Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bad Sports

Earlier this week my dad and I attended the last home game of the regular season at Bradley University.

There were a lot of emotions running rampant at Carver Arena that night. Bradley was playing rival SIU in what was sure to be a tight game, while missing its star senior player Daniel Ruffin, who was sitting on the bench suspended from the team after a Domestic Battery arrest over the weekend. Ruffin was allowed to take part in the senior ceremonies and there was an almost tangible electricity in the air as Bradley fans rallied in their support for him. 

But my dad and I were there because of a different emotion. Another one of the seniors being celebrated that night, Jeremy Crouch, is from our hometown, and he's the first person from our town to play basketball at Bradley for four years of college. Not only that, he was poised to set two new school records that night for three-point shooting, and we were there to show off our hometown pride. Unfortunately, I think all of that was lost amongst the dark cloud of Ruffin's experience - and continues to be even today as blog debates over Ruffin's guilt or innocence rage on.

It didn't take long for Jeremy to get the first record early in the game and so my dad and I settled in to watch the game.

That's when Mr. Obnoxious SIU Fan showed up.

There's always one, right? I don't know why, but I am really bothered by the way these high-tier obnoxious fans act at ball games and it truly takes away from my enjoyment of the event. I become so fixated on what they're saying and doing and how completely out of line it is that I have trouble just watching the game.

This guy showed up with what I presume to be his wife or girlfriend, another woman and two small children who were probably about 4 and 2 years of age. We were sitting about as high up  in the stands as you could get and since we got our tickets pretty late, there were a fair amount of other SIU fans sprinkled in there.

But this Mr. Obnoxious SIU Fan quickly proved himself a standout.

Dancing, jeering, laughing at Bradley point misses, he started off fairly mild.

But it wasn't long before he was yelling at the refs (who no doubt could hear him from the rafters of the nosebleed section?) and screaming for fouls that weren't called on Bradley and about ones that were on SIU.

More than once he dropped the F-bomb, with not only his own children sitting next to him, but several other children in close proximity. He was not bashful about using it.

According to an already almost 10-year old article from Boston University, fan behavior at sporting events in a sociological phenomenon that brings out the worst in some.

Leonard Zaichkowsky, an SED Professor of Development Studies and Counseling, was quoted in the article saying that fan behavior at both professional and college sporting events is crazy and getting crazier.

"The trouble at men's events occurs when fans forget that sporting arenas are public places where ordinary rules for social conduct apply," Zaichkowsky said.

While the article is old, the problem is apparently still very current.

Ultimately, I was grateful my own children weren't with me. I'm not good at confronting people under the best of circumstances, and I think I'm smart enough not to confront someone in a situation like that.

But I couldn't help but start imagining what this guy must be like as a person. I started watching him for cues, and also watching his children and significant other. She was clearly embarrassed by his behavior, but never said a word to him or tried to calm him down. He continued to throw his fists in the air and act like a bully. It wasn't long before I was picturing him as an abusive, mean person.

That's probably not fair, and I'm sure it sounds like I was rushing to judgment. He did show a soft side in the way he handled his children, but I couldn't help but wonder what kinds of words and actions he must use at home, if these are ones he's willing to use in public with strangers all around. 

And above all, it clouded my impression of SIU fans. I know it's not fair, but it's human nature - and in the end this guy probably did a lot more harm to the school and team he was so passionate about than good. 

And as for the lesson he's teaching his children... how sad.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sharing the Love

Growing up, I always loved weddings.

I loved to go to them, I loved to pretend them. I loved to sneak into the guest bedroom closet and try on my mother's veil to play in. (This was a big no-no for some reason though...)

When I did get married almost 9 years ago, my best friend and maid of honor quipped that it was the day I had been practicing for my whole life.

So it should come as no surprise that my almost 5-year old daughter seems to have inherited this fascination. She hasn't been to a wedding that she would remember yet, but she has recently discovered our wedding album. And since she also has a love for princesses and fairy tales, it seems the pictures from our big day are the perfect merging of worlds for her.

So tonight I decided to really blow her away... I told her we had an actual "movie" of our wedding day and promised to get it out after dinner and baths. This turned into a HUGE event here in our house, and I'm only sorry my husband was gone tonight and missed it.

From the beginning, I could sense the effect that watching the video would have on me. Right away I saw loved ones who are no longer with us (four in all by my count as I watched, a grandmother, an uncle, a young cousin, and an old family friend) and of course the countless "little" cousins who have grown so much. I was choked up from the beginning and wasn't sure I would be able to watch - or that I even wanted to, to be honest. I loved our wedding, watching the video brings back such beautiful memories. But it's so bittersweet too. It's amazing how much life changes in such a short time. Seeing loved ones who have since died - on video- is so hard - I swear, I could actually smell my grandmother in the room with me while I watched.

I didn't have long to focus on my own feelings, however. As the music swelled to a crescendo and began the trumpeting sounds of "Here Comes the Bride," my three children took in a collective gasp and my daughter said, "This is my FAVORITE part! Mommy, you are SO BEAUTEEFUL!" The three-year old quickly agreed, while my 7-year old yelled, "There's PAPA!"

"Mommy, someday daddy will walk me down the island like that," my daughter piped in.

"How many people were there, like 30?" asked my oldest son. When I told him the number was more like 400 he just kept saying, "I... can't... believe... you know 400 people!" (I didn't bother to explain to him that having all those guests doesn't mean we knew them all!)

Even they seemed a little taken aback when I pointed out that my little sister, who was our flower girl, was actually about a year younger at our wedding than Ethan is today. Yikes.

At some point near the end, there's a fairly decent shot of my mother and it's easy to see she is crying. Ethan said, "GG is crying because you've gotten wed so fast." 

And so it went. Watching the event that marked the beginning of this beautiful family through the eyes of the children we could have only dreamed and hoped for on that warm September day.

They wanted to watch everything, but quickly realized there was a lot of adult talking going on and agreed to let me fast forward to the "part where you get married."

Ethan was a little disappointed at the camera angle for the kiss, but laughed hysterically when he saw me shake my bouquet in the air after we were announced as husband and wife. "You held that up like it was a football!" he said.

It was getting late, so I promised they could watch the reception tomorrow and we turned the TV off. I'm going to have to remember to take notes when we watch the next part - they are most looking forward to the "part where you and daddy feed each other." Stay tuned!

Got Milk?

From time to time, the subject of cow's milk comes up with me. It came up again this weekend, which is prompting me to post this.

In our house, cow's milk is equated to soda. I buy it occasionally and drink it from time to time, but I do so knowing that it has little nutritional value for me and I'm better off with something else. I don't give it to my children. My husband has never liked it. I used to think he was missing out on something of great nutritional value. I now think he's probably just listening to his body.

But wait... you say. Milk? But milk is one of nature's most perfect, wholesome foods! 

Ah... but not so. When I first started having babies, I also started attending a breastfeeding support group and it was there I first started to understand that cow's milk does not always do well in human bodies. Time and again, breastfeeding problems were directly tied to dairy products. I can not say this clearly enough: a LOT of breastfeeding problems are directly tied to too much dairy in the mother's diet, and if you cut back or eliminate the dairy, the problems go away. This makes me sad because I think too many women are encouraged to switch to formula before they are asked about dairy, and it's just such a simple thing. Not to mention, if a baby is reacting to the amount of dairy it gets through breastmilk, how are they going to do on a product that is made from dairy by-products given to them directly? (Ever wonder why so many babies get put on soy formula?)

I've done a lot of research over the years on this subject, but I want to keep this post short.
In any case... one of the better resources I know regarding cow's milk and why it may not do a body good  is this letter. Here is another, and a bit shorter. Both are from doctors and both present well-reasoned thoughts. Take a few minutes and read them, I think you'll find it interesting.

They will literally turn everything you think you know about milk upside down.

Ten Random Things

So, another friend "tagged" me with this internet chain thing that says you have to blog 10 random things about yourself and then ask 10 other people to do the same. I'll skip the second part, but I always find these interesting from other people and fun to do, so I'll play:

1. I love the smell of clean laundry, air from humidifiers, and tires.
2. I think I'm addicted to caffeine. No, really.
3. I would love to go back to school, but I don't know what for. I miss classes though.
4. I can play the flute and I'm learning the violin with my son.
5. I sneeze every time I tweeze my eyebrows.
6. My first job was at Burger King.
7. I have lived in 4 different cities, but 13 different homes in just one of them.
8. I am constantly re-arranging my house. If not physically, then in my head.
9. I have to have a TV on to fall asleep quickly.
10. The state of my house (cleanliness) is directly proportional to my sanity.

Monday, February 18, 2008

ADPi for the weekend

This past weekend I traveled to Michigan with the women I advise from Alpha Delta Pi at the University of Illinois and the women of several other chapters to attend our District Leadership Conference.
It was a lot of fun to be with these women and getting to know them better. The conference was good too, very informative and I feel like I'm really settling into my advisor role. (After six years! LOL!) For people who aren't so involved with a sorority, it may be hard to understand... but there are so many rules and procedures that learning it all is really overwhelming. This was evidenced this weekend by how many times I heard "higher-ups" giving conflicting information about these very procedures. And it doesn't help when the international organization keeps changing things from time to time either. Luckily, I believe that most sorority women have a positive experience and know about none of this, which is of course our ultimate goal.
A couple of funny things about the weekend...
* There were approximately 300 sorority women at that hotel over the weekend. As it so happened, the mens' basketball team from Ohio State University was also staying there. My husband believes there is a direct correlation between that and the fact that OSU had a startling loss in their game against Michigan. He believes the men from OSU may have been "ADPi-ed." :)
* At the age of 33, I can still pull an all-nighter. By 3:30am on Sunday, it seemed pointless to go off to bed for the 2 or so hours I would be able to sleep. So my advisor friend from ISU and I stayed up, wandering around the hotel for things to do. We "broke" into the pool (ok, the door wasn't actually *locked* but since the pool was technically closed and I am a rule follower, I consider this "breaking" in) and soaked our feet in the hottub. We got on the Internet in the lobby. We talked and talked and talked. Turns out, she also has a restless brain - so we talked about that for a while. It was great fun, but I paid for it the next morning with that horrible nodding off experience during a couple of meetings.
* Drunk men in town for an Eastern Michigan baseball reunion spent some time conversing with myself and two advisor friends (one was the same mentioned above). There's no way I could explain the full ridiculousness of that conversation but here's a tip to drunk out of town men everywhere: women with wedding rings are generally not interested in your "Michigan prick." And they're definitely not interested in your racist views. Enough said.
* There is a "good-old girls'" club in sorority life. And no, I'm not part of it.
And on a more serious note:
The chapter from Northern Illinois University is in our province and traveled with us on the bus. They are beautiful, strong women who had a lot on their hearts and minds as they attended this conference/workshop this weekend. While none of our members were hurt in the attack on their campus last week, members of the Greek community - and people they knew - were. They continue to be in my prayers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama Song

Check it out if you haven't seen it...
great production value, even if you're not an Obama fan.

Breastmilk and Stem Cells

Someone alerted me to this article on the Science Alert website in Australia. The bold-ing is mine. 
Breast milk contains stem cells
Monday, 11 February 2008
by Catherine Madden
The Perth scientist who made the world-first discovery that human breast milk contains stem cells is confident that within five year scientists will be harvesting them to research treatment for conditions as far-reaching as spinal injuries, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.
But what Dr. Mark Cregan is excited about right now is the promise that his discovery could be the start of many more exciting revelations about the potency of breast milk.
He believes that it not only meets all the nutritional needs of a growing infant but contains key markers that guide his or her development into adulthood.
"We already know how breast milk provides for the baby's nutritional needs, but we are just beginning to understand that it probably performs many other functions, " says Dr. Cregan, a molecular biologist at The University of Western Australia.
He says that, in essence, a new mother's mammary glands take over from the placenta to provide the development guidance to ensure a baby's genetic destiny is fulfilled.
"It is setting the baby up for the perfect development," he says. "We already know that babies who are breast fed have an IQ advantage and that there's a raft of other health benefits. Researchers also believe that the protective effects of being breast fed continue into adult life."
"The point is that many mothers see milks as identical - formula milk and breast milk look the same so they must be the same. But we know now that they are quite different and a lot of the effects of breast milk versus formula don't become apparent for decades. Formula companies have focused on matching breast milk's nutritional qualities but formula can never provide the developmental guidance."
It was Dr. Cregan's interest in infant health that led him to investigate the complex cellular components of human milk. "I was looking at this vast complexity of cells and I thought, "no one knows anything about them.'"
His hunch was that if breast milk contains all these cells, surely it has their precursors, too?
His team cultured cells from human breast milk and found a population that tested positive for the stem cell marker, nestin. Further analysis showed that a side population of the stem cells were of multiple lineages with the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types. This mans the cells could potentially be "reprogrammed" to form many types of human tissue.
He presented his research at the end of January to 200 of the world's leading experts in the field at the International Conference of the Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation in Perth.
"We have shown these cells have all the physical characteristics of stem cells. What we will do next is to see if they behave like stem cells," he says.
If so, they promise to provide researchers with an entirely ethical means of harvesting stem cells for research without the debate that has dogged the harvesting of cells from embryos.
Further research on immune cells, which have also been found in breast milk and have already been shown to survive the baby's digestive process, could provide a pathway to developing targets to beat certain viruses or bacteria.


I've been thinking a bit today about soulmates. In my mind, there are different kinds of soulmates and luckily, Wikipedia backs me up on this:

Spiritual and religious - concepts of reincarnation and karma. Soulmates have spent many previous lifetimes together.
Karmic soulmate- someone who has a special mission or influence on one's life.
Companion soulmate - people with whom one has made a connection.
Twin soulmates - very close friends with whom one has strong bonds
Twin flame soulmate - a popular romantic belief that there is only one true soulmate
I feel as though I have and have had a few soulmates in my life, covering many of these different categories. One of them is my husband - and marrying one's romantic soulmate is not something I think happens to everyone, so it's not something I take for granted. I'm not sure anyone understands - or tolerates - me the way he does.
One of them was my best friend in college. By the definitions listed above, he was either karmic or a companion soulmate. He was not a romantic soulmate, though I suppose under different circumstances and timing in our lives, it might have been possible. But in the life we did live, it was never a thought beyond "what-if." Our friendship ended rather abruptly six years ago and I didn't get a chance to say good-bye the way I wanted to.
The truth is I didn't want the friendship to end at all, and it's been an open wound in my heart ever since. I vacillate between missing that friend and being angry at him, and I often wish we could have just one more conversation to forgive each other.
Elizabeth Gilbert describes a similar longing in her book, Eat, Love, Pray (which I am still reading, yes still.) Her emotional journey was sparked by her divorce and during her time studying spirituality at an Indian Ashram, she was struggling with the letting go.
"So what I asked of God that night on the Ashram roof was - given the reality that I would probably never speak to my ex-husband again - might there be some level upon which we could communicate? Some level on which we could forgive?" she writes.
She goes on to explain that she dropped into meditation and soon found herself inviting her husband to join her on the roof. 
"I asked him if he would be kind enough to meet me up here for this farewell event. Then I waited until I felt him arrive. And he did arrive."
And then, she describes the vision she saw.
"...they were just two cool blue souls who already understood everything. Unbound by their bodies, unbound by the complex history of their past relationship, they came together above this roof (above me, even) in infinite wisdom. Still in meditation, I watched these two cool blue souls circle each other, merge, divide again and regard each other's perfection and similarity. They knew everything. They knew everything long ago and they will always know everything. They didn't need to forgive each other; they were born forgiving each other."
I read a few more chapters, but this one was still resonating in my head when I went to bed. As I laid there with my eyes closed slipping into that state of mind between awake and asleep, I suddenly saw this flash of cool, blue light and heard a voice telling me that I too, could let go. I could call that friend to me in the same way, and finally be free. But it was so overwhelming and such a shock to my system that before I knew it, my body involuntarily snapped to attention and this thought crossed my mind: "I'm not ready."
Which was strange, because I thought I was. 
It was very intense, and kept me awake for a while longer. I tried to relax myself enough to see if it would happen again, but instead my mind kept flipping through other images, like a movie suddenly in fast forward. It was crazy... the restless brain at its best, I guess, and I finally fell asleep before I could find the "stop" button.

Finding my Voice

Back when I started my first on-air full-time reporting job, I was really struggling.
I didn't like the way my stories were sounding, and I often did 5 or 6 takes - per paragraph I was reading - to get one I could live with. Tracking my stories took forever and left me frustrated. I wasn't even sure I should have made the on-air leap at all.
My boss (the greatest TV boss ever) said, "You're just finding your voice. It will be ok."
That may have been some of the best advice I've ever gotten. I'm not a patient person, and I like knowing how to do things, I'm not so great at the learning process. But again and again I've had to learn to take the time to let it come. To find my voice.
I did eventually get better at tracking stories. I wasn't great, but I would have gotten even better if I hadn't sidelined my career a year and a half later and taken on full-time motherhood instead. A different voice, and it took some time to get used to.
When I started advising my sorority I was so overwhelmed by how much I didn't know or couldn't figure out, I didn't think I could keep it up for long. But I found my voice and now 6 years later I'm still going strong and involved at a higher level than I ever thought I'd be.
And so it goes, on and on. 
About a year and a half ago, I started blogging sporadically on my MySpace page. Some of the posts were pretty good, I thought - but they mostly evolved around highly emotional issues like the neonatal death of my goddaughter. The lighter posts, not so great. My husband encouraged me to start a different blog but I didn't feel I was up to it. I'm sure every blog writer has some of that "why does anyone want to read what I have to say?" feeling.
Eventually I took the plunge, of course... and that is what I have here now. But I definitely feel as if I'm struggling to find my voice. 
It will come, I know. I just have to keep learning and working at it and I'll figure it out. I don't know if I want to create something that is entertaining and interesting for my friends and family to read, or if this is primarily a personal endeavor. I think it can be both.
But I'll find my voice. It will be ok.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Generation Y... Why?

I am, by every definition I have been able to find today, a "Generation X-er."

According to my oh-so-exhaustive interent research today, it's pretty hard to define most of Generation X. We grew up with the birth of modern-day technology, the increasing normalcy of divorce and latch-key kids, and some sense of independence and adaptability. The overriding characteristic seems to be a desire to rebel against narcissism. We've been instilled with reaching out to others and philanthropy as not only admirable qualities, but also part of leading a fulfilling life. 

"Generation X grew up in the 'me generation' of the 1980's and now they are able to see that it's not all it's cracked up to be," said Jackie Shelton, an advertising executive from Reno.

But Generation "Y" is very different.

According to USA Today, "unlike the generations that have gone before them, Gen Y has been pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of activities since they were toddlers, meaning they are both high-performance and high-maintenance."

There are also studies that show a 30-percent increase in "elevated narcissism" in college students from 1982 to 2006. Some say this generation doesn't even comprehend the concept of "working your way up" - let alone think it applies to them, and also results in an inability to form relationships or loyalty.

There is a good side to this. Inventive, open to new ideas, creative, and flexible are also words frequently used to describe Generation Y. Free-thinking and forward-thinking, Gen Y-er's are more optimistic about the future of technology, environmental causes, and their own personal abilities.

I first became acquainted with this basic generational gap about five years ago when I started advising at one of my sorority's chapters. I found myself saying and thinking over and over again, "This isn't how it was when I was in college. Things have really changed."

At first, it was easy of course to chalk that up to my own personal aging - ahem, maturing. After all, I had been out of college for about 6 years by then and naturally, things really had changed. But the more I began to dig and the more I began to listen closely to other advisors of other chapters, the more I began to understand that my short six years represented a huge chasm... because I represented the end of one generation, and today's college students represent the next.

More and more, the new mantra seemed to be, "what's in it for me?" I was baffled to hear of would-be college students visiting campuses and demanding to know why *they* should choose that school. There's been a shock wave in the Greek system too, where "Rush" is now (more appropriately) called Recuritment and the focus is on convincing potential members to choose *your house* - instead of potential members trying to get "into" a house.

As I continue with my advising work, I am finding this to be an increasing struggle. It's a struggle in my personal life too, as I work to understand the motives and actions - let alone thoughts and priorities - of my two much younger sisters. 

At the sorority, I am responsible for the sorority involvement of roughly 180 women, and all that entails. But as the Greek system struggles to evolve and remain relevant to today's generation, I sometimes feel as though we are constantly missing the mark because we do not fully understand this generation. We do not always understand that the differences between us are not the normal, natural progression of things, but often something much bigger.

The Greek system has forever relied on networking as one of its fundamental advantages. It's a great way to meet people on a college campus, a way to find a niche, a sense of belonging, and maybe it might even help you land a job one day.

Today's generation has MySpace, Facebook, and a long list of other resources available to them that provide all of those things and then some. And the digital age has completely transformed interpersonal communication. Some say it's unfortunate that we hide behind the "send" button instead of picking up the phone, but I don't think that speaks to the real detriment of electronic communication. What I see happening more and more is that people are willing to say things on a computer screen that they would never have the cajones to say in person. Add in anonymity, and you'll easily see libelous and slanderous remarks that surely cut to the quick and leave lasting scars. I've seen teens fight with each other through MySpace and on blogs - out in cyberspace for all to see.

In the Greek system, loyalty is valued. It's loyalty for the sake of being loyal, because you love the institution you are loyal to and are grateful for what it adds to your life. Loyalty adds to the sisterhood experience. You rely on loyalty for ritual, and you need it to make that deep connection. Sorority membership is lifelong and meant to transcend, while accentuating, your college experience.

Today's generation doesn't grasp the full meaning of loyalty. How could they? Noone stays at one company for an entire career anymore (most people don't even have that choice), political and religious leaders let us down, heck - even 50% of couples who promise to stay married to each other don't. I'm not bashing society, just saying we can't expect a generation that hasn't been shown loyalty to understand it. They don't understand it, and they don't feel it, and I realize that when I talk to the women about the importance of legacy and ritual, they are listening with ears incapable of comprehending.

At the risk of sounding too "back in my day...," I do feel like college students today are not as mature as they used to be. (And believe me, I am not forgetting the long list of immature things I did in college. It hasn't been *that* long ago.) Maybe it's that they're not capitalizing on the opportunities for growth and maturation while they're on campus. Or are those opportunities not there in the same way? I don't know the answer. If 40 is the new 50, I feel like college might be the new high school. Don't believe me? Check out a website called I'm sure many more like it exist, I'm just not cool (read: young) enough to know. Or care, truth be told.

So, I know this post is even more rambling than usual for me, but it's really an issue I'm struggling to sort out. I feel like maybe this is one of those "connection" moments for me. It's a subject I'm intrigued with, and I'm in a position in my life where it is relevant. With knowledge comes understanding, and hopefully the ability to better myself and the women I advise.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

House Hunters

I love shows about real estate on channels like HGTV and TLC. I love the shows where they flip houses, or try to make them more marketable, whatever.

I especially love "House Hunters" where would-be homebuyers tour three different homes and then decide which one to buy. It's the reason I'm up late many nights - like tonight - because I have to see the whole show or else what's the point? And of course, trying to guess which one they'll go for is just part of the fun.

Some parts of it crack me up though. Last night a couple was looking for a new home in somewhere-I've-never-heard-of Florida and the woman was clearly not impressed with the decor of the homes they were seeing. She kept making pretty strong comments like, "This is so ugly" and "I hate this color (of paint)."

That's all well and fine, but I kept thinking about the poor people who were trying to sell the house. I mean, they had to have signed off on something allowing these people to bring cameras into their home, right? Chances are they're going to see the show. And sure, maybe the decor needed some updating but it wasn't all bad - different strokes and all, folks.

The clincher though was when the couple chose the house the woman had complained the most about. (Or maybe that was just some creative editing, who knows?) From the way it had been put together, you would have thought there was nothing she liked about that house. But any good real estate agent will tell you to look beyond things like paint and carpet... apparently someone reminded her of that - off camera.

I also love when they go to international locations - very interesting to see what is considered "standard" in a home in another country. Or maybe I should say what *isn't* considered standard.

The other interesting thing about these shows is seeing the real effect cost of living has. I love when people are "working with a budget of $500,000" and end up with something roughly the size of my bedroom. Sure, living here has its drawbacks, but it has its benefits too and affordability is no small matter.

Struggling to understand... the Democrats

Ok, I'm just going to start by saying this: I have never voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate in my life. (Incidentally, that also meant that for the first two Presidential elections I voted in, my guy lost.) 

This year, barring some unforseen circumstance, I will vote Democratic.

Actually, let me clarify... if Barack Obama is the candidate, I'll definitely vote Democratic. If it's Hillary Clinton, I might be like a child kicking and screaming as I go in to vote... but I'll likely still do it. That is, if the election were tomorrow, this is how I'd vote. There's still a lot of time until November and I have a lot more learning to do before then. John McCain could still convince me. Maybe.

One of the things I am learning more about is the Democratic nominating process. I guess I haven't paid much attention to it before. I just wasn't interested because the only other Democrat who even piqued my interest was John Edwards and he's never made it far enough in the primaries to follow that closely. I also live in Illinois, where the primary used to be much later and virtually useless in the political scheme of things. Plus, we do not have an open primary and many years I've found it easier to skip voting as my own form of protest than to actually go in and pick a side. (For the record, I struggled with that this year too, but in the end decided the stakes were too high not to participate somehow. Our system forced me to choose who I thought needed my vote the most, not just who I wanted to vote for. Messed Up.)

But I am digressing, as usual. Here is my point: I am completely dumbfounded to learn about these so-called "Super Delegates" and the prominent role they will play in determining this year's Democratic nominee.

The party that is still crying foul over the 2000 "stolen" election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college now gives us a system that is even more backwards and open to corruption. This year, roughly 800 super delegates will likely have the deciding vote. But wait, this is the Democratic party... champion of the poor and underserved... party of the people. So these super delegates must be ordinary folk, representing you and me, right?

No! They are big name Democrats like... Clinton (ugh) and other former Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and congressmen. People who have undoubtedly donated large sums of money over the years and are being rewarded with these super powers to pick the next President. (Which is another argument, I realize... but at this point I think the good money is on the Democrats to win this election, even if they nominate Bozo the Clown.)

I am finding this pretty hypocritical. How is this system any different or better than the electoral college anyway? It seems to me that it's even worse. I've skipped voting in the primary before, but this is the first time I've actually voted and felt like my vote didn't really matter.

It is entirely possible that Barack Obama will win the popular vote through the primaries, but still lose the nomination. Sound familiar? Where is Al Gore now? What does he think about that?

I'm also noticing how many high-profile wealthy people are Democrats. Did you see that last debate in Los Angeles? It was like the Oscars, not a debate. Which is fine. But it seems I hear so much whining about the Republicans only looking out for their rich friends. Newsflash: Jason Alexander and Steven Spielberg aren't exactly in *my* tax bracket. Somehow I doubt they've had to cut their monthly grocery budget to buy gas for their car or leave the A/C off all summer to make up for the winter's outrageous heating bills. Just a guess. I just think it's unfair that the Republicans are the only ones to get painted with that brush, that's all.

I'm not all doom and gloom on the Democrats. I think we have reached a very exciting time in the history of our country's politics, and I credit a lot of that to what is happening in the Democratic party right now. It's the first time in my lifetime that I've felt enthused and inspired by a Presidential candidate, and optimistic about the future. I don't feel things are the "same old, same old" except of course, for who's deciding who we get to vote for. But once those wealthy, powerful people decide who's going to run it's all up to you and me.

Power to the people, man.

She is... an American Girl

Last weekend I took my daughter to the American Girl store in Chicago as an early celebration of her 5th birthday. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by my mom and several of our friends (both her age and mine!) for a fun outing. 

Since this is a special occasion and all, we splurged for lunch at the American Girl Cafe, and I have to say I think we were all pretty pleasantly surprised. The food was plentiful and very good (possibly the best quiche I've ever had!) and all things considered, very reasonably priced. The service was superb. I don't know where else we could have eaten like that in the city with the added bonus of a child-friendly atmosphere. Well worth it, I think. 

We took the opportunity to outfit one of Elisabeth's newest dolls, Julie (pictured with us at lunch!). Julie grew up in the 1970's, a girl after my own heart! I think she felt loved here already, but she is feeling very much at home now with an entire outfitted bedroom and wardrobe. (I'm still hoping my wonderful loving husband will not have a heart attack when he sees the credit card bill!)

No doubt, a day at the American Girl store is an extravagance. It's not for the faint of heart. My mom and I added it up on the way home and realized our little group alone spent probably close to $1200-$1500 there that day, eating lunch with little plastic people and buying them clothes and... accessories.

But you know, my daughter will always remember the birthday we spent with her friends at the American Girl store. We'll go again, I'm sure... but this will always be a special memory for her, and for me.