Mar 30, 2007

2008 Presidential Race

This is my first post (hopefully of many, we'll see) on the presidential hopefuls for 2008. Admittedly, it is early in the race to be worrying about such things. But maybe not, actually, as the earliest caucus is going to be in January of '08-- earlier than it has been traditionally, and both California and some other state that I can't remember are moving their primaries to February.

Some background on the candidates.

Democratic Candidates (in order of current front-runnerage),

1) Hillary Clinton. Most known for being the wife of William Jefferson Clinton, our 42nd president. Her main political agenda is health care. Her stated ambition is to find a way to provide health coverage for those who do not have current access to health care, with a particular focus on children and other vulnerable groups.

Her political History: She attended Yale law school, which was where she met her husband. After graduation, she worked with the Children's Defense Fund and worked as part of the house comittee on the judiciary, during the watergate scandal.

She continued to make advocacy for children a large part of her political activism, serving on various boards and in various capacities. As the first lady, she helped conceptualize a plan for universal health care (known as "hilary care") and still has goals to try to come up with a system of universal health insurance that will work. She admits that it failed in the past, but attributes this to America not being ready for it yet. She believes that, as health costs have continued to skyrocket and malpractice insurance and lack of health coverage for vulnerable populations continue to inflate, America will see more clearly the need for such a plan.

Common specific criticism of Hillary includes: the failure of Hilary Care, criticism of how she handled the Monica Lewinksy affair, perception that she ought to have been less politically involved in her husband's presidency.

Generally percieved strength: She has a great deal of experience. She has specific ideas about how to bring about her goals. She has the funding to win. She may have the black vote; the Clintons are well-liked by many African American Democrats. This is a significant portion of the vote, vied for by presidential candidates.

Her stance on Iraq: She support's Bush's position to keep troops there, and supported the troup surge, though she thinks that some changes need to be made.

What I like about her: we share a lot of the same feelings about the need to make sure that children and vulnerable populations are taken care of. I love the Childrens' Defense Fund.

What I don't like about her: She really, really wants to win-- and will resort to dirty politics to get her way. Cite: the back-and-forth bit with Senator Obama about a particular funder from Hollywood.

2) Barack Obama. Most known for his promise to instate a "new kind of politics", and his squeaky-clean reputation (aside from teenage experimentation with cocaine and the smoking of an occasional cigarette.) He began his political career, after graduation from Columbia University with a BA in Political Science/International Relations, as a community planner in Urban Chicago. He then went on and got his J.D at Harvard (cum laude), he went back to chicago and continued with community organizational work, focusing on unemployment and voting registration, and he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago . He was elected as Senator in Illinois in 2004.

Generally perceived strengths: appeals to those dissatisfied with our current government with is idea of ground-up democracy in politics and his denunciation of the political corruption of current partisan politics. Is young and attractive, an idealist. Squeaky-clean reputation other than his instance of drug use, which he has been candid about, and a minor scandal over a strip of land that he bought from a lobbyist. It is beginning to look as though he could possibly wrest the black democratic vote away from the Clintons.

Generally perceived weaknesses: his lack of experience in politics on the national scale. His squeaky-clean reputation also cuts both ways, as it may be muddied a bit as the race heats up (and, in fact, the Clinton campaign has already succeeded in drawing him into a bit of this sort of thing.)

His stance on Iraq: He was against the war from the beginning, and spoke out against it even when it was an unpopular stance to take.

What I like about him: I think he really means it about politics from the ground up. And that is incredibly refreshing when you look around at the others out there. He is limited in political experience on a national scale but this almost gives him points in my book-- let's keep our politics personal and friendly, I think. Also, he has integrity-- his stance against the war in Iraq has been strong and unequivocal, even when his views were unpopular. That's another reason I like him-- the fact that he is against the war.

What I don't like about him: He doesn't seem to have fleshed out his political agenda enough. Just last week, at a conference where candidates were expected to present a plan on health care, he apologized that he hadn't worked on one yet, using his young candidacy as an excuse. Also, he's for the removal of troops by March, 2008, and I feel that is a bit irresponsible, to our troops and to the citizens of Iraq.

3) Al Gore (not an official candidate). He's demurred in response to questions about his running, but there is a great deal of speculation. If he did run, he would be a very strong candidate-- possibly outshining Barack and Hillary. His Oscar is partially responsible for his current popularity. He has shown a much lighter face to the public, also-- showing that he has a sense of humor and a charming personality, which we did not see in the 2000 elections. He would also be a very strong candidate because the recall of his loss in 2000, even though he had the popular vote, and Bush's subsequent fall in approval, could cast a rosy light on him. About his stance on the war: In a surprising statement in 2002, he said that unilateral action against Saddam Hussein would ''severely damage'' the more urgent war on terrorism and ''weaken our ability to lead the world.'' Gore declared that the president has turned the broad reservoir of good will for America ''into a deep sense of misgiving and even hostility.'' In a pointed dig at President George W. Bush's go-it-alone cowboy rhetoric, he added, ''If you're going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first.'' (from

What I like about him: he is a strong candidate, an experienced politician, he seems to believe in what he's doing. He has integrity, he spoke out against the war and Bush when it was unpopular and when many others were afraid to do so.

What I don't like: I'm not sure. I guess I'm seeing him in a rosy light right now.

Republican Candidates (in order of current Hype)

1) Rudy Guiliani: (not currently a candidate, but for all intents and purposes, a candidate). Most known for being "America's Mayor" in the wake of the tragedy of September 11. He is very well liked by most (The FDNY being the most notable exception), because of the widespread publicity he received as the good guy who lead New York through the tragedy. The odd thing is that he is pro-choice, and pro-gay-marriage, and so many say that, when the campaigning begins in earnest, Republicans will be turned off to him as a candidate.

His strengths: He has a real claim on Iraq, which is the issue that seems to be deciding a lot of elections right now. He is moderate, and so if he were elected in the Republican primaries, he would be vastly more likely to win against a Democratic candidate in the current political climate. He presents a fresh element in a lineup of faces that are vying for the Ronald Regan knighthood of true-blue (I mean, red) republicanism. He has been a very loyal supporter of Bush's Iraq policies, and this is attractive to the extreme right, especially.

His weaknesses: He's pro choice. And pro gay-marriage. He has a shady private life-- divorced twice (all right, one of them was an anullment), infidelity, estrangement from his kids. Unless Republicans have been extremely shaken by the current political climate, or just don't feel that any of the other candidates are any better (Mitt and his flip-flopping, McCain and his Bush Back-Stabbing) they sure ain't gonna elect him in the primaries. Though, in my opinion, this would be the smartest move republicans could make, as it is my opinion that no true-blue (all right, red, sorry) republican will stand up in our current Democratophillic climate.

Why I like him: I think that he has a good chance of winning if he makes it through the primaries, and I don't really want America to end up with a Democrat as president, house, and senate. We have learned by painful experience what this lack of party-balance in our federal government can do. Though if my arm were twisted (if , for instance, it was between McCain and a Democrat, or Gingrich and a Democrat) I would definitely vote for a Democrat.

Why I dislike him: He doesn't really seem to have fleshed out his political agenda either. He seems to be riding on the waves of september 11th. Sound familiar?

2) John McCain: Historically known as the "Maverick" republican in Congress. Not always favorable toward Bush, this makes Republicans wary of him. Possibly the most solid, traditional "republican," however-- long history of pro-life, anti-gay-marriage stance. Has run before on the Republican ticket. Has a stellar history as a member of the US airforce, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years. Lots and lots of cool military decorations and experience, thus rendering him perhaps the most qualified to comment on matters in Iraq, the current hot-button issue in american politics.

His stance on the war: He supports Bush's troup surge, though he has criticized the president in the past on this issue.

His strengths: Because he has run before (and won a primary), people recognize his name. He's got the money, too, which is important at this point in the race. He has a solid stance on abortion and gay rigths, two things that republicans feel very strongly about, particularly southern evangelicals, who traditionally significantly influence the republican nomination. Some will like him because he has criticized Bush, but most republicans have a hard time with this. Some have written him off entirely for this reason.

His weaknesses: His criticism of Bush, his age, his possibly failing health, also his approval of the troup surge. He was also divorced, which Republicans (particularly evangelicals) do not look favorably at.

Why I like him: I like that he has experience with war, so he really knows what it means to the soldiers who are over there fighting.

Why I don't like him: I feel almost like he has suddenly joined forces with Bush in order to win republicans' votes.
3) Mitt Romney. Unfortunately or fortunately best known as the "Mormon Candidate," as a "flip-flopper" because he has changed his stance on Abortion and Gay-Rights from a more moderate position to a more traditionally republican position. Spent one time as Senator for Massachussets, later elected as republican Governor in a largely Democratic State. During his term, he was able to help design and enstate a plan for state-mandated universal health coverage, while at the same time somehow reducing the state's 3 million dollar deficit and ending his term with a 1 million dollar surplus. Also famous for saving the scandal-plagued, financially-troubled Salt Lake 2002 olympics.

Strengths: might win the "Regan" medal. Is the most conservative as far as his own personal history and family life is concerned. Lots of experience with rave reviews, also has proven to be an excellent financial manager, values the reduction of the national debt which is a concern of a lot of Americans. Has proven his ability to work with Democrats; this will likely be necessary for the next while at least.

Weaknesses: Evangelicals (and even some non-religious people) find his Mormon faith disturbing. It has been suggested that he can be compared to Kennedy, who was the first Catholic president. But Mitt has another problem-- he was pro-choice, and pro-gay-rights for a while. Some republicans find this unforgivable, despite the fact that he has admitted to having "moderated" his views over time, learning from the follies of his youth, etcetera.

His stance on Iraq: The war has been mismanaged, but we need to keep troups in there while there is still a conceivable chance of salvaging things.

Why I like him: I think that he really believes in politics; that he really wants to affect change, and actually has a history of being able to do so even in a hostile environment. He is a brilliant businessman, i like his stance on Iraq the best. I also think that he is the best possible man for the job in our current climate: a republican who can work with democrats.

Why I don't like him: His flip flopping seems to me like he might be trying to please republicans, and leaves a funny taste in my mouth. He has a tinny way of speaking, too. He's kind of like a big, talking head. And he is not tackling this campaign the way he could-- talking up his strenghts, citing his experience. Instead, he seems to be resorting to the standard republican drivel. (sigh.)

Newt Gingrich: Not an official candidate. I don't know much about him, because everything i hear from him makes me kind of mad so I stop listening. I'm opting out of this one, unless he declares his candidacy-- then I'll do my duty and listen to what he has to say and talk about strengths and weaknesses. For now, I'll just say that he falls into the boat of a besmirched personal life-- while he was involved in the prosecution of President Clinton, he himself was having an illicit affair with one of his aids. So, integrity... not so much.

Thus ends my evaluation of the current hopefuls. Quesitons, concerns, angry remarks all welcome. If you were able to get this far. Kudos if you were.

Mar 28, 2007

hairwashing decadence

I loathe those commercials where women wash their hair with a certain shampoo product and make these gross noises like they're-- well.

Let's say eating chocolate. That's a nice innocent comparison.

But, guys, guess what. I have found the perfect shampoo.

I mean, seriously. Doesn't that seem like just about heaven? Washing your hair with red grape essence? I LOVE grape juice. Skywalker likes to joke that if I weren't a Mormon, I would be one of those people who collects and connoisseurs wine.

Red wine is actually on the back, listed among the ingredients. Which I love (all those wonderful anti-oxidants), except for the fact that I'm afraid people will smell my luscious hair and think that I've been drinking. That would be not so good. I have this one little kid in my sunday school class whose answer to every question is "don't drink alcohol" only he says it "awcohaw". It would be embarrassing to have a five-year-old lisp me the riot act. All because of my heavenly, heavenly, shampoo of extreme decadence.

MMMM. (Ok, that was not a chocolate-eating noise. I promise. It wasn't.)

Mar 25, 2007

SRM-- Nike.

I have Nikes. I wear clothing made in China. I buy the cheap stuff that looks cool enough to please me. But I have been thinking lately, what is my responsibility to those who suffer?

Am I feeding the system? The answer would be yes.

And because I am a religious woman, I inherently have to believe in the worth of a Soul. And because I am a human being, I cannot deny that this must cause suffering; I cannot justify this by distancing myself.

Does this mean it's time to do research and buy things that cost more money, but are more socially responsible? It's a bigger step for me than it should be. But there you have it.
Social responsibility comes with a steep price-- not just money. But an aknowledgement that all people have needs just like mine, even the starving children in Africa (and their mothers, who watch them starve and cannot do anything about it), even the child prostitutes in Asia (and their mothers who give them up or lose them to predators), even the people who make my rubber foot-coverings.

Social awareness means an awareness of the pain and suffering that I contribute to through my consumption.

Mar 20, 2007

SRM-- no me without you

Melissa Faye Greene's new book, There Is No Me Without You: One woman's odyssey to rescue Africa's children, is one of the best books I have ever read. If you have access to a library, go check it out. A bookstore; go buy it. Or beg borrow or (well, to keep in spirit of social responsibility, I won't tell you to steal it). Or if you only have a moment, check out this website. Guaranteed to change your life and the way you look at a few things.

Mar 15, 2007

My favorite things

Not necessarily in the whole world. These are just a few things I found today that I was grateful for. I'm not going to tag anyone, but if any of you would like to post pics of your favorite things on your blogs, comment here and let me know you've done so.

Mar 13, 2007

Banana Ettiquite

Jaws is screaming for a banana. She can see it in front of her, but it's just out of her reach. Thank goodness, because if she got ahold of it she would soon be wearing banana copiously and her clothes would then need to be changed for the second time today.

I reach over and take a fork. With the end of it, I slice off a few more chunks of banana and pass them to jaws. She immediately grabs them and shoves them in her mouth.

I turn back to the screen, trying to find a clever thing to say in this post. Loli taps on my arm. "Mama," she says, her blue eyes stern. She hands me the gooey fork.

"This isn't a knife."

2nd social worker visit

So today, we were interviewed seperately. There's nothing like a long interveiw with a social worker to put your life, parenting practices, various mild neuroses, and feelings of any kind of angst, no matter how buried within your psyche, into perspective.

Overall I'd say it went well.

Now all we have to do is find Skyalker a new job-- his old one can't afford to pay him anymore.

Sigh. (this time a tad stressed, but that's OK.)

Mar 12, 2007

SRM-- eating disorders.

Do you like my acronym? I decided that Social Responsibility Moment was too long to put in every single Monday post.

I thought that today I would talk about Eating Disorders.

Is it about food?

Sometimes. The obsession lies with food or the abstention thereof.

What are eating disorders, really?

Here's my short, only relatively informed answer: Eating disorders are about control and release. They're about anxiety and depression.

Some common misconceptions about eating disorders:

1) it's solely about being skinny and competing with other women.
2) a person with an eating disorder just needs to start eating. That's the way to cure an eating disorder.
3) people with eating disorders are really cool because they have such strong will-power that they can deny themselves. I wish I were that strong, then maybe I would be prettier.
4) women with eating disorders are slutty and untrustworthy.
5) they're just trying to get attention. They're proud of their eating disorder.

These need to be debunked. They are utterly wrong. If you know someone who has an eating disorder, treat it like you would any other mental illness-- with compassion and patience. Be a friend; don't judge them. In most cases, women and men feel a deep sense of shame about their eating disorder, just as another person would a drug or sex addiction. Keep that in mind. Realize that there may be deep underlying insecurities and trauma that underlie their E.D. behavior.

Fact: did you know that a huge percentage of those who suffer from eating disorders have experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse?

Fact: did you know that eating disorders are the most fatal of the diagnosable mental illness? It has been estimated that about 18% of people with anorexia, and 10% of people with bulimia, die as a direct result of their mental illness.

Fact: did you know that the risk factors for Anorexia and Bulimia are age, (older teenager-young adult), race (caucasian), socioeconomic status (middle-upperclass), religion (protestant, religious)? There is a huge incidence of these problems in the BYU student population.

Here is a good link if you know someone who struggles with this. And here is another one.

Mar 4, 2007

social responsibility monday

Which of these two acts will be more likely to shape and make a better America?

1) Sacrificing your life in service to your country,


2) Sacrificing a half-hour of your time in a voting booth?

Please vote.

PS: I think that being a part of the American military is a very important, noble, awe-inspiring thing. This is not meant to be a diss on our servicemen. You people rock.

Mar 3, 2007

the label of dysfunction

I had a lot of fun today. For the first time, I met up with someone that I know solely from the internet. Before I went, I was nervous-- not about safety or anything. Gosh, no. I mean, I've read enough of her posts at one of my favorite websites that I know she's for real, plus I talked to her on the phone, plus we were meeting and a completely innocuous place.

I love being friends with other women. Absolutely, positively. I love Skywalker; he is the most stellar husband, friend, cuddler, thinker, talker imaginable. I really couldn't be happier.

But there is something about being friends with other women. It is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary for full joy in this life. If you're a woman. And it possibly works the other way with men, I don't know.

At any rate, I was scared of other women for a long time. Scared and defensive. Part of it was entirely my own fault; I could have taken my experiences and risen above them and not let anyone make me feel shame for who I was. I could have focused on the positive-- those women in my life who knew and loved and did not judge me in spite of my own imperfections.

At the same time, there was a legitimate difficulty. No matter what anybody says, does, or tries, Mormon Culture has a very difficult time handling certain situations. One of those is divorce. We believe strongly in eternal marriage; in the sacred nature of covenants. We believe in families being together forever and in the sanctity of parenthood.

Thus, divorce is very threatening to a lot of people in Mormon culture. To be faced with it is to be faced with the possibility that it may happen to you. The natural defense against this is to create a reason in your own mind for the person's divorce-- a reason within the person's own control, so that, retroactively, you can feel in control yourself. I think that this is the reason why people tend to blame, or be suspicious, or be cautious around divorced people.

Not to say that sometimes this isn't valid. I mean, I would tell my own daughters to be careful if they were dating a divorcee. There is so much possible baggage that comes with that, even if the person couldn't help what happened.

Let me tell you, though; being divorced, surrounded by a culture that doesn't want to think of themselves as even remotely capable of ending up divorced, can be hell-like.

I remember when it all happened to me, how people's attitudes and opinions of me changed. I went from being a respected woman in relief society with callings that held various elements of responsibility-- a woman looked upon as above reproach, in a way-- to being the one who was talked about at ward welfare meeting. The one who needed to be watched to make sure that she wasn't neglecting her child. The one who, if she happened to call you on the phone, you let the answering machine get it because she was probably calling to talk about something that you would rather avoid. It's not so much that, because you're divorced, because this awful thing happened to you, suddenly you're doing all sorts of things you didn't do before; it's that people look at what you are doing and reinterpret it according to the label that they have then placed upon you: "dysfunctional."

An example of this is when one of my friends, who became a very good friend in the aftermath of all that happened-- I have to admit that-- accused me of being bulimic.

OK. I'm not all that skinny. If any of you were to see me, you'd probably think, "slender." You might think "small." But you wouldn't think "Skinny," or "Unhealthy." I was blessed with good genetics-- my mother had six children and ended up only about ten pounds heavier than when she started. And my family loves to eat. It has nothing to do with the lack of food.

After all that happened with the divorce, stress caused my milk to dry up and I had to suddenly switch my little, 9-month-old baby, to a pure formula diet. This was right when we were trying to introduce solid foods, too. We moved houses, and suddenly she was put in full-time childcare while I worked and tried to go to school. I know that it was a control issue with her; food I mean. For a while the pediatricians were giving looks like, "you aren't feeding your child," and no matter how I explained, there was no sympathy.

Well, I wasn't surprised. After all, I was a single mom. Of course the dysfunction had to come from me-- in the pediatrician's eyes, at least. She didn't know me before, she only knew the divorced me, the labeled me. I switched to a less neurotic pediatrician and tried to forget about what the other had said.

It grew a little worse. Food became a battle with Loli. She would never eat. I would sit with her at the table with anything-- we tried applesauce, cereals, yogurts, fruits, vegetables, salty things, sweet things-- she only ate when she wanted to, which was rarely, and it was pretty random, what she chose.

In addition, she started gagging herself when she got upset at me. She would cry, I wouldn't be able to pick her up for one reason or another (most usually because I was driving the car or some other attention-occupying activity) and when she got angry enough, in would go the index finger and she would throw up all of her food.

I was so, so, so worried about her. I knew that this wasn't normal. I prayed, cried, went to the temple, bought expensive nutritional supplements.

And, naturally, I talked to my friend from the ward about it. She had been so helpful and supportive, so kind to me.

And so I was very surprised by her response: "I wonder where she learned that." Accompanied by a significant look.

That was the last straw-- that one experience. Mostly because the woman who said this to me is a kind, charitable, mature person who I thought I could trust to believe in me. I guess that even kind, charitable, mature people have a hard time getting around that 'dysfunctional' label, because I know, I know that she would not have said that to me when I was still married, had I vented to her then.

I curled up in an emotional fetal position after this. Women were not my friends, they were people to be wary of. My only remaining women friends were my sisters, mother, and two wonderful people who I had known and loved and played and laughed and cried with since we were eight years old. These women were (and still are) my pillars. I don't know what I would have done without them.

After awhile, I became used to the sort of skepticism and labeling that all women, even women who were my friends and trusted co-workers, displayed from time to time. I wasn't friends with women. And I started becoming rigid and defensive in return-- something that I regret now, but looking back, I don't know how I would have done it differently. It was just too much; being responsible and at a loss to parent a small child who desperately needed to feel loved and secure and cared for, struggling through my classes with the mountain of a PhD program looming in the distance, working part time, and then full time. I didn't have time, or energy, or even a modicum of security to devote to making women see who I really was.

Well, it's interesting, the things you notice. Now that I'm no longer divorced, no longer a threat to people, the new women that I meet accept me without question. I have fun with them, I laugh with them, I share myself with them and love what they share in return. I cherish my relationships with women. CHERISH them. I need that in my life, and I really, really missed it when it was gone.

one thing: I wonder how things would have been better, how they might have been easier, smoother, less stressful, if I had had those sorts of relationships when I really needed them the most. When I was vulnerable, when the world was on my shoulders.

And so, dear sisters, I ask you to look around and find someone, maybe in church tomorrow, maybe at work, maybe at school, maybe in your singles ward. Find someone who has been given that label, "dysfunctional", whether deserved or undeserved--

Find them, and love them unconditionally. Take a moment and listen to them without judging, and without telling them how they should do it better, without condescending. Approach them with a pure desire to enjoy them as a person, aside from their difficult circumstances, and share something vulnerable of yourself in return. Be that real friend for them, see them as just like you.

They need it.

Mar 2, 2007

Ethiopian Adoption 6

So, we've got the letters of recommendation circulating, the homestudy process begun, and all the documentation needed for the homestudy.

I'm getting kind of excited-- I can't wait until this is taken out of my hands and I can feel safe on the waiting list. Whew. IT will be a crunch for our family, though, to earn the first half of the fees by the end of (march?) probably, so we're going to have to borrow a bit from the parents and use our entire income tax return from this year. sigh.

(that was a happy sigh).

Our first appointment with the social worker is this next tuesday. I'm excited and nervous. Wish us luck!!