Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ten Years

Nearly every Thursday night, I go to a local bar and have conversation over drinks with a couple of girlfriends from work.  Every few months, sometimes longer, I try to get together with a couple of girlfriends from school for conversation.  The last such meeting was slightly less fun than it has been in the past because there were a few more ladies there who aren't normally and the conversation steered toward that which we all have in common: children.

Poor Maranda, who does not, in fact, have children.

And poor me, for that matter, who does, in fact, have children, but looks forward to my adult time so I can remember that I'm a pretty fun person outside of my children.  That I have the occasional social need that cannot be met by taking my kids to the free weekend movie or Chuck E. Cheese.

Poor you, readers, who, if you are, in fact, still reading, just got sucked into a blog about my incredible daughter, whom I gave birth to ten years ago today.  Instead of telling you how beautiful, intelligent, funny, and intuitive Jenna is, I'll tell you all of the things I've come to appreciate about being the mother of such an amazing  human being.

*When we go to a museum, she  isn't happy  unless she can read every word on every sign explaining the things she's seeing.  In between signs, she wants to talk about them.
*Every night, I get to listen to her say "One more, PLEASE!" when we get to the end of the chapter of whichever book I'm reading to her, books that most kids her age wouldn't want to read.  Only, she does because it's special time with me.
*When we go on long car rides, she never loses fuel to talk about the environment.  In the strangest way, I feel so content when I can't answer her questions anymore because I just don't know the answers.  The fact that she's smarter than me is so calming.
*When she comes home from school and tells me that she sat next to the outcast at lunch because no one else would and they talked about his cat, I know she heard me when I told her that she'll have more friends if she's nice to everyone than if she's only friendly with certain kids.
*When she bursts downstairs with her five year old brother in tow and exclaims, "Mom, Alex can read this whole book by himself!" I pretend not to notice when she whispers words he forgot in his ear and smile widely as I tell her she's a better teacher than I am.
*When we go roller skating, she has a look on her face that she's the most important person in the world because she's holding my hand.

For all the mistakes I've made, I've spent the last ten years doing something right.

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

Here she is, helping me fill out postcards to send throughout Southeast Michigan, encouraging people to vote.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


In an effort to lovingly antagonize Dew(ed) and Cletus, this blog has been postdated by one hour.

If you are a citizen of the United States, no matter what color your skin is, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."  15th Amendment

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 42% of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent were NOT registered to vote, 48% of Asian, 31% of Black, and 26% of White.  If any of these groups were to take a test and receive scores based upon these percentages, we'd have one disgraceful classroom.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows:  23% of registered Hispanic voters did not vote, 10% of Asian, 14% of Black, and 13% of White.

If you are a citizen of the United States, man or woman, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."  19th Amendment
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 26% of U.S. women were NOT registered to vote and 29% of men.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows:  11% of registered female voters did not vote and 12% of male.

If you are a citizen of the United States and at least 18 years old, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."  26th Amendment
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 55% of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent and in the age demographic of 18-24 were NOT registered to vote, 57% of Asian, 43% of Black, and 41% of White.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows: 35% of registered Hispanic voters in the 18-24 demographic did not vote, 24% of Asian, 20% of Black, and 23% of White.

In the 2004 election, had John Kerry received 380,993 more votes in the states of Ohio and Virginia, he would have won.  If we were to take the number of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent alone, who were not registered, add them to the registered voters, then assume that 23% of those newly registered voters would have (A) voted and (B) voted for John Kerry, he would have won by more than he needed.

This is a bad assumption to make for a number of reasons, it merely illustrates a point.  In the group of Hispanic Americans or Asian or Black or White who are not registered to vote/do not vote, a gigantic shift in results can occur by a significantly small percentage of the whole.

This means many things.  Mostly, it means that every vote does count.  Our president was elected by millions of single voters. 

I'm not here to say that our country wouldn't be in the mess it's in had John Kerry been elected, it's moot.  I am only here to say that it is astounding to me that voter registration and participation is not higher.

I promise you that among the 3.3 million women in this country not registered to vote, a big percentage of them have conversations, both informed and not, that involve their disagreement with some element of domestic or foreign policy.  The way I see it, that's okay as long as these individuals use it as a catalyst to make a different decision the next time, this time, to speak in a way that will give them the right to such conversations.

"This is the most important election in our history."  It's almost a cliche and maybe contributes to apathy.

So does this one: "I'm only one person."  If you aren't registered to vote, you are among nearly 55 million other such "one persons."  What a difference you would make.

Unless you're a white man, try and imagine what it was like those for who fought to enable you to vote at all and how good it must have felt when they won.

Please register to vote at and, if you are registered, please vote.      

State by State voter registration deadlines
Census Bureau statistics cited above are not complete in that I only grabbed the 4 broadest ethnic categories.  Visit the site using the link provided for the most complete statistics.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creationism: My kid is awesome because I'm awesome. Or something.

My daughter is almost 10 and I try very hard to treat her like an intellectual equal to help her develop curiosity. I make a point to talk to her about what's going on in the world and always try to present a balanced, two sides to every story argument so she can pick them apart and decide on her own. I've managed to do a good job on this with religion where she, thus far, has a belief in God where I do not.

I can't seem to do it with politics, though! She laughs just as hard, if not harder, at our illiterate president as I do. And she's "developing" a strong disdain for John McCain. With the upcoming election, mom has been having some interesting dinner table conversation with the kid.

Last night, I brought up the Creationism controversy with her (since it's everywhere these days) and, try as I may, I found it impossible to represent the other side. There's just no logic to me. None! I don't know how to explain the Christian side so it looks like there's a point as strong as my side. I tried, I swear!

At the end, when I asked her what she thinks, she didn't cite any Separation of Church and State issues. She said she thought it was unfair to teach something that's true of one religion in a school that's supported by the tax dollars of people with all different kinds of religions or no religion at all.

I was so proud. I almost gave her $5. She is, after all, a little Capitalist.

P.S. The FSM fans out there have probably already read this, but it really makes a good point.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mother Trucker!

It's been a long time, if ever, since you've had the pleasure of reading one of my angry rants. The dry spell has ended.


For those of you who haven't picked up on it yet, ex-husband and I are not exactly friends anymore. When we stopped trying to at least pretend to be friends is beyond me. He moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in April, a couple of months after his baby with the gf there was born. It's about a four hour trip, one way.

Early on, he implied that it would be expected for me to drive halfway to meet him with the kids every other weekend. I didn't have a problem with the driving so much as I did with the expectation. On the advice of my boyfriend, I confronted the issue head-on with ex-husband, which is sadly uncharacteristic of my communication style.

I told him that I would, for the benefit of my children, meet him halfway, when I could, but that he needed to recognize that this was a favor to him and it shouldn't be an expectation. Further, if I could make the drive as my work schedule allowed but was tight on money, he would have to chip in. I told him that I had been supportive of his move but that he needed to remember that he chose to go and it wasn't going to be easy.

I think I caught him on a good day because he was very agreeable with everything I said.

The last time he had the kids (Labor Day weekend), I was unable to meet him because I had to work, so he brought them all the way to Port Huron.

Today, I texted him that I would be unable to meet him halfway on Friday because I have to work from 2-10. He texted back to ask me if I could ask my mom to do it because he's celebrating Jenna's birthday on Saturday morning and doesn't want them to get home that late (he doesn't get out of work until 5:30).

I asked, she has other plans.

This made him very angry. With me.

After all, what do I expect him to do? I made a big deal about not always having extra money to pay for gas to meet him halfway every other weekend but I expect him to have gas to drive 16 hours total to see him for a weekend? He loves the way my convenience is all that matters! Wasn't there someone else who would bring them?

Since my sister is the only one I could think of who still likes him enough to make the drive, I told him "no" because I already know she works Friday afternoon/night. He can't even ask his mom because they've had a recent relationship breakdown and are not speaking.

He said he guessed he'd just have to leave work early so he could get them home by midnight. That statement was dripping in implied guilt.

I got a bit defensive and pulled the "I'm not the one who moved" card to which he blabbed the interrogatory, "So, that's how it's going to be now, huh?"

YES!!!! That's how it's been! Why should I feel bad if I can't meet him halfway?

I asked him why he was mad at me, I told him I couldn't see where I was at fault. I do what I can when I can, for the sake of the kids. I didn't have a dad, I want to help make sure they can see theirs.

He hung up on me.

For the love of all that is holy, someone tell me, PLEASE, if his expectations are reasonable and I just can't see it. Should I be requesting every other Friday/Sunday night off?


Monday, September 1, 2008

The Boer Wars, or: Thank Heavens for Any Literary Movement that Includes Samuel Beckett

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to have rewarding dialog about Samuel Beckett. It's always good when another human being understands the infinite amount of hope that comes from depressing literature. Beckett's wit doesn't resound with everyone but it sure makes my heart sing.

Once upon a time, one of my readers promised to buy me the (1977) DVD version of Waiting for Godot, starring Burgess Meredith, if I could find it. I never could.

During aforementioned rewarding dialog, my partner in conversation included Beckett in the post-modern period and I had to take exception.

People tend to think that works that came out of the modern period but aren't really of the same form as others in the canon are postmodern because they're more "intellectual".

Most artistic movements share some common thread with political movements. Other elements defining an artistic movement (philosophy, religion, etc.) usually are effects of something political. This is not true with postmodernism which I'd almost define as an artistic movement for the sake of having an artistic movement. I don't like it. That, and "postmodern" really does semantically refer to something that has yet to happen, does it not?

Samuel Beckett's life was no different than anyone else's (as far as events in his life; clearly he was more talented than your average Joe) during the time in which he lived and he responded artistically to these events. Even if his end product was different and he was "ahead of his time," he was still part of the modernist movement.

Of the things inciting the modernist movement, I always wish to further study imperialism. Around the inset of modernism, the Boer Wars are a good place to begin.

There were two wars under the same name that arose when African tribes resisted British imperial rule in Southern Africa. The second of those occurred between 1899 and 1902, the beginning(ish) of the Modern period.

The Boer War was the last fought under British imperial rule. This is significant because it tells us that people were beginning to get restless- on both sides. Artists of the time, particularly English artists, were using their craft to influence their countrymen in attempt to halt their perceived injustices. It is important to note that, at this time, when the English "commoners" were getting wide access to that which previously had been out of their reach and began seeing what their country was involved in, Britain was fighting the longest, most expensive war of its imperial rule.

It's no wonder conditions were ripe for a new artistic movement.

And it was all about gold.

In the regions in South Africa where the war was waged, gold had been discovered 13 years prior to the beginning of the war. Of course, the British were the kings of everything and wanted control of the area. Instead of being honest about it, they just started showing up and then complaining that the Africans weren't hospitable and tried to assert their rights as guests.

By the end of the war, thousands of Africans had died in concentration camps of disease and malnutrition. Some of the most disturbing information I found was on the Stanford site, on which a quote from the general of the U.S. Army leads off:

"The proper strategy consists in inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy's army, and then causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force the government to demand it. The people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war."

While this was not said in relation to the Boers, it certainly sheds some light about how those in power, and seeking to expand their power, thought. The general knew his psychology, though. It was a demand by the Boers for peace that brought an end to the war.

Regardless of whether relfecting on imperialism saddens you, as it does me, it's hard to argue the impact such political events have on culture. It is simply remarkable. Look at the blogs you read.

I would never say that oppression or exploitation are good, but it can be truly difficult to reconcile something I appreciate, like Samuel Beckett's work, with the terrible things that were going on around him and to him that affected his writing.

Thankfully, we have artists whose work is accessible to teach us about what they saw. I never have to wonder what Beckett would say about imperialism. Or, more accurately, what he wouldn't say.