Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You Know Your State Is In Trouble When.....

Ohio, like many other states, is currently facing a budget crisis. I sincerely hope that other states have leadership that can handle their budget crisis in a just and thoughtful manner. Ohio doesn't, and it's very sad. I love my state. We have several nice cities, two large amusement parks, beautiful farm land (and I'm not referring to my back yard) , historic sites that include the underground railroad and Native American landmarks as well as European settlers history. I think that the Hocking Hills section of the state must be one of the most beautiful parts of the United States!

Which is part of why I am so sad that Ted Strickland, our Governor, obviously looks upon his role as Governor as stepping stone to greater things rather than looking at his role as Governor as a chance to serve the people who elected him. Even while this budget is causing panic and distress around the state, he has the audacity to post on his facebook page about his lovely morning spent "with Joe Biden, touring a solar factory and talking about how we can work together to revive manufacturing in Ohio."

So, the state is in a complete mess and Strickland's priority is to schmooze with the Vice President, for no other apparent reason than to schmooze. Anyone knows if you actually want to get something done, then you don't bother with the Vice President. He's just the trophy wife to the real thing. I'm sure they had a lovely morning talking about all the things they could "get done", somehow, someway.

In Honor of my beloved State of Ohio, I comprised a list to equip every citizen with red flags that they can use to know when it is time to SPEAK UP:

You know your state is in trouble when....

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor gives speeches on modernizing education then releases a proposed budget that slashes all funding to state libraries at 50%, only days before it is to be approved.

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor gives speeches on how our students should be performing better than students in countries such as Finland, and that education is the key to economic growth but doesn't bother to see that a big part of Finland's success is a strong library system.

You know your state is in trouble when you can't fully access the Governor's proposed budget until he deems it's necessary.

You know your state is in trouble when you phone all your legislators and Governor and can't find a grown up to talk to. (yes, this is true. They are all 'aides' and 'interns').

You know your state is in trouble when Your Governor has no problem posing for a "READ" poster for displays at your library to encourage reading, and then turns around and slashes funding for libraries 50%, after systematically decreasing (with help from his predecessor) the funding over 40% in the past 5 years.

You know your state is in trouble when the same "READ" poster reveals that your Governor gets his intellectual stimulation from reading James Michener novels.

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor does not see that free access to information is a foundation of a successful democracy and that slashing funding in such a irresponsible way is an attack on the civil rights of EVERY Ohioan.

Stop and think. Exactly why is he so blase about Ohioans having free access to information? Either he is really really ignorant, or he is very very devious. Either way, we are in trouble.

Call Governor Strickland and Voice your Concern over the proposed budget slashes! 614-466-3555

Don't forget to remind him that his re-election is coming up! It's what he really cares about anyway.

Call these members of the Ohio legislature as they are members of the Conference Committee that is currently going over the proposed budget:

Vernon Sykes
Phone: 614- 466-3100
Fax: 614-719-6944
Jay Goyal
Phone: 614-466-5802
Fax: 614-719-3973
Ron Amstutz
Phone: 614-466-1474
Fax: 614-719-0003


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Library: The Great Equalizer (Until a Misguided Governor Kills It)

If I live to be 100 years old, I'll never have the time to gain wisdom enough to figure out how politicians can so consistently lose sight of the big picture. Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio, has proposed a budget (merely several days before the fiscal year ends) where he slashed library funding by over 50% in an obvious attempt to do away with Public Libraries.

I say this is an obvious attempt because certainly Mr. Strickland knows that libraries are depending upon that funding, that for some libraries that is the sole funding available to them. In addition to that, Mr. Strickland purposely proposed this slash days before it would be enacted knowing full well that the libraries would then have no time to recover or develop any plan of action.

Apparently Mr. Strickland, who likes to believe himself a champion of education reform, believes that only people with money should have access to books. Without a local library then anyone without a car is not able to obtain books, magazines, newspapers, or have access to a computer. Without money to purchase said items, then a person's only option is the library. Libraries need to exist and they need to be LOCAL. Therefore, there needs to be many of them in order for them to provide the access to information necessary to preserving our democracy!

I have to ask, why would Ted Strickland want to restrict access to information?

Mr. Strickland is not a reformer of education, and he is certainly not modernizing anything. He's trying to revert Ohio back to an old-school form of education that is contained within classroom walls and centers around biased textbooks. Just months ago, he pointed out that we were lagging behind other nations in our test results, and that the nations testing better than us had economies that were growing at a faster rate than ours. Guess what they have that Governor Strickland thinks we don't need? FULLY FUNDED LIBRARIES!

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the fact that libraries serve as community centers for teens and pre-teens after school. When the libraries close, thousands of kids around the state will have no safe place to go. Mr. Strickland has not thought about the fact that most baby boomers looking for jobs go to the library for help with online applications, even to apply for unemployment benefits. He hasn't thought about the literacy support that the library gives to schools.

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the costs of making such dramatic cuts. He has not thought about the price tag that will come when teens and pre-teens have no place to go after school, when teachers need to start purchasing materials no longer available for free from the library, when businesses are not able to develop solid business plans because they can't research them through the library, when people can't access unemployment benefits, tax papers, or social service applications. Mr. Strickland has not thought about the cost to the state when THOUSANDS of library workers across the state are laid off and begin to access unemployment, food stamps and medicaid.

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the long term costs in terms of lost literacy. He has not thought about the writing that will never happen because research will become too expensive. The children who will never become fluent readers because neither their parents nor their school can possibly purchase nearly enough books for them to practice their reading. The students who will not be able to take the GRE because they don't even know where to get help since their library is closed. Students who will not be able to research colleges. Investigative reporters who won't -- oh wait. I'm sure Strickland doesn't want any investigative reporters checking on anything.

How do I know that he has not thought about these things? Because after days of calling him and people in his administration, I finally was able to talk to a living breathing grown up, not a 20 year-old intern. I asked these specific questions, and he could provide no specific answers.

This has not been thought out and researched. Strickland has determined that he doesn't need libraries, so neither does the state of Ohio.

Several summers ago, as I was dropping Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy off at a class downtown, my other children saw a man standing on a street corner. He was holding a sign that said: PL 426 ENEMY OF THE POOR.

It caused quite a stir in the backseat because my children were very offended by the sign.

"No one should be an enemy of the poor!"

"Ya, I'm mean, they could be poor too one day!"

I listened to them banter back and forth in righteous indignation, and it wasn't long before I realized that they misunderstood the sign. Rather than thinking that the man was protesting a public law, they thought that he was standing there identifying himself as "The Enemy of the Poor."

Ohh... they were so wrong. That man wasn't the enemy of the poor. Ted Strickland is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Attack of the Killer Computers!

Just when you thought it was safe to be in your own home, you learn that a silent new killer has entered. Not carbon dioxide. Not carcinogens. Not your feisty little dog.

Studies are now showing that your computer is currently 7 times more likely to attack you than it was 13 years ago. I know that it looks innocent, but, really, it's just trying to look that way. Certainly, you've felt as though someone, something, was standing behind you just waiting for the right moment? Now you know!

And with the increase of laptops, the danger can only grow.

Since we don't have enough studies in America, new studies are being done daily on this new menace. The latest notes that between 1994 and 2006 some 78,000 people were treated in hospitals for computer related injuries. What's even more shocking is that computers are attacking now at an increased rate of 732% .

Obviously, the intent to harm is growing daily, and something must be done about this.

Enter Dr. Laura Mackenzie, of Nationwide Children's Hospital. She states, "Future research on acute computer-related injuries is needed as this ubiquitous product becomes more intertwined in our everyday lives."

She's a doctor, so can't possibly be wrong about this. And, she's a doctor who works for an insurance company, so she doesn't have a vested interest in seeing less people attacked by their computers.

I agree. I mean the increase could have nothing to do with 1) the increase in the number of personal computers and 2) the vast amounts of cords that hang out the back of a computer causing people to trip or pull the computer onto their heads or 3) the nature of humans to set their laptops on precarious ledges believing that they would never fall off.

We need to study this issue. Maybe there is stimulus money available.

In an effort to protect our nation's children from this hideous monster (and to help Dr. MacKenzie keep Nationwide's premiums down on their homeowner's insurance), I would like to propose this plan to keep our children safe:

1) Have your child wear a helmet at all times. All times. Even in the bath. Don't forget bed at night. You never know when a computer can fall on you.

2) Teach your child how to approach your computer. Many people fail at this one. They think that you should approach from the side and stick out your hand for your computer to smell. This is simply a fallacy. That is likely to tell your computer that you have aggressive intent. Instead, let your computer come to you. And never, never make eye contact with your computer. If that happens teach your child to continue staring until the computer looks away.

3) If you leave your children alone at home, make sure that they understand to never open the door when a strange computer is knocking. Explain to them that all computers look similar and that one at the door is not related to the one on your desk, even if he claims he is.

4) Consider purchasing a locking device for your computer.

5) Consider purchasing a locking device for your child.

6) Remember: Computers and Guns Don't Mix. At best your child might kill your computer with his gun and then you've got a homicide on your hands. At worst, your computer might.... unthinkable.

7) Keep all alcoholic beverages away from your computer. Saucy computers are even more dangerous than sober ones. However, you might want to consider offering it a cup of wine in the evening, as a sort of peace offering.

8) Know and be willing to recognize the signs of drug usage in your computer. Is it slow? Does it get jammed up easily? If you don't happen to have Windows XP and this is happening consider random drug testing.

9) Know your computer. The best way to fight computer aggression is to have a good healthy relationship. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself just what sites the computer really wants to visit? And, how does your computer feel about "Net Nanny"? Would you want someone monitoring you all the time? And, all those boring emails -- your computer has to read those too! Consider a date night, or include it in family game night. Computers have feelings too, you know.

10) Don't ever give your computer the keys to the car. This only empowers them and gives them a sense of control that they can't handle. Plus, they probably aren't covered by your insurance.

By following these simple steps, I believe that you can protect yourself and your family from this ever increasing threat.

Now, maybe someone will give me some stimulus money for solving this problem for America!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Move or Not To Move, That is Always the Question

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of downward mobility, mostly because our family is currently praying about this concept as something God is calling us to. As John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, pointed out: Jesus didn't commute from heaven to earth, he made his home here and became one of us. We need to live where we minister, and as a christian can I justify turning my back on the poorer parts of my city? If I really want to live out a life that is increasingly like Jesus, then I have to seriously ponder why I would want to move out further into the suburbs into houses that are disconnected and sheltered from people's suffering, actually from dealing with the reality of people in general. In my journey to be like Christ, shouldn't I rather stay where I am or move to a neighborhood where suffering and daily relationship challenges my reality everyday? I have to question why I would even consider a larger mortgage that would tie up more of our income rather than a smaller one that would free more money for giving.

People ask us how we can all live in such a "small" house and tell us that it's size justifies a move to a larger house. Yet, somehow, we are thriving in a three bedroom house with a "small yard". My kids have to learn to get along as they share bedrooms. We often find ourselves together as we work on different projects -- is that so bad in the long run? There's only one TV viewing place, one computer station. So, we have to agree and work together. Again, is that so terrible? And, our small yard is big enough to house 6 chickens, 6 ducks, 2 dogs, an enormous garden and still have space to play a game of soccer. If this is too small, then at what point do we say enough is enough?

If my identity is really in Christ, then it shouldn't matter how comfortable I am, how nice my neighborhood is, or even, really, how safe I perceive myself to be. In reality I'm only as stable and safe as God provides.

In addition to all my introspective thinking, I have to wonder why Christians in our country allow themselves, on the whole, to be so disconnected from suffering. Where along the way did we begin to align ourselves with comfort? Was it when political tides turned and the Religious Right became a voice of power? While it might have brought about some positive changes, at what cost did it come? And, in light of recent years, were they really positive changes? It strikes me that so much of the church has sold out to the Religious Right that we missed the boat (and really still are missing the boat) on the environment, inclusion, care for the poor, racial reconciliation and class reconciliation. We've been willing to look past those as moral issues because it is "safer" to cling to one political ideology that wants, more than anything, to protect a way of life that is very dear. It is a far scarier thought to admit that in reality there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" (okay, there are the Blagojevichs but they aren't all in one party!) in politics here, only "judgmentally broken guys" and "enabling broken guys", because if we focus on the real moral issues then we can't polarize politically and things might change in ways that we aren't comfortable with.

It's a much "safer" proposition to believe that we all have rights to our own home, our own space, our own stuff and our own money, and much riskier to admit that if you've really given everything over to Christ, then that includes, our home, space, stuff, money and even our safety. It's a much safer version of reality to believe that we are merely a Christian Nation with just a blemish or two in our history, especially if we're a part of the majority people group that isn't directly hurt by those injuries. It's much safer for us to think, "America = Christian" than it is to question what exactly that means in regards to being a Christian. There's an underlying tension between being American and being a Christian: being an American is about protecting our rights, being a Christian is about being willing to lay down our rights.

Yet, if our adoptions have taught me anything it's that God blesses us in suffering. If all we had done was donate to a program for orphans or took a mission trip to visit disabled orphans, I know that I wouldn't have the relationship with Jesus that I now have. Taking on their suffering and making it my own has been fundamental to me learning to depend upon God, and given me an intimacy with Him where He is willing to show me the things that truly break His heart. You trust your acquaintances with things that bring you joy. You trust your cherished friends with your pain. In joining with Him as He suffers over the broken parts of his creation, I've seen parts of his heart and glory I never knew existed. Just visiting or just donating would have been much safer, physically, financially and emotionally. However, going across the line and throwing my lot in with them, taking their suffering, making it part of my life and making it my suffering, that produced beautiful fruit. Fruit that makes everything else so utterly boring and flavorless in comparison.

So wouldn't the same be implied with downward mobility?

And, instead of fearing the truth, isn't it better to come to peace with the fact that America is just another Babylon? Albeit a beautiful one, certainly my favorite one, and one that is always (hopefully) moving towards true political freedom and justice for all. However, if it's Babylon, no matter how beautiful, it can't even begin to compare with the true Kingdom. If we can see that it is not part of the Kingdom of Jesus, then we can work as salt and light to spread his Kingdom here, not afraid of any changes to our country or our status here. We don't need to assume that every citizen is going to agree with our morality or try to force them to agree with us. We can be free to love with no strings attached and free to seek the common good of all our citizens without trying to make them fit into what we think they should be. We can really labor as workers in the Kingdom, lending our educations, stable families, and health to communities that are struggling to stay afloat. As we work in that way, we can do what Jesus wants us to do which is to love people into the Kingdom.

However, if we simply look to our own desires, our own comfort, then how can we really be sold out to Christ? And, if we are the Body of Christ on earth, then how can God heal our country when we're not willing to live where we are not comfortable?

Monday, June 1, 2009

She Can't Walk (yet!), but She Can Ride!

About a year and a half ago, my Princess Ballerina outgrew her tricycle, and, with her birthday money, bought a big two-wheeler. As we watched her ride, Nappy quickly piped up, "Now her bike is my bike since she doesn't need it any more, right Mom?"

Of course, in my limited thinking, I thought, There is no way you're going to ride that bike!

But, of course, I never SAID that. I learned a long time ago that I just simply should not tell my girls that they can't do something. If they try and fail, that's just a part of life. Everybody fails at some things, and succeeds at other things.

So, instead I said, "Sure, you get the bike!"

And I resigned myself to sitting on the front porch, watching Nappy sit on a bike.

I was so incredibly wrong!

I love it when I'm wrong!