Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thankful Thief

This isn't the house I dreamed I'd have when I was a small child. Still, my home is truly a dream-come-true. My husband isn't the man I fantasized about. But he is the man of my dreams. My children don't look anything like I thought they would. They are more beautiful, more magical than anything I could have drawn in my head. This isn't the life, not the job nor the body or the economy I had wished for. Instead, it is a real life, a challenging job, an accomplished body, and an economy filled with opportunity for better days ahead. None of my dreams have come true exactly as I imagined them. But I am immersed in, consumed with humility, blessed inside and out for the great fortune that has befallen me. I know I don't deserve it. I am a thief by default, taking what I know must not be rightfully mine because I am just little, undeserving me. Who am I to have such a terrific group of kind, generous, funny and interesting friends? What do I give that in return I receive such acceptance and love, such devotion and patience from my family? How is it that God with all of his pressing and more important duties finds time to devote Himself to me, to my petty little prayers about things that bear no consequence, really? It can only be that I am a usurper, living a life of grace that I surely must be stealing from some other more deserving soul. If I am to be redeemed at all for such an egregious sin I hope it will come from my expression of a most deep and abiding gratitude. I am thankful for the warm reception with which each day greets me. I am thankful for the teachers who devote themselves to me and my children with so much honesty and integrity, for the neighbors I don't know and those, especially, that I do, for the waste collectors who take away my refuse and look for my son to say a kind word or share a smile, for the parents - sometimes grandparents! - of my children's friends, who befriend me with open hearts and homes. I am thankful for my mom who leads in every way by example, no matter how weary she may be. I am thankful for the goodness that surrounds me, no matter how hampered it may be by the noise and futility with which it is confronted. I am thankful for the dignity that comes with being able to share a meal with my family. I am thankful that I can share these words with you and I am thankful. Simply, plainly, truly, today and every day I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Dash of This, A Pinch of That

The fall season is upon us, although you'd never know it from the near-70 degree temps outside. Nonetheless, my internal baking clock is ticking and soon the house will be held captive by the pungent perfume of cinammon and spices and whatever I've burned to an unrecognizable crisp each day. Mmmmm.... delish. While we wait for the smoke alarm to go off, let's discuss the issues of the day, shall we?

My husband raised an interesting point this morning. (He does that a lot, I just choose not to give him credit as it disturbs the careful balance I've cultivated in our relationship, where I'm really awesome and he does everything wrong.) His point was that some people do not wish to pay for others' health care because it's not fair and poor people don't deserve benefits they haven't earned. (Inherent in this argument is the notion that poor people might game the very system that benefits them, this system that would be funded by good, hardworking and honest folks.) Oddly, the same people who do not wish to pay to heal the poor do not mind if we pay for the wealthiest folks in our country to keep more money in their infinitely deep pockets. Instead, they insist we extend tax benefits that the rich do not need (and in many cases do not want).

Interesting, isn't it? I wonder if any wealthy folks game any of our government programs - or any of our citizens - in their pursuit of those deep-pocketed pants? I wonder why some feel good about paying the wealthy, but bad about caring for the poor. I wonder, but I do not judge.

So casting aside any partisan rancor the mid-term election may have installed in my ideological camp, I've decided to stand with our president and move forward with further emphasis on compromise. To that end I suggest we agree with our limited government friends and reduce the government's work in January. Remove the extension of the tax cut item from the congressional 'to-do' list. Seems like a win-win. No?

More seriously (not by much) I have this question: are we serious? In my house, the economic shift of the past several years has moved us from Jewel to Aldi, from Marshall Fields (whimper) to Village Discount and from 'Don't worry about it' to 'We can't afford that this week.' Where is the parallel shift in my government? After all the resources expended to craft a health care bill that's been generations in the making (not months - not months - it's been decades!) who among us will tolerate spending additional millions in repealing it and replacing it with something else? Any effort in that regard ought to be met with the full, if dormant, revolutionary ire and indignant repulsion of the entire tax-paying population of this country. (Tea Partiers take note - I consider you an abomination and will not give you the dignity of even suggesting you represent the true revolutionary spirit of our early citizens.) We can ill-afford to re-build the house when we can hardly make our existing mortgage payments.

So we need relevant, pragmatic and intelligent leadership to solve these problems right? Then let's get something clear: red suits and glossy lipstick and a great flip do not make you any more qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate than do polyester pants, chapped lips and a bad bob. You don't get to change the 'historical trajectory' of anything in governance just because you have perfectly even white teeth. Snap out of it for crissakes! There are only 100 U.S. Senators in the world. The folks who hold those jobs should be among the top 100 most intelligent, well-read, educated, informed, and thoughtful people in the world. Ever. If a candidate does not meet that criteria - party and gender completely irrelevant- then you should laugh that candidate off the political stage. If she's a woman and you're a woman you should laugh louder than men. THAT would be a real step towards taking women seriously.

Just as women should be taken seriously on their merits so too should gay people of all ages, sizes, creeds and what-have-you. If our government, through its policies, actions, speech and representations models treatment of gays as second-class citizens, immoral citizens, unworthy citizens then it should be no surprise that the rest of our citizens would follow suit. And there should be no shock associated with the raging current that washes children from their intuitive acceptance of everyone and everything across the rational divide to a morality-barren shore where they will beat - literally or figuratively - the life out of another child. Those who do not tell - urge - compel - their representatives to ensure the law must protect us all equally are equally to blame for the degradation of our fellow citizens' civil liberties. Worse - we turn away from children who are in pain, afraid, lonely and tell them they deserve our indifference. We need to stop that.

On a lighter note, we must also stop this national obsession with the God forsaken McRib. That is not real meat, people! Real food does not simulate bone-in shape. You should be afraid of it, not dreaming about it and certainly not licking it off your fingers on the bus. It's gross. Really. Stop it.

Speaking of stopping - what is that incessant beeping noise? Mmmmm... and what is that smell? Maybe I should check the oven.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"I just hate that the kids' education is largely carried out by a failing agenda, a crumbling infrastructure and a legendary lack of intelligent leadership. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to hate it.

"I'm worried sick about the economic situation in Illinois and across the country. Everything from production of material goods to distribution of credit to long-term fiscal planning is a mess and seemingly getting worse every day. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to worry.

"My profession is becoming extinct as an income-producing member of the job species. There are no proper rules in place to guide the new wave of real estate sales that's dominating the market, so the object of the game is a moving - sometimes invisible - target. I'm working harder and harder but accomplishing less and less. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to watch it happen.

"I'm alternately panicked and indignant about our national security and the assault on our civil liberties. I don't feel like anyone's carefully balancing one against the other to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy are protected as fiercely as our border or our airports. Cargo doesn't fall into a separate category, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to be panicked and indignant.

"It seems that radicals are taking over the public discourse, making me feel like if I'm liberal I'm a socialist and if I'm conservative I'm a bigot. I'm none of those things entirely, nor is anyone I know. The media, our politicians and public servants seem to be portraying a false reality. And some people are making very important decisions based on this false truth. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just noticing.

"Problems abound, I feel sinking in the pit of my stomach as I watch vast national resources - ours and others' - tortured. My own hard work seems to be lost in the fray and my voice is hoarse from talking about all the things I think ought to be changed. My children are entering a world that I cannot compel to abide by some common system of morality, humanity, sanity.

"I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to allow circumstances to bat me around like a ball on a tether. I won't protest, won't balk a bit. I'm going to stand stock still and watch the whole thing unravel before me, hands in my pockets, a faint shrug in my shoulders. I'm going to watch you, my neighbor, my country, my ancestors' work and all that has gone before me flail, flounder and flush because I can't be bothered."

Is that what you're going to do?

Not me. I'm going to vote.