Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daddy's Little Wingman

When I was pregnant, I wondered what my baby would look like...and he came out nothing like I expected. I really didn't expect all the hair, nor that it would be so dark. Oh, I just find him so adorable! Had to share this picture from his first Fathers' Day (which he made just under the husband was certain that he would be able to celebrate Fathers' Day this year, while I was sure that Jr. would be late).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Drumroll, please....

Our newborn prince:

Doesn't he look serious? Doesn't take much after mom or dad then...perhaps he will develop a sense of humor in the next couple of weeks or months...with parents like us, he better...

So this is a blog post nine months in the making literally.

There was one thing I didn’t want for my 30th birthday: I did not want to be a mother yet. I wanted to be able to enjoy the day on my terms. Turns out my son already has great manners: not only did he follow those wishes, he also comes early than expected to important events. Although he wasn’t expected until this Thursday, he decided to make his debut into the world last Friday, a belated 30th birthday present Mom was very happy to get!

For many of you, this post is kind of bewildering, because it sounds like I had a baby on Friday, and I never mentioned I was pregnant. Well, that is the case: just a few weeks after being married, my husband and I found out that we were going to be parents just 9 months after being married: we have one of those honeymoon babies. I just wanted to savor the moment and experience, and I never really got around to posting about it.

Being a parent is still very surreal. I can’t believe that the little squirming cutie is mine. Or that I am a mother and my husband is a father (an awesome one, by the way: I call him the human pacifier). And it’s great watching the dog adapt to this new family member. It’s an adventure for sure. So here are a few pics from the past few days:

Susie sensed that something was up and went to go lay in my suitcase that I was packing for the hospital...yes, ladies and gentlemen, I waited until going into labor to pack that suitcase...good thing we live close to the hospital, so my husband was able to bring me things I had forgotten.

She even placed one of her bones in the suitcase, thinking maybe if she packed something from her we would take her...and I believe this is her attempt at making it impossible for us to go without I would have to zip the suitcase closed with her in it.

Less than 4 hours at the hospital and I was already a mother...this child is already making things easy on mom.

Snoozing with Dad, who is the best swaddler/diaper changer/cuddler evah!

So the newest family member is Susie approved. She is a little bewildered by it all, and wants to lick him, but is confused by his lack on interest or engagement with her...that will change in the future though.

So, now this blog is now officially the dog and baby blog...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Devil's Playground

I had Devil's Playground on my Netflix list for months. I had always put other movies to the top of the queue, but lately I have gotten bored of movies and decided to give this documentary a chance. The synopsis from Wikipedia:
According to the film, at the age of 16, Amish youth are allowed to depart from many of the Amish rules, though the scholarship on the subject does not support this view of a normative rumspringa. The young people sample life outside of the Amish community. Many drive cars, get jobs, have romantic and sexual relationships, and most experiment with tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
One Amish youth whom the film follows, Faron – a preacher's son – even turns to drug dealing to satisfy his habit. Faron is eventually apprehended by the authorities and aids them in arresting another dealer. The movie continues as each subject faces a variety of challenges and pressures from both the "English World" and the "Amish World" of their families. Some return to their families, others do not. Some are baptized but later leave the Amish church, resulting in their families' shunning them.
According to the documentary, after the period of Rumspringa, 90% of the youth decide to rejoin the church.
I don't really quite know how to describe the film. It is a voyeuristic guilty pleasure on the one hand, but completely fascinating on another to see how this religious community condones the wild behavior of the teenagers during this period. It is completely accepted that the kids will drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex (girls boyfriends are allowed to sleep over after a age 16! Something I did not expect from the Amish community), and be totally out of control during this time, all the time with their parents looking on with a sort of patient resignation. There is this one scene where there is a massive barn party with hundreds of drunk kids stumbling around and then the camera sweeps to a different part of the property where the Amish owner of the farm is preparing to milk his cows...seemingly oblivious to the total chaos just a few yards away.
I can wholeheartedly recommend it, even though I am somewhat skeptical of it representing the average rumspringa experience, and perhaps just the more sordid examples.

Pain Threshold

I turned 30 yesterday.

I didn't really want any big fanfare, turning 30 just didn't seem like such a big deal when I actually came upon it. I can remember when I was in my mid-20s and some of my friends turned 30, and I thought it was a huge deal...but when it came my time, really it was just any other day. I just now have to remember to say that I am 30 when someone asks (not that it happens often).

I decided that I wanted to take a day off of work and go to the spa the whole day. It was bliss. I work from home and am a real homebody, so I don't really feel attached to this community. Not that I don't want to be, but I also don't feel left out. But being at a small town day spa I almost felt that I was on the set of some movie about a small town: the gossip and chit chat and stories you hear! It was like a session of cultural anthropology on the South. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

There was one story that cracked me up and I wanted to share it here. The owner of the spa told me about a soldier who wanted to get his chest waxed for his girlfriend for Valentine's Day. So he called and made an appointment. She said she usually doesn't wax men, but he pleaded with her. She spoke to him over the phone and warned him how painful it was going to be (he had never been waxed before). He said that he was aware of this, and all of his friends had warned him too, and also said he wouldn't be able to handle it, but he was sure he was going to, because after all, he had been on 2 tours in Iraq AND he had been shot he knew what pain was. So she said she would do it, and she would understand if he wanted to bring in a few beers to dull the pain, before she started the procedure. So he came in, and she started waxing him, and did one strip on his chest....and then a second one...she saw that he wasn't doing too well, so she left the room for a few minutes to help her assistant who was dealing with a whole line of customers wanting gift certificates for Valentine's Day presents. She said when she came back into the room, the soldier was sitting upright on the table and twisted his torso to show her a pretty gruesome looking scar. He said: "this is where I got shot...and it did NOT hurt as much as this. Ma'am, I will gladly pay you for your time, but I can not complete the procedure. I apologize for wasting your time." The story reminded me of the waxing scene in The 40-year Old Virgin.

Now, I have personally never been waxed other than my eyebrows. I think it is amusing to think that women go through a procedure that would probably be against the Geneva Conventions falling under torture, and that someone who has experienced a gunshot wound in combat says that getting waxed is more painful...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Facts vs. Anecdotes

So, Sarah poses this question: “Do you think that all the studies they quoted in this article are inaccurate? I mean, these are people who are answering the questions about themselves. And if we assume that all human beings want to be seen in a good light, then all people are probably churching up their answers. But still the gulf between left and right exists.Is there a difference between our anecdotes and the data from the studies?”

I think there are two kinds of studies: studies where the researchers are trying to find out an answer….and studies where the researchers are trying to prove a point. And depending on their motive, the results of the study can come out skewed. For example, I know that there was a study many years ago that was funded by a dairy foods association that found out that milk was good against osteoporosis , however, I know of another study that tested the effects drinking milk had on women in menopause: they had a test group and then a group that drank no milk. At the end of the study, the group that drank more milk had a higher incidence of osteoporosis.
I think the first study might just refer to drinking milk as a child, whereas the second one warns against drinking milk during menopause. Nevertheless, we still have the Milk Does A Body Good campaign, whereas truly in this case, milk is not doing a body good. The dairy association funded studies that found out what they wanted to find out, and ignored the studies that don’t really support their product. And that is how I feel about studies.

It’s just like a newspaper article. A journalist writes an article about an incident. Unless I know where that journalist is coming from, it is difficult for me to believe everything happened as they claim, because whether they admit it or not, their personal opinions have influenced how they researched and wrote that article. It depends on which direction you are coming from. The journalist will ask the sources it wants to ask, and avoid sources that might present a differing tact from the one the journalist wants to take. If I know that the American Dairy Association has funded a study, I can judge it accordingly. If I know that someone from FOX, CNN or NBC is reporting on a story, I can perhaps weave the whole story together through those multiple viewpoints.

So, is there a difference between our anecdotes and the data from studies? I would say, sometimes. Because I know that quite often the data is just anecdotal, because the researchers have only asked the people they want to ask. I mean, how many times have you seen the media portray the typical Iraq War vet as a something completely different than what we know as being the typical Iraq War vet? Are we sheltered in our experiences of how returning veterans are? Or are the only vets who take part in media interviews about the Iraq war tending to fit the media’s “ideal” of a returning vet?

So to return to the conservatives vs. liberals discussion: I would like to comment on the last line in the blog post Sarah linked to: “Again, this is not to say that every conservative is honest or that every liberal is dishonest, but there is a very real difference between those ideologies and the effect that they have on people who ascribe to them.” I would like to build on that comment. I think the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals believe in the good of people, and conservatives believe that if someone is given too much rope, they will hang themselves. The Prussians had a great saying: “Trust is good, control is better.”

Now, this is just my opinion, not fact what follows. My perception is that a lot of liberal policies are built on the belief that if people are given a chance, they will perform to the best of their ability, whereas conservatives think that only if given a carrot or threatened with a stick, will people do so. For example, it’s more of a liberal idea that grades and tests aren’t needed in school, whereas conservatives believe that you need that threat of a bad grade to make you study to learn what is expected. (And I am sure there are liberals who think the no-grade system is hogwash, too.)

I believe that many liberals think that a good welfare system is necessary to help those in need, whereas conservatives see a welfare system as too much of a carrot to not perform to your utmost. Same with nationalized healthcare. I grew up without medical insurance, my parents could afford it, but chose not to have it. Guess what? We were super healthy kids. Also, my parents, both in their 60s now: because they don’t go to a doctor, they aren’t on any kind of medicine. You could scoff at that, but I am sure that it is saving their health. My father also says one of the unhealthiest things you can do for yourself is get really good and comprehensive medical insurance. Because then you can “afford” all these interventions.

Case in point: When I was younger, I had really bad ear infections, which were exacerbated by the fact that we lived in Hawaii and I was constantly swimming and water was getting in my ears all the time. So at one of my doctor’s visits for yet another ear infection (which after a while, my mother started to self treat at home after buying all the proper paraphernalia) the doctor mentioned an operation that would reduce my ear infections: inserting tubes in the ear canal that would make drainage easier: the caveat being, it would also make me MORE susceptible to ear infections if water ever entered my ears. So my mother asked if the doctor thought it would be good for me, and he replied: “Do you have insurance?” And she replied that we didn’t. And so he said: “Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, because she will grow out of it anyway by the time she is about 10 years old.”

I believe that if there is health insurance it makes people less vigilant about their health. If there is a back-up plan, people are less determined about making it work properly the first time around. I think that the liberal point of view is more worried about those people who forgo treatment, because they can’t afford it, whereas I am more worried about how much unhealthier the average American now is, despite (or in my opinion, because of) increased healthcare coverage. I really would like to help people in need, it’s not that I don’t care about someone suffering from a disease, who can’t afford treatment. However, I am annoyed that with nationalized healthcare we would have to carry the burden of people who get into car accidents because of their own negligence, people who have treated their bodies so poorly over the years that they can only get by with medical intervention. I don’t want that.

My father says (does anyone see a trend here? My father has been a huge influence on the formation of my outlook on life) that if you aren’t a liberal when you are younger, you are heartless, but if that you don’t become more conservative later in life, you lack brains. (And, please, any liberals reading this, don’t get into a flap here…). I really agree with that sentiment. We should believe in the good of people, but without controls in place, I just don’t trust them to do what is best.

Just like my host father in France: he was enabling someone to take advantage of the system, and taking advantage of the system himself at the same time. His rationalization was probably along these lines: “I am paying exorbitant taxes for this, I might as well get some of my money back.”

So to come full circle, I believe that if we want to see liberals as having a tendency to lie more than conservatives, we could certainly prove that point if we asked the right people the right questions. But I think overall liberals and conservatives just see different solutions to problems, but both of them have the greater good in mind, what is best for society as a whole. And my personal opinion is that liberal policies, although full of good intentions, don't hold people accountable and lead to further problems (this is how I interpreted the last line of the quoted blog post: the effects that those policies have on people). And then there are fringe elements on both sides who would like to take advantage of the system: there is the conservative who doesn’t believe in charity of any kind, and the liberal who believes he is entitled to steal. But most of us, whether liberal or conservative, share the same morals.

So I have a question, that I have been pondering lately: I feel like many "conservative" politicians no longer embody the conservative stance of self-responsibility and accountability. My question is for liberals reading this post: do you feel that many "liberal" politicians nowadays aren't keeping true to socialistic core values? I mean, for example, I look at McCain and think: "no ways is that guy a conservative!" Do you look at Hillary or Obama and think that they have strayed too much to be considered liberal...or are even "too" liberal?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Liberals vs. Conservatives

I just read a post at Sarah’s…and instead of bogging down her comments section, I decided to write a post of my own. Her post discussed a recent study where it pointed to feelings of entitlement for things that weren’t earned or deserved that were stronger among liberals than conservatives. It also said that liberals were more likely to lie (I think I understood that correctly.)

I disagree…I know there are people like that, but I also know there are conservatives that make me cringe with their sense of self-righteousness. Oh, and ug…there is someone running for Congress here in Alabama on the Republican ticket that makes me bugged eyed when I hear her radio campaigns: she claims that milk is $6 a gallon (she obviously doesn’t shop at Walmart where it is still just barely under $4) and that we should “demand” from the Kuwaitis and Saudis to give us cheaper gas. Huh? What? Why?

A few days ago I came home to find a flyer for her campaign attached to my front door knob and I was so bummed out that I wasn’t home to blast her campaigner with questions about Ms. Harri Anne Smith. I just read on her homepage that she was rated most conservative member of the senate…seriously, well if that is true, I am really scared, because if demanding cheaper oil is the most conservative stance (as opposed to, oh, I don't know, sucking it up and dealing with it, by perhaps looking into alternatives and letting the market direct us to less gas-guzzling cars and other fuels?) that really makes me worried.

I digress…I lived in Germany for a number of years, and many of my friends are liberals. (You can’t help it in Germany…it’s a national affliction). However, they shared the same morals as I did. It was basically a case of looking at something, and just seeing a different picture.

Just like in the optical illusion, both parties truly do see what they are seeing, and at the same time, it doesn’t negate what the other is seeing.

One of the most liberal people I know is my French host mother…and she has to be one of the most giving, morally upright people I know. She is all for nationalized healthcare, but is just extremely disappointed in people who abuse it. I can remember sitting at the dinner table one evening with her family. Her husband and her were both general practitioners doctors and he was on call that evening. The phone rang, and she went to answer it. When she came back her husband asked who it was: she replied that it was a patient complaining of an itch on their hand, a skin irritation, and that she had told him that was nothing he needed to be calling an on-call doctor about and he could wait to come into the office in the morning. Her husband almost about blew up and said: “oh, Anne, you have no sense of economics!” and immediately went to the phone, called the patient back and did a home visit. A doctor would get paid more by the government for going on a house visit, than waiting for the patient to come during normal hours…yet this was really a case where the patient could have waited until the next morning for treatment. So in this case it was the conservative doctor enabling the person to abuse the system, whereas the socialist doctor wanted to reprimand the patient.

Her husband Jean sadly passed away 2 years ago, but I was always amused by their relationship: he was the staunch conservative, and she was the socialist. I think one of the cutest things I can remember was when she was traveling on business for something, and couldn’t attend an important Amnesty International event: she was the leader of the local chapter. They were going to protest something by walking thru their city with poster signs. So Jean was volunteers by Anne to go protest in her place. And he DID! He came back and was telling us about how he and 6 others marched thru the city center chanting (he was really amused by the whole thing). And I just thought: wow, that is true love!

I digress.

Anne also volunteers for charity work in Africa, and spends 6 weeks there every year providing medical care for the needy. She is always very depressed when she comes back, because she says, that often she finds that these people lack any desire to lift themselves out of their situation. They just shrug and say it is God’s will.

Anne really truly believes in the good of people, and she is disappointed. When I look at her, I feel lazy. I sometimes think that it is easier to be a conservative, because it blames people for their situations and doesn’t give me the responsibility of having to change them. Anne even when faced with the disappointment of people who won’t, when given the chance, lift themselves by their own bootstraps, continues to fight the good fight and supports a more socialist agenda. She will not give up on believing in a more communal sense of living.

However, nevertheless, I still see a different picture than Anne. I do think that people need to take more responsibility for their situations, and not take pity on themselves. You can’t wait for others to change your life. I am a conservative through and through...but I don't think that liberals are necessarily liars...they are just way more optimistic than I am.

So, although I know there are quite a few liberals out there who fit the study, I know that it really isn’t the case.

Update: Okay, I want to repent right now too. I also always give back money when the cashiers hands me too much change, make sure that I get charged correctly for everything, etc...however 2 weeks ago, I think I "stole" from the commissary. And I kind of felt it was the better of two options: I was checking out and this was the first time I experienced "rush-hour" at the commissary. I had heard about it, but never before witnessed the cashier line that goes down the aisle.

I offloaded my purchases, which included a gallon of milk. When the cashier went to ring it up, there was no bar code on it. So she asked me how much it was. I said I didn’t know. She called someone to do a price check and continued checking out the rest of my items. She was completely done, and we waited for this person to do the price check. Finally someone calls her on her phone…I think, yes, okay…here is the price…nope, he was just asking what the price check was for. More waiting…now bear in mind, there is someone (in uniform) waiting behind me now, their things are on counter waiting to be rung up, it’s a Friday. *groan*…I am feeling majorly embarrassed to be causing this delay. Finally, this is like 2 minutes later (but it literally feels like 5)…a commissary employee comes jogging down the aisle and says: $1.78. And so she enters $1.78 into the registered and tallies up my total. And all I can think is: no freekin' way is a gallon of milk ONLY $1.78 (I am really sensitive to the price of milk…I drink a lot of it, and I know that it is around $4…I doubt that the commissary is much lower than Walmart). So I am thinking that the guy got the price for the half gallon of milk instead of the whole gallon. But at the moment, all I could think was: do I really want to say: um, I think you made a mistake, can we wait another 3 minutes for her to get someone else to go back and check the price of the gallon of milk and hold the line up longer? I also rationalized that the wait was costing the commissary something, and I was saving them money, by not insisting on a second price check. So, full-disclosure…I stole from the commissary.

Does anyone else have a story like this?