Category Archives: current events

2008: A Year in Review, Part 2

Welcome to the 2nd half of my year. I just realized that I probably should’ve done these in reverse chronological order, but whatever.

July–I took my blog public, making it a whole lot easier to remember what I did for the rest of the year.  I also started biking to work and we had Kristi’s Bachelorette Party Boat Trip:

 

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August– I took two vacations this month, plus a Tour de Philo.  First up was my staycation and then a second trip to Nawlins for Kristi’s wedding:

 

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September— I started running, became obsessed with Mad Men and reconnected with an old friend via Facebook.  We also had Bunco at Erin’s in conjunction with Philo Fest, but-unfortunately- I have no corresponding photos :-(

 

I do, however, have a photo of this thing that I found on my fence (I know you all needed to see it again)

 

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October– was downright insane.   There was a crazy gas station incidentmy cat died, and I was involved in train accident on the way home from seeing Cross Canadian Ragweed in Carbondale.  To top off the craziness, this was the first year in a long time that I *didn’t* dress up for Halloween.  Odd.

 

And then there was the trip to Chicago to see the New Kids on the Block:

 

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November– is always a busy month.  This year, I went to San Antonio for work. And had the usual Thanksgiving with the family.  Oh, and there was that whole historic election thing.


I also made a trip to Chicago for Nikki’s Big Ten Bar Crawl:

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And attended my only (gasp!) U of I tailgate of the season

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December–

 

Family and friends of Ryann Smith held a benefit in Tuscola and raised a bunch of money. I realize that I haven’t blogged about Ryann at all.  She was born a couple days after Christmas with a rare birth defect called CDH.  She is a fighter.  Please keep her and the family in your thoughts and prayers. If you want to know more, visit her caring bridge page:  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ryannsmith.

 

I also had Christmases with my Grannie Rich,  my brother, and the rest of my extended family.

 

(And, because I know you can’t get enough of me and firearms, here’s the infamous gun shot one more time…)

 

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I spent my Christmas break lounging, watching movies (Marley and Me and Seven Pounds), reading (still making it through the Twilight saga… I’ll reserve judgment until I’m finished with all the books), and spending time with friends and family.

 

I rang in the New Year in Chicago, but failed to take a single photo.  Maybe I should resolve to be a better chronicler this year :)

 

Reflections on 2008

All in all, the year turned out pretty good.  In some ways, this is one of the hardest years I’ve ever had, but I’ve learned so much.   I’ve learned how to ask for help from those closest to me.  I’ve learned to say “no” on occasion and I’ve learned to enjoy myself in less-than-ideal circumstances. I’ve made some new friends, reconnected with others, and have spent more time with some of my family members than ever before.

 

This blog has really been a great outlet for me and I appreciate each and every reader, hit, and comment you all have given me.

 

Here’s to happiness and prosperity in 2009!


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Election Reflection

I wanted to blog about the election the minute Obama was announced as the winner.  I was so overcome with emotion that I just *had* to get out.  I wanted to get my thoughts out in a well thought-out, cohesive, manner.  But after staying up all night watching the returns, and talking about it with friends, family and co-workers over the next few days, I felt a bit election-ed out. 

So I never wrote the killer blog post.  But I feel like I need to record my thoughts for posterity, so I offer a collection of thoughts sent to friends over the days after the election.  I’m still in a bit of a “pinch me if it’s real” haze. 

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Initial Reactions…

I cried when the announcement was made, I cried during McCain’s speech and I bawled through Obama’s.

Of course I’m thrilled about the outcome.  But I’m also ridiculously PROUD– there was record voter turnout, there weren’t riots, there weren’t widespread reports of voter fraud. People participated in the process like never before… and, regardless of the outcome, that’s amazing.  Way back in the primary season, I had sincere doubts that America was capable/ready to elect either a woman OR an African American for President.  I’m thrilled that I was wrong.

I’m also thrilled that, for the first time since I’ve been able to vote, the outcome of the election was determined ON election night.  It was good to wake up this morning and not have to worry about court cases and hanging chads and stuff.

On Obama’s Appeal. . .

Obama played a different game than John McCain.  He played a different game than John Kerry four years ago.  What Obama was able to do that no one else could do was to impact people on an emotional, almost spiritual level.  People believe in him, regardless of race or political affiliation.  He has the power to inspire people and get them to act. It’s quite impressive, but could also become quite a burden once he takes office.

There has been a lot made about how Obama is “half white” and I actually think that’s part of his appeal/success.  People identify with him both because AND despite of his race.  The pundits will pick this apart in the next couple of days but one of the most telling statistics of the exit polls was that people who said that race WAS a factor and people who said it WASNT a factor voted in essentially the same numbers.  So this wasn’t as much about race as we had originally thought.  

Oh, and most “half-black” people identify as African-American.  Regardless of lineage, it’s still about the color of one’s skin.  Lenny Kravitz is half-white yet everyone thinks of him as black.

On the Swing States . . .

Indiana and Virginia are both traditionally red states that “switched” this time…. Virginia was the first capital of the Confederacy and hasn’t gone for a Democratic candidate in 44 years.  It was really monumental.
On John McCain . . .
McCain’s  concession speech was gracious and respectful.  I have always admired him (I think I’ve even called him my “favorite Republican” on occasion) and I appreciated what he had to say.  He was a good sport and I really think he’ll be an asset in the years to come.
I’m not sure what else John McCain could’ve done with his campaign.  Yeah, people will argue that he had a crappy campaign staff, or that picking Sarah Palin was the kiss of death.  Even though this is probably true, I don’t know if it would’ve helped.  McCain was playing on a completely different plane than Obama.  He was working from the old playbook whereas Obama invented an entirely different game.  It will be VERY interesting to see how the Republican Party re-groups after this loss.
 
On the Work Ahead . . .
I’m glad the election is over as well. But I hate to tell you– the “political crap” is no where near over. To use a sports analogy, winning the election is like MAKING it to the World Series, not winning it…. you still have to win once you get there.  And, unfortunately, politics is much more complex than sports, so there really never is a true “winner.” 
The Democrats got the presidency and BOTH houses of Congress, but (as they say in Spiderman) “with great power comes great responsibility.”  It’s not going to be easy to get the kind of change Obama promised.  He’s not going to single-handedly “fix” the country, but he’s also not going to destroy it.  We’re at war, the economy is crap, there are serious environmental and social issues.  No matter who won last night, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe these next four (hopefully eight) years.

Election Fever

Okay, we all know there is an election tomorrow.  And some people have even voted early. And most everyone already knows who they’re voting for, but I have a few election-related gripes I have to get off my chest.

Pet peeve #1: Team Mentality

 It’s great that people want to  show support for “their” candidate.  But it drives me insane when it gets into “favorite” territory.  I know I’ve made this argument before, but I liken it to baseball.  People are Cubs fans or their Cardinals fans (or White Sox or Phillies or whatever) so they show their team spirit by wearing hats and hanging banners and attending games.  

People do the same thing with politics. They decide who their favorite candidate is and they show support by adding them on social networking sites, or emailing updates to friends.  I think it’s great that political organizations are using these “alternative” methods to get out the vote.  The more people who participate in the process the better, but only if you actually *do* something about it.  This is an election. It’s not American Idol, it’s not Edward vs. Jacob. It’s serious.  So, unless people actually get out and vote, these “fun” things are all for nothing.

This becomes especially problematic when combined with some of the other Pet Peeves.

Pet Peeve #2: Uninformed voters

NOTHING irks me more than an uninformed voter.  It makes my skin crawl when someone tells me that they don’t really know anything about a candidate’s positions, but they’re a big “fan” anyway.   I also can’t stand when I hear people just blindly regurgitating something they’ve heard someone else say.

We all know that I support Obama.  I agree with him on the issues that matter most to me and I think he can help move this country in the right direction. But I would SO MUCH rather hear that someone voted for McCain because they believed in him and his ideals than voted for Obama ‘cuz it’s the “trendy” thing to do. 

I think it’s great that we might have record voter turnout this year… but I’d like to think that people at least have an INKLING of what they’re voting for.

Pet Peeve #3:  The Polls

I know we’ll never be free of polling data.  And I’ve seen enough episodes of The West Wing to know that it really can be an exceptionally accurate prediction of voter behavior.  But it still bothers me that the media is reporting the results as if the election has already happened and all the votes have been counted.  Granted, there are some foregone conclusions here:  Illinois is a blue state.  In a sense, my vote for Obama counts less than the same vote in Ohio.  But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t vote.  I’m afraid all the coverage of the polls is discouraging certain voters and encouraging others.

If you’re registered to vote… DON’T stay home tomorrow.  There are important state and local elections on the ballot.  And the popular vote still matters, even if you don’t live in a swing state.

Pet Peeve #4: The mud-slinging hatefulness from *everyone*

Like anything else important, elections seem to bring out the best and worst in people. It’s inspiring to see so many people interested in the political process and supporting the candidate of their choice.  But it’s equally discouraging to see people attack one another for their views.

Obama is not a terrorist… he’s not even a socialist.  McCain is not the devil incarnate, looking to destroy this country with his war mongering, house-buying ways.   But the way that these two men have been vilified in the press is just UGLY.  And then I see people extend this hatefulness to other people and it gets uglier.

We should be able to agree to disagree.  Just because I identify as Democrat doesn’t mean I don’t like and respect Republicans.  I can understand why some people believe the things they do… even if I don’t agree with them.  I admire people who have the conviction in their beliefs to get out there and participate in the process, so don’t begrudge them the ability to speak their minds.

So, please… Regardless of how this election turns out, remember to respect your fellow Americans.

Anyway, this is a bit of a rambling post, but that’s all I have to say about that… for now!

A little good news

Yesterday, my Facebook status read: “Cari sure could use a little good news today.”*   It was just one of those days where it seemed like everywhere I turned, there was something wrong, or someone suffering, or just generally bad news.

Then this morning I came across a sweet story while scouring the Letters to the Editor in the News-Gazette. (It has recently become a hobby of mine)

First, a woman wrote in reprimanding the thieves who took her 9 year old son’s bike (no longer online). Then another 9 year old offered to give the boy his.  How sweet!

Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people… and vice versa, but this story reminded me that the Universe has a way of repaying good deeds.

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* This is a lyric from A Little Good News by Anne Murray.  It’s a somewhat cheesy country/rock song from the 80s that I couldn’t get out of my head. I even downloaded it from iTunes.  I couldn’t find the original, but there was a duet version featuring The Indigo Girls.  It’s pretty good.  

Even though the song was written in 1983, it’s still extremely relevant.  Sample lyric:  

Some senator was squawkin’ ’bout the bad economy/
It’s gonna get worse you see/
We need a change in policy.

Someone should cover it.

Mmmm… Mmmm… Good!

I don’t really write much about politics here.  It’s not that I’m not interested in politcs (I am!) or because I don’t have an opinion (I do!), but I just don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s mind. 

Having said that, though, I really liked this op-ed (is that the correct term on TV?) from Campbell Brown.  Say what you want about the “liberal media,” but this made a lot of sense to me:

 

It Happened to Me: I was a witness

There used to be a column in Jane magazine called “It Happened to Me.”  In it, a Jane “reader” would write an article about something that happened to them: cancer survivors, cult members, rape victims, etc.  I always really liked that column because it seemed like *everyone* had a more exciting story to tell than I did.  They were oftentimes horrendous and tragic, but that somehow escaped me. And now there’s no more Jane magazine.  Hmmm.

Well, today it happened to me:  I witnessed a case of child endangerment/possible neglect. I was leaving the mall when I heard a baby screaming.  I recently got a new car so I was wondering the aisles aimlessly looking for my vehicle and the crying got louder and louder.  Suddenly, I realized it was coming from inside a car.

I looked over to see a small blue car with the windows rolled down. In the back seat was the crying infant, sitting in her car seat with her brother (?), who was no older than 5.   I didn’t know what to do so I took pictures of the license plate and the children with my cell phone.  Then I called my friend who used to work in protective services.

After I got off the phone with her, another shopper happens by and hears the child screaming. I tell her it’s okay and that I’ve called the cops (I hadn’t actually called them yet. I thought my friend was calling them).  As she’s trying to get the baby out of the car, another woman comes over and asks what’s going on.

We tell her and discover that she’s the mom.  She said she left the kids in the car while she “ran in” to get her pictures.   The boy was ASLEEP on the car seat and the baby was crying and sweating profusely.  I had been there for at least 5 minutes.  The other shopper says “sorry” and just walks away.

I stand there dumbfounded for a while and then head back to my car where I promptly call the cops.  At this point, the mom is standing OUTSIDE of her car holding the baby.  She’s not attempting to drive off or anything.  I watch her closely and I think she knows something is up.

I give the dispatcher all the information I have and she tells me to pretend I’m driving away.   She doesn’t want me to scare her into leaving.  The dispatcher calls mall security.  As I’m circling back around I see the mall security truck.  Thank goodness!   But, once I get to the spot, I notice that the car is gone.

Either I scared the mom or she moved her kids to another location.  I’m thankful that the kids are (supposedly) safe now that the mom is with them and that they’re no longer alone in the car.  But what if it happens again?  Why didn’t the mom take the kids in with her?  And why didn’t she leave immediately?

It’s just a hunch, but I wonder if she doesn’t work at the mall.  She was fairly well dressed and didn’t look like she was just “running errands.”  I hope this was a one-shot deal and that she doesn’t make a habit of leaving her kids in the car.  I know that childcare is expensive, but something terrible could have happened to those kids.

As I think back on this, there are plenty of things I wish I would have done differently. I wish I would have called the cops immediately. I wish I would have stayed instead of driving off. I wish I would have confronted the woman about WHY she just left her children in the car on an 80 degree day.

In the end, I’m glad I did *something* instead of just walking away, but I’ll be worrying about those kids a lot in the next few weeks.

April is National Poetry Month–and I don’t care!!

Here’s the thing… I don’t like poetry. I know I’m “supposed” to.  But I don’t.  I try to think of myself as a writer (although what that means is beyond me).  I work for an educational association devoted to literacy. People at work are ga-ga over poetry, literature, etc.  My dad’s girlfriend is even a published poet.

But I have never been able to get into it.  I can appreciate a beautifully written piece of prose that has “poetic” qualities.  I love song lyrics. I like dirty limericks (ha ha), but the whole idea of poetry just makes me cringe a little.  Maybe I haven’t read enough of it.  Or maybe it’s too intimidating, with all the metaphors, interpretation, etc.  I can understand complex issues in novels, though, so what is it about verse that makes me want to pull my hair out??