Thursday, October 30, 2008

The way we were/The way we are/The way we can be

Kissimmee (pronounced Kuh-SIM-me; if you pronounce it wrong, the ghosts of ancient Indians will rise up and smack you!), Florida is a smallish town in Central Florida, located near DisneyWorld. When I was a small child, the population was a few thousand and the area was mostly cattle ranches and poor folks. African-Americans of the time were often victims of violence, frequently for the "crime" of being "uppity" or talking back to white people.

I grew up in this Florida, mostly in Tampa, but for a few years in Lake Wales, a nearby town. This was in the 1950s, when the South was littered with signs saying "White Only" or "Colored Only," over water fountains, bathrooms, and other public places. This was a time when it sometimes seemed that simply having dark skin was a crime, and anyone with light skin could be your judge, jury, and sometimes, executioner. In towns like Kissimmee, if you were black, being on the street after dark in the white area of town could cost you your life, and your executioner would most often be found blameless.

Last night on television, I watched in awe as a reported crowd of 35,000 people stood in Kissimmee, Florida, in the midnight chill of 42 degrees (cold for the Sunshine State) and waited to see and hear Barack Obama speak. There were old, middle-aged and young; black, brown and white; men, women and children, all gathered to hear a mixed-race man speak to them about the future of their country. He was cheered and respected, and I was enthralled. Forty years ago, Barack Obama's parents could not have shared a hotel room in Florida without being arrested. Today, their son stands an excellent chance of being the next President of these United States.

Now, most people don't think of Florida as "the South." Today it is mostly thought of in terms of Miami, DisneyWorld, white-sand beaches, a repository for Cuban and Haitian refugees, and retirees from the North. But when I was growing up there, at least in Central and Northern Florida, the state was as southern in attitude, societal values, accents, and segregation policies as any other southern state. To have witnessed via television the gathering in Kissimmee last night was as miraculous to me as anything I've ever seen. My spirits soared on the wings of Sen. Obama's words and the cheers of the crowd.

This morning, as I was returning from my morning walk, the little girl across the street called out to me, "Obama rocks, doesn't he?" "Yes," I replied, "he does!" "Maybe," she said, "he'll be our first brown President!" "That would be great, Tiana!" I replied to her, my 9-year-old Mexican-American neighbor.
Upon reporting this conversation to Jim, I realized what an exciting idea that must be for this child and her family, and for so many others whose skins aren't white. Despite the conservative Christianity this family practices, they are able to visualize a world where hope and acceptance are more important than labels.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I guess I'm just not that smart


I guess I'm not very smart. I've been trying to figure out why people are so hell-bent on believing John McCain's interpretation of Barack Obama's platform instead of believing the man whose platform it is.

I know people who make less than $200,000 a year - people who would clearly benefit from Obama's tax plan - who don't understand that they will pay less tax. I don't understand that.

I know people who think that we should continue to give tax breaks to big business because they believe big business will create jobs. Well, all the jobs that big business has created have been overseas, while we watch jobs that pay a living wage disappear in this nation. I don't understand that.

I know people who listen to McCain/Palin showcase "Joe the Plumber" - a man who lied to Obama not only about his ability to buy the company he works for, but also the amount that company is worth. Yet these folks believe that Joe is the face of America. Does that mean that most Americans lie about their financial position? Does that mean that wanting to buy a company equates with being able to buy it? Does that mean wanting a company to make a certain amount of money means that it actually makes it? Does saying you're a plumber actually make you one? Even if you don't have a license? I don't understand that.

I know people who think the Iraqi war was justified, even though it's been proved that the man who started it (George Bush, in case you've forgotten) lied to the entire nation. Yet they still support the ongoing killing of innocent men, women and children and sending our sons and daughters into harm's way. I don't understand that.

I know people who claim that this nation was founded as a Christian nation, yet they ignore the fact that most of our founding fathers were Deists and that this nation was not founded as a Christian nation, but as a nation with no national religion. I don't understand that.

I know people who claim they are followers of Jesus Christ, yet judge and condemn those who believe differently than they do. I don't understand that.

I know people who think John McCain is qualified to be President because he was in the military and was a POW during Vietnam. Why does that make him qualified? I don't understand that.

Perhaps if I were smarter I could understand these things. Perhaps then I would understand why it's okay that John McCain has his own connections to ACORN and why his involvement with the Keating Five is ignored(yes, I know he was cleared of charges, but he was criticized for "poor judgement" - and he was 58 years old at the time; old enough to know better, one would think!).

Perhaps if I were smarter I could figure out why it doesn't matter that Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, an organization that promotes secession and "Alaska First." And why it's okay that Gov. Palin has shown her support for this organization.

I guess I'm just not that smart.

Monday, October 27, 2008

You must have been a beautiful baby!

A few years ago - 2006, to be exact - I was visiting my middle son and his wife and three kids in the Midwest, when their hard drive bit the big one. Unfortunately, most of the pictures they had taken of the kids went down in flames with it, and there was great sadness in the land.

The other evening, I pulled out a few old cds and, lo and behold! there were some "old" photos of the kids. "Old" is a relative term here, since the oldest child, Andrew, will be 11 in January! But there they were - pictures of my Midwest grandsons! And, man, are they ever cute!

I'm in the process of putting together all the photos I can find of these three charmers to send back to Jason & Lisa, but couldn't resist sharing this one of the three brothers as well as each of them individually. These guys are really something special - and I'd think that even if I wasn't their besotted Gran!

Andrew, the oldest, is the one who introduced me to the joys of grandparenting. (And, incidentally, to my first opportunity to tell one of my children that he'd finally know what I'd been talking about all those years!)

The first time I saw Andrew, he was only two weeks old, and my youngest son and I had traveled to Illinois for his baptism. When they met me at the airport and I looked at that sweet face for the first time, I cried. What a joy he was then, and is now. And how proud I am to be his Gran.

Next in line, almost four years later, was my David. If ever a child looked like his parent, this one does! Sometimes when I'm around him, I literally can't take my eyes off him! I am transported back to his dad's childhood and have to remind myself that he is his own person. It doesn't help that David has his dad's sense of humor and silliness!

Then, in 2005, we were blessed with the arrival of Matthew, my little Irish boy! My d-i-l's mom says at last she has a grandson who looks like her! And she does; the Spanish genes are quite evident in Andrew and David, but Matthew definitely favors his mom's side of the family - and particularly his grandma.

He is a cutie and, as the youngest, has learned early how to make his wants and needs known! He also learned, while still using the baby carrier, how to swing his arm to make the carrier rock - an important skill when mom and dad are rounding up your big brothers!

So, I'll have the cd ready soon to ship off to the Midwest, but in the meantime I thought mom and dad - along with the rest of my readers - might like a little preview.

I do love being "Gran"!

Monday, October 20, 2008

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

Here in Oregon, we vote by mail. (It's not my preferred method, but that's fodder for another post!) So my ballot for the election has been sitting on the breakfast table since Saturday, and some time within the next two weeks I will mark my choices for President, US Senator, and a number of other candidates and issues and send in my ballot.

This will be my 11th Presidential election. I'm a bit nonplussed by that number since I certainly don't think of myself as being *that* old! But I can remember every election and tell you who I voted for in each one. (I've never been a "party line" voter, and I did spend a portion of my life registered as a Republican.) This year, this election, is different for me in a number of ways, however. For the first time, ever, I have:
  • put a campaign sign in my yard
  • put a political bumper sticker on my car
  • donated money to a political campaign
  • watched the debates
  • closely followed the polls and reports
  • canvassed my neighborhood in support of a candidate
  • made phone calls in support of a candidate

I frankly think Barack Obama is the brightest hope this country has seen in 48 years, and he has inspired me to become involved in a way that I never thought I would. Indeed, in a way I never wanted to. (That, too, is another post!)

Today at the volunteer phone bank at the Obama campaign office, I spoke on the phone with an 84-year-old woman. She was quite pleased to get my call, and said, "Oh, yes, honey, I have already filled out my ballot and I just put it in the mailbox!"

"You know," she continued, dropping her voice to a whisper, "I just changed to the Democratic party this year. If my father wasn't already dead, this would have killed him. He was a staunch Republican all his life, but it was not the party that exists today. He would have been disgusted with those people bringing all this religion into politics. That's just not the way it's supposed to be."

I agreed, and thanked her for her support. She closed by thanking *ME* for calling her and others to help get out the vote.

We should never be so set in our ways that we're completely closed to the idea of change. Really, what difference would it have made if this woman had not changed her party affiliation? None. She still could have voted for Obama in the election next month. She wanted - needed, perhaps - to make a statement. And even if she and I - and those who read this post - are the only ones who know, it doesn't matter. She made her voice heard - and I'm sure her father would understand!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The sisterhood!

There is no better friend than a sister. And there is no better sister than you. ~Author Unknown

I'm off for a weekend at the Coast with my baby sister. We'll enjoy (most of the time) two days and two nights of each other's company, unencumbered by husband, significant other, work, household duties, and all the ordinary, everyday aspects of life.

I expect we'll eat too much, drink a little (really!), laugh a lot, reminisce a bit, disagree on not a few things, and perhaps even have to send each other to our respective corners of the room at least once. We'll read, shop, walk in the sea air, check our email, watch a movie or two (I do hope she remembers to bring "The Queen" so we can watch it again!), nap, and then do it all again.

We try to do this once a year, and it's usually in late summer that one of us will say, "Hey, we need to spend a weekend at the Coast!" We check our respective schedules, the bank balances, motel availability, and set a date. It's always great fun.

We haven't always been close: I'm 3-1/2 years older but the age divide often seemed much greater. Peggy's teen years spanned a time of great upheaval in this nation - Vietnam, student riots, the feminist movement. She was always (and still is) much more liberal than I. She moved to Oregon and - horror of horrors! - lived in sin for a few years before marrying the man she was living with - a marriage that has now lasted nearly 36 years. That's a record in our family for several generations!

I, on the other hand, married, had kids right away, and settled into my own smug, self-righteous little world, often barely tolerating my wild child sister and her hippie-dippie ways. (For the record, she also barely tolerated me most times, but living 3,500 miles apart helped!)

We stayed in touch, usually through long, hand-written letters, often composed over the span of days or weeks. We'd put them in the mail, then immediately call and say, "I mailed a letter to you today!" Sometimes I miss that.

When I moved to Oregon in '94, it was my sister's family who provided a home for my youngest son and me until I got on my feet. When I am happy or sad, she's still the person I want to talk to. When I miss our mother, it's my sister who stops what she's doing to listen to the loneliness, share the memories - and a few tears. I wouldn't trade her, or our relationship, for anything in the world. Okay, maybe for a smaller dress size. (Just kidding, sis!)

And awaaaaaay we go!

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child. ~Barbara Alpert

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Let's get superficial!

Almost every morning (except when it's raining) I take a walk in my neighborhood. I have a route that's about 1-1/2 miles and it's a refreshing start to my day, as well as being my main source of exercise. Often, I don't encounter anyone else, but when I do it's usually the same people.

This morning, however, as I neared the mid-point of my walk, I saw a woman walking toward me whom I did not recall seeing before. I was walking on the right side of the street, as is my habit (it is a residential area, with little or no traffic), and she was on the same side. As she approached me, she said, "Are you a Democrat?"

"Yes," I replied.
"I thought so."
"Why?" I asked, as I mentally examined my appearance - no Obama shirt, nothing that would indicate my politics.

"Well," she said, "you're walking on the WRONG side of the street!"
"I want to see the car that hits me," she stated.
"Well," says I, "I don't expect to get hit!"

(What I wish I'd said: "How did you miss the freight train that is George W. Bush?" But I didn't think of it.)

So I have been judged and dismissed as undesirable by a woman who doesn't know me, just because I walked on the right ("wrong") side of the street. These are the type of people who are voting for John McCain.

It should make you think.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You go, Joe!

Some things speak for themselves!

Monday, October 13, 2008

What do YOU pray for?

Driving home this afternoon after spending my time with Addison, I drove by the location of the proposed Planned Parenthood offices. Actually, I think they're more than proposed, I believe they're just waiting to start building.

Anyway, as always the usual group of Planned Parenthood protesters were out in force: Planned Parenthood Targets Blacks! Stop Killing Babies! You know, I'm sure, the usual placards they carry. Today, though, I saw a new sign: Pray For An End To Abortion. Now that's not a threatening idea. I think we would all like to end abortion. I really don't think anyone wakes up in the morning thinking Wow! I hope we can perform more abortions today than we did yesterday! I wonder if we'll pass last year's numbers? Truth be told, abortion rates in the US are at a 20-year low, not always because women are choosing not to have them, but frequently because they don't have access to them. (There are only two doctors in Wyoming who will perform abortions.) The rate is also falling disproportionately among Caucasian women, with African-Americans and Latinas now getting the most abortions.

People who know me will tell you that I am not an advocate of abortion, but I am an advocate of a woman's right to choose. And yes, I said "woman." If you're a man, and you got a woman pregnant and she chooses to have an abortion rather than bear your child, then you need to choose your women more carefully!

But I digress. I wish there was no need for abortions. I wish that every child could be the child of a committed relationship, or at least of a committed parent. I wish that no child or woman was ever impregnated through rape or incest. I wish that birth control was foolproof and universally available. I wish there were never any birth defects or problem pregnancies. I wish no child ever had to undergo the horrors that I read about this week. (CAUTION: This article is NOT for the faint of heart or those who are easily distressed!) In short, I wish every child was born healthy into the welcoming arms of family.

Perhaps that sign should read: Pray For Every Child To Be Wanted And Loved!

Now that's a prayer I could support!

Friday, October 10, 2008

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

A few weeks ago Jim and I, along with our kids and grandkids, spent a weekend at Black Butte. It was a gloriously beautiful weekend with seasonable temperatures and plenty of wildlife. On our way back to the Portland area, we enjoyed endless vistas of forested mountains, each turn in the road presenting unbroken views of evergreen forests. I remarked to Jim that, as far as I was concerned, I could spend forever looking at the trees unsullied by "progress."

Now I'm not so naive that I don't realize many of these forests have been logged again and again. Old growth is virtually nonexistent, even in this state that promotes protection of our forests and fights against stripping this beautiful land of its natural bounty. However, I think that we in Oregon - at least most of us - have come to the realization that our natural beauty is something to be preserved, not exploited.

And so I have a hard time with those folks who would penetrate virgin territory for the almighty oil dollar and ignore the damage that is a real possiblity. It is one of the many reasons I question Sarah Palin's call for drilling in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). This pristine area may or may not be one of beauty, which is, after all, in the eye of the beholder, but it is a virgin area. To insult the landscape with oil wells and other evidence of man's greed is a great sin against the land of which we are but stewards.

I know there are conflicting reports as to the possibility of damage, and I'm not well-versed enough to know whose opinion is correct. I am concerned enough, and mistrustful enough of oil interests, to question the advisability of drilling in ANWR. Our dependence upon oil has become a point of contention within our nation. We feel that we have a right, perhaps even an obligation, to ignore potential environmental impacts in order to feed our greed for oil.

Numerous reports have told us that drilling in ANWR would provide only limited relief, and that relief would come only after several years of drilling. Others have stated that today's technology would prevent any ecological "accidents" and that drilling in ANWR is safe and would have no environmental impact. I'm not buying it. Even if there were only one accident, only one spill, only one earthquake resulting in spillage, the cost to the flora and fauna of the area would be too great.

Our planet is precious and has finite resources. We have greedily used them to the detriment of our enjoyment. Let us find other methods of energy, methods that are sustainable and renewable. Wind, sun, water - all are available to us and are virtually limitless. Fossil fuels will be depleted and we will then have to turn to these renewable, sustainable resources. Why must we continue to seek new and riskier attempts to mine fossil fuel? Why do we allow the oil companies to neglect the drilling rights they currently own in order to plunder new areas of our planet? Why do we not call them on their refusal to build new refineries as a method of controlling the amount of fuel available in this nation?

For too many years we have kowtowed to Big Oil and its greed. Our planet is irreplacable. Our children deserve to explore lands that have remained untainted by the czars of greed. I grew up in a time when rivers and woods and arctic wastelands were unsullied. Do we want to deny future generations a view of our world that is pure and free from human influence? Or do we really want their legacy to be more and bigger buildings and oil derricks and McMansions? Do we want to be Dubai? Or do we want to celebrate the natural beauty of our nation and our planet?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ages and changes

I was intrigued by a question I heard on the radio last Saturday. The question was asked, "Do people grow more conservative or more liberal as they age?" According to the questioner, it is generally thought that people grow more conservative as they have less to conserve. In effect, that as we age and have fewer physical and financial resources, we tend to grow more conservative in our outlook on life as well. There was some surprise when a new study showed that the reverse is true: the trend among older people is to become more liberal. Not necessarily with finances, but in their social outlook.

For me at least, I would have to concur with this study. I was somewhat liberal when I was young - prior to marriage and children - supporting desegregation in schools, hanging out with a number of Spanish and Italian friends, although I lived in a southern town and the period of time under discussion was the 50s and 60s. Granted, my efforts were often dictated by circumstances, but I was ready to step up and be heard when it came to injustice.

As I moved into my late teens and Vietnam became front page news, I dated (and eventually married) young men in the military and my point of view began to change. I didn't protest Vietnam and the idea of Jane Fonda still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Marriage and the birth of my children saw me grow ever more conservative. We lived in a small farming town, just minutes from a major Air Force Base, attended a conservative church, and drew our friends from a small pool of very conservative people. It was very easy to be conservative, to be dismissive of liberal actions, to justify finger-pointing and labeling others. To my credit, I never became racist and we did count a few African-Americans among our friends. In retrospect I realize that I wasn't a conservative out of conviction, but out of fear. I was afraid of people who were different - non-Christians were anathema because they rejected what I believed; gays were perverted and needed to be saved from themselves and our children protected from their influence; tree-huggers and spotted owl advocates were simply weird people who wanted only to destroy the free market and our way of life.

In 1994, when I moved to Oregon with my youngest, I began a slow, gradual change in my outlook. My horizons had begun to broaden during a brief time of living in Indianapolis (now that's weird!), and as I was exposed to people who thought differently, believed differently, lived differently, I began to realize that they weren't the enemy. I began to not just accept, but to welcome people who weren't just like me. My friendships with gays and lesbians expanded; I began to see the necessity, however sad and unfortunate, for a woman's right to choose; I realized that God is big enough for all of us and I can't keep God in a box to validate my way of thinking.

In retrospect, I believe that my conservatism was more an ideology of laziness than of thoughtfulness. It was easy to believe what the people I surrounded myself with believed, and my insular society allowed me to avoid questioning the positions I held. I'm still not a "true" liberal. There are still some things that I puzzle over and perhaps always will. But I'm glad I have a broader base of relationships, even as I remember who I used to be. I have an understanding for why many conservatives feel as they do, because I was in that place myself.

But I have learned as I've gotten older that so many of the things that I clung to so tightly for so many years really aren't all that important in the grand scheme of things. What is important, at least to me, is that we learn to live together and treat each other with kindness and respect. That we recognize that the "one size fits all" approach to life is stultifying and unjust. That we truly cannot judge the actions and choices of others by the same yardstick we use on ourselves. That each of us is uniquely created and uniquely reared. That the real sins in life are willful ignorance and a refusal to be open to other ideas.

So this ageing grandmother is growing more liberal in her outlook. What do you find is true for you?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Turn, Turn, Turn

Fall is arriving in the Pacific Northwest! I love all the seasons: winter with the chance of snow, spring with the beautiful budding of life, summer's lazy days and cool drinks on the deck. But fall is far and away my favorite.
We've had close to an inch of rain over the past couple of days, filling up the birdbath and washing summer's dust from the leaves and flowers. My roses, which only last week were stretching and preening in the warmth of 89 degrees, have bowed their lovely faces to the weight of rain and wind that have bombarded them.
Aspen leaves tumble wildly from the sky, chasing each other down the street in excitement at their freedom, landing on our lawn like confetti at a political convention.

The fruit on the dogwood is turning a bright red, as if in preparation for an early Christmas.
I hear the wind soughing through the high branches of our majestic fir trees. Fir cones blow down, rattling across the roof to an ignominious resting place among the flattened grasses and seed husks left by the birds and squirrels that brightened our lost summer days.

The leaves on the vine maples are beginning to turn as these lovely, graceful trees gird themselves against the loss of sunlight and warmth. Soon, they, too will float to the ground, landing thickly beneath barren branches and providing warmth for their own roots this winter.

Later today, I'll bring in the season's first load of firewood. Tonight I'll bask in the heat from the woodstove, enjoying the fragrant reward of last summer's back-breaking efforts.

To everything, there is a season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1a)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good job, Joe!

I watched the VP debate last night with my neighbors. I confess that I was curious to see the "train wreck" that most everyone anticipated. Would Palin fall on her face? Would Biden clobber all of us with his verbosity? I confess that I've never been a big Joe Biden fan and was a bit underwhelmed with Obama chose him for his running mate. However, I was simply offended by McCain's choice - as if just anyone with two x-chromosomes would pacify the women in this country!

I came away from the debate with new respect for Palin's ability to learn quickly, but still appalled at the lack of depth in her. To be fair, a degree in journalism achieved through attendance at five different universities/colleges, doesn't really prepare one for the world stage, but she did seem to learn her "talking points" fairly quickly.

On the other hand, Joe Biden's depth of understanding and ability to really talk about issues was apparent. Yes, he may be a Washington "insider," but I don't find that as damning as some do. I frankly think we need someone who understands that "history is prologue," not someone who looks confused at the quote.  I liked it that he could reference Mike Mansfield and was ready with information about his and Obama's votes as well as those of John McCain. For Palin to chide him for looking backwards instead of forwards was, to me, simply another indication that she has no breadth of knowledge about who we are as a nation.

The admonition of George Santayana should be evidence enough that this inherent reluctance to know how we got here would result in more of the past eight years if the McCain/Palin ticket should win election next month. We desperately need an administration who understands that "past is prologue," not one that thinks we can wipe the slate clean in January and pretend that we haven't lost the respect of most of the rest of the world!

Let us come back to our senses in this country that I love. Let us restore our place on the international stage. Let us remember that we are a free country and cherish our freedoms. Let us regain some measure of unity among our people. Let us set aside the hatred and division that has been the hallmark of the current administration and its party. Let us begin with real change.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just don't do it!

Okay, I confess: I try to be nice and not anger members of my extended family, but sometimes I just get really pissed off when I get an email that starts (or ends) with the following words:

This is not sent for discussion, if you agree forward it, if you don't, fine, delete it. I don't want to know one way or the other. By me forwarding it, you know how I feel.

But I'm really starting to get annoyed at the number of these emails I'm getting from people who should know better. Maybe I don't want to know your opinion if you don't want to know mine. It really doesn't seem fair to expect me to not offend you if you don't care that you might offend me.

So, what to do? I've been simply deleting and ignoring them, but somehow it leaves me feeling angry and frustrated. I suppose family peace is a noble undertaking, but why is it the offender doesn't feel that same dedication to family? Or maybe he is just unthinking; I'd hate to think he's uncaring.

Can it be that he really doesn't understand this might be offensive? He knows that he and I don't agree on political issues, and he has stopped sending overtly political emails. But somehow he doesn't understand that we might not see eye-to-eye on other issues, as well.

I have to ponder this for a while and decide how to approach it. Family feuds just aren't my cup of tea.