Because I’m not a Christmas Card sender

I’ve tried before, a couple of years I even got the cards out in time.

I felt very accomplished those years. But it’s been a long time.

So in light of the fact that I’m not organized or competent enough to send out individual paper cards, here:

Also, in the tradition of those lovely people who do a family update letter every year at Christmas, I will do this.

2011.

The year started out like they all tend to do.

Resolutions were pretty much abandoned by week 2.

I turned 31.

The institution of marriage was defined by people in all different ways.

Ava lost her first tooth. Max lost several of his.

Lucy turned one.

Josh and I decided to go back to school, and we had our 5 year anniversary.

Josh was in many plays. I was in none.

Max and Ava and Dan were also in plays.

I started going to a for real shrink.

My sister got married.

Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Occupy Wall Street began.

Josh said goodbye to his grandfather.

I registered my domain name and began to blog with fervor.

Josh and I finished our first semester of school online.

And oddly enough, that seems to be all of note I can really remember.

I am giving myself this week of mostly leisure, so you may not hear from me for a while.

I love you.

Today

Today is Election Day.

People all over will go and vote yea or nay or red or blue.

And I live in Mississippi, where the only time we make national news is because we gave birth to Elvis/Oprah/Britney/a million fantastic southern writers or because we’re the fattest state.

Well, now we have a new claim to fame – today we vote on Initiative 26, and if it passes, it’s a big deal. It’s a precedent for the whole country.

Now, I have opinions about this. Of course I do.

For just a minute, though, let’s not talk about what I think. Let’s talk about what this will mean.

Less birth control, in a state with the highest number of counties (17) featuring 40+% infant poverty. Not to mention the infant mortality rate (10.5 infant deaths out of every 1,000 live births), or the scads of children waiting in foster homes or institutions so they can be placed.

Fertility treatments….sure, as long as they don’t involve selective implantation or frozen embryos.

Raped? Pregnant? You carry that asshole’s baby because the law says so.

There are far reaching consequences regarding ectopic and molar pregnancies that I don’t even have the stomach to research (this is not hard hitting reporting, people).

Under this law, the miscarriage I suffered in January of 2008 may well have been the death of me, because only an abortion stopped the bleeding and saved my life.

The thing that bothers me about this is not that people disagree with my sentiment that this is one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I’ve ever heard. People disagree with me all the time.

No, what bothers me is that there are fifty bintillion churches who – over and over and over – have pounded into the hearts and minds of their faithful followers that this initiative is penned directly from the heavens. That by voting yes, they are personally winging their way into each Mississippi womb and cuddling thousands of fertilized eggs that may or may not become people.

It bothers me that if my preteen niece gets assaulted and molested, there won’t be a morning-after pill just in case. Her life could change and it wouldn’t have been her choice at all.

I respect the right of everyone to believe what they want. I do not respect anyone telling me how I have to believe and behave. Especially when they do it simply because a pulpit told them that was the right thing.

So go vote. If you live in Mississippi, please know what you’re voting for.

On a lighter note, tomorrow we’ll have a guest post from Lindsey at Campfire Song. This will be totally fun, you’ll see. She even mentions maxipads.

This won’t be earning me any friends

Generally I refrain from posting things I know will upset or irk people.

I suppose that’s not really true.

But given the general temperament of my Facebook feed, this may raise hackles.

Meh.

Last week, we were fully immersed in getting ready for the return to school. Backpacks detrashed, lunchboxes found. Ava’s obnoxious feathers placed.

Late one afternoon, I received a call from the number I have saved in my phone as “AUTOMATED SCHOOL DEMON” – the number that calls when roads are flooded, a kid has disappeared, or cattle are loose. I turned on the speaker (but didn’t speak – I’ve caught myself talking to that machine too many times and now I’m wise to the game), expecting a reminder about not bringing guns or knives, or maybe a last minute nevermind-school-is-postponed-forever message.

Instead I got a recorded message inviting me not to forget about the upcoming “prayer walk” for parents of kids in the schools.

Now let me make one thing very, very clear.

If you are a kid in school and you want to say a prayer before you eat your lunch or take a test or walk on linoleum, I support that.

If you are a teacher and you want to send up a silent plea for mercy before you try and explain the branches of government, I support that.

If you want to bring your prayer rug and face Mecca between classes, I say go for it.

If you want to organize an event where people who are so inclined walk the halls and sidewalks of the school and pray for the students who will soon be present, I’m all for it! Bathe the desks and walls in prayer, and maybe that way my kids won’t eat boogers or mouth off (I may find religion if that works).

I will defend your right to do these things until my very last breath.

What I do not support is the use of school equipment, funds, and information to promote a religious function.

I never said, “Hey, sure, keep me posted about your rituals and gatherings.”
I didn’t say that because chances are I’m not coming.

It’s not because I don’t believe in God or I hate all religion or I think everyone should know that they know that they know whether they’re going to The Hell or not.

It’s because school is for LEARNING ABOUT THINGS THAT AREN’T RELIGION.
It’s because my son has already teared up more than once because he’s afraid his parents are going to hell.

Church is for religion.
Church schools are for the people who want everything to line up with what they believe.

School is not church. Amen.

I would rethink my stance if, say, I knew everyone’s beliefs would be equally welcomed. If the Muslims wanted to have a Q&A. If the Jews wanted to explain all the candles. If Pentecostals wanted to demonstrate hairspray usage. If the Mormons wanted to model Jesus underwear.

But that’s not happening. At least not here, because the vast majority of people believe the same way.

And that’s fine. What you believe is your business.

It’s when it starts being shoved at me and make it my business that I start caring.

I realize it’s election time and the superintendent was making sure everyone got catered to so as to put a good face on his campaign.

But just because the majority of people won’t care about the prayer walk phone call, or may even celebrate it, doesn’t make it okay. I’m not even sure it’s legal.

So please, pray. Fast. Sing. Speak in tongues.

Just don’t make me listen. Or watch. Or use the money I pay in taxes to promote it.

And in return, I will refrain from being an ass. Kind of.

Or not.

I was a part of it

Debate 09 08

I have never been into politics. I’ve never cared, really.

In 2004 I voted in my first presidential election. I was 24 years old. Before that, I hadn’t even been registered to vote. Even then, I cast a vote based on what someone else told me. Based not on my own research and opinions, but just on what I’d heard. I didn’t care enough to put any amount of effort into my vote. I figured I didn’t really make a difference anyway. What was one vote, one way or another, in the grand scheme of things?

I don’t remember when I first heard of Barack Obama. I don’t remember exactly when it was that his name and the presidency first connected in my mind, but I do remember picking up The Audacity of Hope for the first time and thumbing through the pages. I was working in the bookstore, and this book was a new release that hadn’t made it as big as it would eventually become. Just in flipping through, I was astounded at some of the things I saw.

“In a country as diverse as ours, there will always be passionate arguments about how we draw the line when it comes to government action. That is how our democracy works. But our democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect: if liberals at least acknowledged that the recreational hunter feels the same way about his gun that they feel about their library books, and if conservatives recognized that more women feel as protective of their right to reproductive freedom as evangelicals do of their right to worship.”

“If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.”

I was impressed. And, you know, who wouldn’t be? The guy was eloquent. He rang true. I made a mental note to learn more. And then, as it would happen, just that night, or maybe the next – I heard his name in passing on the television. This guy – the one on the cover of the book, with the nice smile and the weird name – was thinking about running for president against Hillary Clinton and whoever the other people were. I decided to look him up and see what they were saying about him.

crowdAnd just like that – I started paying attention. I started paying a lot of attention.

If you’re reading this, you know how it turned out. How I turned out, anyway. I did look him up, and I liked what I found. Once I sifted through all off the (to borrow a phrase from a college friend of mine) Chicken Little nonsense and discovered that he was not Muslim or the AntiChrist or the end of the world as we knew it, I liked everything that I found. I found a decent, solid human being, with what I perceived to be a good heart and a true hope for a country that had little hope left. A person who did not claim to be perfect, but asked for our help anyway. Who showed us that by joining together we can accomplish great things.

I am proud to say that I was a supporter from the very beginning.

During the primaries, Josh and I huddled together on a cold bed, trying to position ourselves just right to capture the wireless signal from across the street, so that we could refresh CNN.com and watch the votes be counted.

In September I went to Oxford, MS to roam the Grove at Ole Miss the day of the first Presidential Debate. I wore my Obama shirt, carried my Obama sign. Wore Obama buttons. I was surrounded that day by both sides, and it was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I was hated by strangers, I was loved by strangers. It was almost surreal. At one point during the day I took a walk up a sidewalk to find a bathroom, and as I was coming out of the building I passed a very tall, very muscley and stout security guard. I nodded at him as I passed, and continued on my way – bogged down as I was with signs and stickers and all. I wasn’t twenty feet past him when I heard, “Young lady? Young lady!”

Now, I’ll be honest. As I turned around, I was wondering what I’d done wrong. I couldn’t think of anything. I wasn’t indecent. I wasn’t speeding – after all, I was on foot, and I’m not that quick or anything. So unless this guy was a McCain fan, I couldn’t think of any reason I could have offended him.

Turns out I hadn’t offended him at all.

He walked up to me, and I could see him deciding what to say. He reached out and touched the edge of my “Obama ’08” sign.

“I just want you to know, I…I’m on your side.”

His voice shook just a little, and the gray of his hair seemed to stand out even more against the rest of his dark skin.  I didn’t know what to say, really. I didn’t know why he picked me.

He gave me a hug, he told me he was glad to see a “little white girl in an Obama shirt.”

He winked at me as I walked away.

I saw him several more times that day, and each time he waved and gave me a big thumbs up.

I hope he blew the doors off the voting booth on Tuesday. I hope he had a party when the President was announced. I hope he tells his grandkids all about the history he was a part of.

I know I will.