Friday, October 31, 2008

My Hero, by A. Peevie

My hero is my dad. He plays games with me and helps me with my homework. I like playing X-Box with him. He is kind and loving. He reads to me at night. We read a book series together called Alex Rider. It's very fun to read with him.

On Saturdays he either takes me out to breakfast or to lunch. Sometimes he makes coffee in the morning and sometimes he even takes me to Starbucks Coffee. Sometimes after dinner we sit at the table and we tell some good things about that day that happened to us.

The End.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is Barack Obama a Socialist?

I know, I know. You're tired of my posts about politics. You're thinking, "Please! Get back to writing about giant flying ants and heroes and bodily functions." But please hang in there--the election is right around the corner. And I cannot leave these allegations of socialism unchallenged.

First of all, what is a socialist?

A socialist is a person who believes in "an economic and political theory advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of production and distribution of goods." (That's from Merriam Webster Online.)

Please, if you are among those who like to sling the "socialist" epithet around about Obama, could you send me a link to one statement that Obama has made advocating government ownership of production and distribution of goods?

McCain and Palin jumped on Obama's statement that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everyone," suggesting that this is a clear indication of his socialist tendencies. "Now is no time to experiment with socialism," Palin said. Is "spreading the wealth" a socialist concept?

They seem to be confusing socialism with progressive taxation, which, unless you're a flat-taxer, you support. This article busts several myths about progressive taxation, and makes a case for common wealth (taxes) serving the common good. It argues that government serves at least two functions, including protection (police, emergency services, public health, the military, etc.) and empowerment.
The wealthy have made greater use of the common good--they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth--and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it.

John McCain has also criticized Obama's plan to expand the earned income tax credit. McCain has
said, "His plan gives away your tax dollars to those who don't pay taxes. That's not a tax cut; that's welfare." More recently, and with more hyperbole, McCain invented a brand new, bizarre tax-policy fiction: Obama's "tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington." (Any time a politician uses the word "redistribution," it is code for "socialism.")

In fact, the earned income tax credit has been around for 30 years. In 1986, Ronald Reagan increased the earned income tax credit in order to boost take-home pay above poverty levels. When the credit is more than the amount of federal income taxes owed by an individual, that person receives a tax “refund.”

Ronald Reagan said of this legislation, “It's the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

Why would a guy like Warren Buffet support Obama if Obama were a socialist? He wouldn't. Would Bill Gates admire him? No.

If you want to understand what a real socialist sounds like, check out this statement of the Socialist Equality Party regarding the upcoming election.

So, no, Barack Obama is not a socialist--any more than any other politician who supports a government bailout of the financial industry, or buying bad mortgages from homeowners, or progressive taxation. Ahem.

I'm glad we've cleared that up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Me and Turtle

Today my baby brother Turtle turns 46, and in his honor, I'd like to tell you a couple of stories about him.

Turtle and I did not get along when we were kids. I'd say to my mom, "I HATE him!" and she'd say, "Don't say hate." So I'd say, "Well, then I dislike him intensely!" and that was apparently OK, even though it makes no sense at all. I hated him because he had the ability to say exactly the right thing to infuriate me, and I had absolutely no ability to moderate the intensity of my emotional response to his relentless teasing.

We grew up on Lowell Road, which was paved to just past our house. Then one day the giant dump trucks came and dumped tons of paving rock on our street--and in a hot second, Turtle and I were both out there hurling rocks. Who could resist the temptation? Why else would they dump a bunch of rocks there, if they didn't want us to throw them?

It was all fun and games until I threw a rock and hit Turtle in the head. He started bleeding copiously and crying--but I cried harder. Even though I hated him sometimes, I didn't want to actually kill him.

I may have hated him at times, but we also had fun playing run-the-bases on the side of the house. We could play this game for hours, Turtle and his friends and me; we wore dusty brown tracks into the grass that my dad worked so hard to keep green and lush. He'd attack the dandelions one by one, and religiously follow his Scott's lawn care regimen--but by the time we were done pounding, running, and sliding, the earth would be showing through and the grass would be patchy.

We made up games like Just Barely Made It in the family room. Just Barely Made It involved climbing from one piece of furniture to another without touching the floor, which was a pit of hungry, snapping alligators. From the love seat, to the swivelling desk chair, to the ottoman, to the blue stuffed rocker, we'd imagine our way across the room like climbers facing a hundred-foot drop with the slightest mistake.

Sometimes we got into trouble together. When mom was sitting in the aforementioned big blue rocking chair, we'd sneak up behind it and tip the chair backwards until she was lying on her back with her feet waving in the air, screeching at us to put her back upright.

"You kids get back here right this instant!" she'd holler, and we come in all innocent-like.

"What's the matter, mom?" we'd ask innocently, not noticing that she was stuck like a turtle on its back.

"Get me back up before I break my neck," she'd say, and we'd oblige. Eventually.

Every Halloween, Turtle would collect massive amounts of candy. He'd hoard it in his room, selling it off piece by piece to the kids at school who ate theirs within a week. This was back in the day when kids could roam all over their suburban communities without their parents, ringing doorbells of total strangers with nary a scary thought. We used pillowcases for maximum-strength candy totage.

And the candybars, children, the candybars! They were full size--not the lame microscopic portions that we dole out today. Turtle would bring his Hershey bars to school after a couple of weeks, and sell them to his classmates at a huge mark-up. The Hershey Bar Index puts the cost of a full-size candy bar at 10 cents in 1970. My entrepreneurial brother would sell them on the playground for 50 cents or more. He even sold candy bars to the retarded kid for the silver dollars that the kid stole from his mother's pocketbook.

I'm happy to report that his sense of ethics and responsibility is no longer stunted, and he is one of the most trustworthy, ethical, and kind-hearted people that I know.

Happy Birthday, Turtle!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Barack Obama Wins McCain Endorsement

Speaking of Republicans endorsing Obama, Colin Powell spoke up with his endorsement yesterday. Do I need to remind you that Powell is a retired four-star general, the former secretary of state, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and the former national security advisor to Ronald Reagan? I didn't think so.

On the heels of the Big Fat Hairy Deal Colin Powell endorsement, the only endorsement that Obama lacks is McCain's.

Of course, some cynical and insane commentators (I'm not linking to them, but you know who's on this list) are suggesting that Powell is only endorsing Obama because he's black. I suspect that they, like my die-hard conservative family and friends, would not vote for Obama even if McCain did endorse him. (Am I right, Deedee?)

In fact, I think they'd still vote straight Republican ticket even if Jesus endorsed Obama. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, October 17, 2008

(In)Civility in Public Discourse

I have been an official Obama supporter since October 1, 2007. Some right-leaning friends still feel an urgent need to aggressively attempt to convert me from Obama to McCain. In the last month or two, their arguments have included the following:
  • Obama is evil. Obama is a socialist. Obama will raise taxes. Obama is a friend of terrorists. Obama will spend your tax dollars on abortions. Obama and the Democrats got us into this economic crisis. We don't really know who Obama is or what he stands for. Obama never talks specifically about what he would do as president.
  • Obama lacks experience. He's unqualified to be president. What has he accomplished? What has Joe Biden accomplished? Joe Biden is a liar. I don't trust Obama because of the people he associates with and the people who were his mentors. "Ayers" yada yada, "Wright" yada yada, "Rezko" yada yada.
  • He won't end the war in Iraq, he'll just move it Afghanistan. The war will never end. Read your Bible.
  • I don't like his wife. She's just an angry black woman. Obama is a Muslim. He'll get assassinated the first time he goes to a Middle East country because they consider him to be an infidel. How could he have gone to that church for 20 years? That shows bad judgment, or else he agrees with everything Wright said. Obama "had sex with his best friend and promotes kids to experiment." (I don't even know what this means.)
I read articles from across the political spectrum. I try to keep myself informed. I like talking about politics--but I don't like feeling attacked. Do you notice that many of the arguments above are discussion-stoppers? Are flat-out hysterical, or exaggerated, or twisted, or unprovable? They're not, for the most part, rational arguments in a point-counterpoint. They're not legitimate concerns of a fair-minded opponent.

What I want to know is, why can't we just disagree about this? I have asked this very question, and one friend replied, "We can agree to disagree. I'm just sending you the facts that Obama isn't." I asked her to stop.

Is it just me, or are people angrier about the election this year than they usually are? I have seen lots of anger from the right--both in person and in the media--but I realize that conservatives claim to see just as much or more anger coming from Democrats. (Some minimize the anger from the right as "a few over-the-line catcalls." Uh-huh.)

The Washington Post reported on the "pandemonium" that broke out in Prince George's County, Maryland when a local hotel put up a McCain/Palin sign. The conservative NewsBusters headlined this story as "Angry Democrats Threaten Boycott of Maryland Hotel With McCain Sign", and used phrases such as "angry," "enraged," "strong-arm tactic," and "vilification" to describe the response of the county's Obama-supporting residents--but if you read the Post story, you don't encounter any of those extreme expressions. In trying to vilify Obama supporters, NB instead discredited itself with hyperbole.

Whatever--it is nasty on both sides. Civility is a lost art. The best we can do is a thin--and I do mean skeletal--veneer of decorum at a public debate.

But wait: I love this measured opinion piece from the Washington Post coming out in support of Obama. There's nothing mean or disrespectful in it about McCain, and the analysis of Obama's qualifications is balanced and not exaggerated. I haven't checked--is there a similar piece taking the opposite position? I'll post the link in an update if you have one.

This is how the candidates should talk to one another, and about one another; this is how we should talk to one another: with fairness, integrity, and civility.

End of sermon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty Sucks

What do you know about poverty? What can one person do about it?

Take a look at this 2007 Report on Illinois Poverty from Heartland Alliance. More than 21 percent of Chicagoans live in poverty, and 12 percent of people in Illinois live in poverty. That's more than half a million people in Chicago alone, and more than a third of them are children. Most of these live in extreme poverty, meaning that their income is less than half the federal poverty income threshhold--which in 2007 was $20,650 for a family of four.

More than 50 percent of Chicago renter households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Working families earning less than $50K spend an average of 55 percent of their annual budget on housing and transportation.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports in this fact sheet that almost 74,000 people--men, women and children--were homeless in Chicago in 2006. More than 65,000 households are waiting for public housing to become available. Women and children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

Poverty and low-income rates are growing in the Chicago metropolitan area. Things are getting worse, not better, for poor and low-income families.

What can you do about it?

If you're reading this blog, chances are, you're one of the lucky ones. Count your blessings, and give some away. Find a local organization to support. Give money. Give food. Volunteer your time. Teach your kids to care about people in need by setting an example for them.

Give a homeless person a few bucks without worrying about whether you're getting scammed, or whether he's going to buy booze or drugs with it. If you're headed downtown, buy an extra double cheeseburger meal, and give it away.

I know that my readers are among the most kind-hearted and generous on the planet. I'd love to hear about some of the ways that you've reached out to help another person in need. Maybe we can inspire one another to help even more.

UPDATE: I just stumbled on this article, which I think gives a personal, touching account of a person who spent a large chunk of his life serving poor people. It's eye-opening, especially for those of us who at times might be tempted to feel superior to someone who's behavior or choices we don't approve of. It's far better than anything that I could write, because it's intensely personal and also very thoroughly documented.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In Case You Missed It

I love The Internets!

I just have to share with you some links to articles that I believe deliver a unique perspective, or a particularly insightful analysis of the sometimes scary, dramatic, important events that are happening in our world right now.

First, the markets: I had been secretly wondering, in the middle of this mortgage/lending/financial crisis, why nobody is talking about the responsibility of individual buyers who borrowed way more than they should have. Everyone loves sticking the knife into greedy bankers, and everyone loves decrying the greed and corruption on Wall Street--but what about home-buyers who borrowed injudicious amounts of money in order to live in a neighborhood they couldn't afford, and walk on Italian marble tile that was way out of their price league?

When Mr. Peevie and I bought our first home seventeen years ago, our second house ten years ago after selling the first, both times we qualified for twice as much mortgage as we actually borrowed. We said to each other, why would people with our income put themselves into that much debt? It seemed ridiculously and unnecessarily risky.

I am not trying to place blame on uneducated buyers that were persuaded to sign on the dotted line by unscrupulous bankers. I'm sure there are many of those scenarios out there. I'm talking about people, regular people, who out of greed, ambition, or a simple lack of prudence borrowed too much money for a house, for shoes, for hundreds of insignificant credit card purchases--and now they can't pay it back. Finally, this guy said what I was thinking.

In other news, here is an article by Slate's John Dickerson that describes one of John McCain's town hall meetings in Wisconsin recently. Apparently, the locals are tougher and angrier than the candidate himself! The article notes a moment of McCain integrity: "In a close contest embracing media-bashing would have helped him, McCain refused."

And in case you were wondering if any conservatives have crossed over to support Obama:
Frank Schaeffer (son of evangelical leader/author/activist Francis Schaeffer)
Wick Allison (former publisher of The National Review)
Andrew Sullivan (conservative journalist and commentator; former editor of The New Republic)
Susan Eisenhower (granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower; author; business consultant)
and a whole bunch of Republicans for Obama.

Many conservatives are concerned about Obama's friends and associates. They might want to look into Sarah Palin's radical right-wing pals, who unabashedly advocate Alaska's secession from the U.S. and who brag about having "enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement."

And in the interests of fairness and open-minded dialogue, I submit this item from the Washington Post which raises excellent questions for the candidate "in the pole position." I think these questions present an excellent opportunity for Obama to strengthen his base by reassuring the undecideds that he is indeed a forward-looking, strategic-thinking leader who can bring leaders from all sides together in a crisis.

I just spent some time cruising around on, a non-partisan election resource that compares the candidates on the issues in their own words. It's pretty cool, really, especially if you're undecided--and I know there are one or two of you out there.

And finally, another good site for research and reporting from both sides of the aisle is Real Clear Politics, where you can click on all sorts of interesting articles from across the political spectrum.

Here's my challenge to you: If you're leaning left, read a few articles from right-leaning sources. If you're leaning right, read a few from left -leaning sources. Let's try to wear the other guy's shoes, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Maybe it will help us all remain (or become) civil and open-minded in these last three weeks before the Big Election.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fifth Grade Political Primer

This article in Newsweek claims that "from an 11-year-old's point of view, the difference between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain is almost nil." They both want a better health care system, fairer taxes, and Iraq withdrawal.

But our 11-year-old, A. Peevie, is an unapologetic supporter of Barack Obama. (I have no idea why.) In his world--a Lutheran school packed with political conservatives--this means he sometimes comes in for some tough criticism. Not too many of his classmates share his political leanings.

"Why are most of my friends at school voting for McCain?" A. Peevie asked me recently.

"Well, honey," I said, "I guess that in our school a lot of people see things differently than the way we see them. It's a Christian school, and Christians tend to vote conservatively. There are a lot of military and law enforcement families at school, and they also tend to vote Republican."

(That's what I told him, but now I'm not so sure it's even true--at least the military and law enforcement part. The military and law enforcement people that I know are, for the most part, consistently conservative. But I actually did some research, and some sources indicate that the myth of a largely conservative military has been soundly debunked. Hmm. Go figure.)

"Obama's just going to raise taxes," one of his friends told him--conversationally, without meanness.

Another one said, "You're just for Obama because your parents are for Obama." Because no doubt that fifth-grader had formulated his own McCain apologetics independent of any parental influence.

These critiques did not put A. Peevie off of his convictions. He was determined to go back to school ready to make a defense for his chosen candidate. So I decided that I needed to write a fifth-grade election primer to help him out a little bit. Here it is:

  • I support Barack Obama because I believe he will bring U.S. soldiers home from Iraq sooner than John McCain.
  • I support Barack Obama because he has better ideas for helping poor people and the middle class than John McCain.
  • I support Barack Obama because he has a better plan for energy, the economy, and health care than John McCain.
  • I support Barack Obama because the Republicans have a made a mess of things over the past eight years.
  • I support Barack Obama because his running mate is NOT Sarah Palin.
There. Now all of you fifth-graders out there have some talking points when your classmates tease you about your Obama pin.

And if you're not in fifth grade, you can feel free to borrow the primer as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Second Grade Field Trip

Today I went to The Grove on a field trip with M. Peevie and the Second Grade Class. I rode on a bus with about 40 very loud children. Sometimes I wanted to cover my ears. Sometimes I was loud, too. The bus ride was fun and bouncy.

At The Grove, we followed our leader, Miss MacDonald, to the old-fashioned school house, where she pretended to be our schoolmarm. A schoolmarm is an old-timey school teacher who teaches all the children of all ages together in one room.

We had to sit up straight and fold our hands on our desks and not talk. It was very, very hard not to talk.

We got wooden nametags to hang around our necks, and we pretended to be children from 1862. M. Peevie's name was Mercy, which is a very cute name, I think. Maybe I will start calling her that in real life.

Sometimes I snuck my cell phone out of my purse and sent text messages to J1 & J2's mom. This was her first time sending her girls off on a field trip without her, and she was a little worried about them. (She obviously does not subscribe to my parenting philosophy: "Leave 'em early and often.") I told her that my rule is No Bleeding Or Choking On My Watch--so she felt relieved, because I am so mature and responsible.

There were many things that I did not like about 1862. We had to do "recitations" in class, which meant repeating sentences after the teacher. How would this help anybody learn anything? We had to read aloud from a McGuffey's Reader--the same paragraph over and over. Again: BORING.

We had a class spelling bee, which was totally hilarious because nobody could spell the first word, which was BONNET. We tried one more word, BUFFALO, but when three kids couldn't spell it, Miss MacDonald had had enough. I think maybe she was not impressed with our spelling abilities.

We sang some songs, and then we got to write words on our slates with chalk. Miss MacDonald told us to write three-letter words with the letters A and T in them. I wrote down 25 words, and I think I won. Not that I am competitive or anything.

When we went outside for recess, it was dumb that the girls could not play with the baseball thing. Miss MacDonald said girls in 1862 had to only play games that were ladylike. I do not like being ladylike, and I was glad all over again that I live in 2008 and not 1862. When Miss MacDonald went inside the schoolhouse, I played with it anyway. I hit the ball really far.

I think Mr. S, the daddy chaperone, wanted to tell on me, but he didn't. I bet Mr. S. that he could not pop the ball into the cup two times in a row with the wooden stick/string/ball thingie, and he did it, so now I owe him one dollar. But don't gamble, boys and girls.

Back in the schoolhouse, we did readings from our McGuffy Readers. When the pretend third-grade girls got up to do their reading, all the boys started pounding on their desks real loud. Miss MacDonald made them stand up in the front of the room and she pretended to swat their behinds with a stick while they hollered.

That's how teachers disciplined their students back in 1862, and that one more reason I am glad to be here in 2008.

When we left the schoolhouse, we walked down a path to a duck pond. On the way we saw guinea hens, which were very beautiful, with fluffy poka-dotted feathers. Mr. S. said they are good to eat, but I did not want to think about eating them when they were walking around looking so sweet and adorable and alive.

However, if the guinea hen had look like this I would not have any problem thinking about eating it. Does that make me a hypocrite?

At the duck pond we saw many beautiful ducks. I think maybe they were mallards: the boys had green necks with a white ring at the top, and the girls were brown, white, and black. I told J1 that she should jump in the pond because her mom said to be sure and come home wet! But she did not believe me, and Mrs. MiPi really quick-like said, "Um, no, I think she said DO NOT come home wet." They are no fun.

We walked to another building where they had a big tank of turtles. There was other stuff, too, but I didn't see it because I was trying to email pics of J1 and J2. Sometimes technology gets in the way of real life. Let that be a lesson to you.

I had a good time on my trip to The Grove with the Second Grade.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jack is (Almost) Back

This is the most exciting news I've heard in a long time: Jack Bauer will be back on November 23 for a two-hour movie prequel to Season 7.

The Fox/24 site says Jack is "working as a missionary in Africa." This has got to be the best news yet: Jack loves Jesus! I would not have guessed this plot twist in a bajillion years! It's just one more thing we have in common. Sigh.

More good news: We have a woman president in the 24 universe, played by the under-appreciated Cherry Jones. You might remember her as the police officer in Signs. And another one of my favorite under-appreciated actors, Robert Carlyle, plays Jack's friend, which means, of course, that he is doomed. I predict that his character will not live to see Season 7.

We have waited nearly a whole year for this event, thanks to the writers' strike last year. Don't get me wrong--I was completely on board with the writers on that one. I missed me some Jack-sugar, but it was worth it if the writers got, you know, an extra hundredth of a percent of royalties on DVDs. Or whatever ridiculous thing the producers were sniggling about.

But if you recall, Season 6 was not an excellent example of TV writing. In fact, after a strong first four episodes, S6 totally tanked. It went down the toilet. It jumped the shark. It sucked.

So this time around, being eternally optimistic, I'm hopeful that the extra months of writing time will mean that the prequel and S7 will be back to S1 standards: fierce, shocking, tense, breath-taking, non-stop action and drama.

It's not too much to ask, is it?

The Road to High School

When I went to high school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there were no decisions to be made, no entrance exams to take, no open houses to visit, no applications to fill out.

I just walked two blocks up the street, walked in the front door of William Tennent High School, and that was that. Even when my parents rudely picked up our lives and moved them to Broken Arrow ("Arruh"), Oklahoma, there were still no complications. There was one huge high school in town, and I attended it--even though the school only offered first and second year Spanish, and I was hoping to take fourth year. And even though the girls basketball team played using archaic half-court rules for girls. (I am not even kidding. It was like we had not only moved halfway across the country, but backwards in time as well. To the Victorian Era.)

Here in Chicago, the road to high school is a bit more complex. The eight selective high schools in Chicago use a thousand-point rating scale to weed out losers less-qualified applicants. The scale combines points for seventh grade final grades, ISAT scores, and attendance. If you get straight As in seventh grade, deliver top scores on the ISATs, and don't get sick, you will have your pick of any selective high school in the Chicago Public School system.

The selective high schools, plus a few non-selective schools are the ones that you want to aim for in the public school district that Secretary of Education William Bennett labeled the worst in the nation in 1988. Things have improved since then: last year the State Board of Education ranked three CPS schools (Northside, Payton, and Young) as the top three high schools in Illinois.

The selective high schools accept fewer than one out four applicants; the process is more competitive than most colleges. My talented son, C. Peevie, although a stellar human being and an excellent student, will none-the-less not have his pick of any high school. He will have to go through the lengthy process of visiting, applying to, and testing for any school he's interested in attending, including up to four selective schools. We've been told to apply to a minimum of four high schools to ensure that at least one gives us the thumbs-up.

Our weekends for the next six weeks are booked with high school open houses. Most of the selectives won't even put you on the short list unless you list them as your number one choice--which puts even more pressure on us to do the application process exactly right. If C. Peevie is borderline qualified for a couple of the top schools, he could theoretically lose out on both of them by listing the wrong one first.

No matter which high school C. Peevie enters, he will be navigating public transportation to and from school. Barely 14 years old, he will be riding the bus with cubicle-dwellers, barristas, homeless people, maids, artists, and college students. He might sit down next to a gang member, a really smelly guy, or a stock broker. He'll be exposed to a lot more Life than I ever was at age 14--or age 24, for that matter.

Actually, he's already doing this once or twice per week, to get home from his relocated middle school after flag football practice. I probably should have been worried sick the first time C. Peevie hopped aboard the Foster bus all by his lonesome--but I wasn't. When I learned that he actually got on the wrong bus, headed east instead of west, I retroactively worried--but there he was standing in front of me, telling me how he asked the bus driver if he was headed in the right direction; hopped off a half-block later; and eventually, two buses and a short walk later, made it all the way home.

C. Peevie is resourceful, smart, cautious and brave, and I could not be more proud of him. And in ten short months my sweet baby boy will be a big-shot high school kid, and that, my friends, is a punch in the gut. In a good way, of course.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Can I Call You Joe?

Sarah Palin redeemed herself in the VP debate with Senator Joe Biden this week. She didn't win, obviously, but she didn't make a fool of herself, either--and that's pretty much how low the standards were going in. If I were voting Republican, I'd breathe a huge sigh of relief.

I enjoyed the VP debate much more than the presidential debate a week ago. This time I watched the whole thing--from the "Can I call you Joe?" kick-off to the "God bless you" finale. Excluding, of course, the minor (though annoying) kid-related interruptions. (They obviously do not have any appreciation for the historical importance of this political season, or they'd be more cooperative.)

Here are my random observations:
  • If I were playing a drinking game during the debate, the drink-word for Palin would have been "maverick." She must have used it 20 times to describe herself and McCain. Maverick means "independent in thought and action." Palin was not specific about the policies and accomplishments that qualified either of them as mavericks, and I don't buy it.
  • Here's the transcript if you want to check for yourself.
  • Actually, I observed that Palin was not specific about much. Biden challenged her several times to specifically elucidate how McCain's policies would be different from W's, and she could/would not.
  • Someone needs to tell Sarah Palin that soccer moms comprise perhaps 3 percent of the total U.S. population--so she needs to find a way to relate to the rest of us.
  • The whole country wanted to swat at that little clump of bangs stuck to Palin's left eyelash every single time she blinked. Or maybe that was just me. (Props to Queen.)
  • Biden's drink-word was "fundamental"--he used one form or another at least nine times.
  • Biden deserves a medal for refusing to correct Palin when she twice referred to the commander in Afghanistan as McClellan (a Civil War general) rather than McKiernan--especially after she corrected his take on "Drill, drill, drill!" to "Drill, baby, drill!"
  • Both Palin and Biden got their facts wrong at times during the debate. This website is a great source of fact-checking analysis.
  • Gwen Ifill was no Jim Lehrer, if you know what I mean. Why did she not make any attempt to rein Palin in, especially when she blatantly said she would not be "answering questions the way the moderator would like"?
I know we tend to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear, but I came away from the debate with a renewed respect and admiration for Senator Biden. I thought he did a great job keeping on point and responding to Palin's criticisms with specific, pointed replies.

What did you think? Come on: Tell me what you really think.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nurturing the Neighborhood

My little neighbor V. was riding M. Peevie's bike today. She crashed and hurt herself, and M. Peevie came running to our house--not to her house--to tell me. So I hurried out to pick up the pieces of someone else's child.

V.'s grandpa (the youngest grandpa in the history of grandpas, and way younger than I) was also strolling toward her. V. was sitting on the sidewalk a few houses down, crying and holding her wounds.

"Don't cry!" Young Gramps called, still three houses away. "You gotta be tough!"

"Gramps!" I scolded as I caught up to him.

"What?" he said. "Girls have to be tough, too!"

"Yeah," I replied, "But tough does NOT mean that you can't cry."

When we got to poor little V., her upper lip and mouth were bleeding and she had bruises and scrapes on one hand and one knee. She held her hand gingerly, as though it hurt to move it. She was crying and shaking as she told us, "I fell and hit my mouth! It hurts! My hand hurts, too!"

"Don't cry!" V's sister parroted in her three-year-old voice. "Be tough!"

I shot a "see what you did?" look at Young Gramps, who shook his head and said with a regretful laugh, "I'm sorry. I didn't know she was really hurt." Which isn't even the point.

I sat down next to V. and wrapped my arms around her. "I'm sorry, baby girl," I said. "I know it hurts." We walked her to my house and laid her down on the couch. (When we walked home from the crash site, I asked him, "Do you want me to bring her into your house, or mine?" he said he didn't have anything to take care of her at his, so mine would be better.) I wiped her tears, got her cold, wet washcloths for her scrapes, and put some ice on her hand and her puffing-up lip. Meanwhile, Young Gramps went home and, um, I don't know--watched TV?

V. laid pathetically on the couch, and I checked on her every few minutes. Kids usually get over feeling bad about a bike spill within 10 or 15 minutes, but V. was still hurting an hour later. I went next door to tell Young Gramps that if she were my child, I'd be calling the doctor about her front teeth, which V. said had gotten knocked loose, and her hand. I don't know what happened. Maybe I'll find out in a couple of days.*

I don't want to come down hard on Young Gramps. Perhaps his upbringing taught him that taking care of a crying, wounded child was the job of a woman--even a neighbor woman who's not even related. And maybe by taking V. into my own home, I was just reinforcing that stereotype and enabling his behavior.

I wish it were him picking up his granddaughter and carrying her to his house and washing off her bloody scrapes. But it wasn't. He didn't even bend down to brush her hair off her face, to look in her eyes, to check out her contusions while she was huddled in a heap on the sidewalk. I couldn't just stand there and let her cry when what she clearly needed was a little bit of sympathetic nurturing and practical field nursing.

And he didn't ask to be a grandpa in his 20s--he barely had a chance to develop parenting skills with his one child, let alone grandparenting skills for his step-daughter's children. But still. It was kind of messed up. Eventually, about two hours after the fall, Gramps loaded her into the car to take her home to her mom.

I felt sorry for sweet-natured V. I took care of her, and did my best to help her feel better. But when you're 7 and you're hurt--who do you want to wipe your tears? You want your mom or your dad. It's just not the same when the washcloths and the bandaids are applied in someone else's house, by someone else's mom.

This story doesn't really have a point. It just made me feel sad for V.

*Update: V.'s teeth are OK, but her wrist was sprained. She came over today with scrapes on her face, but the swelling in her lip had gone down. She was wearing an ace-bandage wrap on her wrist.