April 9, 2013

A four letter word.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 12:53 pm by openendedcomment

Snow.  I hate that word right now.  Like…hate.  I detest, loathe and despise that s-word.  Today marks the seventh month of winter in Minnesota.  Mother Nature is giving us the middle finger, people I love are going through Hell, my life is chaos and I’m foul…but instead of dwelling on all the crap, I thought that at least for today, I’d try to look on the bright side…find the good.  I need the good right now and when I write things down, they tend to be more “true” or at least seem this way.  It’s worth a shot.

We are going to get several inches of snow.  Bright side: it’s raining before the snow, and we need rain.  I’m getting more wear out of my winter clothing.  Even brighter side, I started my summer-prep workouts four weeks late this year.  My arms aren’t tank-ready and as it appears I’ll have until June before the weather requires a tank top, much less a t-shirt, I’m actually right on track.  Oh, and no sun-burns…not yet.  I can and do burn in 60 degree April within about twenty minutes.  I wear sunscreen everyday and it never matters…I’m still going to fry.  This is also a less sun damage and wrinkles kind of bright side and when you’re on the wrong end of 35, that’s a really big deal.

I never see my husband because he works insane hours and I have to handle 99% of what goes on at home.  Bright side: We don’t fight much because when we do see each other, those petty things don’t seem to matter.  His working this way also means that he feels fulfilled and I’m thankful he finally has a career he can be proud of on all levels.  I also get to take care of things around here my own way, which I actually prefer, no matter how much it annoys me day-to-day.  Bonus bright side:  Bonuses.

I have no social life because I am always driving my children around to sports, friends, sports, school, dates and sports.  Bright side:  I have four healthy and active children.  I’m on the tail-end of this mom-chauffeur thing and I know that I’ll miss it all…someday.  Everyone says so.  Then again, they all also said that childbirth was “a good kind of pain” and that once I got through the two and three-year old phase it would get easier…so we’ll see.

Speaking of children, they have, all four in their own way, been a challenge these past few months.  Bright side: So far, challenges met.  Note to God, Karma, the World: This is not a challenge/dare to make it harder.  Brighter still, I’m pretty sure that based on how we’ve addressed these issues, we’ll be in a better place with each of them in short order.

This past year I’ve been re-examining my relationships with people.  I’ve lost a few along the way.  Bright side: I offered forgiveness and asked for it from the people and situations I needed.  Some worked out, others didn’t, and in the end at least I know I’ve done what I can do.  No more loose ends and way less drama.  Good things.

I’m sure that within a few weeks I’ll be back to complaining.  I know that so many have such larger problems…so many near and dear to me are dealing with things far, far worse.  I hate that I can’t fix it for them and that right now I don’t even know how to make it easier.  I get that I don’t really have the right to complain.  That said, I know I will.  In a month or two I’ll be dying of heat, sun-burned, annoyed that all I do is drive around and work and someone will have royally ticked me off and I’ll fall back into my whining ways…but for today, it’s all about the positive.  And that’s all any of us can really expect, right?  One day and one moment at a time, to enjoy what we can and we what we have…even if today that is the forecast for a foot of snow in April.

October 30, 2012

Your Vote.

Posted in Life Lessons tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:04 pm by openendedcomment

I am a Catholic Republican and that is why I will Vote No on the ballot initiative limiting the definition of marriage in Minnesota as one man and one woman.  Please allow me to explain.  To be clear, I am more of a  Republican-leaning Independent than straight line Republican and I do not agree with every single line of the Republican platform, case in point, but in general I’m more right than left and it is fair to categorize me as a conservative.  I believe in the rights of the individual.  I believe that the government needs to limit its role in the lives of our citizens.  I believe in the separation of Church and State.  I also believe that the money spent on this insane campaign (in my mind it is insane to argue amending the State Constitution based on fear-mongering to allow for legislated prejudice) would and should be better spent re-educating out of work Minnesotans, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I am a Catholic.  I do not believe in every line of Catholic doctrine, but I believe strongly that it is the leaders of the Church and not the Religion that is against same-sex marriage.  Further, even if I did agree with the Church’s stance on this issue, because of my belief in the separation of Church and State I would still be compelled to vote No.  Further still, as a Catholic I am compelled to vote my conscience. That is part of the Catholic doctrine and it is clear that regardless of the stance of the Church as a Catholic your conscience, the holy spirit within, is paramount to all else.  My conscience has no room for doubt on this issue.  Many Priests, Nuns and Catholic leaders agree with me.  Limiting love and legislating prejudice thereby limiting progress and unity, in my mind and in my heart,  is wrong on every level.  My conscience also tells me that the funds of the church could and should also be better spent re-educating out of work Catholics, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I feel the need to state these things because it appears as of late that many people assume that because I do vote Republican more often than not and because I do cross myself before prayer and at my son’s games that I am somehow automatically in the “Yes” column.  I’m not.  I can be a conservative who believes in equal rights.  I can be a religious person who feels bigotry is wrong.

And I am.   And I’m writing this to all of you who are Republican and/or Religious.  I’m writing in the hopes that you’ll examine your conscience.  That you will pause before you enter that voting booth be it in Minnesota or any other state with similar legislation pending.  I ask that you think about it, no matter what the lawn sign on your yard may say or what your friends may think you feel.  Consider seriously if this is something you agree with because your party or your preacher told you to or if in your heart and in your mind with utter clarity you feel it is right and good and legal to limit the rights of others simply because it isn’t your personal preference.  I ask you to answer not to your congregation or social circle, I know the pressure they can bring, but answer only yourself and your moral code.  You are the only person in that booth.  Your vote is your own as is your legacy.  Please, on November sixth, be sure it is one you will be right with in the decades to come.

One last thing and it’s something I’ve never done on here before nor do I anticipte ever doing again.  I’m going to ask you to share this.  Add to it, comment, whatever…but get the conversation out there.  There are only a few days left and the margin on this is razor thin.  If you aren’t inclined to share this exact post then please, find something else that hits closer to home for you and put that out there.  This is a big deal.  These are people’s lives we are voting on.  There are no higher stakes.

March 7, 2012

The State of Hockey.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:08 am by openendedcomment

Tonight I am a very, very proud parent.

My eldest son is headed to Sectionals for the CI Floor Hockey Tournament…and he is…beaming. 

For him, even more so than other young men, this means everything.  From age 4-8; he participated in traditional hockey.  We are in Minnesota.  Hockey is a way of life.  A rite of passage.  My husband coached and it was their “thing.”  For our son, it was his place of normalcy.  Hockey was where his difficulties didn’t matter…he could skate.  Well.  His ability to read, to write and to add were utterly insignificant on that sheet of ice.  At age 7, the social aspect of the game was minimal at best.  At age 8, things began to be difficult for this sweet, sensitive boy of ours.  At age 8 there were sleepovers.  At age 8 there was elbowing and tripping and occasionaly checking.  At age 8…hockey no longer worked for him. 

From 8 to 14 there were little options for sports.  For him.  There were leagues for children with physical disabilities; a category he did not fit into.  There were leagues for children with average abilities both mentally and physically.  He did not fit in there, either.  For six years, he bravely went to his little brother and sister’s games, cheering them on with a smile on his face…but the void was there.  I hated it for him.  We hated it for him.

Enter high school.  The CI League.  Enter confidence.  A letter jacket.  A place to belong and to excel.  What this has done for him…the ability to be a part of a team, to be a needed and valued member of something bigger than himself…it is difficult to put to words.

I cried the first time I saw him play.  I cried when his team went to the State Soccer tournament.  When he received his letter.  When he tried on the letter jacket I brought home for him and literally shook with pride.  His successes mean everything. 

For our son, our special and amazaing son, life will not always be simple.  He will always overcome more challenges than most.  But now, he will always have this.  These memories.  The strength of success and the power of pride to fall back to.  He will always carry with him the knowledge that he can succeed.

In Minnesota, this most fridgid of states, March means State Hockey Tournament.  It’s an Event.  18,000 screaming fans in a sell-out crowd and literally millions of television viewers.  It’s actually a holiday for some schools.  Even a few businesses.  One whole town.  Seriously.

For every child that ever laced a skate, be it Mighty Mites, Bantam or Varsity, this is it.  The big dance.  The moment you get to skate to the camera, wave and throw out a “Hi Mom!”…the moment you’ve dreamed of. 

It’s also the State CI Hockey Tournament…Sections this week, State next.  They play on glossy gym floors at Bloomington Jefferson rather than the shiny Xcel Center.  There are no television cameras, no scouts in the stands.  No one scalps tickets out front; but there are t-shirts sold.  It is their day.  Their big dance.  Their moment in the sun…

…and in some ways, it matters even more.  Out of this tournament there will be no scholarships signed; no players drafted.  Out of this group something even more profound will occur.  These boys and girls; soon to be men and women; will feel what for them is far too rare.  Total success.  Utter joy.  They fight as hard or harder for their victories both off and on the play floor.  They wave to their families and bask in the glory of the game.  They are kind out there.  They truly wish the best for each other and for the opposing team…they want to win, but feel terrible for those that do not.  Sportsmanship takes on a whole new meaning with this group.

Their schools don’t announce their wins every week.  They don’t have pep rallies.  I doubt very much with our school’s varsity hockey boys headed to that biggest of all hockey tournaments in the country that the majority of the student body is even aware that some of the very best of them are quietly and with great dignity heading to their own big game tomorrow afternoon…right there in their district.  They have homefield advantage.  They earned it.  They don’t carry the same moniker…they are a team combined of three different schools as no one has enough players with their unique qualities to form a full roster.  They don’t care.  They play as one.   

Dog had a game tonight, too.  We hockey parents are a good group.  We form little families (that happens when you’re trapped in rinks together for four months a year.) We know each other; all of the children and what matters to each of them.  Tonight, several of these wonderful people wished him luck and congratulated our son on his big upcoming game.  A few of the Dad’s high-fived.  Two Mothers said they would try to come.  It was all he could talk about in the car…how people were going to come and cheer him on…that he would have so many fans for his team…how wonderful that would be.  There are so few that they notice each and every one.  Every face; every shout of encouraagement, each clap of every hand matters so much

Two such different tournaments in this town of mine…one no more important than the other.  It’s the State of Hockey, baby, and it’s Tourney time…so let’s drop the puck and rock the house.  Good luck to all of our boys; stay safe and make a few memories.

Go Wildcats!

March 6, 2012

I need a hero…or, enough of this shit already.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:21 am by openendedcomment

From a presidential candidate’s speech at a religious organization’s meeting:

“While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the…election; …the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power–the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms–an America with too many slums, with too few schools….These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues–for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.”

This is not Obama, not Clinton, not Romney and certainly not Santorum.   This was Fifty-Two Years ago.  John F Kennedy during the 1960 campaign for the Presidency.  Aside from a few, short lines removed regarding communism and the space race…it is all still true.

Enough of this.  Enough of this political posturing and bargaining and..well…bullshit.

I am an American and as an American I demand that we do better.  Try harder.  I demand on the backs of my grandparents and great grandparents and on the lives of their families, friends, brothers, sisters and fellow citizens who gave everything they had and everything they were for our right to live in this, the greatest society ever known to man, to do better and Knock. It. The. Hell. Off.

Immigrants flocked to our shores and built this nation with little more than a dream of what could be. I’m a European mutt born of five boats that I can trace and dozens of dreams. Because of that and of them I have a responsibility to care.

As I told my son’s teacher the day she had the audacity to remind me that she knew how to do her job (this as he was failing) It is, in fact, my job to ensure the proper and correct raising of my son in all areas of his life…I reminded her of this and went on to tell her that as I was damn well going to do my job she had better understand that included ensuring she did hers.

Same goes for our elected officials.  I may be only one Mother, one parent, one citizen, one small and seemingly insignificant suburban woman in Minnesota…but I’m a loud one.  I am the proverbial squeaky wheel and if I only squeak here…online…to a few that bother to glance at what I write…I will still squeak away…sooner or later, I won’t be alone.

It’s been too long and we’ve been pushed too far and we parents are a demanding sort.  Especially the suburban-types.  Imagine a few million hover-moms all over Washington’s Business…you want some change?  You want things organized once and for all?  Get a working Mother on this mess and it’ll be cleaned up in no time. This is going to be simple.  It needs to be as Washington, as of late, has the maturity level of a bunch of 12-14 year olds.  

1)  Stay out of each other’s business.  Yes, big religious groups, this means you.  I believe in God and I believe in His place in my life and that of my family…BUT…I do NOT go around telling everyone else what to believe and why.  It’s rude and it pisses people off.  It starts fights.  Sometimes people get hurt.  No one will stop you from practicing what you believe to be right and good.  By all means, continue. You have the right to feel/think/say whatever you wish about whatever you choose.  You do not have the right to legislate your religious beliefs.  Back off of any and all religious issues that have turned political.  This includes gay marriage, birth control…all of it.  Stay in your own space.

2)  Share.  Yes, I know…it’s a super-tricky one.  Share.  We are a charitable Nation…clearly.  But we are not charitable to and with each other…and THAT needs to stop.  Give me a committee of coupon-cutting, budget-stretching parents and we will feed every kid in this country a Hell of a lot faster than any “Poverty Zsar” or whatever they’re calling it/him/them these days.

3) Everyone has to help out around here and, by all means, let’s keep it fair.  10%.  10% across the board flat federal tax rate.  Two exceptions and six exemptions. That. Is. It.

Exceptions: 

1) Anyone or any family unit at 200% or less of Federal Poverty Levels.

2) Any Active Duty Service Member during service and Any Widow/Widower of a Service Member Killed in the Line of Duty for LIfe.  They’ve more than paid their fair share.

Exemptions: 

1) Children.  Two thousand per child.

2) Healthcare.

3) Mortage Interest.

4) Taxes paid.

5) Donations up to 10% of income to $250,000 per year annual household income and 5% above that

6) Educational Expenses.

Sound too simple? Good.  Sound like a loophole with the 5% for charitable donations?  Tough.  If we want to take care of people in this country and beyond; we incentivize helping. It still means they pay 10% on the remaining 95% of their income.

Did you know that in 2006 there were 86,585 people working for the IRS?  At an average salary of $50,285? (most recent stats I could grab from government site…I’m a blogger and this isn’t a thesis) Did you know that if we enacted this we could cut at least $3,483,176,000 from the federal payroll?  As in 80%…’cuz by enacting this plan, or something similar, it’s just not that tricky anymore. Oh, and we collect more money.

Where will they work, those poor displaced IRS agents? Well, let’s chat about jobs, shall we?

Unions…

4) If you don’t do your work, you don’t get your allowance.  Uh-huh…now I’m going to piss a few people off.  May as well, I’m on a roll.  They had their time and they had their place and they were very, very necessary once upon a time but that time has in many ways and in many circumstances, come and gone and more often than not they act to discourage growth and job creation.  Just ask the auto industry.  Or a manufacturer. There are so many government entities and laws that ensure worker’s safety and rights that the entire point of unions has changed dramatically…or at the very least been duplicated. We have minimum wages, OSHA, DEC, DOL..it’s all there to protect workers and it will all still be there to protect workers and well, enough is enough!!!

I’m not saying obliterate or outlaw unions; but they do need to be down-scaled and downgraded from running our country.  Think I’m being extreme?  Our politicians are afraid of them.  Find me a democrat running for re-election in Senate or Congress that will speak out against the unions.  Good luck.  They won’t because they are owned by them.  They (unions) control their (politicians) ability to be elected.  Don’t worry, I’m not only referring to democrats, the religious right does the same thing with republicans.  I’ll get there.

Back to unions.  And schools.  They are related.

I love my teachers, the ones I had and the ones my children have now and many, many more I know.  I do NOT think they are paid enough and I do feel they are underappreciated.  However…the fact that our schools are failing cannot be ignored and the fact that bad teachers, failing teachers are almost impossible to fire is not OK.  I work in sales.  This means I am paid for performance.  My husband worked in manufacturing.  If his plant failed, he did not get a raise.  In most jobs in this country, if you don’t do a good job, you are disciplined..warned, and after a few too many warnings, you are let go.  That’s supposed to be how it works, even with unions, but it isn’t…the NLRB ensures it.  This rule of “do your job and do it well in order to a) keep your job and b) get raises (if the company isn’t broke)” applies to servers, accountants, sales people, store clerks…everyone but union employees and most especially teachers…the people with the most important jobs in our country.  As rash as it sounds, it has got to change if we are to give the next generation a fighting chance…which we must.

I know this sounds harsh and cruel and utterly insane…but, newsflash, we can’t afford it (the entitlement mentality) anymore.  Life isn’t fair and not everyone gets a trophy.  Someone has to win and some people who do a better job are going to get paid more.

Schools: No testing to performance; that is inane.  No “rating” scale…it is subjective.  A clearly defined set of job expectations and duties and a reward (i.e. raise) for those that succeed.  Rated system TBD. Good teachers get more; great teachers get lots more.  Incentives for great ones to go to and teach in less advantaged districts. Big incentives. 

We can use all of the IRS money we save and a third of the former IRS employees we get rid of can go to work auditing all of those idiotic government entities that make zero sense but pass every year buried in thousands of pages of crap we call a “budget.”  The other two-thirds can get busy auditing the CRAP out of the healthcare companies, Medicare and Medicaid putting an end to the waste and fraud which, last I checked, costs enough to cover their salaries AND THIRTY PERCENT of the costs of healthcare for our seniors.   A few of the stragglers can be sicced on the pharmaceutical companies…to negotiate the same rates other countries enjoy.

Speaking of negotiation…no more lobbyists in Washington.  They are parasites.  They can put their power of persuasion to work lobbying Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Financial to get their houses in order and Fortune 1000 companies who manufacture over-seas to come back to the good ‘ol USA to build.

So…let’s see…we’ve got the whole religious mess handled, taxes are fair(ish), deficit on the way down, education’s getting better, people are eating, we are taking our meds and caring for our seniors, Service-members all get a much-deserved raise, we respect our Vets, we tick off a bunch of people but we figure out how to make life fair and we all get paid what we’re worth instead of what we decide we deserve and as a result, we can afford to actually make shit here again. Oh, and as we’ve learned our lesson regarding staying out of each other’s business, there are more families created, less protesting and less overall angst.  Which is good; because stress causes eating and eating causes obesity and well, we all know what an issue that is.  Maybe we should subsidize victory gardens…victory over our own health.  Free seeds and informative sites on home gardening.  Hey!  Schools could teach gardening and have gardens at the schools as an elective course…and donate the produce to the school kitchen to make healthier meals more affordable!  I mean, really people, this is not that hard to figure out.

That was ONE HOUR on a cheap Toshiba lap-top.  So, candidates, what do you have?

I am NOT a hero.  I am not all that bright, I didn’t go to an Ivy league school, I didn’t even make it through my state school…I had to go to work…and, frankly, I had a really good time at school; not so much in class but campus was great.  I know that what I wrote isn’t all overly practical…but I had an hour.  It isn’t fleshed out.  What is your excuse?  Where are the heroes?  Why can candidates, for decades, repeat the same thing and we, as constituents, buy it?  Why don’t we demand more? Why don’t we expect more?  What are we all so afraid of?

Look, I know that when I post this to Facebook I’m going to lose a few friends…and that’s OK.  I’m not afraid to voice my opinion and I’m not afraid to squeak my wheel.  Someone has to.  If you don’t agree with me…good for you.  It’s your right not to.  It’s your right to say what you think.  It’s your responsibility to demand a leader who will at least try to solve our problems and make some attempt to clear the honey-do list of our country.

I promised to address the religious political puppeteers…and I shall.

JFK, who was a flawed and faulted man, and a hero all the same…because at least he had the courage to say something…went on to state the following, which I feel is appropriate to close with, imagine if this were true not only here but in other countries as well, especially those of our enemies:

“:I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–”

And on that note, I leave you with these four words:  EFF THE SUPER PACS.