Wolf’s call for a boycott will backfire.

“In her efforts to boycott the video, Naomi Wolf has brought more attention to it,” he said. “Without her comments, most people would clearly have seen the military simply as a metaphor and not as an attempt by Katy Perry to glamorize the military or war.

“It’s hard to believe that Naomi Wolf’s view of the video will resonate with the public at large, because most people will view her comments as completely absurd and a ridiculous attempt to make a big deal out of nothing.”

Yeah…what he said.

I, for one, will not boycott Katy Perry for appearing in a video which shows the men and women of the military in a positive light, nor did I boycott her for donning a blue hair, wearing a cupcake bra and singing about kissing girls. She’s an artist. She has the right to express herself and her work just as I have the right to like or not like her or the message.

A boycott? (rolls eyes)

Lighten up, Naomi.


Bill Maher

As of late, I’ve been weaning myself from watching the news. So much of it is bad. So much more of it seems to be opinion rather than actual news. I’ll typically turn the national news on for a few minutes in the morning just to catch anything of major importance then turn the tv off, but one evening last week I left it on. The talking heads on Fox New’s Hannity show were little more than background static as I was doing laundry. However I did hear something that caught my attention.

The topic of conversation was whether a Political Action Committee (PAC) for the reelection of Barak Obama should return a million dollar donation received from Bill Maher. In case you’ve never heard of Bill Maher, he is (or was at one time) a comedian who has hosted a show called Politically Incorrect and more recently Real Time with Bill Maher. He makes no secret of his hatred of conservatives (particularly conservative women) and Christianity. He seems to take particular delight in bashing Sarah Palin, calling her a “dumb twat” and the “C” word. He has also made disparaging remarks about her children.

This donation was made shortly after another controversy erupted because conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh referred to Georgetown University Law Student Sandra Fluke as “a slut” after she testified in front of a congressional panel about free birth control. Limbaugh later apologized for his remarks. I have heard of no such apologies from Maher:

From the American Spectator:

Consider how Maher bragged that he could get away with what he said because he is on HBO while Rush is at the mercy of commercial sponsors. This surely sounds like a man who has been granted dispensation from the highest authority.

After all, it was with great fanfare last month that Maher donated $1 million to Priorities USA Action, an Obama Super PAC. As the large check was being hauled out on stage, Maher said to his audience at Yahoo headquarters in Silicon Valley, “I think Mitt Romney’s going to get the (Republican) nomination, and then I hope Obama beats him like a runaway sister-wife.”

I suppose I could rant incessantly about how there’s a double standard when it comes to hate speech; about how it’s okay to attack certain groups and not others; about how if you call yourself a comedian you can attempt to dehumanize anyone who disagrees with your political views. But that’s not the intent of this post.

What caught my attention on Hannity was when Hugh Hewitt described Bill Mayer as the “Gollum of American politics”.

“Of course not everyone knows the story of Gollum or how he came to be the shriveled, desiccated horror that he was throughout Lord of the Rings, and how the desire for power had consumed him from within. Bill Maher’s desire is to be noticed, and especially to be taken seriously as a political and social commentator.” – Hugh Hewitt

And despite the fact that I’ve used most of this post to describe the actions of Bill Maher, that’s not the intent of this post either.

It’s easy to sit in judgement of others. Trust me, I know from experience. But doing so may very well lead us down a similar path as Gollum. If we spend our time and energy being angry at the words and actions or even the inactions of others, we are in danger of being consumed by that anger. It spills out into other areas of our lives, onto other people in our lives. Whether it’s distaste with the political climate, our jobs, our personal relationships or dissatisfaction with life in general, we need to seek out what’s good in life and be grateful, lest all the bad blind us to it forever.

As my friend Jake Lee might say, Life’s too short to waste it being a grumpy ho.

A bitter pill to swallow

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I don’t talk politics much on this blog, but bear with me, please.

For months and months, we’ve been seeing news stories about the republican hopefuls. Candidates would enjoy brief periods of popularity only to lose momentum and drop out of the race. And while it seems that Mitt Romney is the assumed eventual winner, it also seems that no one is particularly excited about the possible eventuality of a President Romney. Or a re-elected President Obama for that matter. I sense a collective, “Meh…” from the masses.

Against my better judgement, I began my Thursday morning by turning on the news. Top news story: Despite earlier reports that Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus by a razor thin margin, it turns out that the actual winner was Rick Santorum.

Santorum jumped through every hoop possible to win Iowa. Out-financed by Romney and others, his grass roots campaign included personal appearances in each of Iowa’s 90 counties. He should have been declared the winner. He’s declaring himself the winner. But unfortunately for him, it’s too little too late, and whatever boost this news may have garnered him was quickly eliminated by Rick Perry’s announcement that he will suspend his campaign two days before the South Carolina primary and endorse Newt Gingrinch for president.

This guy can’t catch a break.

With the latest polls showing Santorum dead last in South Carolina (with the exception of Perry, who’s out anyway) and his donations dwindling, I don’t foresee him staying in the race much longer. I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen.

Maybe a victory in Iowa would have changed the momentum of the race.

Maybe tentative donors would have been convinced to give Santorum some cash which would have paid for more ads in South Carolina.


But maybe never happened. Despite his best efforts in Iowa, despite his apparent win which he wasn’t credited for, none of that matters now. Through no fault of his own, the might-have-been tipping point was missed.

Like many Americans, I am still firmly in the “undecided” category. Having said that, I feel bad for Rick Santorum. Really bad.

When we decide we want something–truly, deeply desire something, we cross our t’s and dot our i’s. We do everything within our control to attain what we seek and what we desire.

But the frustrating thing about life is that so much of it is beyond our control.

And it’s so unfair sometimes.

Like what happened to Santorum in Iowa, things just happen and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

I suppose the key is recognizing what we can control and what we can’t

To think we have no control over anything is a cop out.

To think we have control over everything is delusional and asshole-ish.

To say God is in control? Okay, yeah. but again, that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility.

How do we know where that line between our control and beyond our control lies?

I guess that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

Or whatever that is adjusted for inflation…

A lesson in politics

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Monday night:

Daughter: My speech and posters for 5th grade class president are due Wednesday.

Me: Wednesday, as in the day after tomorrow?

Daughter: Yes. I thought it was next week. Sorry.

Me: (deep breathy sigh) Okay. We’ll pick up poster board tomorrow after school and after your piano lesson. Have you thought about what you want your posters to say? Have you thought about what you’re going to say in your speech?

Daughter: No. Not yet. I’ll be thinking about that tomorrow at school.

Me: Yes. Please do. You probably should have gotten these things done already.

Daughter: I know, Mom. I will.

Tuesday Afternoon:

Me: We need to stop by the drug store and get poster board for your posters. Do you have a theme or an idea for what you want them to say? What about your speech? Have you decided what you want to say?

Daughter: No. I’m still thinking about it.

Me: Everything is due tomorrow. I hate doing things at the last minute. Let’s talk about your speech. Why do you want to be class president?

Daughter: Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Me: (deep, breathy sigh)

By Tuesday night, we had decided on a campaign slogan for the posters: “A doggone good choice for president”, complete with a picture of the candidate holding a rather terrified looking Buddy Love the dog in her arms, and finished said posters. The photo shoot took longer than expected, as the dog was being rather uncooperative:

All that remained was writing a one minute speech.

She needed to communicate why she wanted to be president and why she would be worthy of her classmate’s vote. Because it’s not enough to want to be president, you have to have something to offer and reason for wanting to offer it. Despite my earlier reservations, I was rather proud of the speech she wrote. I’ll share a portion of it with you:

“I have enjoyed attending this school since my first year here in kindergarten. I have benefitted greatly from the hard work and dedication of the teachers, staff and volunteers. This year, I would like the opportunity to give back to this place which has given me so much.”

I think that’s what public service is all about. Or at least what it should be about. I think President Kennedy said it best when he said those famous words:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Somehow, I think many Americans don’t take those words to heart anymore. And that’s a shame.

It is, after all,

We the people”,


Me the people”.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Chris Matthews

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Did you see this?

Let’s put aside for a moment that MSNBC dares to call itself a news station when they chose five liberals to cover a historic national election. Nevermind that they acted like a group of giggly school children instead of a seasoned, respected group of unbiased folks who are supposed to report the news. One could make the argument that Fox News Channel is dominated by conservative views and CNN is dominated by their liberal counterparts. But in defense of both networks, they had representatives from both the democratic and republican points of view. They differentiated between opinion and fact. Which is exactly what they should do.

I suppose NBC decided they had nothing to lose, since Comcast has bought the network and is fixing to clean house, but as annoying as all of this is to me, what really bothers me is the blatent disrespect Matthews has for anyone who doesn’t share his political views.

Regardless of his personal feelings for Congresswoman Bachmann, she is a seated member of the Congress of the United States of America. Furthermore, she is a human being. Whatever happened to good manners? Respect for the office? I don’t always agree with the decisions or even the rhetoric of elected officials on either side of the aisle, but that doesn’t give me permission to attempt to publicly humiliate those I don’t agree with. You can’t knowingly set out to steal someone else’s dignity without losing some of your own.

As to his denial of the “tingly leg” comment — He never said that, huh?

Okay, thrill…not tingle. I stand corrected. Yes, Mr. Matthews. You are completely objective.

I long for the days when rude behavior was frowned upon rather than celebrated…

“I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”
~ Gus McCrae, Lonesome Dove

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