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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Choice of Parenting


Late last week, the three-year old niece of a longtime friend died, after being in a coma for several days.  From all accounts the circumstantial cause of her death involved some very poor choices made by a parent.  As it happened, the day she died was also the birthday of a young woman who is the birth-mother of my daughter, a woman who made the brave choice to not be a parent.

These two coincident events inspired me to think about what “pro-choice” means.   That is, to be, or not to be, a parent by intention and not by accident.  The pro-choice label has a fluid meaning, depending on who you are speaking with and the tenor of the times.  For me, a simple fact is a the heart of the meaning of the term “pro-choice”:  I have a daughter because a young woman who was not ready for parenthood made a very difficult choice to carry her baby to term and place her daughter in our hands, to raise as our own.  Abortion was not the right choice for her.  She could have chosen to be a parent, and, knowing her fairly well I am certain she would have been the best mother she could be given her limited financial resources.  Those are all valid choices that embrace the daunting responsibility of parenting, when considered with reflection on one’s own personal limitations and place in life.

Unfortunately, too many young people choose to be parents through sheer self-delusion, believing that “love and the Lord” will make them good parents, dogma leading them inexorably to parenthood.  Some people may quibble that following dogma is the only moral choice.  I disagree, for action based solely on dogma is not choice.  To accept dogma, as most believers would attest, is an act of faith.  When faith motivates a person, they act without considering alternatives precluded by dogma.  True choice, on the other hand, is action based on consideration of all options.  In short, a “choice” based on dogma is not a choice.

But, at least the faithful parent embarks on parenthood with, we hope, their heart in the right place.  Most kids born through an awkward act of faith will probably end up doing ok.  Far worse fates await the children of those parents who, failing to recognize their own limitations, neglect  the responsibilities of raising a child.   From all accounts, the mother of my friend’s niece allowed an abusive man to live with her, a man now in custody and under suspicion of pushing the child down the stairs.

I know domestic violence is a complicated dance.  Women stay with abusers for psychological and financial reasons that baffle those closest to them, and even learned experts.  But when there is a child involved, should we make excuses because of abuse?  Should we accept a child’s death as collateral damage in a psychological war we can’t understand?

I don’t have answers for these questions.  My only thought as a parent is to share this advice:  parenting is a choice, an act of intention and great, life-altering consequence.  Don’t take that choice lightly.

 

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If I could force myself to make the time to update this blog, this poor blog wouldn’t look as neglected. I can rattle of excuses – work, family, need to sleep, the holidays – but it all comes down to not making time to write.

But I have kept busy.  I’ve read like crazy, continuing on my 2013  presidential quest.  I’ve read through to the presidents of my lifetime, and am reading a biography of Ronald Reagan.  Considering the last review was of   Thomas Jefferson, that demonstrates how far my reading is ahead of my blogging about it.  I’ve also been busy with taking courses through Coursera, a fantastic e-learning resource.  At work, I am thrilled to be in my new office – just a cubicle, mind you – in a building overlooking the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in lovely downtown Durham.  Or Durm, as the natives pronounce it, with monosyllabic gusto.

So what inspired me to finally come out of my shell and write something?  After years of the public ignoring my load of drivel, Don Charisma (don’t you love that name?) became a follower of my blog.  I doubt it is his real name, but even so, hats off to a great name.  Recently, I read an article about Dalton Conley’s book Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children But Were Too Exhausted to Asksuggesting that unusual names can lead to fame and notoriety.  Conley named his daughter “E”, just the letter, and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles.  If Conley is right, those kids are going places, just like Don Charisma, to whom I owe a sincere thank you for encouraging me to write this little blog post.

 

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I’ve added a new page to this site, a version of a Toastmaster’s speech I will be giving in a few weeks. I’ve added a few speeches as pages, just because they are longer pieces, not really appropriate as posts.

The speech, my ninth with Toastmasters, concerns nuclear power, and is based on a fascinating film screened at Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival this year.  The film, a documentary by noted director Robert Stone, makes a persuasive case that we need to embrace nuclear power.  When I saw this film at Full Frame, the audience reaction in the Q&A session afterwards was quite interesting, and I think the filmed changed some minds.  Maybe it will change your mind.

You can check out the trailer for this film, courtesy of YouTube.  Or check out my speech about it, which doesn’t include a video!

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A silly historical re-enactment of an actual event in my daughter’s life, with assistance from Xtranormal.

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Photo of Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz CA

Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz CA

After enduring a long, stifling Catholic upbringing in Oklahoma, I made my escape.  I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, the home of the Banana Slugs.  I fell in love with the campus, and the town.  After graduation, I hung around for a few years, working a few jobs that I don’t keep on my resume anymore, back when it was easy to live on not a lot of money.  I got comfortable with the languid rhythm of life in that little seaside hippie town.  But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  I won’t bore you with the personal details of why, but I left Santa Cruz and moved to North Carolina, where I live to this day.  I’ve settled into the wonderful little town of Carrboro, a town with a lot in common with Santa Cruz.  But, alas,  it isn’t Santa Cruz.

When I left Santa Cruz, I always harbored the notion that one day I would move back.  I loved Santa Cruz.  I loved the ocean.  I loved the chilly fog coming in from Monterey Bay.  I loved hanging out at Bookshop Santa Cruz, then grabbing a pepperoni slice from Pizza My Heart before heading home to study.  I loved the Beach Boardwalk, with all its trash and seediness, the quintessential California amusement park.  I loved the quiet solitude of walking between the redwoods on campus, or kicking up sand at Natural Bridges State Park.  I loved walking down the street, certain to hear the distinctive, phase-shifted sound of Jerry Garcia’s guitar blaring from an open window,  a bootleg recording from a certain rare show.  I loved the street musicians, playing Christmas carols in the warm California sun, trying to will a real Winter into existence.

Read on…

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Search results, searching for redi-quiche

My bronze medal.

I was trolling through some search results on this blog, and noticed that a lot of searches were for quiche.  Weird, I thought.  So, in a bit of navel gazing of blog-o-spheric proportion, I searched for Redi-Quiche on Google.  Lo , my silly blog post was the third highest search result, in bronze medal position.  When I search today, it is in fifth, still in the top ten!  Without even trying!  Which means there haven’t been many people blogging about this ridiculous waste of freezer space.

Not to be too high-minded about it, I just note this product as an example of our country’s blithe acceptance of whatever crappy, ill-conceived packaged food product comes on the market.  Most people want good, nutritious food.  Fortunately, many retailers are becoming aware of this and stocking more organic, whole foods.  At the same time, there is a countervailing trend of more and more ridiculous packaged products cluttering store shelves.  Certainly our lives are busy and some packaged foods are time savers.  But, as an example, I’ve rarely – certainly not recently – made brownies from a box, because there really isn’t that much time saved.   I can’t say I always practice what I preach on this score, but I know I get points for usually trying.

Please, do you and your family a favor:  don’t buy Redi-Quiche! Get some farm fresh eggs, crack them open and make a real manly quiche from scratch.   Try it with broccoli, or sausage, or artichoke hearts.  Share your recipes, do it yourself, and just skip this dumb product.

I’d love to hear your recipes, and if you run across any other dumb food products spread the word: we don’t want more dumb food!

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I Voted. And You?


Image of Chris van Hasselt, having just voted

Taken moments after I voted, early, in the 2012 election.

On Saturday, I visited Carrboro Town Hall and voted early in the 2012 election.  Anyone who knows me or can read between the lines on this blog knows who I voted for.  I don’t have any desire to explain why, or get into a debate over why your chosen candidate is better than mine.

This short post is my reminder to you to vote.  It is a right and a privilege.  Men and women have fought and died for that right. In the Middle East, a great surge of humanity has arisen to demand the right to vote.  The outcome isn’t always pretty, as we’ve seen over and over again during the Arab spring.  Even at it’s best Democracy is messy, and there is a certain trendy view of cynicism about voting: politicians, they are all the same, so why bother.  The result of this has been stagnant voter turnout numbers barely edging above half the voting age population, even for hotly contested Presidential elections.  In my lifetime, the voter turnout has only twice squeaked above 60% of the voting age population, as noted in Wikipedia (with all the caveats that signifies).  In 2000, the voter turnout was barely above 50%, and we all know how well that turned out.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe Churchill was correct when he said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”  The only way to make it better, or to make it work at all, is to vote.

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