Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Political Thoughts

I waited until I could watch the debate and do some thinking before sharing my thoughts on the presidential race. While I don't consider myself highly educated in politics (I am married to Hans), I do have opinions on the current issues.

Before you start reading this, I should let you know where I stand so, if you hate the things I say, you can find another blog to read. :) I'm a liberal person. I think health care should be universal. I believe in gay rights and support gay marriage. I try every day to be more aware of the environment. I think global warming is a serious, human-created issue. I believe offshore drilling is an atrocity, that dumping 90,000 tons of drilling fluid and metal cuttings into the ocean PER OIL RIG is a sin. I also believe in stricter gun laws, the separation of church and state and the rights of women to choose. I think "Pro-life Feminist" is an oxymoron. I am against capital punishment and uneducated preemptive military action.

First, the debate. I was highly disappointed in both parties. Politicians are very good at saying a lot about nothing. They are well-practiced in the art of question-avoidance. This debate was supposed to be all about foreign policy and the war in Iraq, and instead half of the time was taken up in tax banter. Now, I know that the United States' current economic crisis is a HUGE matter, and not to be handled lightly. But I was ready to hear about the war, and frankly, I was disappointed in Jim Lehrer (a journalist I grew up watching with my father) for diverting the topic to money in his first question.

Once we got past all of the raised-taxes, lowered-taxes, pork-barrel spending, earmarking, subprime lending, free market vs. governmental regulations talk, most of which went over my head (maybe I should be reading along on Hans' online economics course), there was only a short time for the candidates to discuss the things that matter to me: health care and foreign policy. While Obama mentioned our needing a fixed-healthcare system, McCain didn't touch that one with a ten-foot pole. I don't think his medicare subsidies are the answer. I live in a country right now with socialized medicine and it works enormously better than anything I've ever experienced in the world of private health care. I also liked Obama's comment on making college more affordable, though I believe the arts to be every bit as important as math and science.

And finally, foreign policy. The only thing we learned from this is that McCain would have us send MORE troops to Iraq, and Obama can't stop talking about how we never should have gone to Iraq in the first place (Naturally, Obama, but how are YOU going to fix it?). Obama believes non-preconditioned dialogues with world leaders will improve diplomacy in our foreign relations. I agree. We shouldn't say "I'm not going to talk to you unless you agree, right now, to do what I ask you to do." McCain believes a league of democracies will put the pressure on Iran to cooperate, but he excludes non-democacy-run countries such as Russia and China in that league. Hmmm, those are pretty big, important countries to not include in your little club, McCain....

After the Eve Ensler essay, I decided to learn more about Ms. Palin. She is accused of calling for censorship in her local public library, which would have me ranting and railing, were it true. She is "reported to have said" that a certain book, Daddy's Roommate, "shouldn't be in the library," but she never wrote a formal request to have the book removed. Darn. And I SO wanted to accuse her of book-banning too!! Oh, and by the way, Daddy's Roommate is a children's book about the children of lesbian and gay parents, and I've added it to my "to read" list. Just goes to show what censorship can do!

And the wolves. Yeeshk. She signed a policy that allows the hunting of wolves from helicopters, and even offered a bounty of $150 per wolf killed. Are. You. KIDDING ME?!?!?! Her intention was to increase the moose population with this "predator control program." Funny enough, do you know what one of her favorite pasttimes is? You got it, moose hunting!! So DIE WOLVES, DIE! How DARE you take all of the good game!

Here is the rest of the list of her record:

Lifetime member of the NRA
Supports capital punishment
Opposes same-sex marriage
Supports denying state health benefits to same-sex couples
Pro-life, including cases of rape and incest (which McCain disagrees with, oddly)
Member of "Feminists for Life" (the oxymoron)
Wants to remove polar bears AND beluga whales from threatened species list
Supports drilling and building of pipelines in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Says global warming isn't man-made, but later said "We gotta do something about it!"
Supports preemptive military action

All in all, Sarah Palin is for everything I am against, and against everything I am for. So, Eve Ensler, I applaud you.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Greek Party

I wanted to learn how to cook Greek food. So we had a party! I made souvlaki, tzaziki sauce, baked figs and Greek wedding cookies. Let me know if anyone wants recipes. The other teachers made yummy salads and desserts as well. It was all delicious. I think we might have a fiesta next!



Wedding Cookies

Halloween Costumes

So, I decided to flex my creative muscles and make our Halloween costumes this year. They turned out pretty well, though this photo shoot did not. Hopefully we'll get some better pictures at the big Halloween party. Enjoy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sarah Palin

Written by Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues"

"I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story — connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country choose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God’s plan.

She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is there to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, ‘It was a task from God.’

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not. She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and health care or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, ‘Drill Drill Drill.’ I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?"

I Just Want to Know...

Why did I get this education? 4 years of my life, over $20,000, sleepless nights and endless days... for what? The first job I got out of college was at a storage facility. Hans worked as a security guard at a juvenile detention center. How messed up is that? And why can't we get decent-paying jobs and health care in our own country? Something is severely lacking in an economy that can't support it's own citizens, and forces them to move to other countries for work.

Hans thinks a Bachelors Degree is the new high school diploma. It's hard to get a decent job without a Masters - at least in our fields of study. Then WHY did I spend so much time and energy getting the dang thing? Education has become as inflated as prices! It's value has become so eroded that we need more and more of it to get anywhere in life.

Now, I'm not complaining about the need for more education. I love school. I love stimulating my mind, pushing my limits, and expanding my perceptions of the world. I think even if education weren't inflated, I'd probably still want to go to grad school. I just hate that 4 years of hard study doesn't amount to anything these days.

So, what do I want to study? I could go back to school for music.

Pros: 20 years of study under my belt
Hundreds of dollars spent on sheet music already
It's a skill I want to teach my children
It's what I love
I can teach private lessons anywhere

Cons: I'm not good enough for a career in performance
A performance career isn't conducive to family life
A music degree isn't very transferable into other occupations
Accompanists are expensive
I haven't sung or played in over a year, and I am badly out of shape.

I could go back for math.

Pros: I enjoy math. I think I'm good at it.
There are lots of accounting jobs out there
Music is very mathematical

Cons: Math is not my passion
I would have a loooooooot of catching up to do
Who wants to be an accountant??
Why am I talking about music in the math category???

I could go back for Applied Linguistics.

Pros: I have a background in teaching ESL
I have a background in diction and phonetics
It's a good degree to have when you're traveling around the world
It might better our chances of landing a job in Europe, where I could REALLY study music

Cons: Don't know much about the program
Don't speak any foreign languages fluently
Don't know if it's practical for jobs within the US
There I go talking about music again.....

Yeah, I think it's obvious what I want to do. I just can't justify doing it. It's expensive, time consuming, and I don't know how beneficial it would be to anyone but myself. I REALLY want to be selfish in my education, but I just can't be. Music isn't something I can study online, nor is it something I can study in Japanese (not that I'd want to - Japanese singers are appalling!). I also don't know if I have the confidence I need to go through with it. I am truly stuck.

(P.S. Yes, I went back and censored this blog. I realize I might have shocked some of my more sensitive readers. That was not my objective. Sorry, guys.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Simple Things

I've been keeping this list on my facebook, but I wanted to share it with my family here. These are a few things that make me happy.

Lemongrass exfoliating foot scrub
Hannah’s 6:00 AM smile after a good night’s sleep
Funny YouTube videos
Locally grown fruits and vegetables
Funny T-shirts
Chunky jewelry
New Recipes
Wild Rice
Shopping all day with my mom
The smell of a new book
Going on a surprise date with Hans
Cooking yummy, healthy meals
Harvest Season
Paid Vacation
Pizza Marino’s dessert bar
Curry and naan
Yogurt raisins and yogurt pretzels
The Princess Bride
Playing hostess to friends
Rainy Season
Peppermint and rosemary healing foot lotion
Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto
Cold somen noodles in Shodoshima
New clothes
Seeing Hannah figure out the world
Nap time
Visiting friends and family
Natural hot springs
Mint chocolate chip ice cream
The smell of Hannah’s head
Changing Hannah’s diaper (what makes her happy, makes me happy)
Grilled pineapple
New office supplies
Fresh mountain air
Cherry blossom season
Taking baths with Hannah
Doing nice things for people who don’t expect it from me
New curtains
Re-reading my favorite books
Hearing my sister's voice
Being tickled by Hans
Watching Hans tickle Hannah
Riding my bike to the grocery store
Knowing that I'm loved.

They Grow Up So Fast!

I cannot believe I'm the mother of a 6-month old child. Look at her! She's eating solids like a champ. I guess she did her homework watching us, because she knew exactly what to do. Her favorite so far is oatmeal. I love watching Hans feed her. They have so much fun together. It's bittersweet, seeing her become more independent of me. Oh well, that's life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Please Wipe Feet

A friend of Hans' has labeled me as a feminist, because "I'm mean." Seriously, how dim can you get? He says I've changed since I had Hannah, that I'm more confrontational and outspoken. I'll agree with the latter. I made a choice a while back to be more honest with myself and others, and I know that honesty can have its repercussions. I'm willing to take the hit when my openness insults others, or makes them feel uncomfortable. I'm not too small to say I'm sorry. That doesn't change how I feel, though.

Feminism has gained a really bad rap over the years. Yes, I believe in equality of the sexes, but I do NOT believe that men and women are the same. I doubt this guy even knows what feminism is, but if he thinks a feminist is a woman who isn't meek, submissive and passive, then yes, I suppose I am a feminist. Why is it that women who speak their minds as much as men do are labeled as feminists (or, even funnier, "masculine")? What is wrong with telling people how I feel? I'm sorry, but I refuse to be ashamed. If you want the kind of woman who meekly obeys, agrees with everything you say and do, and spends all of her time accommodating you and your sexist opinions, marry a doormat. And don't complain when your friend chooses a woman who thinks for herself and doesn't put up with the crap that comes out of your mouth.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I'VE CREATED A MONSTER!!!! Or rather 12 monsters. Am I a bad leader? Looking back on all the leadership roles I've been pressed to take, I don't think I did well in any of them. I've heard the best leaders are the reluctant ones, but I might be the exception. I'm trying to find that delicate balance between reprimanding my peers and encouraging open anarchy among them. I think I lead better from within the group than outside of it.

I've also heard that the worst leaders are the best teachers. My boss teaches me something every day. Each day I renew my goal to be as LEAST like her as possible. I'm keeping a running list:

-Be slow to take offense (which is a lot harder than being slow to offend)
-Be mature
-Be professional
-Be modest in everything
-Sleep on it before replying to that email
-There are two sides to every story - educate myself before picking a side (or choosing not to)
-Don't micromanage. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
-Compromise facilitates greater changes than inflexibility

I've got more where that came from. I'm a regular fortune cookie when it comes to this job. But now that I've admitted to creating this monster, how do I tame it without breaking its spirit? I prefer people to think for themselves, and to not allow our boss to walk all over them. By the same token, they have a job to perform, and their constant whining, naysaying and cries of injustice are affecting the quality of their work. The monster is bitter, self-righteous and hostile. What do I do?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Old Friends

I've been living in Japan for a year and a half now. When we decided to come here, Hans and I had little time to get our affairs in order. Two weeks, in fact. In that short two weeks, we packed 4 suitcases to take with us, packed up the rest of our house, moved our things into storage, and said good bye to our two sweet little puppies. Since then, I have missed many things - my dogs, my recipe books, my kitchen utensils, my clothes, my books.....but one thing I did not foresee missing so desperately, one thing I didn't know I couldn't live without, was my music.

Why did I pack it away? What was I thinking? I know what I was thinking - 50 lbs. Not a lot you can do with 50 lbs, especially when our contact in Japan is telling us to pack a year's supply of deodorant and toothpaste (don't they brush their teeth in Japan??). I've regretted the decision to leave my music - my life - behind. It's time to make things right. My mom - bless her soul - is sending a selection of my favorite scores, via Hans' brother Travis in Korea (who has an APO address). I am, in turn, sending her a check for the shipping. All this time, and that's all it took??

My mouth is watering just thinking about those precious books, their covers worn with weather, travel and love. I keep thinking about which songs I'll look at first. Schumann's "Frauen Lieben und Leben" - a cycle I've wanted to learn, but never got around to. "Song to the Moon," from Rusalka - one of my favorite arias. Wolf, Schubert, Poulenc, Faure, Handel, Barber, old friends. I've missed them. Who needs toothpaste?