how I spent my Saturday morning

Want to guess what I was doing this past Saturday morning? I was going door-to-door for Barack Obama, making sure people had information about early voting and that they know exactly where their polling location is if they choose to vote on Election Day. (In case you didn’t know: for early voting, you can go anyplace within your county. The place where I voted was in a shopping mall next to a LensCrafters. On Election Day, though, you can only go to your district’s assigned voting location.)

I was planning to volunteer on Election Day, but the local Obama campaign office called me and asked if I could help over the weekend, and well heck, why not? It’s only for three hours, it’s not like it’s some huge imposition, and I do believe in the cause. It was fun. It was nice to chat with the other volunteers about the election, and most people that we talked to were very nice. A good portion of them had already voted, which was encouraging. We had a few people on our list who had moved, and the new residents were McCain supporters, which was awkward. But we just gave them the, “ok, sorry to bother you, have a nice day!” And it was fine. Nobody was overly rude, so overall I’d say the venture was a success.

Also, since it’s so close to the election, the local campaign office was giving volunteers all sorts of Obama gear for free. Which is how I scored a yard sign. Check it out.

my front yard

It’s really bizarre to me how split our neighborhood is – on our street, there are an equal number of McCain and Obama yard signs. But what’s even weirder is how all of the kids are involved with it too. Yesterday, little Ryan gave me crap about my Obama yard sign, and I was like, dude, you’re 5 years old! How do you even know who the candidates are? His mom said she’s worried about him (and his older sister, Cate’s BFF McKenzie) because if Obama wins, she’s concerned that both of her kids are going to be totally depressed. WTF? Doesn’t that seem strange? I mean, I do remember getting picked on when I was in 2nd grade because my parents were voting for Walter Mondale, but I don’t remember caring that much about it.

There are also at least three other kids who live in our neighborhood who hang out with us almost every day when Cate and I are playing in the yard. Their parents are McCain supporters, so they keep asking me about Obama because they seem to want to understand the other side of things. So like, one of the kids came over and asked me what it meant that “Obama wants to spread the wealth around.” And you know, I don’t mind discussing politics with anyone; after all, even when people disagree with me, I can usually keep it respectful and polite, even if some of their views make me want to roll my eyes back in my head until I can see my own brain. But I keep hitting a road block with these kids: how do you explain politics to an 8 or 10 year-old? I can’t figure out a way to break down things like tax policy and “trickle-down economics” on a level where they can understand it. And then when they ask me what I think of Sarah Palin, I can tell them what I think about her lack of experience and the fact that she seems pretty uninformed about the world, but I can’t get into the abortion issue, or that she made rape victims pay for their own rape kits in Wasilla. I’m also trying to be very careful of how I phrase things because I don’t want their parents to get mad at me for putting my liberal beliefs in their kids’ heads. So it’s just strange. I’m anxious for Wednesday to get here just like everyone else, but one of my reasons is that I’m hoping that the daily barrage of questions will let up.

Speaking of waiting for Wednesday: I mentioned this on a post at Mandajuice today, but whatever happens with this election, I hope that whoever wins will work across the aisle toward the best interests of the entire country, not one small subset of the population. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican (back when the parties had totally different ideologies), and he filled his Cabinet with a mix of both parties, because he wanted the smartest men available to work with him, regardless of their party affiliation. He wanted them to argue with him and give him the counter-point to every issue. George W. Bush has surrounded himself exclusively with other Republicans, so there’s no diversity of thought in this administration at all. I hope that regardless of whoever wins – even if it isn’t the guy I like – our next President will prove to be more like Lincoln, because that’s what we really need right now.


Warning: this post is all about politics. Feel free to skip it if you either don’t care or are going to leave me a nasty comment. Polite disagreement is fine, but this is my site and I like things to stay civil.

A while back, I signed up on Barack Obama’s website to be notified of any events that were happening in my area. They would send me things that were totally out of reach, like one email that told me that Biden was speaking somewhere in Virginia, which, um, no. Don’t get me wrong, I think Joe Biden is an ok guy and would probably be a really good vice-president, but I’m not going to drive for four hours to hear him speak for 45 minutes.

On Monday, I got a notice that Obama was coming to Raleigh. I debated on whether or not to bring Cate with me. On the one hand, I thought it’d be kind of fun – I could just pop her in the backpack carrier and off we’d go. I also considered asking one of the neighbors to watch her, since our neighborhood is chock full of stay-at-home moms, but that felt sort of awkward. (Hello, neighbor with a McCain/Palin sign in your yard. Want to baby-sit for me while I go root for the other guy?) I didn’t want her to interrupt Dave’s workday, but he said it was fine, he could watch her so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping her happy for the entire duration. I decided in the end to go with that option. So Cate and Dave – the two members of our household who aren’t eligible to vote (for different reasons) – stayed home, and I went to the Obama rally all by myself.

It was seriously cool. Actually, the weather was seriously cold. I think it was in the low 40’s this morning, and there was a really crazy wind that was almost painful. I had to stand in line for over an hour, since it stretched out for over three blocks. The highlight was when the old man in front of me asked me if I was a student. I laughed and told him he was sweet, but I’m 32 years old. He said, “Well, we have a lot of graduate students around here who are in their 30’s…” Yeah, nice cover, grandpa. I’m just going to take the compliment that you thought I was 22 and run with it.

Anyway, once the TSA put me through a metal detector and searched my purse, I headed in to find a spot. It was a madhouse. It was still chilly by that point, but pretty soon the sun came out and then I was in a crowd of thousands of people crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, so it started to get really hot. A couple of people actually fainted during Obama’s speech. Craziness.

I managed to get a couple of decent pictures while I was there.
Obama speaking in Raleigh
Obama speaking in Raleigh

It was great, I’m so glad that I went. You can see his speech in Raleigh here, if you want. (No way to embed it, unfortunately.)

Also, I’ve signed up to volunteer with the Obama campaign on Election Day. Nothing big, just calling voters and making sure they know where to go to vote. It’s only for a few hours, Dave can take care of Cate while I go do my part for democracy. Six more days, y’all!

"I Made Freedom Count"

Guess what I did yesterday?

hooray for early voting
I like that caption, “I Made Freedom Count.” Made me laugh when they gave me the sticker.

North Carolina has early voting, which is pretty cool. I headed over while Cate was napping, since Dave was working from home. I had read all kinds of nightmare stories about long waits, screwy voting machines, whatever, so I went into it with great hesitancy. And really, it was totally undramatic. The wait was about 20 minutes, which was nothing (I had brought a book with me, so it went by quickly). North Carolina uses paper ballots, so no worries about computer glitches. And… yeah. That was it. Nothing to it, really. But it felt really good to fill in that bubble next to “Obama/Biden.”

[/end political talk]
Back to the toddler updates: we seem to have entered the Age of Elmo. I knew it was coming eventually – it seems to hit every toddler at some point – but it officially started yesterday. We were playing with Jillian, the little girl next door, and she had various Sesame Street characters on her sweatshirt. Cate pointed at Elmo and said, “MELMO!” Later when I was changing her diaper, she noticed Elmo on her diaper and said “Melmo, melmo, melmo!” It’s kind of weird since she only watches Sesame Street maybe once or twice a week at the most, but I’ve heard stories about how Elmo has sort of a magical gravitational pull on kids this age, so I’m not really surprised.

Today I took Cate with me to Target, and she started to have a total meltdown about halfway through the store. She wouldn’t ride in the cart, she wouldn’t walk, she didn’t want the Cookie Bribe, she didn’t want her sippy cup, she just wanted me to carry her, but when I did, she kept squirming because I wasn’t holding her at exactly the angle she wanted to be held. (Have you ever tried to hold a 28-pound toddler while pushing an overloaded shopping cart with one hand? It’s challenging.) Finally as I was making my way past the toy section, I spotted some Sesame Street toys. I grabbed a small Elmo doll, showed it to her, and it was like someone magically replaced my child with a new, happier model. For the rest of our trip, she walked happily through the store, holding onto “Melmo” and talking to him. I was thinking that I would just use the doll to distract her until we were done shopping, but I ended up buying it for her. Elmo only cost $5, and I figured it was worth it since he made her so happy.

Also: I really have to start bringing my camera outside with me more often. Cate is completely enamored with the older girls in the neighborhood, and the feeling is obviously mutual. Yesterday there were three girls serenading Cate with “Row Row Row Your Boat” over and over again to make her dance. And she did. For ages. They try to invent little games with her – they’ll say “ready, set,” which Cate knows is her cue to scream “GO!” and then they all fall down. It is seriously, seriously funny.

A few minutes ago, two of the girls, Rebecca and McKenzie (both of them are in the third grade, so they’re about 8-ish, I think?) knocked on the door to see if Cate could come out to play. I told them that she’s napping, but I’ll bring her out as soon as she wakes up.

enjoying autumn

In case I haven’t said it already: I love it here. I’m so happy that we moved when we did. I love this neighborhood, I love this house, I love that there’s a Super Target only a couple of miles from us, and I absolutely adore that there are so many kids around for my girl to play with. We are having so. much. fun.

more on politics and religion (you know, boring non-controversial stuff)

So, that happened. Lesson learned: don’t antagonize the evangelicals.

I’m starting to think that there really is no point to these conversations at all. It’s not as though I’m going to change anyone’s mind, any more than they’re going to convert me into a Scripture-quoting, pro-life, anti-gay, right-wing conservative. It’ll never happen. So why bother discussing it? Both sides are equally convinced that they’re correct in their thinking, so even trying to have a reasonable “hey, have you ever considered it from this angle?” conversation usually just devolves into name-calling and nastiness.

I mean, thank God I’m not Dooce and don’t have nearly the number of hateful commenters that she had when she wrote about abortion. Still, y’all should’ve seen my website statistics over the weekend. If only our economy would have such a spike in numbers.

The funny thing is, all the conversation did was make me realize that I’m actually far more to the left than I thought I was. I used to think of myself as fairly moderate, but the more I look at the way that the Republican party is going, the more it’s repelling me in the opposite direction. This year is the first time I’ve registered to vote as a Democrat rather than an Independent. If the Republican party keeps moving in the direction that it is, catering to its evangelical base and trying to legislate morality, by 2012 I’ll probably be a full-on Socialist.

As for the religion issue, I just want to end with a couple of things that I don’t think are all that controversial. First, a friend linked me to a blog post called The Politics of Jesus, which I thought was interesting. And unbelievably neutral toward both liberal and conservative viewpoints. Seriously, go read it. You won’t be offended no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. (Well, you probably won’t. Some people – not naming names – look for excuses to be offended at every turn, and there’s just nothing I can do about that.)

Second, my favorite quote from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Ok, maybe not the most relevant quote, but you have to admit, he makes a good point.

Third, just to totally lighten the mood: a guy that I went to high school with created a blog a few years ago that I’ve been meaning to link to, and I just never could find a way to work it into the conversation. It’s called Crummy Church Signs, and it is friggin’ HIGH-larious. (Example: “Stop, Drop & Roll Doesn’t Work in Hell”.) Joel himself is a really good Christian guy, he just happens to have a wicked sense of humor when it comes to this stuff. Seriously, some of his captions make me laugh until my eyes water. Hope y’all read and enjoy.

why does this bug me so very much?

Occasionally I go check out blogs that show up in my Blogher ad links over there on the right. I’ve found a few blogs that way that I really like and continue to read all the time, and then a few that are just sort of eh, whatever, move on. Probably the way a lot of people feel about me when they stumble upon my site – some like, some don’t like. No big thing, right?

I recently came upon a post over at Made2Mama, who I’ve been reading occasionally because she has a really adorable little girl, and well, I have a weakness for blonde toddlers (exhibit A: mine). And in this particular post, she mentioned her views on the election, and it’s clear that she’s obviously way in the other direction of my own viewpoint. And you know, that’s fine, nothing in how she said it was offensive. I was a little wigged out by the fact that she quoted James Dobson, who I generally think of as being one of the hate-mongering Christians that give us other relaxed and groovy Christians a bad name, but you know, benefit of the doubt, right? Maybe she just doesn’t know that he calls homosexuals an abomination and thinks that they can be “cured”? I hope?

Really, I should know better. I left a comment, not trying to be rude but more of a “this is the way I look at that particular issue” (in this case, the issue was abortion), and the replies from various “anonymous’s” on that site has me feeling a little bit stabby. And I don’t want to totally hijack someone else’s comments section (or worse, to be thought of as a blog troll), so I think I’ll just share a few choice bits with y’all over here on my own little site so I can vent explain my beliefs more clearly:

Fact, McCain is Pro-Life.Fact, Obama is Pro-Abortion.It’s not my strong opinion here that Life begins at conception,this is fact.

First, people who refer to pro-choice as “pro-abortion” drive me bonkers. No one in their right mind is “pro-abortion.” It’s a horrible thing, I don’t think there’s a woman alive who’s all, “woo-hoo, I’m going to go have irresponsible unprotected sex so I can have an abortion later! Oh happy day! Good times!” Yeah, sorry. That term just doesn’t wash.

Second, this person seems to be playing it fast and loose with what they consider “facts.” In my mind, no one except God can answer exactly when life begins. It’s fine if you want to believe that life begins at conception, but it can’t be proven. Back in the 1200’s, St. Thomas Aquinas said that life began at quickening (when you can feel the baby move), which is somewhere around the 16-20 week point of pregnancy. I’m not saying I agree with him – obviously that was a long time before we had ultrasound machines and all kinds of other medical advancements – but as far as when exactly it goes from a tiny cluster of cells to a living being with a conscious soul? There isn’t a scientist or theologian out there who can answer that question.

On the subject of abortion, this was one of the things that I had said:

The thing about Roe versus Wade is that it wasn’t so much about the right to have an abortion, it was more a question of, does the Constitution guarantee us a right to privacy? And the Supreme Court decided that yes, it does. So I hope that Roe v. Wade stands, because if we lose that right to privacy, and we only elect politicians that legislate their Christian beliefs… well, then we’re really no different from Iran. We’ll just have a Christian theocracy for a government instead of an Islamic theocracy.

I thought that was a valid point. One of the commenters quoted it back to me and then said:

There IS a difference, very basic, between Christianity and Paganism.

That’s where my head exploded. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t paganism imply that one doesn’t believe in God? Because I’m pretty close to 100% certain that Muslims do believe in God, they just call Him by a different name, Allah. That statement alone, referring to Muslim people as pagans, makes this commenter one of the types of “Christians” (air-quotes on purpose) that I do not want myself to be associated with. There are more Muslims in the world than there are Christians, and the fact that this person can show such blatant disrespect for the religious beliefs of literally millions of people makes me shudder at the thought that someone might mistakenly categorize me alongside such incredibly close-minded, judgmental people. It’s even more unbelievable that he/she had quoted the Golden Rule earlier (you know, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), and then has the gall to dismiss an entire religion as pagan. What-what-WHAT?!?!!

Oh, and I mentioned something about how the founding fathers were Christian and Jewish – I said it poorly, I meant that our country was set up with a Judeo-Christian ethic in mind. I know there’s some history buffs out there, can y’all help me with this? Am I right? I know there was a Jewish colony, I thought it was in Maryland, but I can’t remember if any Jewish people were part of the group that’s considered to be “founding fathers”? Help? Anyway, this was the response:

And…the Jews were not a part of our Founding Fathers. It was not they who were being persecuted in England. However, if we have learned anything from history (and this is doubtful) they would have shouted out the usual cry, “You’re trying to push Jesus on us!” : ) But that leads me to a completely different topic.

Again with the unbelievable complete and total lack of respect for other people’s religions. Seriously, it just boggles my mind. And even with a smiley face? WTF?

Ok, last thing:

I am not here to be inflammatory. As I said, I have my opinion, but let’s be real here. There is room for opinion, but right and wrong are very clear. It is a fallacy in this day and age that the world is full of gray. A desire to live in the gray does not eliminate black and white. A lie is still a lie, even when everyone believes it.

No gray at all, just black & white? Wow. I happen to think that some things are open to interpretation – like the Bible, which is why we have so many Biblical scholars in the world. A hundred people can read the same Bible verse and come up with a hundred different versions of exactly what it means. So yes, there is a LOT of gray in the world the way that I see it. But it must be nice to so clearly know exactly what’s right and wrong, and to be the authority on who’s good and who’s a sinner. It’s so easy and clear-cut. Sure sounds like the world this person lives in is nice and simple, huh?

Sorry, I’ll stop. I’ll be back to posting cute toddler photos next time, I promise. I just needed to get that off my chest.

on politics

So, I’m probably going to regret writing this because I certainly don’t want to alienate anybody who reads my website, but here’s the thing. I am obsessed with politics this year. It’s strange, I’ve honestly never really cared that much before now. But this year, I find myself spending waaay too much time on and a slew of other news sites, reading everything I can find about this upcoming election. I seriously can’t wait to vote in November. This is a totally new, foreign experience for me.

And in case there was any question, I am 100% an Obama supporter. I know he’s not perfect, I’ve read, I know that both Obama and McCain have misspoken and exaggerated at times, especially in their advertisements. But I’ve weighed the issues that I care about: health care, the environment, women’s issues (equal pay, right to choose, etc.), the war in Iraq, the economy. Obama is my guy on pretty much every topic.

I used to like John McCain. Honestly. I remember back in the 2000 primaries, he was running against Bush, and I remember thinking that he was the most reasonable Republican candidate I had ever seen. If it had been him running against Al Gore, I’m honestly not sure who I would’ve voted for that year. But it seems like in the last couple of years, he decided that his integrity was worth less than his desire to be President. When he caved in on Bush’s torture bill, I lost all respect for him. I mean, for a guy who wants to play his “former POW” card as much as possible, to decide that torture is ok? Yeah, sorry dude, you lost me right there.

And god, y’all, I don’t even know where to start with Sarah Palin. It’s not a sexism thing, it’s not that I think a mother of five (even with a special-needs baby) can’t have a demanding career. That part is fine. But she represents pretty much the exact opposite of every political viewpoint that I have, and she’s even less articulate than Bush. Listening to her speak (or more accurately, try to speak) makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. With McCain’s age and his current health, there’s a relatively good chance that he could die in the next four years. And the idea of Palin as president… lord help us all.

And not that this is nearly as important as the issues themselves, but there’s also the fact that I grew up in Mississippi, and I’ve always been keenly aware of racism in the world. That’s not to say that racism doesn’t exist outside of the South – I think it’s absolutely everywhere, it’s just a little more obvious in the South with its history of slavery, the civil rights movement, etc. Even within my own family, my dad is a pretty racist guy. He was born in 1936 and has lived in the South all of his life, so I guess he’s a product of his generation and environment. We got into a fight during my family’s visit a few weeks ago about the fact that I don’t want him to go on any racist rants in front of Cate. I know she’s too young to understand it now, but pretty soon she won’t be, and I don’t want her to hear that kind of talk in our house. My parents made my grandparents (on my dad’s side) stop using the n-word when we were little because they didn’t want us to hear it, so it’s the same idea. I just don’t want Cate to hear any sentences that start with the phrase, “These blacks…”

You know, that’s just not the world that I want my child to grow up in. I’m aware that racism will always exist in the world, and I can’t shield her from it forever. But I would love it if I could tell her that the first presidential election after she was born was the one where we elected our first black President. And even if Obama doesn’t win, I’ll still be proud to tell her that her mommy voted for him (and that Daddy would have, but he isn’t a U.S. citizen and he can’t vote with just a green card).

But if the worst happens and we do end up with President Palin: don’t worry, baby, you’ll have dual citizenship so you can move to England after the U.S. has been shot to hell.

EDITED TO ADD: The above is all my personal opinion, which as it turns out, I’m allowed to express on my own website. If you disagree with me on every point? Good for you! That’s why we live in a democracy. We’re different people, we’re allowed to have different opinions. But I would like to request RESPECTFUL disagreement, I’m not looking to start a flame war.

do you ever get used to handling other people's snot?

Cate woke up yesterday with some phenomenal sneezes. You know the kind of sneezes that shoot clear across the room? Or cover the child’s entire face? Yeah, those. So apparently it’s Cold Time again. Fun fun fun.

The one perk is that she’s now old enough that when she sneezes, she doesn’t immediately try to wipe it away with her hands (thereby spreading the mess around even worse). Now she waits for me to come running with a tissue. She’s trying to figure out how to blow her nose when I hold up the tissue, but… yeah. Not so much with that milestone just yet. We’re working on it, though.

I’m a little brain-dead from dealing with a sick kiddo, but here: this article is kind of fascinating. I’ve never really understood why some Americans (um, mostly Republicans, I think) are so anti-France, but most of their system sounds pretty good to me.

I should probably do a political post at some point and expand on my thoughts about our American government and the upcoming election, but I think I’ll save it for when I’m a little more coherent. Good night, y’all.