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waxing political

I read this today on Anderson Cooper's blog. Give it a glance, then let's talk:

Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith -- the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps, off rhythm, to the gospel choir. Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. To say that men and women should not inject their personal morality into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.

Those aren't my words. I'm quoting. And who am I quoting? You might guess an evangelical Christian leader. Perhaps even a Republican strategist or conservative lawmaker. But would guess a Democratic senator? Those are the words of Senator Barack Obama, addressing a bipartisan religious conference sponsored by Sojourners founder Rev. Jim Wallis.

Obama had strong words for the Democratic party, both in his speech and in an interview I conducted with him afterwards, about the party's historic aversion to talk about faith. Faith is a very big part of the life of many Americans, contends Obama, and for Democrats to not talk about religion or even try to understand a person's faith is to eliminate almost all possibility of communicating meaningfully with them.

Republicans are great at talking about faith. And they are rewarded for it. In 2004, white evangelicals counted for 23 percent of voters. And they broke overwhelmingly for President Bush. "The biggest mistake the Democrats have made is to cede the entire territory of religion and values to a religious and political right, who then narrow the issues to only two -- abortion and gay marriage -- and then manipulate them politically," says Jim Wallis.

Democrats are trying to correct the mistake. There is a movement afoot led by Obama, the new superstar of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and others to encourage party members to acknowledge faith as a means to broader communication. Whether it's for a Democratic politician to make public his or her own faith, or simply learn how to talk about it, party leaders believe it could be a foot in the door to get those exurban evangelicals to listen.

Democrats are also trying to expand the field of "moral" and "value" issues to include some of their strengths. For them to play, it needs to be about more than abortion and same-sex marriage. So they're attempting to making moral issues out of poverty, hunger, human rights and "creation care" (a new phrase for "environmentalism"), believing that if there is common ground on belief in the idea of moral values, there might be fertile ground to approach evangelicals on the Iraq war, the deficit and other issues.

Take Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, for example. He talked a lot about his personal religion during his election campaign. Not in terms of politics, but he let people know that he was a person for whom faith was important. He spoke of his mission in Honduras, and he talked about religion as part of his background. On faith issues, he sounded more like a Republican than a Democrat. No one questioned his sincerity. And wouldn't you know it, he won.

Many Democrats acknowledge that they have been the party of secularism for so long that they have alienated a significant part of the electorate. And they want to try to win those voters over. As Senator Obama pointed out, the majority of great reformers in American history -- Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King among them -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

Now, certainly this is going to make secularists uncomfortable. They will argue about blurring the line between church and state. But some Democrats have their eyes on another line. The 50 percent line. And they know that unless they can peel off a portion of that growing segment of society that is firmly rooted in the South and now sweeping across the Midwest, they will likely remain the party of the minority and continue to see "red"in the White House.

Okay. So. One, I love Barack Obama. He could be a very bright and shiny star in the political arena if he can keep himself above reproach. He can be that odd combination of factors that appeals to many people on many different levels. And I love that he says just the things that need to be said and manages to do so without alienating entire factions of people. I would much rather see him run in '08 than just about any other Dem out there, but I'm not sure he's ready. I hope he will be someday, because he could do really great things.

Two, why do being a Democrat and being religious have to be mutually exclusive? Why can't someone have a moral code and be a liberal at the same time? Why is it that if I say I'm pro-choice or pro-gay marriage I obviously can't be a Christian? The way I see it, by allowing a 12-year-old to abort the result of a rape, or by allowing two people who love each other marry so that they can reap the benefits of a heterosexual married couple and be legally commited to each other shows a greater compassion than what those Right Wing nutsos would have you believe. Did Jesus side with the wealthy and hypocrital? Or did he walk with the lepers and the prostitutes? Did Jesus get corporate sponsors or did he comfort the poor? The Religious Right wants you to ask WWJD? But I think they truly don't want to think about what the real answer might be.

My grandfather was a politician, a Democrat, AND an honest, religious man. Someone once asked him why he - a strong Christian - would dare be on the side of the Democrats. Grandpa grabbed the church's handbook and read the fundamental beliefs of the United Brethren Church:

We must not only seek the salvation of our fellow human beings, but show genuine concern for their total well-being. We recognize our responsibility to victims of poverty, prejudice, injustice, and other forms of human suffering.                     

The poor will always be among us, and we cannot ignore their plight; the Bible clearly states our obligation to those living in poverty. But there are many others, whether they are poor or not, whose situation requires our aid. They include persons in prison, immigrants, widows, orphans, the unborn, the handicapped, the homeless, the elderly, and victims of abuse. We also respond corporately to large-scale tragedies, giving sacrificially to help victims of natural disasters or social strife.                      

Demonstrating social concern also involves raising our voice against injustice and prejudice. We stand against discrimination, slavery, and injustice, insisting that equal rights be granted to everyone. We advocate fairness in the workplace, in the courts, and in all other settings, and seek the end of any discrimination based upon racial, national, economic, or social differences.

He then said, "If those aren't Democratic principles, then I don't know what is." Why wouldn't Republicans see value in helping the poor and working toward civil rights? Why wouldn't Republicans want to advocate equality? Why wouldn't Republicans, the self-prescribed religious and moral conscience of the political environment, want to show common decency and compassion and a true love for all people? Why wouldn't they act out of respect rather than fear or distrust? Why wouldn't they choose to serve the needs of those who can't be heard rather than serve their own needs first?

Three, why on earth can't the Dems put this idea together? Why can't they defend their liberal choices by backing it with Christian conviction rather than perpetuating the "we're not Republicans, that's why" mantra. Okay, so abortion and gay rights aren't exactly Bible-friendly topics, but compassion is. Love for your fellow man is. Forgiveness is. Come on, guys!!! Let's think about this a little before completely distancing yourselves from any sort of religious affiliation and automatically offending the majority of the country.

Personally, I'm damn proud to call myself a Liberal Democrat. And a Christian. And I'll happily admit to both.

food: the bad and the worse

HarpwcrackerHarpwhummus_2 Harpwcheese Harpwcup_1
Let me explain how it is with Harper and food. To say she's picky isn't totally accurate. What she is is interesting. It's fascinating to watch her pick things apart, or hurl them across the room because the color offends her, or seperate vegetable from carb in her mouth with accuracy. She's, shall I say, finicky.

Take the above photos. For lunch the other day I tried oven roasted turkey from the deli. Normally something she'll eat. Not on this day. It all got tossed to the floor. So I whipped out the veggie toasted Wheat Thins. That went well for about half a cracker, then she started dropping those over the edge of her seat as well. So I grabbed the hummus. Now we were in business. She dipped her crackers, she licked off the hummus, she double- and triple-dipped into the hummus. The she ignored the cracker altogether and just reached into the bowl with her fingers.

When I felt she'd had enough hummus, I took that away and tried bananas. I cut up a piece and placed it on her tray. Barely a glance was given, but she picked up the fruit and hurled it. So I cut a banana stick and tried that, but it was merely crushed in her hand. So I got the bright idea to try spreading Nutella on a banana. Seriously - bananas, chocolate, hazlenuts ... what's not to like? I held out the piece of fruit spread with the yummiest stuff on earth and Harper's eyes grew wide. She grabbed it and popped it in her mouth. She tasted. She savored. Then she spit out a perfectly cleaned off piece of banana and reached for the Nutella. I kept trying, but the banana was rejected each time.

Once she'd covered herself with Nutella and rebuffed my every effort to get her to eat some fruit, I took it all away. She wasn't too pleased until I replaced it with a piece of string cheese. Happiness was again attained.

Quite the balanced lunch, wouldn't you say?

This child won't eat scrambled eggs without salsa. She can polish off a whole bowl of guacamole. She loves rice and corn on the cob and salmon. But try to get a fruit or a veggie in her and it's all over. Once you've offended her palate she's done eating anything willingly.

I really don't want a child with food issues but holy crap! What do I do with her?? I've taken to giving her a glass or three of V8 fruit juice each day because hey! A serving a fruits AND veggies in each glass? You bet. I'm there. Sure there isn't any fiber, and she isn't learning to EAT said fruits and veggies, but the child cannot live on eggs and guac alone. Or can she?

And I am officially back on the food/exercise wagon. Three days ago I joyfully watched the scale go down another two pounds. Then today, without any major changes to my diet or exercise (except maybe the impending arrival of my, um, monthly friend), there were three extra pounds on the scale. WTF??? So off to the gym we trotted this morning, me to run two miles on the treadmill in desperate attempt to get rid of those pesky three pounds, and the kids to go run off some summer vacation in the play area.

My new plan: gym daily. Average 10 miles a week at least. Stick to my diet. I mean REALLY stick to it. I have two bridesmaid dresses - one my current size, and it almost zips over my chest (stupid Ann Taylor and her belief that all women, regardless of size, are flat-chested), and one that is two sizes smaller. I'm starting to think that one is a pipe dream. But a dream that I will nonetheless continue to carry until September arrives and I'm still fighting the same freakin' three pounds. Cuz that's probably what will happen. My metabolism is non-existent since having Henry. No matter how much I run. Maybe I should adopt Harper's egg-and-guac diet ... she gained less than a pound between her 12-month and 15-month check-ups. I gain more than that in one day if I look at a salad the wrong way. Sheesh.

my friend. and her gorgeous family.

I did a family photo shoot last weekend for my friend, Julie, and her amazing brood. These kids are all too dang cute - and funny!!

The day was crazy hot, but the setting was beautiful. And even though I was half an hour late (damn directions!!), they were cooperative and delightful!!

A lesson I learned though - and I seem to learn something with every shoot I do, which, I guess, is a good thing - is that while I love to take photos of people walking, being, doing, I should also probably take photos of them from the FRONT, too. Huh. Anyway, here's their album.


followin' the herd

I'm sitting here at 11:15 p.m., waiting for Marc to finish some Xbox game so we can go to bed, because I've been up since 5:30 a.m. and I'm tired. Why can't I just go to bed and leave him on the couch where he's happy? Who knows. I apparently have co-dependency issues. Anway, I was doing a quick perusal of 2peas and saw Sophia's challenge for today. What luck ... I need to blog a little anyway and this doesn't take much effort, so sign me up!!

1. FIRST NAME? Michele
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? the beatles song
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? i *felt* like crying a couple of days ago when i realized i let a friend down. but really cry? i'm not sure.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? oven-roasted turkey, sliced thin
6. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? they actually have me, i think
7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? funny, i was just thinking about this yesterday. on a good day, yes. on a bad day, i'd probaby run screaming.
8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? you're readin' it.
9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? see above.
10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? they have me. ha ha. *sarcasm*
11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? depends ... off the bottom step or off a bridge?
13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? dude, I wear flip flops. no strings attached.
14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? in almost every sense of the word.
15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? coldstone peanut butter and dark chocolate mixed ... with some toasted almonds and graham cracker crust thrown in for fun!
16. SHOE SIZE? 7 pre-kids. now - 8.
17. RED OR PINK? red
18. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? not enough room in cyberspace to answer that question, my friend.
19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? i miss my girlfriends ... they live too far away.
20. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? illinois ... january 1974
21. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? charcoal grey cut-off sweats and bare feet
22. WHAT IS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? string cheese
23. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The semi-automatic weapon marc's using in his game
24 IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? seriously? probably grey ... it covers many moods and occasions and just sorta blends into the background
25. FAVORITE SMELL? curry ... cinnamon ... campfires ... rain ... harper's clean clothes
26. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED WITH ON THE PHONE? talked to my best friend for an hour and a half
27. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU MEET? whether they look me in the eye when we talk
28. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? i can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue
29. FAVORITE DRINK? amaretto sour
30. FAVORITE SPORT? olympic swimming
31. HAIR COLOR? dark brown with bits of red in the sun
32. EYE COLOR? green
34. FAVORITE FOOD? salmon
35. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? happy endings ... there's enough scary in life
36. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? sisterhood of the traveling pants
37. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? white t-shirt with a speedo logo
38. SUMMER OR WINTER? winter
39. HUGS OR KISSES? depends ... who am i hugging and kissing?
40. FAVORITE DESSERT? strawberry shortcake ... with REAL shortcake
41. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?  just finished The Effects of Light (FABULOUS). haven't picked up another yet.
42. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? a generic blue vendor pad that marc gave me ... i cut it in half to fit on my table
43. FAVORITE SOUNDS? harper's voice, henry's laugh, thunderstorms, the cello
44. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? beatles. it was sorta required in my home growing up.
THEY BE? michael stipe and barack obama

life is busy.

Yes it is. Between photos to proof from the wedding and two family shoots, to articles to edit and write for Designerzine, to dealing with my kiddos and finding things to do with them now that school's out ... busy days.

But hey! Check out the DZ - there are some awesome new changes taking effect! This thing is gonna rock the craft industry!!

coming soon to a layout near you ...

This past week just flew by. One minute it was the weekend and we had a bunch of stuff going on ... I fried myself at a yard sale but made about $50 in the process, a friend adopted one of our overly-large hostas, Marc had another migraine ... and then suddenly the week disappeared and it's Sunday again.

But some darn good photo ops over the course of seven days.

Rszharponcouch Harper used her Indiana-bred affection for jumping off of things and bouncing around on cushions to entertain herself. The days were hot, I was nursing seriously pink skin, and being in the a/c felt better than playing in the yard. So off the pillows came from the couch and she was happy as a clam, bouncing around and climbing and belly flopping all over the living room.

Rszhlastday The school year wrapped up, and my kid ended his experience as a kindergartener. We went to graduation, had some stale cookies, got phone numbers from friends to call for playdates starting tomorrow. Crazy how fast the year went and all it brought ... new friends for him and us, new knowledge, new skills, new worries and concerns, new growth - physically and emotionally and intellectually. I'm still on the fence about what to do with him next year, but I think we'll give first grade a shot until Christmas and then reevaluate. I'm actually leaning toward homeschooling ... yeegawds.


Friday night was a much-needed girls night out. Nisa discovered that a restaurant near her house has dueling pianos on weekends, an event that sounded like tons of fun. So we gathered (Nisa, Susan, Kirsten, and I), gave our requests, ate a little, drank a little, gossiped a little more, sang a lot, laughed constantly. It needs to happen a lot more often than it does, but man were those six hours of fun necessary to my mental well being.

And now Monday looms. Today I've been taking it easy - went out for waffles for breakfast, then Harper took a three-hour nap (?!) and I curled up on a quiet couch with a so-far fascinating book and read 200 pages ... an activity I've neglected for months - quiet reading. It's something my mind and soul needs but is rarely given. I realized after Friday that I need to start doing things for me that bring me back to center. Scrapping frustrates me - the pressure of it is taking away from the love and satisfaction. I'm far too self-critical now. The gym is good for stress-relief, but it's not something I'd run to at first sign of mental or emotional straying. But reading ... writing ... photography - strictly solitary pursuits, but ones in which I find the most peace and gratification. Giggling with girlfriends, of course, counts, but that's frosting.

(And not the kind of frosting you're thinking, Nisa and Susan. Silly birds.)

the good, the bad, and everything else

Back from Indiana. Finally.

Our four day visit turned into six, plus two full travel days on either end. Harper, true to form, hated the car. Marc got the brilliant idea on Wednesday to just pack and leave that night so that the kids could sleep away the trip and we'd make great time. Nice thought, except someone forgot to tell Miss H. We left at 8 p.m., and at 10:30 I doseed her up with Benadryl to get her to sleep. At 12:30 we finally had to pull over and spend the night in Madison because she just would not calm down. So much for that theory.

39web The wedding was wonderful - my cousin and his new wife are the cutest couple, it was great to hang out with family, and I had a total blast doing the photography. I always said wedding photography would be way too stressful and would eat up too many weekends, but I may be changing my mind. Capturing priceless images of a once-in-a-lifetime event ... giving people the wedding photos I long for and grieve because the photos from my own big day suck they deserve and will cherish is an amazing feeling. I took about 1100 photos and have been winnowing them down and playing with post-processing, but overall I'm so relieved to see many wonderful shots. The reception was exceedingly hard to photograph because the lighting was horrible and I'm a no-flash girl. Might have to change my ways. But overall I think between myself and the other photographer, Jared Cullison, we should have the day covered. And covered beautifully. Check out the album and tell me what you think!

After the wedding I headed back to Indy and got to spend Monday with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her husband and new daughter. I did a little photo shoot with them as well ... will get to those pix soon. We had a wonderful time chatting.

Unfortunately, Tuesday came with a less welcome event: Marc had serious technological issues back home to deal with, and the irritation of about eight clients along with it. It appeared one of his firewalls chose that weekend to die, after eight years of running smoothly, and Marc put in an all-nighter to get it up and running ... all while dealing with his parents' dial-up connection and a lack of intelligent hands-on help back home. When I awoke at 8:30 Wednesday morning, he was just talking to his last client and telling them that their site was once again working. Then Marc went to bed, only to wake up a few hours later to find that a second network was down due to a separate failure. So he went back to work putting out fires and righting the world. And our trip home got put off by another day.

So Thursday we took off around 11 a.m. Harper did much better on this leg, but it still took us 13 hours to reach home sweet home. We were beat.

But some happy moments from the trip:

  1. Harper learned to say "meow" and "arf arf" when asked what the cat/dog says
  2. Harper learned to say "nigh nigh" and "bye bye" and do the little indian "woowoowoo" with her hand over her mouth. (Does that make sense? The indian war cry thing?)
  3. Harper also played outside with her cousin for hours on end, learned to climb into and out of chairs, learned to belly flop off the couch and onto floor pillows, and how to just be laid down in her bed with a cup of water and a plug for naptime. No more rocking and stories and bottles during the day. Wow.
  4. Henry played for hours on a rope swing in Grandma's back yard.
  5. My father once again showed perfect sense of timing - we met for dinner halfway between their house and my in-law's and there was a carnival across the street from the restaurant, so my dad took Henry over to check it out ... and they returned with a goldfish. In a baggie. That Henry had won. Thanks, Dad, for choosing the one game with a live prize.
  6. Marc and I got to have dinner out by ourselves, and we took Henry to see Over the Hedge. Stinkin' funny. Steve Carell voicing a manic squirrel was worth the price of admission alone.

I'm sure other stuff happened, but I'm beat. Friday I had to get stuff ready for a yard sale at a friend's that had been planned before our trip. Saturday I sat outside from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. manning the sale, on four hours of sleep. And managed to sunburn the front of my body quite nicely in the process. Thank goodness for hours of laughing, $48 bucks earned, and lots of icy lemonade+vodka. Good times. Then today Marc got a migraine. Despite all the good from the past two weeks, I'm exhausted. I'm ready to get back to normal. I need a vacation from my vacation.

But it's good to be home, no matter what. So, hi again. I'm back.