Friday, October 25, 2013

Having Some Balls In Life -- Or, Note To Self

I have generally been known to be a careful and conscientious person.  I like to have my ducks in a row.  I don't really take risks -- big ones, anyway.

But, on the other hand, it's important to live your life.  Ya know?

Do you have a passion?  Do you have a dream?  Or even a simple goal?

Sometimes, you've just got to go for it.

Of course, go for it sensibly.  You must think about whether or not it is a reasonable passion, dream, or goal.  You must consider whether or not it is actually achievable.  It is also a good idea to gather some advice from a few people you consider to be knowledgeable and trustworthy.  In short, you must think your idea through and make sure you have (or can morally and legally obtain) whatever may be necessary to carry it out.

And you must be willing to work hard, to be dedicated, to persevere.  You have to have not just a little bit of determination and self-discipline.

And you need to have a plan -- a plan which you are actually willing to carry out, and not just write down on a napkin and shove in a drawer somewhere.

But, if you are sensible and organized, and if your plan is at least relatively reasonable, why not give it a try?  Because you only go once around.

So, go ahead -- grow a set.  And go for it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Y'all Should Take Each Others' Classes

The other day, a college student posted this on social media:

     "Don't take this class if you have any glimpse of conservativeness in you."
     *adds to schedule*

This college student is a very bright young man, a very good young man, a very idealistic young man.  And he goes to an outstanding university.  He's also very witty, and I laughed really hard when I read what he posted.

You might be wondering to what class he is referring.  It is called:  Race and Minority Relations.

I would love to take that class.

Anyway, this young man not only entertained me, he got me to thinking.  And I started thinking that the progressive young people and the conservative young people need to start taking each others' classes.  Maybe some old people -- on both sides of the political divide -- need to be taking these classes, too.  I would love to see Rush Limbaugh have to sit in on Race and Minority Relations -- perhaps with his mouth duct taped closed. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I am a Republican, with strong progressive sympathies.  As a Republican, I have been pretty mortified by my party over the past several years.  Way too much extremism and blatantly crazy ideas going on.  And not just a little bit of fear-mongering, either.  I'm pretty tired of it all.

Those of you who have been reading my blog also know that I am a Catholic and that I have three children -- two girls and a boy -- who are 25, 23, and 21 years old.

So, as a Catholic Republican, I admit that I was not disappointed when my two oldest chose to attend very conservative Catholic colleges.  I wanted them to learn their faith well, and to be in an atmosphere where they would feel supported in their beliefs as they entered the adult world.  The schools they attended were quite good, and they received fine educations.  I did notice, though, that there was nary a Democrat to be found at either of their schools -- not amongst the students, not amongst the faculty, not amongst the staff.  Well... Okay.  Perhaps I exaggerate.  There were probably a few Democrats in the mix.  But, if there were,  I bet they felt they couldn't show up sporting Obama bumper stickers on their cars.  So most, if not all, of the classes my daughters took had a decidedly conservative bent.  And most of the students and graduates of these schools -- at least the ones I have spent time with -- don't think very highly of progressive ideas.  And they probably aren't hanging out with progressives in social settings too much, either -- at least, voluntarily. 

My son's school is also Catholic.  And most people would call it conservative.  There are, though, quite a few progressives there -- amongst the students, faculty, and staff.  Some of the classes are taught from a more conservative angle, some from a more progressive angle.  My son tends to be very conservative, both religiously and politically.  I have been quite impressed, though, at the friendships he has formed at his school with people of varying ideas.  When he arrived home for his first Christmas break, he told me that he was finding that, "If you have a problem, it's really nice to talk to your more liberal friends.  They tend to be much more sympathetic than the really conservative people."  Please don't be insulted if you are a sympathetic conservative person.  I don't mean to be insulting, and neither did my son.  I was really happy, though, that through his exposure to progressives, he was coming to appreciate them.  He was coming to view their ideas in a more open-minded manner.  He was coming to see their opinions, not as threats, but as different ways of looking at the world, to be considered and discussed in a fair manner. 

So, when I saw the statement made by the young man about how the conservatives probably shouldn't take the Race and Minority Relations class, it made me start to ponder my own children's college experiences, which got me to thinking about how everybody needs to start taking each others' classes.  Because, as we all know, our country has become very polarized ideologically.  Everybody is digging in with their own side.  It's almost like trench warfare.  "You progressives stay in your ditch and we conservatives will stay in ours."  And once in a while -- because we've come to view each other as enemies -- we'll lob mortars into each others' trenches.  And these mortars -- while maybe not causing literal limbs to be lost -- do cause injury to our society, to our culture, and to the individuals that make up our society and our culture.

So, I would like to encourage all of you young people -- left, right, and center -- to get out of your trenches and go raise a glass or two together.  Talk to each other.  LISTEN to each other.  I have seen the good effect this respectful sharing of ideas has had on my son.  And I would like to see more of it.  And I believe that if you don't get out there and start mixing with each other in a way that is truly sincere, good-hearted, open-minded, and FRIENDLY, that you are simply short-changing yourselves, our country, and our world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For The Older Mamas Of Older Kids

I came across this in someone's blog the other day:

     "The beauty of a big family is that if a mother regrets something she did when she was young and imprudent, she might just have a chance at a redo with a younger child.  The corollary is that I don't have the luxury of doing what some of my friends are doing as they settle into an empty nest.  I can't look at the regrets, confess the mistakes, be forgiven, and relax in the grace.  I have more children to raise."

I don't take issue with what she says about the "beauty of a big family."  But, as the mama of a smaller family, with older children, I have a few comments.

My kids are 25, 23, and 21.  Admittedly, I am not exactly an empty-nester.  My oldest two are girls, and they both lived away from home during college, but returned after graduation.  They still live at home, while working and carrying out their young adult lives.  This is fine by me and my husband.  They are good young women, and are a pleasure to have around.  My son is presently away at college, but returns for Christmas and summer breaks.  He is about as far away from home as he can get without leaving the continental United States, so we don't really see him at all during the times when his school is in session.

I can tell you for sure, though, that even if nobody lived at home during any time of the year, I could never "look at the regrets, confess the mistakes, be forgiven, and relax in the grace."  Okay.  Maybe I could do the first three things on this list, but never the last one.  And I bet a lot of mamas in my position feel the same.  I don't think most mamas can ever just fully "relax in the grace."  And do you know why?

Because when a mama looks at her adult kids -- when she sees their struggles, their pain, their heartaches, their failures, their shortcomings -- she is going to (in part, at least) blame herself.  She is going to wonder what she could have done differently.  And this blaming and wondering is not going to ever completely go away.  It will stay with her, for as long as her children have difficulties in life.  And, let's face it, who doesn't have difficulties in life?  We all do.  So, basically, a mama will never completely "relax in the grace."  She will never completely stop second-guessing at least some of the things she did while raising her kids.  That's the way a mama's heart works, whether she has one child or a dozen.  A mama's heart is a mama's heart.  It is always concerned.  It always feels its responsibility, no matter how empty the nest or how old the children.

Of course, this is not to say that there aren't special joys in being the mother of adult kids.  It's fun to see what your children do with themselves when they grow up.  It's very enjoyable to relate to them as adults -- with adult conversation and activities.  For example, I really enjoy having movie dates and shopping trips and lunches and weekends with my daughters.  And it's great fun when my son regales me with tales of college friendships and escapades.  My kids also have pretty darn good sense, and have been known to give me great advice when I am confused about a decision I need to make. 

In my circle of friends and acquaintances, though, there are many big families.  And, occasionally, there are assumptions made about us mamas of smaller families, whether our children are small or grown -- assumptions that might be just a tad bit unfair.  So, let's not forget that being a mother -- though great fun and quite rewarding -- can be very difficult.  And it can be just as difficult on the mother of a smaller family, on the mother of older children, as it can be on the mother of many.  And mothering -- including worrying and fretting about our mistakes -- really never, ever ends. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ben Sherman's Healthiest "Relationship"...

...with a woman was what he had goin' on with Chickie.

And it had nothing to do with sex or "romance."

And it had everything to do with genuine affection, mutual respect, caring, trust, real friendship, camaraderie, and even a tad bit of actual communication. 

If you don't know this by now (and you should if you have read my blog for a while), Ben Sherman is one of the main cop characters on the wondrous TV show "SouthLAnd."  "SouthLAnd" is my favorite TV show of all time -- the best show since "Dragnet," "Adam 12," and "Emergency" ruled the airwaves of my childhood.  Unfortunately, it was canceled this past spring, after five glorious seasons.  But, it will live forever in my iPad, in my computer, and on my DVD player.  Ben Sherman is played by Ben McKenzie, and nobody could have played the guy better.  Ben Sherman starts out as a young, idealistic, naive cop, who, because of a combination of character flaws and painful circumstances, slides steadily down into one of the Seven Circles Of Hell over the course of the show.  His character arc is brilliant, full of a great number of moral lessons, without being told in an overly moralistic manner.  In fact, the whole thing is often quite entertaining to behold.  As we accompany Officer Ben on his journey, he has many "lady friends" -- kind of like Bond girls.  And he often has more than one "lady friend" at a time.  In fact, part of Officer Ben's undoing occurs when one of these "lady friends" turns out to be a little bit mentally unstable.  This darling, yet problematic, young woman becomes rather unglued when she finds out she isn't the only one Officer Ben is "seeing" (to state it in a polite manner).  Although, other of his "lady friends" seem happy to share him (literally).  Anyway, Officer Ben never develops what one would consider to be a "healthy" relationship with one of his "lady friends."  He never becomes a faithful boyfriend to a good woman.  He basically bounces from bed to bed, sometimes landing in more than one during a 24-hour period.  His relationships with women never really encompass true love or any kind of commitment or even genuine friendship (as in the kind of friendship where you care about the WHOLE person -- spiritually, mentally, and physically).  There is, though, a gal he likes a lot during Season One.  Her name is Daisy.  But, she dumps him unceremoniously for an ex-boyfriend.  Personally, I think this heartbreak is, at least in part, responsible for his ethical demise.  

There is one woman, though, with whom Officer Ben actually develops an admirable relationship.  This woman is Chickie.  She is a fellow cop, and she is a bit older than Officer Ben.  She is quite beautiful, extremely in-shape, and totally kick-ass.  She is also very feminine, and has vulnerabilities and heartaches which affect both her work and personal life.  She is a single mother, and does not seem to date, putting her son above her own desires.  So, because of her age and life situation, she is in no way available to Officer Ben as a "romantic" partner.  Thence, she is available to him as an actual friend and comrade.  Officer Ben and Chickie meet, I believe, on his first day on the job.  She observes him taking his first cop "baby steps."  She observes his triumphs and his struggles.  And she offers him support, encouragement, and praise (where praise is warranted).  She also stays his hand occasionally.  For example, when he becomes quite angry with his training officer and another cop, who are "razzing" him, she gets him to back off and encourages him to have a sense of humor about the situation.  Because she is a solid person, because of her experience, because of her respectful and good-natured support of Officer Ben, she comes to gain his respect and trust.  And he gains hers, to a large degree.  Thus, she sometimes will confide in him and share her own insecurities with him.  They are honest with each other.  They are fond of each other.  They treat each other with respect.  They are proud when the other does something well.  And, when it is called for, they gently correct each other.  One of my favorite Ben-Chickie moments is when he is having a "fling" with a lady known in the department as "Red-Head Sally."  Sally, apparently, has had her way with virtually all of the cops in the Hollywood Division.  Officer Ben, however, is unaware of this little fact when this wild lady initially lures him into her lair.  Thus, he is heavily teased by the other cops and regaled with their "Sally stories."  Chickie doesn't cut him any slack, either, calling him "Romeo" and affectionately ribbing him about the situation.  She also lets him know that Sally once tried to talk her into a "threesome."  You should see the look on his face when she asks him if Sally still has the poster of Clint Eastwood on her wall. 

So, as I see it, Chickie basically gets the best there is to have of Officer Ben.  And he, in her, has his best relationship with a woman over the whole course of the "SouthLAnd" story.  No, Chickie never partakes of Officer Ben's legendary abilities in the bedroom, but she gets something better.  She is the recipient of his respect and authentic friendship.  And Officer Ben, from Chickie, receives the most valuable gifts a woman can bestow on a man -- her affection, her care and concern, and her trust.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No Hate


You see a lot of talk about "hate" these days.  A lot of people feel hated -- on both and all sides of the political and religious divide.

LGBT people often feel hated by conservatives and by people who belong to more conservative religions and by the Catholic Church.

And conservatives and people who belong to more conservative religions and members of the Catholic Church can also feel hated by LGBT people and their supporters.

And, I am not naive, I know that there is actual hatred out there.

So, I think we all need to consider a couple of things.

First of all, nobody should be hating anybody.  Short of that, nobody should be acting in an uncharitable manner toward anybody -- in thought, word, or deed.  I admit, I think particularly of Catholics here, because I am a Catholic and I hang around with a lot of Catholics.  I have seen Catholics who do not even attempt to understand the position of the LGBT community and their supporters concerning gay marriage and gay rights.  I have heard Catholic lay people and clergy express the opinion that the LGBT community wants to discriminate against us and persecute us.  Some Catholics have even said that the LGBT community would make martyrs of us -- not by killing us, mind you -- but, by forcing us to photograph and cater the food for and even officiate at their wedding ceremonies.  These attitudes, though, are not really expressions of hatred.  They are more expressions of fear.  And what I don't like is when influential Catholics stoke this fear with their words and deeds.  Because when fear is stoked, hatred can develop.  Now, to be fair, somebody told me that there was a case where a wedding photographer was sued -- and lost -- because she didn't want to photograph a same-sex wedding.  I don't know the details of this case.  Although, I have the feeling that there were probably some interpersonal missteps along the way.  Perhaps there were some misunderstandings that could have been resolved between the individuals before the whole situation became a legal conflict.  And this leads me to my next point.
Have we forgotten that we can disagree without hating?  Have we forgotten that we can RESPECTFULLY disagree, that we can live and let live?  This goes for ALL people -- religious, secular, conservative, progressive.  It is both fruitless and counter-productive to try to force somebody to accept your view of the world.  It is even more fruitless and counter-productive to accuse somebody or a whole group of people or an institution of hating you because you disagree over an issue -- even an important issue.  The Catholic Church, for example, has a very complex theology regarding marriage.  This theology has developed over 2000+ years.  It is reflective of how the Church views God and creation.  It is not meant to discriminate against anybody.  Are there people who use the Church's teaching to discriminate?  Yes.  And this is not right.  But, it is not the intent of the Church -- at least, I don't think it is -- to have her teachings used to discriminate against people.

On the other side of the coin, it is quite wrong -- and Pope Francis has spoken about this -- to try to force others into your religious views.  Respect for human dignity requires us to actually respect that others do not all accept the Catholic way of looking at things.  The Church also requires us to look at people and situations with compassion.  For example, I am the kind of person who has a hard time being alone in life.  It has always been quite valuable to me to have somebody to share myself with -- spiritually, emotionally, physically.  So, I can easily imagine being a lesbian and wanting to have a life partner.  I can imagine how hard it would be to be denied that, especially in the civil law.  I could understand if certain religions didn't want to perform my wedding ceremony, because of their long-standing theology.  But, I guess I would also feel discriminated against if religions were speaking about me and the person I loved as being harmful to society, especially if we just wanted to live a quiet life in peace.  I would also feel discriminated against if I could be legally married in my state and yet not allowed marriage benefits -- like social security -- on the federal level.  And I suppose having to live with all this lack of consistency in the law -- lack of consistency which would cause me and my spouse actual and concrete hardship -- might make me feel hated.  So, as a Catholic who tries to be compassionate, I put myself in the shoes of my lesbian sisters and have a desire to treat them fairly.

There are some who think that it is the job of Catholics to make the civil law reflect the Divine Law -- at least, the Divine Law as these particular Catholics see it.  The people who think this are not trying to be cruel to others of different ideas.  They just believe that the Catholic version of Divine Law will bring with it what they see as true justice, liberty, and equality.  The problem is, though, that there are too many different people of too many different ideas in our society.  And a lot of those people would feel discriminated against if they perceived that the Catholic Church was dictating how they lived their lives.  People need to be able to make their own choices -- especially about their adult lives -- as freely as possible.  Laws are necessary, yes.  But, a big function of the law -- in my opinion, anyway -- is to keep people from treading on each other unfairly.  We need to be able to co-exist, like that bumper sticker says.  Sometimes, I want to get a Reagan bumper sticker, an Obama bumper sticker, a Catholic bumper sticker, and one of those co-exist bumper stickers, and put ALL of them on my bumper.  Along with my Harley-Davidson sticker.  This is because I am, as my mother always said, a "shit-disturber."

I hope, then, that all of us -- secular and religious, conservative and progressive -- will strive to have more mutual understanding.  I hope that our government will strive to make laws which allow all of us to live lives of peace, according to our consciences.  I hope that people and institutions are not unfairly accused of hatred.  And I hope that where hatred does actually exist, that it is rooted out, in the only way it can actually be rooted out -- by love.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Women Talking To Women...

...can be a blessing.  Or a curse. 

I have learned this during my fifty years.  The hard way.

I have been pondering this topic as I go about my laundry and such this morning because of a blog post I read in the "HuffPo."  I think it was written by a rather young woman.  She looked young in her picture, at least.  In her post, she addressed other young women who are trying to make their way in this wide world -- dispensing her good advice and wisdom for all to absorb.

By and large, I thought her advice was sound.  It had to do with not wearing leggings without a top that fully covers your butt and how important first impressions are and all those kinds of wise career- and relationship-oriented things.

This is what struck me, though, as an older-type broad.  If I was a young woman reading the advice of this other young woman, I would have been reduced to a great state of anxiety about my butt and my pants and the time I talked to that VIP with a wedgie I couldn't do anything about without making the situation more awkward.  I would also be thinking about how many of the pants nowadays -- a.k.a. skinny jeans -- are really not a lot better than leggings.  And I would be thinking about how these modern pants don't fit me well, anyway, because I have always had a rather Italian backside.  And I would be thinking about all the times I had failed and flailed -- educationally, professionally, with people of the opposite sex in clubs -- and I would pretty much just be wanting to go sit in my comfy  bed while watching my collection of "SouthLAnd" DVD's. 

To sum it up, I was thinking about how women can be very hard on other women.  Often without even realizing it.  Often by just trying to be helpful.  And I was thinking about how resentments and misunderstandings can build up between women because of well-meaning, but frequently unwelcome, advice.

As I said, I have learned this the hard way.  Over the years, I have been the dispenser and receiver of all kinds of womanly advice.  I have noticed the effect it has had on me and on others.   And this is what I have figured out.

It is generally best not to give advice unless someone actually seeks it out from us.  And if someone does seek it out, it is best to keep it to a minimum.  It is wise to try to see the situation from the other person's perspective, instead of from our own.  Our lives and personalities and experiences are not the same as those of the other person.   And it is vital to be HUMBLE -- to realize that we as the advice-dispensers might not have all the answers, that we might even be (ahem) WRONG in our opinions. 

Most importantly, though, in dealing with somebody who seeks our advice, it is important to listen and have compassion.  Many times, people can work through their own problems.  The majority of people probably have enough intelligence and common sense to see what the answers to their quandaries are, but it might be helpful for them to have a "sounding board," so to speak.  And if we do feel the need to inject some of our "wisdom and experience" into a situation, we should look at the other person -- really see that person -- in order to discern what effect our words may be having.  We need to ask ourselves if we are really being helpful, or if we are just adding to our friend's burden.

Finally, I would just like to reassure any young women who may be reading this post.  You will recover from your youthful missteps.  You will not ruin your career or a relationship (at least with anybody worth having a relationship with) if you accidentally flash your butt crack to a customer or shoot milk through your nostrils while laughing on a dinner date.  When I think of some of the embarrassing things I did and said while working my first real jobs and going on my first real dates, I still kind of want to bury my head in the sand.  But, life went on.  And -- believe it or not -- bosses can be quite understanding to a new, yet promising, employee.  And good guys will just -- good naturedly and with good humor -- hand you a napkin for your nose.  The important thing is to learn from your mistakes.  And to laugh at them, too.  ;-)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Political Stuff I Enjoyed As A Child

I didn't grow up in an extremely political or partisan household.  I was born in 1963, and my parents were both Democrats, albeit fairly conservative ones for the times.  They did, though, read the newspaper religiously and watch the political coverage on television.  Our TV got all three major networks, PBS, and something called Channel 2 (which mostly aired re-runs of popular shows and Saturday afternoon horror flicks).  My mom and dad would discuss politics and candidates -- sometimes in a very spirited way -- in the presence of my sisters and I.  I also liked to sit with my dad when he watched the political commentators and debates.  My parents always encouraged us kids to participate in their discussions and form our own opinions.  In my extended family -- which was fairly large and fairly Italian -- not many people were timid.  We all enjoyed the good "argument" -- whether it be about politics or religion or morality or education or whatever. 

I was aware, therefore, from a fairly young age, that politics involved quite a bit of contention and, often, scandal.  I watched the candidates and their allies spar, often quite viciously, over issues.  There were great divisions in the country and among politicians, concerning Vietnam, Watergate, the energy crisis, sexual ethics, welfare, taxes, etc.  Sometimes, as a little girl, I got the impression that the candidates running against each other actually hated each other.

But, do you know what I started to notice?  Do you know what really struck me, more than any of the great and pressing issues of the day and how they were resolved (or left unresolved)?  I remember watching the candidates, after the election results came in, speak about each other and to each other.  They would shake hands, if they were in the same place.  They would say good and positive things about each other, praising each other.  They would talk about how the campaign was well-done and hard-fought.  But, then they would say that it was time to come together as a people and a nation, in support of the candidate who had just won.  They would impress upon us how important it was to the current and future state of our country that we remember that we needed to respect each other and work together, even if we had different views.  I know that candidates still say things like this, but somehow, back then, they seemed to mean it more.  Maybe they seemed to walk the talk a little better, at least to my young eyes.

Do you know, though, why this impressed me so much?  Because even though I could appreciate and even enjoy the political contests, they did make me a bit uneasy.  The cantankerous spirit of the campaigns, though interesting, did make me feel a little anxious about the state of my home, my country.  But, when I saw the candidates come together, in a unified fashion, when the election results came in, it made me feel like everything was going to be okay.  It gave me confidence and hope in the future.  It made me feel like our nation was being run by responsible adults, who truly cared about the well-being of the citizens.

And when I look at our political culture presently -- especially this week, with the government "shutdown" and all -- I really wish we could get some of that spirit back.  I wish we could start to behave -- from the top down -- as one, indivisible nation.

God bless.

Wendy Davis Is Running For Governor Of Texas

...and I am glad.

I am a Republican and she is a Democrat, so there are things we probably don't agree on, but I think she's pretty cool.  And she seems like a very good woman, a very strong woman, a very intelligent woman.

Wendy Davis is one month and six days younger than I am, so that makes me automatically a bit sympathetic to her.  We grew from girlhood to womanhood during the same times, seeing the same things happen in our country -- although, from very different places.  I've always lived in California, after all.  And I've come to see that being a Republican in California is a very different thing than being a Republican in Texas.  Actually, if I were raised in Texas, I don't think I'd be a Republican.  For example, the other day, I was reading about the "theology" of Ted Cruz's father.  Not to be disrespectful, but that's some pretty scary shit.  And learning about the peculiarities of Texas politics makes me quite a bit more sympathetic to Wendy and her allies, even if I am not perfectly in line with each and every one of their positions.

Why do I admire Wendy as person?  She's had to overcome quite a bit of adversity to get to where she is today.  She married very young and had a baby.  After divorcing -- also at a very young age -- she both took care of her child and worked extremely hard to put herself through school, earning solid grades through Harvard Law.  And she's had a very distinguished and successful career.  If I had tried to do all of the things Wendy has done, I would have collapsed from exhaustion. In fact, I am quite sure that if I married and had a child as a teenager, I would never have graduated from any type of law school, especially Harvard.  I would have been fortunate to earn my paralegal certification (which Wendy did before earning her undergraduate degree).  And if I had managed to become a paralegal, most likely that is what I would have remained for the rest of my working life.  There is no way I would have even dared to dream of becoming a lawyer.  So, being that Wendy and I are the same age, I can easily put myself in her young shoes, and imagine what I would have done had I been in them.  I would also like to point out -- although, it will matter naught to some -- that Wendy had her first baby as a teenager in a day and age when "choice" was a legal option.  And you can see what choice she made and what she did with that choice.  I wish I could say for certain that I would have made the same choice as she did.  But, looking honestly at my 18-year-old self and my 18-year-old relationship with my parents, I'm not sure I can say that.  So, I admire the strength that it took for Wendy to make the choice that she made.  She also seems to have a lovely relationship with her daughters.  This relationship has the potential to be a very good example for other women in Texas -- women of all ages -- as they look to Wendy for leadership.  Because what will encourage women to make positive and responsible choices, more than anything else?  I believe it is having a positive woman to emulate -- a woman who is not preachy or judgmental, a woman who respects the personal autonomy of others, a woman who has most clearly taken responsibility for her own life.  As I look, therefore, at the strength and courage Wendy has shown in living her life, I am inspired to have some confidence in her as she runs for governor of Texas.

I also believe that Wendy truly believes in lifting up those who have been dealt a poorer hand in life.  I think that, if she were governor, she would work to establish a stronger social safety net in Texas.  And that's a good thing, in my book.  

There is a group called Battleground Texas which is backing Wendy Davis in her run for governor.  Yes, they are the "Obama" people, which makes them the "bad guys" to many.  I like them, though.  I see their pictures on their website and it's hard not to like their young, open, happy, hopeful faces.  It's hard to imagine them leading some sort of "evil conspiracy to undermine our government" -- something of which some might accuse them.  And one thing I like about them is how they are driving all around Texas registering people to vote -- including many minority voters and many who have never voted before.  (Yes.  This is all part of the "evil conspiracy" according to some media pundits.)  I don't think it is evil, though.  I think it is awesome.  I think it will be a wonderful thing when Texas has a voter turnout that is more representative of its population.  And, after all, the Battleground Texas people don't know for sure how all these new voters will be voting.  But, to me, they're doing what should be done in a political system like ours. They are trying to build a government that is truly by, of, and for the people.

I was listening to somebody the other day who kind of objects to Battleground Texas and all of its aggressive voter registration drives.  This individual was saying, basically, "Why should we try so hard to register people to vote, if they don't take the initiative to do so themselves?"  This individual is also -- at least a little bit -- of the mindset that it is better if the more "well-educated" people do at least most of the voting.  Now, this person's opinion isn't born of prejudice, mind you, but out of the idea that the more "well-educated" people are more well-informed, making them more qualified to vote.  I, on the other hand, think it's a great thing when everybody who is qualified to vote, does vote.  (I guess this makes me a Radical Progressive, deceptively disguised as a Catholic Republican lady.)  I also think that it is possible to enable most, if not all, of these potential voters to become informed voters.  So, dear fellow Republicans, I have this to say to you.  Instead of whining about Battleground Texas and its ways, start informing all these new voters.  Let them know why they should vote for you.  Be fair, now.  Run clean campaigns.  Run honorable campaigns.  Because, if you truly believe your ways are the best for the people, take your arguments and reasoning to the voters -- ALL of them.  You should have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Government "Shutdown"

Today, I shall offer my opinions on ways in which we can make healthcare in our country more affordable.

Because I know about these things.

Yeah...  Right...


As we all know, unless we are living under a rock or engaged in a "SouthLAnd" marathon, our government is shut down.  Except for the World War II memorial.  The vets have stormed it.  Sort of like they stormed the beach at Normandy.  Hell, maybe we should let them run the country.  Not such a bad idea, eh?  And as I understand it, a lot of this shutdown thing is because of "Obamacare" and how Ted Cruz and some other meanie Republicans don't like it.

I do realize that the premiums of many people will be going up because of the Affordable Care Act, so there are those who see the whole thing as a contradiction in terms.  It won't be so affordable for everybody, after all.  Now, I don't mind paying a bit more for my insurance so that others can have some insurance, too.  But, I don't like to see anybody ending up with premiums that are a real burden.  So, here are some thoughts as to how we might make things more affordable -- for everybody -- over the long run.

First, just to get it out of the way:  I support a single-payer healthcare system in our country.  I am all for national health insurance.  I think we could do it, if we really had the will to make it happen.  The thing is --> we don't seem to have the will to make it happen.  And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

So, accepting that things are what they are, I believe one of the best ways to lower insurance premium costs is to allow insurance companies to be more flexible in what they offer in their plans.  Maybe I am completely misinformed, but as I understand it, there are certain things that insurance plans are being mandated to cover under the new law.  Requiring that more services be covered increases the costs of the plans.  Perhaps there could be plans offered in which the patient pays for such things as check-ups, certain tests that are not prohibitively expensive, and prescriptions (at least the more affordable ones).  I realize that poorer people need to have more of these services covered, because they can't afford them.  But, those people of more means could agree to pay more out-of-pocket costs in return for lower premiums.  Maybe that would leave more resources available to serve those who truly can't afford even basic care.  I guess I'm just thinking that if people would pay out-of-pocket for the health costs that they can actually afford, it would save on premiums and it would enable us to use more of what's in the "collective pot" for those who can't afford to contribute as much out-of-pocket cash.

I realize that there are insurance plans that offer lower premiums in exchange for potentially higher out-of-pocket costs (as in co-pays and deductibles).  The problem with this is that many of the people who buy these plans do so because they are poorer.  Thus, they actually can't afford the $5000.00 (or more) out-of-pocket cost per year should something actually happen to their health.  Then the doctors and/or the hospitals and/or the patient's already fragile economic condition take a hit.  So, what I'm talking about is having plans that fit people's needs.  If you are poorer, more should be covered for an affordable cost.  Maybe a public health insurance option could help in this area.  But, if you are more well-off, maybe you shouldn't be mandated to buy a plan that includes coverage for things that you are willing and able to pay for yourself.  And instead of having the insurance company cover a portion of everything, leaving you with high potential costs, you could agree to pay for all basic services, leaving the "insurance" part to pay in a more comprehensive way for serious health events.

I know these ideas are just a drop in a very large ocean of costs.  Maybe they wouldn't even help at all.  But, I'll tell you what I see.

I see that there are a lot of people who struggle getting the care they need for an affordable price.  I also see that there are a lot of selfish attitudes among wealthier people.  Many of these wealthier people are totally unwilling to give up anything or to make any compromises so that those less fortunate can have a little bit of their burden lifted.  I see that a combination of less well-off people who need care, and wealthy people who are unwilling to give up anything, and certain people in government who have decided that they can decide what goes into all of the plans, and the insistence of certain other people in government that healthcare remain (for the most part) a private industry has caused a very difficult situation to develop -- especially for the poor and working-class and middle-class to find affordable health insurance plans.

I also see the situation in my own family and in families like mine -- families in which there are young adult children.  I have three kids.  They are 25, 23, and 21 years old.  They are all conscientious and hard-working -- no excessive drinking, no drugs, good grades.  The 21-year-old is still in college, but the older two graduated into the post-financial-crash world and the post-financial-crash job market.  Thankfully, the job market has been improving, but many of the jobs being created (especially for new graduates) don't pay very well and don't come with benefits.  I have seen with both my kids and their friends that it often takes a few years for them to become qualified and desirable applicants for the jobs that actually pay a living wage with benefits.  I have, therefore, been grateful that my daughters have been able to stay on my husband's plan.  I know some people scoff at this idea of young adult kids remaining on their parents' plans.  I have heard pundits say, "Young people don't need fancy plans, because they're young and healthy.  They can just buy a cheap plan on the market for an affordable price.  Why are we making their parents' employers contribute to their healthcare?  It is fascism."  Well, let me tell you something.  Those more "affordable" plans come with potentially very large out-of-pocket costs -- sometimes $5000, or even $10,000.  And if you are making $9.00 per hour, that's going to be a pretty big chunk of change for you to come up with.  Also -- let me tell you -- not all young people are healthy.  One of my kids has significant health problems, which would make it pretty hard to get her an "affordable" plan (or any plan, at all) on the "free market" -- especially before "Obamacare."  So, you have the situation where you have bright, hard-working young people, who aren't making much money, who might have health problems -- and you tell them to buy an "affordable plan" on the "free market."  Good luck with that.

I also know a family in which the main breadwinner has decided to join a start-up tech company -- with no benefits.  For now, they are on COBRA, and it costs them $2000.00 per month for four people.  They have looked into buying private insurance, but a couple of the members of this family have pre-existing conditions, so they don't qualify for the plans.  Now, the parents of this family are both highly educated people.  We're talking graduate school here -- a big-name graduate school.   Of course, the main breadwinner could have stayed in his dissatisfying, go-nowhere job that gave him and his family benefits.  But, he wants to do work that is more meaningful -- and potentially very beneficial to our society.  The cost, though, is tremendous.  So, it makes me wonder how many bright entrepreneurs, how many great ideas, are being lost to us because of people who stay in mundane jobs solely to get the benefits. 

So, I'm getting kind of tired of the government "shutdown" being caused by a bunch of politicians who don't like "Obamacare."  I think we should work together to cooperatively implement the new law in the best manner possible.  But, maybe we could be a bit thoughtful along the way -- realizing that there are unintended consequences (such as certain middle-class people having their costs rise in a back-breaking fashion).  I wish we could have a political system that's more like a graceful two-step than a violent tug-of-war.  I wish our representatives would stop viewing each other as adversaries to be overcome.  I wish -- on the other hand -- that those we send to Washington to work on our behalf would come to see each other as colleagues, realizing that all want good things for our nation and its people.