Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL ACCESS FOR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN

Via VA Catholic Conference:

Please Encourage Congress to Support the DREAM Act.

On March 26, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) was introduced in the U.S. Senate (S.729), and nearly identical legislation (H.R. 1751) was introduced in the House of Representatives. This initiative - which has been pursued since 2001 and maintains significant bipartisan support - would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to obtain permanent residency status if they attend college or enlist in the military. It would apply to students in public and private schools, including Catholic schools.

The DREAM Act is strongly supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and is grounded in the premise that immigrant youth should not be prevented from a more promising future solely because of the decisions made by their parents. DREAM would provide these students a fair chance to develop their God-given talents and to contribute to the country they call home.

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2007), the U.S. Catholic Bishops stated that "the Gospel mandate to 'welcome the stranger' requires Catholics to care for and stand with immigrants, both documented and undocumented, including immigrant children" (paragraph 83). Advocating in favor of the DREAM Act is one way to answer this call. Please contact your Congressional representatives and encourage them to support this important initiative.

As always, thank you for your advocacy on behalf of fundamental human dignity.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

KKK School Display Made from Easter Peeps



Received via Ralph Smith, PWC NAACP:

I encourage all of you to make every effort to be at the Manassas City School Board Meeting tonight at 7 at City Hall. I want to make a strong showing in protest of the latest school board-endorsed "history" project depicting klu klus klan marching on washington. Manasssas schools have a tradition of teaching incomplete history and we need to let them know we are outrage that they chose this year to glorify the KKK See the attached [below] that News 4 in Washington DC is running.

The project as I understand it was a stand alone; that they do one involving these marshmallow "peeps" each year and this year it portrays the KKK "marching on Washington" which implies a peaceful activity by a group exercising its constitutional rights. Fine, but where is the teaching about the devastation they wrought on Va's citizens? What about the "marches on people's homes, what about a lesson as to who made up the KKK (often they were bankers, sheriffs, religious leaders). They will not teach that. If a high school student says to me that they do not understand that anyone could be offended then that tells me the school system has missed another "teachable moment". The system does not tell the students all of the story that blacks in Virginia or even Manassas endured in the 1960s just to get an education. To show these conquering heroses marching on Washington offends me to no end when I know the system does not want to also show them hanging black men and raping young black girls; it wants to shelter the full story of the struggle for civil rights but are willing to trot out some lame excuse that they are just "teaching" history.

The School Board meets tonight at Manassas City Hall in the City Council chamber.


---------------------------------



The white-coned Peeps display depicts a Klu Klux Klan march on Washington.

"As a parent, I think it's ridiculous," school parent Alfred Benton said. "I don't think it should be at the school or the front office."


Some students support their classmates' right to make such a controversial display. "People who take offense need to accept it is a part of history whether they like it or not," said Osbourn student Calla Feucht.


"I hope most peple would look at it as a piece of history. We can't deny history, but I can see some people being offended," added Osbourn senior Jonah Higgenbottom, who took the class last year and made his own (non-KKK) Peeps project.


That's not the point, according to parent Vicki Henderson, who called the display "despicable."


"Some people want to know that part of their history... but it's degrading to others," she told News4.


The school system said that the Klu Klux Klan Peeps are a part of a history class project, a presentation using cardboard and Peeps that is done every year at the school. They also said that they have not received any complaints about the display and that there are no plans to take it down.


Other scenes on display show Peeps at Pearl Harbor and Peeps at Iwo Jima.


http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/THE-NIGHT-NOTE-442009.html

Giving or Grandstanding?

I've been in a fairly philosophical mood lately, outside of Sallie (the dog) puking on the rug and then on my foot this morning.

There's nothing better than finding out people in your area love to donate to worthy causes. In the past six months, I have learned more about local charities and the quiet people who support them than I have in the past ten years. It's really a breath of fresh, spiritual air.

Long ago, I wrote something about corporations publishing the charities they sponsor because people (like me) are more apt to support socially responsible businesses.

I think I left out though (and I will have to check) those quiet individuals who never ask for thanks or brag about their contributions to those who need it most. Sometimes, it takes others to make a brag book about these folks.

But even if there were a brag book made, some of the good people would not want to be in them. Why?

Well first, they may be shy. Second, they might not want to receive praise for something they do naturally. And third, they might believe as Jesus did that good works should not be boasted about because that makes the boaster a hypocrite. It is enough that God knows the good works you are doing.

Now, this could be a catch 22 because certainly, people like Mother Teresa aren't going to go unnoticed. So in this case, I would say Mother Teresa was not only a modern day saint because of her humanitarian efforts, she was one because of her humility--certainly a difficult demeanor to maintain when the eyes of the world are upon you.

Without a doubt, those who donate time, effort and/or money have a right to feel good about their chosen work and contributions. Humility doesn't mean you have to ignore the fact you are doing good.

But it doesn't mean you shouldn't play charitable one-upmanship. The stupidest thing I have ever heard is, "I'm better than you are because I volunteer more than you do."

I think most people do what they can do. Not everyone can donate to the bigger causes in life because they busy donating to the world through raising children, for example, or caring for a disabled family member. Not everyone even has the desire to donate.

The second group is a little more irritating, but certainly, that is their choice. However, if that second group has many resources and doesn't give back to the community, I tend to take issue with them because one way or another, they got those resources FROM the community. So I, for one, try not to support businesses that are this careless. I also try not to support scamsters, but it's harder to avoid this if you get sucked in.

I'm sure it doesn't matter to any of them one way or another, but this is my private revolt against selfishness.

I forget where I was going with this.

Oh yeah.

Here's to the silent heroes among us.

May they live long and prosper.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The myth of "Love it or Leave it"

Post 9-11, a 1960's ideology re-erupted from the mouths of scared people across the nation--the concept of "America: love it or leave it."

The basis for this belief stemmed from fear that anyone who criticized the United States was not to be trusted, and indeed, could actually be a terrorist in disguise. Terrorists, as we know them, despise democracy, free speech, freedom of religion and the tenets of our Constitution. And terrorists bring about fascism.

However, in supporting the "love it or leave it" ideology, perhaps some of the most brilliant minds have remained untapped, leaving the country in a perpetual straight jacket of suppression.

This attitude of "love it or leave it" and those who execute it become perpetuators of the very thing they fear which is fascism.

Consider a descriptive of fascism: "Fascist governments forbid and suppress all criticism and opposition to the government and the fascist movement."

Recall, too, that government is made up of people, presumably in our country, the American people. Thus, those in power come directly from our own communities.

As a nation, we have somewhat moved away from this idea that criticizing a government, a belief system, an action, a public official or a law makes us fascists or terrorists or anything other than vocal Americans exercising (and hence protecting) freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all localities, including Prince William County where the remnants of that attitude remain in some circles.

Fortunately, this attitude is held only by a small, vocal minority.

This small minority seems to believe that if residents criticize government actions and community leaders, then that group is somehow traitorous to the county.

These groups promote a sense of threat to those whose opinions or lifestyles are different.

These groups want others to believe that change is bad, that an unpopular opinion should be squelched, and anyone outside of that vocal minority who becomes angry should be persecuted.

These beliefs are nurtured through proponents of the "love it or leave it" mentality.

Besides suffocating creativity and productivity, this belief has other problems: it is illogical and counter-productive.

An "either/or" argument is a logical fallacy indicating that there are not other options when indeed, there are a full range of solutions, attitudes and choices. Either/or thinkers block out the continuum and skip right to either end of the number line. The result is, more often than not, extremism.

The immigration debate in this county has promoted extremism that at one time was made into law. While that law has changed into something more reasonable, remnants of extremism float through our neighborhoods, our Internet sites and our county meetings. And like the either/or mentality, extremism tends to be illogical and self defeating.

There is a difference between inflicting extremism and voicing opinion. There is a difference between criticizing and hating. And there is a difference between real solutions and a mirage of solutions.

To reach a solution, we must always examine the direct source of the problem, not an imagined manifestation. For example, many neighborhood issues have been blamed on illegal immigration. It was discovered, however, that once neighborhood programs and communications improved between neighbors, these problems decreased. In the meantime, though, critics of the resolution were politically and socially attacked.

It is human nature to become angry, and most people understand anger is a natural reaction to frightening circumstances. Anger isn't pleasant, and neither are outbursts. However, anger unchecked becomes hatred. Hatred leads to suffering. And none of it leads to solutions.

The "love it or leave it" mentality incites anger in those who celebrate the U.S. Constitution by utilizing freedom of speech and the right to criticize a government supposed to serve the people and ideologies that stifle a wide range of ideas. When angered, these true patriots cry out for freedom even more loudly and aggressively.

"Love it or leave it" might smother dissenting voices for awhile, but these voices won't die. So while proponents of "love it or leave it" might feel relieved for a time, that relief is only temporary.

Ben Franklin said, "Whoever shall give up freedom for security shall have neither."

"Love it or leave it" might provide the illusion of security, but it is just that--an illusion.

Lesson Learned?


"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

- Yoda, Star Wars Episode I

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quote This

An yet more discussion on the immigration resolution here

Here’s the problem: 287g probably works, but the original version of the resolution put us on the map as a bunch of racist, money-wasting fools. When that happened, many residents decided it was time to try to offset the negative results the resolution had.

The policy currently in place isn’t the one that originally passed. The original resolution exacerbated an already declining housing market as well as existing racism.

The intent always should have been to treat people fairly but get criminals off the street. By checking citizen status of every person arrested, and by refusing to target specific ethnic groups, our police can prevent racial profiling and work within the perimeters of the current federal system. Trying to handle a federal issue on a local level is socio-economic suicide.

I would like to see the negative ramifications of this resolution die. Unfortunately, until the federal government does something about immigration problems, and until local governments encourage federal change through positive action, PWC and other areas will continue to be affected, leaving yet one more excuse for racism and discrimination.

The damage has already been done, and dismantling the infrastructures that allowed this to happen continues to be an uphill battle.

But we need to let people know there is far more to PWC than the immigration debate, and we need to get that message out loud and clear.

Would you want this in your house?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Some more memes

If you are reading this blog, consider yourself tagged.

On the first one, use the alphabet and fill in the blanks.

On the second one, just fill in the blanks.

Cheers!

________________

A - Age: 39

B - Bed size: queen

C - Chore you hate: dishes

D - Dog's names: Shiba and Sallie

E - Essential to start your day: decaf coffee

F - Favorite color: dusty rose

G - Gold or Silver: either

H - Height: 5'9"

I - Instruments you play: none

J - Job title: writer

K - Kid(s): Erika and Alexandra

L - Living arrangements: townhouse in Lego Land

M - Mom's name: Rita

N - Nicknames: None.

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: many

P - Pet Peeve: racism

Q - Quote from a movie: "Do or not do. There is no try."

R - Right or left handed: left

S - Siblings: Joe and Michael

T - Time you wake up: 6:50

U- Underwear: mostly

V - Vegetable you dislike: beets

W - Ways you run late: trying to get everything done

X - X-rays you've had: many

Y - Yummy food you make: yams?

Z - Zoo favorite: DC

_______________________

Middle Name: Mercurio

Significant Other's Name: David

Favorite Game: Scrabble

Favorite Sport: None

Interests: (not in any particular order and outside of family and friends) reading, writing, scrapbooking, card making, religion, philosophy, helping others, sticking up for the oppressed, poetry, nature, sociology, education, history, painting, intellectual meandering, art, looking at different things, plays and musicals

Weakness: sporadic, mostly hormone induced depression; hitting the "send" button too quickly

Animal Lover? Yes

What happens after death? Reincarnation

Religion: Unitarian Universalist

Political Party: None

Current Aspiration: To publish my books and make more money

Most Valued Qualities in Others? Charity, sense of social justice, sincerity, honesty, love

Place you most want to live: Somewhere with more trees and possibly a cold stream nearby

Places you most want to visit: Safe but culturally rich places in India, Africa and England

Stupidest thing you ever did: Nothing is stupid if you learn from it.

Regrets: I don't believe in regretting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More from the Bariatric Files

Twenty-six pounds and counting. My goal is to hit -30 by April 23rd. That would be a loss of thirty pounds in two months.

Of course, if it turns out to be more, I won't complain.

I had an appointment for my first "fill" but I put it off. A "fill" is an injection of saline into a port that has a tube leading up to the band. When the saline is injected, the band tightens.

The reason I put off this appointment is that I already can't eat over 1,100 calories a day. Most days, I eat around 900 or 1000. Since I'm still losing weight, I don't see the reason to reduce any further at this point. I want to talk to the doc about this, but it seems to me, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

There's no doubt it's working, either. Besides losing weight, my body no longer tolerates various foods.

Two things I've experimented with made me me say "no way": pork and cake. Just seeing those two words together makes me laugh because I think, "Hmmmmm.....no real loss there, eh?"

The bad part is that three tablespoons of cake made me want to barf. So x-nay on the cake-nay (or however you would do that in pig Latin..there's the pork reference again).

Bread. I'm too scared to try it. Pasta. Too scared to try it. I've been told these things are no-nos because they swell in your stomach and clog the little passageway. So if a bite of cake does it, I don't even want to imagine what would happen with pasta.

Here's a little problem now that I've lost a bit of weight--I want to run. I was out with the kids and dogs yesterday and Sallie started running. So I started too, as well. The kids said, "Mom! Don't run! Your knees will hurt!" Okay, so I stopped after a short while and resumed walking. Dang kids were right. The hip hurt, too.

I miss my running days. There's something liberating about running. I watch the kids and Sallie do it, and I want to do it, too. I used to run even into my 30's--not fast, mind you, but at least a decent jog.

Sometimes I have dreams I am running. I run so fast, I can glide over little hills. I love those dreams.

I have flying dreams as well. Sometimes, I can't fly fast enough, but I can still do it. Most of the time, I'm not in Superman posture. I'm straight up and down like I'm walking. Very cool.

I wonder if I will stop having these dreams as I get older.

Nah.

Holocaust Remembrance Program

Via Unity in the Community:

Announcement

I would like to invite all members of Prince William County places of faith, organizations, and the general public to attend the U.S. Federal Government’s 16th Annual Federal Interagency Holocaust Remembrance Program. This year the program is titled “We Survived. We Live On.” The event is free and open to all who attend.

Kerry Kennedy , daughter of the late U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a founder and board member of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, will moderate this event. More about our annual event can be found at
http://holocaust remembrance.org .

The guest speakers are as follows:
  • Annette Lantos , a Jewish woman born in Hungary and the wife of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress. Ms. Lantos will discuss her experiences in escaping from Hungary to Switzerland with a Portuguese passport arranged by Raoul Wallenberg, the famous Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives. She will also talk about how her husband, Tom, hid in a safe house established by Mr. Wallenberg in Hungary after fighting against the German Nazis in the resistance.
  • Dr. Edib Korkut will talk about his great uncle, Dervis Korkut, who was a Bosnian Muslim that smuggled and hid the oldest Sephardic Haggadah (Jewish religious book) in the world from the German Nazi Army. The book originated in Barcelona, Spain, around 1350, and Korkut hid the book with the assistance of a Muslim cleric. In addition, Mr. Korkut saved a Jewish girl by bringing her home and passing her off as a Muslim servant.

Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Time: 11:30 am until 1 pm

Location: The beautifully restored Lincoln Theatre, a former vaudeville theater built in 1922, located at 1215 U Street NW, Washington, DC (between 12th and 13th Streets)

Metrorail Subway: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial Station/Cardozo Station on the Metro Green Line

Metrobus: Routes 90, 92, 96 and 98.

Parking is limited on U Street.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Now Enters the Easter Cake

Remember one of my Spring Break goals was to teach the kids how to decorate a cake? Well, today we made an Easter cake--a little early, I know, but who cares?

We decided to go with 3 tiers, something I've done maybe twice in my life and certainly not within the last ten years. Obviously, this was highly experimental.

We baked without too much problem, and wonder of wonders, none of the layers cracked!

As the cakes cooled, we colored the frosting without so much as a single stain on the table cloth. Again...wonder of wonders.

So then, I taught them to make roses. They came out pretty good in spite of the frosting issue. I always have the problem with getting good decorating frosting. The canned stuff is a real drag. I know if you want to stiffen it, you're supposed to add powdered sugar, which we did. It still wasn't thick enough. So I thought, my why improvise? I added, believe it or not, Creamora.

It wasn't bad! And it DID stiffen the frosting enough to get some detailed decor.

So then we decided I would decorate the smallest, top layer, Erika the middle and Alexandra the bottom.

We put the layers into the freezer for about an hour. And within 30 minutes of Daddy's return from work, we put it together.

Now, I won't lie. There WERE some issues with this.

The first time, I didn't press the columns all the way through the cake. DUH. So, the middle layer fell off almost destroying the bottom layer. We salvaged it, though, without so much as a trace of the near-disaster.

There were also two rebellious columns that didn't want to fit tightly on the feet of the cake bases. This caused a little....leaning.

But all in all, I would say it was a successful venture with minimal mess...which was a drastic improvement over the last time I had tried this with them.

Okay, maybe when kids are between five and seven, they are too young to learn to make frosting flowers.

There's a definite plus to having older kids!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Quote

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

http://www.mlkonline.net/quotes.html

Poem for the people

After the County Budget Hearing

I'm wondering
if you would hear
homeless,
disabled,
elderly
me

IF I SHOUTED

if i whispered

or if I

simply

f a d e d

a w a y

Monday, April 06, 2009

Coming Out

My kind, creative bbf, Sandra, (Barefoot Blogger Friend...we decided this would be a good nickname since we tend to blog while barefoot) said I should write a memoir. My response was that so many people do it so well, that I haven't even tried.

But there's another aspect to writing memoir.

It's painful.

People who write memoirs tend to have gone through struggles that encourage them to write memoirs. I don't know about other people, but I think part of the reason is that writing is a way to make sense of it all, a way to write your story, look back and say, "Look how far I have come," or "I am starting to understand now."

I have come a long way. And I understand a lot more than I used to. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to write a memoir or that I want to delve into the gory details of my life.

Then again, as my bbf has pointed out, I have done so quite a bit in this blog.

But there are shadows I don't know how to deal with.

I was thinking of one such shadow last night--most of the night, as a matter of fact, because every time I woke up, I was writing a passage in my mind.

I decided I would write part of it here because I want to be brave and stop stepping around the issue, hinting instead of just getting it out there.

In 2005, I was raped.

There. I said it.

I used to call it "assaulted" because it was a lot easier to see on the screen. But that doesn't make the reality any different or the results any different because assault is one thing and rape quite another (except that I got beat up in the process).

I've been pretty straight forward in discussing PTSD, or at least I think I have. Maybe I haven't. It has been awhile since I have written about it.

So I might have said already that PTSD is a kind of nightmare you live every day. The flashbacks weren't the worst thing because if they happened to me at home when I was alone, I could just cry and roll myself into a ball and rock all by myself. But going out and sleeping were two other things completely.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with panic attacks knows how hard it is to deal with them in public. When I had PTSD, I would see something, smell something or hear something that sparked a flashback. Sometimes it would happen while I was driving alone. I would have to pull over, or if I didn't, I would swerve. I put on sunglasses so other drivers wouldn't know I was sobbing.

What's interesting is that I never had these complete meltdowns in front of my children. I think it was an innate motherly thing that kept it inside, at least until later. I let it out again when I was alone, or it escaped it's weak cage in front of my husband or at my volunteer jobs. And of course, it ran rampant in my nightmares.

The worst thing is, as pretty much anyone who has had similar experiences will know, is that when you are the victim of a violent crime, people don't believe you. When you tell them something like you've been raped, they think a few things about you--like you are an easy target, a whore or just a plain old liar. Some people take advantage of this, and that makes everything hundreds of times worse because now you not only have to deal with the crime, you have to deal with the after-effects. The PTSD becomes generalized anxiety and soon, you are locking yourself inside the house.

Enough "you's." The word here is "I" and "me."

"I" had to deal with that twice after I was raped.

See? I used the word again. The more I write it, the easier it becomes--at least for now. Later, I might not be able to write it again, and saying it is almost completely out of the question.

In a memoir, I would feel the need to give specifics, and I know I would not be able to. It's not that I would be too wimpy to face the pain again (I'm not a wimp). It's that I wouldn't know how to talk about the people who did this to me without ruining them completely (never mind ruining myself with a lawsuit). I don't hate these people. I see them as completely messed up, people with more issues than probably they gave me. I see myself as having survived THEIR illness.

I know mine is getting better. I no longer lock myself in the house, afraid to go out because everything had become a trigger for flashbacks of the event itself to the people that took advantage after.

I am losing all the weight I put on because I was sick bodily and mentally.

I'm not sick any more. I think I am still healing, but I am not sick. I might have to heal for a long time more, but that's okay.

As my bbf, an incredible survivor herself, said in one post, 'you have to keep saying it until you are comfortable with the thoughts.'

I know why the people that knew about this didn't do anything about it, and I have reconciled that in my mind.

Don't get me wrong. There was no excuse for their behavior. I just understand how it all happened and why.

I understand now that some people cannot be trusted, that some people thrive on hurting others and some people really are criminals. I know that sounds seriously naive, but I never thought it would happen to me or that people who talked about such things ever did it. It was the "normal" person who did it, people you wouldn't expect, right? Isn't that what they say? Wasn't it supposed to be someone you knew? Well, I didn't know anyone like that.

One of the hardest things to get over was that the reason this took place at all was the result of poor health care. A doctor prescribed the wrong medication for me. He just about overdosed me and put me in a state that led me into situations I never would have gone into. I was already pretty naive, and with his help, I was really out of it. I literally didn't know my mind had changed, my personality had altered. I just knew I didn't feel like myself. And I WASN'T myself.

I would cry because I didn't know what was wrong with me. I would call the doctor and he just prescribed more medicine or didn't call back at all.

I would ask my friends and husband what was wrong with me. No one knew.

I don't know how many people have ever had this happen to them, but I know in my case, I am lucky to be alive.

The most miraculous thing is this how much I have grown. I have evolved, if you believe in that kind of thing. I am so aware of life and myself and my mind, and best of all, I am back to my old, hyperactive, productive self! And while I still go through bouts of depression and have anxiety now and then, it's not nearly as bad as it was when I was fighting the PTSD.

I'm alive.

I'm back.

I'm back.

God, I missed myself.