Category Archives: Published Writing

Pieces I have written that have been published in various newspapers, magazines and websites.

That Woman in the Burke Ad is My Friend and She is No Criminal

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Over the weekend I briefly read through some Facebook comments regarding a story about a woman in a Burke for Governor ad who had been charged with a crime in her past. I didn’t read the full story due to time and the fact that it wouldn’t change any of my opinions.

This morning, I came across another post about this woman and recognizing that her story resembled mine, I felt it was time for me to actually read it. My heart dropped not only when I learned this was about a friend of mine but also when I read the comments on the article. It became one of those weird PTSD flashback moments. And I am not being hyperbolic, I was diagnosed with PTSD due to a very similar circumstance.

I will not get into her case and her personal story because that is not my place. If she would like me to write about it in the future, I will. But she has her children and her own sanity to consider. And laying everything out there may not be what is best for her right now. Also, she has been working incredibly hard to move forward and has no interest in defending herself by ridiculing or defaming her children’s father. She just isn’t that kind of person.

My friend, Erin, is a dedicated, loving mother to a couple of bright, lovely children. There is no doubt in my mind that those kids are her world and her love for them compares to no other. I also happen to know that Erin is a benevolent, generous, kind person who works incredibly hard on a daily basis to make this world a better place not only for her children, but the children of strangers.

When I was falsely accused of child abuse in 2005, I wanted to die. When I read the public comments made about it and me, I felt I couldn’t go on. If it hadn’t been for my daughter, I don’t know if I would still be here. The public commentary on my life and my motherhood – reading the horrible things people (who had no idea what they were talking about) were writing – someone may as well have been stabbing me in the gut. A couple of years later, I was diagnosed with PTSD.

Most days, I can live without it pressing on me very much. But then there are times when all of those feelings burst back into the forefront as though they happened only yesterday. And what has happened to Erin in these past days is a big example of that.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to run for local office. It was made pretty clear to me that after these charges (false or not) that would not be a good idea. At the time this happened, I was entering a social work program at Gateway. I was told after this that I would never be hired in that field. And now, I get turned down for jobs all of the time due to my background check. When I was writing for Patch, commenters loved to look me up and post things about that case simply because they disagreed with my politics. This affects me in different ways all of the time.

In 2012, I was asked to be in a couple of political ads. One was a commercial for a promising U.S. candidate. I was so excited. I was picking out some outfits for me and the kids when I realized that my past could cause a problem. I called the person in charge of the commercial and explained as much as I could. It was decided that I should not be involved in that way. Once again, that one incident brought up those heartbreaking emotions and disappointment all over again.

It never goes away. It may hide for a while. But it’s always there – lingering, somewhere.

When I read comments about Erin today, I wanted to scream and cry and hug her.

People need to know that ANYONE can accuse ANYONE of ANYTHING. People need to know that you are NOT considered innocent until proven guilty. People need to know that it is nearly impossible to prove you DIDN’T do something. People need to know that one questionable decision does not determine who you are – not for a day and certainly not for the rest of your life. People need to know that innocent people plead guilty ALL OF THE TIME and for many different reasons.

Our justice system is a meat grinder. And until you are a part of it – you have no clue what you would really do or how you would really react. It is terrifying and intimidating. And some defense lawyers suck and some D.A.s are crooked with an ax to grind. Sometimes a person will do whatever they have to just to make it end.

But the sad truth is – it never really ends. And now I have to see my friend have this all smooshed into her face again in front of the world and all because she just wanted to make our state a better place to live for everyone.

You need to really take a step back before you assume, before you judge and before you believe what you read. Because you don’t know the whole story. And you better realize that all of this – all of this nightmarish bullshit – can happen to you or someone you love at any moment.

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Cafeteria Consciousness – Part One (Patch)

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I am not a health food nazi by any means. If you had been at my table for Thanksgiving, you would have proof of that. I allow my children to have treats, snacks and desserts. But I do read labels, make healthy meals and use conscious decision making when choosing what my kids eat from day to day.

Not long ago, a new Wellness Policy was implemented into Unified. This policy utilizes guidelines regarding food available to students during the school hours.  Immediately, I noticed the steaming anger from parents and teachers because of these new rules.

Parents were livid that their kid could no longer bring in cupcakes for their birthday. Of course, rules do not apply to what children bring from home for themselves. Parents can still pack a lunch bag full of candy if they choose, and that is really not too far from what some parents do. I know of one parent who brings McDonald’s to his child everyday for lunch. The rules do not infringe on those parental choices. But still, people were enraged.

Even with these regulations in place, they are not always enforced. I have seen plenty of homemade sugary treats brought in for birthdays and holidays. Honestly, I doubt much has actually changed at all.

When I look at our school lunch menus, I really cannot see the healthy changes our systems have claimed to have made. Pizza dippers, nachos, chicken nuggets, hot dogs; none of these items scream “nutritious” to me. The ingredient list is nothing short of scary.

There are school districts around the nation that are, indeed, striving for a healthier student body:

  • Sublette Elementary in Kansas schedules their recess prior to lunch hours. Children are then less apt to hurry through their lunch – tossing the healthier food and eating only the treats. This also aids in better digestion and burns more calories.
  • In Wilsonville, Alabama, farmers bring fresh, locally grown produce to the schools. And the district also holds informational groups for parents. These groups focus on healthy eating, recipes and physical activates.
  • Springwoods Elementary in Virginia has put into effect an innovative idea called the ‘95210 Program’. The basics for this program are: 9 hours of sleep, 5 servings of fruits and veggies, no more than 2 hours of screen time (TV or computer), at least 1 hour of exercise and 0 sugar drinks – all per day.

Do I think it is okay for parents to make special treats for Halloween or Christmas parties? Sure! It’s all about moderation. But I personally do not want my kid being fed sugar and lard just a couple hours before dinner on a daily or even weekly basis. I get that you want your kid to have a cool treat for their birthday. But you have to remember that there may be 30+ kids in a class and they ALL have birthdays.

I think Unified’s Wellness Policy comes with the best of intentions. But much like Obamacare – there clearly was too much compromise and tip-toeing. And really, none of it matters at all when the rules are flat out ignored.

Please look for Part Two later this week for the continuation of this commentary. 

Food Stamps: Mean Girls on Face (Burn) Book

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For some reason, the interweb decided a few years ago that today (October 3rd) would be declared Mean Girls Day. I guess it all has to do with this clip from the movie:

Anyway, whatever. So, I was reading a thread the other night that was totally not fetch. And I was thinking…how appropriate right before Mean Girls Day. Because what I read appeared to be coming out of the organic apple pie hole of a straight up mean girl.

Okay, okay…here’s the dealio.

A local organic produce store (totes cute, btw ***and yes, I hate that I just used the term totes***) made a post on Facebook that they are now happy to be accepting EBT payments. For those unaware, that means Foodshare/Quest (food stamps, if you’re old school). This is a good thing, right? I mean the majority (hopefully) of us know that one of the most tragic aspects of poverty is the lack of nutrition which only helps perpetuate the cycle. I will talk more about that in a minute.

As I was reading the replies to this post, I was shocked to see the brazen and uneducated comments made by a particular woman. Using her full name (even though I was kind enough to redact) – with access to her Facebook page and personal information – she went on a majorly spazzed out tirade. Wanna see?

Thankfully, I was not alone in being appalled by the words this woman was spewing. Others chimed in with their disgust – giving me some hope that the world isn’t completely going to shit. However, what makes the whole thing even more sad is the fact that this woman is a nurse. I don’t know, but I tend to put nurses (like teachers) on a pedestal. I like to think of them having compassion and empathy. But all I can think about now is how I would belly crawl, leaving a skid mark of blood out of those sliding glass doors if I saw her coming toward my gurney.

And I cannot help but to wonder…if this is what she says out in the open, to strangers, for the world to see…what does she keep to herself?? And how many people out there feel the same way she does? A lot, I know. But, really, how many? Most? God, I hope not.

If you’re like most people, you might try not to think about the sad situations in life. You may try to blind yourself from the ugly and shut your ears to the screaming facts. Well, ya came to the wrong place because I am going to be serving you a few nutritious bullet points today:

  • SNAP benefits (less than $5 a day, on average), and the income requirements to even qualify for them (a maximum of $29,000 for a family of four), are hopelessly out of sync with the cost of living today
  • One out of every 2 kids in The United States at some point in their childhood will be on food assistance
  • Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and a respected expert on nutrition and the intersection of nutrition and commerce, explain the evolution of farm subsidies and how these subsidies and commodity crops directly affect the prices of processed foods, making them the only really affordable choice for those with limited mean
  • Brief periods of nutritional deprivation during the first three years of life can permanently affect a child’s brain and have lifelong consequences
  • Dr. Alfio Rausa, a district health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health, has seen firsthand how the predominance of processed foods in the diets of children have led to alarmingly high rates of obesity and diabetes as well as asthma and other conditions
  • Obesity and health issues caused by lack of access to healthy food costs the U.S. approximately $167 billion per year
  • One in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop Type 2 Diabetes
  • 85% of those families that are food insecure have at least one working adult it the household
  • Food stamp eligibility is based on total household income. To qualify, the income for a family of 4 cannot exceed $29,000 per year
  • The average food stamp benefit is under $5 a day
  • The relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables has gone up by 40% since 1980 when the obesity epidemic first began. In contrast, the relative price of processed foods has gone down by about 40%
  • About 70% of agricultural subsidies have gone to just 10% of the total number of U.S. farmers
  • We subsidize the basic ingredients in processed foods. We do not subsidize fruits, vegetables and whole grains because the producers tend to be small producers
  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits
  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year
  • SNAP already has strict time-limits for unemployed workers. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) may only receive 3 months of SNAP benefits during any 3 year period, unless they are working in a qualifying job training program

(These facts and stats can be found in the documentary A Place at the Table and on the website FeedingAmerica.org)

I have written about this topic before. I wrote THIS earlier this year. And I wrote THIS in 2011. And my opinions on small details have wavered a bit as I have grown, become more involved and have educated myself. I have also become more compassionate. They say you get more conservative and less liberal with age – that has certainly not been the case with me. Let’s hope the chica above grows some compassion eventually. Let’s hope the people start to really see not only the big picture, but also realize these are HUMANS we are talking about.

My comment to this person was something like this (thread was deleted so I am going by memory):

I hope that people will realize that at any time in life, tragedy can happen. And you may have to one day use the programs that which cause you so much disgust. While you are using one hand to pat yourself on the back, you have another hand free. You can use it to help someone up or push someone down. The choice is your’s. But remember, karma’s a bitch.

Primary Decision – Patch

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A recall candidate forum was held a couple weeks ago at the Bray center in Racine. All the gubernatorial candidates, with the exception of Walker, were in attendance. John Lehman was also on the panel. Van Wanggaard was invited, but apparently his car ate the invitation. It was an interesting event to say the least.

I went into the Town Hall hoping I would have a clear cut answer for whom to vote as our next Governor. Unfortunately…with a mere 5 days away…I am still questioning.

It is fairly well known that not every liberal/progressive/Democrat agrees on the best choice for this election. Some unions have thrown their support towards certain candidates, some political figures have named their choice and a few newspapers have also shared their endorsements.

Clearly, the number one sentiment agreed upon is “anyone but Walker.” As I have said in the past, what is most crucial at this very moment is not necessarily getting the very best person IN; it is getting the very worst person OUT.  And sometimes the very best candidate isn’t always the one with the most winning potential.

It would be phenomenal if Arthur Kohl Riggs could win the Republican spot in the primary. I just think that would be a classic, historical outcome and I would smile ear-to-ear. Sadly, I don’t see this happening. At first I thought it was more than possible and seemed to me to be a no brainer. I had no doubt that my vote was for Art. However, I am now realizing this may be an unrealistic fantasy.

I so wish Art had the time and money to really get his name out there and become well known among the average constituent. But that takes money, much assistance and intense planning. If he had those attributes in his corner – he could have wiped Walker out of the race on Day One. Oh how sweet that would be.

I have to say, Kathleen Vinehout was extremely impressive. I have never really heard her speak much prior to the Town Hall and she, in my opinion, was the most convincing about her true motivations. I heard real emotion in her voice and conviction in her words. She was not a repetitive robot stuck in campaign mode. She has a budget plan and takes a definite stand on all serious positions.

And of course, there is my sincere appreciation and admiration for the 14 Senators (one of whom was Vinehout) who fled to Illinois to avoid a quorum that fateful day in 2011. I am sure there will be comments about “fleebaggers” and how they were “neglecting their jobs”. Phooey. Comments I would never even consider since I believe in just the opposite. They WERE doing their jobs. They went above and beyond the call of duty to truly represent me and the thousands of other constituents who wanted them to do exactly what they were brave enough to do.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, seems to be leading the polls. And just that he and Walker were in a dead heat. More and more each day it seems as though he is the strongest candidate as far as odds in the recall race.

There are things I like about all the gubernatorial candidates. Some impress me more than others. Some simply do not have a chance regardless of how much I agree with particular positions. Independent candidate, Hari Trivedi, has some great ideas that make all kinds of sense, but this state is just not ready for those ideas quite yet.

So as far as the Governor race, I believe Vinehout would make the best choice for Governor. I think Barrett has the best chance of beating Walker. And I would love for Kohl-Riggs to win in the Primary. Who will I vote for on Tuesday? I will probably decide on Tuesday.

Thankfully, my choice for Senator is easy peasy. John Lehman is the clear choice and I think it is a travesty he is not in that position now. I would like to remind voters that candidate Tamra Varebrooke is a FAKE Democrat campaigning against Lehman. She even wears a GOP logo sweatshirt in some of her literature. Other fake Democrats include: Isaac Weix (Lt. Gov.) and Gladys Huber (Gov.).

Vote for whom you wish, of course, but vote with knowledge, forethought and integrity.

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/primary-decisions

 

Finally, A Princess Who Doesn’t Make Me Puke – Patch

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When I was growing up I don’t recall being consumed with princesses or being covered with pink boas or sparkly dresses. Sure, I had Barbies and I wouldn’t have considered myself a tomboy by any means. But it just didn’t seem we were forced into consumer princessism like girls are today.

I have a 12-year-old stepdaughter and a 7-year-old daughter. For the past 11 years or so, I have witnessed the increasing amount of princess crap being crammed down their impressionable throats. I never liked it much, but, compared to Bratz Dolls and other strangely skanky alternatives, I gladly chose the crowned beauties.

I suppose the whole princess concept was gross to me. They had to be perfect, “lady-like” at all times, long flowing hair and eight-inch waists and worst of all – they were always expected to strive for nothing other than to be chosen by some sword-wielding Prince.

Today I took a couple of seven year olds to see Brave, the new Disney Pixar “princess” movie. I was sort of dreading it as I rarely see children movies I actually like. Toy StoryNemo and Wall-Ewere exceptions, but usually my goal is to simply stay awake.

But I have to admit, I really liked this one. I thought the message was great and better late than never. Merida is a princess in Scotland who was raised to be proper and perfect and when it was time for her to marry – she wanted nothing of it.

Merida longed to be riding her horse, shooting arrows and climbing mountains. She appreciated her moments of freedom with great abundance. And her out-of-control red hair matched her fiery personality. It’s not that she wasn’t princess material; but more like other princesses simply haven’t caught up to her independent standards.

Of course, her mother was insistent on her doing what is expected of her and marry. They butted heads much the same way most of us gals did with our mothers. Sometimes I think there were moments when no one angered me more than my mother. She could just look at me in a certain way and I would snap. But eventually I learned to deal with her naggy criticisms and she learned to deal with my obnoxious mood swings and we became close.

Merida was very angry with her mother and employed a witch to cast a spell  that turned her mother into a bear. While on a quest to reverse the spell, the mother was able to see how capable and talented her daughter truly was and Merida was able to see how much she truly needed her mother. I think that is a lesson so many of us can only hope to learn before it is too late.

I want girls to grow up without limits on their potential. I want girls to know it is okay to color outside of the lines and think outside of the box. I want girls to know that a man’s approval or desire is absolutely NOT their purpose in life – prince or not.

There are elementary students wearing belly shirts and eyeliner. I see pre-teens who look trashier than some bar hags. And I wonder, do they even know why they are presenting themselves this way? And why do parents let them?

Emphasis on brains over beauty, skill over seduction, independence over imprisonment and capability over apathy…this is what I wish for every girl growing up in today’s world of impossible expectations and lessening virtues.

I hope I can raise my girls to be more like Merida – the princess who chooses a sword over a crown and herself over the approval of others.

Bravo, Disney…it’s about (once upon a) time.

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/finally-a-princess-who-doesn-t-make-me-puke

 

Hey Wanggaard, Rip the Band-aid Off Already – Patch

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Senator Mark Miller was recently quoted as saying, “Senator-elect Lehman won by more than 800 votes. It is time for Senator Wanggaard to concede and let the voters of the 21st Senate District have the Senator they chose. Any attempt to delay with court cases is irresponsible and a waste of time and money, not to mention a denial of democracy.”

I could not agree more.

As most of you probably know, John Lehman won the recall election on June 5, won (again) once the canvass was complete and yet again when the recount commenced on Monday. I think it is time to stop beating a dead elephant.

Wanggaard and posse are claiming voter fraud and dragging Racine through the mud as they do it. Lehman said they are “insulting” Racine and that is exactly what they are doing.

According to Wanggaard’s attorney, Jonathan Strasburg, Fidel Castro would blush at our election procedures. Really? Does this kind of hyperbole really still work on people?? Strasburg is basically claiming that Racine is filled with incompetent idiots and that our poll workers, city administration and processes are either inept or maniacal.

It has been claimed that there is suspicion in regards to unorganized poll books, torn ballot bags and loss of signatures. The assertion that anything more than simple human error – which is prevalent in every election; this one just happened to be examined with a fine toothed comb – is ridiculous and yes, insulting.

I sat on a hard plastic chair for hours at City Hall the day after the election. I was there to oversee the changing of the torn ballot bags. In each occurrence, the Chief Inspector was called down to sign and witness the contents (still in the mostly sealed old bags) being placed into a second sealed bag. It couldn’t have been more on the up-and-up.

There were no instances of even the possibility of ballot tampering. Not to mention, the totals were already recorded by the machines – ballot tampering at that point would have certainly not been worth the risk, not mention pointless.

And there is indeed a risk. Republicans would like us to believe that the Voter ID Law would swoop in with a cape and a sword and defend the people from rampant fraud. You see, voter fraud, with or without the voter ID law carries some pretty hard core penalties. I find it impossible to believe that the Democratic Party would or could wrangle up enough mustache-twisting conspirators to pose as poll workers all day just to mess with a few ballots and risk federal felony charges. And LIBERALS are too Hollywood??

I was also present when these Inspectors were made to go to the courthouse last week to be interrogated by Strasburg. I will not be surprised if they never choose to work any future elections. Their integrity and intelligence were being questioned in front of a room filled with people, cameras and recorders. I was repulsed.

Do I even need to go into all the complaints made by poll workers against GOP advocates? Need I mention out-of-state observers starting trouble with voters in an already hectic situation? Should we talk about the harassment of union and democratic supporters while they were merely attempting to LEGALLY vote?

Some of you may claim that we were cowbell ringing crybabies for losing in 2010. Some of you may state that the recall elections (some of which, by the way, were also initiated by the GOP) were an exorbitant waste of time and money. Some of you have said that the voters spoke and we should have just accepted that. Well, I will lend you my cowbell (kidding, I never had one). If you want to protest, protest. If you want to recall, recall. But just like I still have to call Scott Walker “Governor” – you now have to call John Lehman “Senator.”

Throwing out red herrings, using this election process as a means to advertise the Voter ID agenda and crying wolf in order to delay is only prolonging the inevitable and wasting the time and energy of a lot of people. Telling Wisconsin that Racine has incompetent election procedures and making us look inadequate while no real evidence has been established doesn’t seem like a great way to win back voters. And besides, it’s just bad form.

Wanggaard said he was going to spend a few days reviewing and speaking to his supporters and family before deciding on which step to take next. Well, Van, I hope the fireworks sparked some reason within you and that you have finally decided to concede. It is time. And peeling off this bandage so slowly is only pluckin’ out those ‘lil hairs, sir. Rip off the bandage and let’s be done with it already.

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/just-rip-off-the-band-aid-already

 

A Life Sentence – Patch

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During the end of the recall effort, there were a couple of stories in the news which piqued my interest but I guess I was simply too preoccupied to write about them. I have decided that with certain thoughts I have been having on a personal level, it seemed appropriate to revisit those stories and discuss them here.

Apparently, there was a woman, who at a younger time in her life, got into trouble with the law.  In the woman’s most recent years, she has been gainfully employed as a school bus driver for the Milwaukee Public School District (yes, I am sure some of my readers have already commenced with the boos and hisses).

Of course, we have no idea about her circumstances; how she got into the unlawful situation; or anything about her character whatsoever. All we know is what WTMJ told us and that is that she was arrested for prostitution in 2005.

Is seven years enough time to rehabilitate from whatever lifestyle she had which caused her to make poor choices? I don’t know. Is she stable and reliable enough to be driving around students? I don’t know. But public humiliation and the witch hunt these news teams use to go after people for the sake of a story is truly tasteless and irresponsible.

She had been working for MPS as a driver for several years when WTMJ decided to out her on television (which subsequently, of course, led to an internet, radio and print outing as well).

They basically stepped onto the bus, stuck a picture of her mug shot in front of her unsuspecting face and asked her about her criminal history. They in turn approached parents with the woman’s background information and asked them what they thought about this “criminal” driving their children  to and from school. Of course the parents were astonished and in sheer dismay that something like this could happen. I mean, at what – 8 bucks an hour (guessing) – who would ever think that someone with a record would be applying for these jobs (that is, indeed, sarcasm).

I wonder how ‘Joe’ in sales would like it if Mike McNewsypants accosted him with a microphone and asked him about those lines in he snorted in college. Or how would ‘Jennifer’ feel about a reporter intruding in on one of her staff meetings to inquire about that one drinking and driving ticket she received when she was 21.

In April, a 58 year old woman lost her job at Wells Fargo in Milwaukee as a Customer Service Representative. It turns out that in 1972 she had been caught shoplifting. 1972, people. Her position included no money handling and she was a highly recognized and awarded employee. But because of a stupid mistake when she was 18 years old – her life has been turned upside down…forty years later.

I am sure there are many out there who had a Pollyanna-like youth. Probably never sipped a beer, smoked a cigarette or certainly never stole a lipstick from Walgreens. And that’s great! Very honorable and should, no doubt, be commended.  But guess what…most of us do not have perfectly innocent pasts. Some of us got caught and some of us didn’t.  Some of us did big things; some of us had smaller offenses. And some of us may have been caught up in the legal system for reasons much outside of our own control.

There is story behind every CCAP page, every arrest, every conviction, every accusation…there are factors that no one will ever know by reading a few lines in a police report. How is it that we can expect people to improve upon their lives, pull themselves out of a bad situation and become contributing citizens if they are never allowed to move on? Why should every crime carry a social and economic life sentence?

Not only do we have CCAP out there for everyone to comb through and make decisions based upon its limited information; but we also now have investigative news teams whom are intent on harassing people trying to make an honest living and move beyond their indiscretions.

When I first read these stories, I so wanted to start looking up the names of reporters, editors and staff – surely they are not all free of past poor choices. But that would make me as tactless as them. I couldn’t sleep at night when I know full well the harm that could cause.

. The pain of that information being out there is very real. The pain of not being able to share the REAL story with each person who sees it is even more real.

Lately I have been considering one day running for a local political seat. It is a goal I have always dreamed about and something at which I could possibly thrive. But a single accusation years ago may very well permanently stand in the way of pursuing that dream. I cannot tell you how demoralizing (at best) that realization truly is.

I think we always need to remember to press pause before we go into an automatic judgment mode. We need to think before we react to stories we hear or tidbits we read. Because the person we are judging may be much like someone we love, know, care about…maybe even not too different than ourselves. And perhaps we can use a little more compassion and empathy instead of instant blame and persecution. Just a thought.

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/a-life-sentence

Looking for a New Pair of Shoes – Patch

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Well this is it, people. My last commentary before the recall. Heck, maybe you will all get lucky and never see the word ‘recall’ in my column again. (Hearty chuckle) Okay, sorry, probably not the very LAST time… But soon enough I can try to inch my way back to humor and non-political pieces and won’t THAT be refreshing?

SO…what can I say after 18 months of life changing, eye opening revelations, disappointments, experiences and triumphs? about how and when I became involved in the recall process. I have shared my experiences with becoming a more involved citizen and my evolution into a more active member of society instead of merely a lazy complainer.

I have attended rallies, protests, fundraisers, debates…all events which were off my radar before February of 2011. In the past month, I have volunteered more hours than I have in my entire life. And while I am tired, a bit more stressed and see my family a little less – I know it is all more than worth it.

Soon we will all be free of the political calls, mailings, and incessant television commercials. Soon we slowly start discussing things which have nothing to do with budgets or bills or banging drums. Soon we will link arms and sing around the campfire with gooey feelings of utter respect, forgiveness and compassion. Right? RIGHT?? Sorry, my inner naive child tends to rear her fantasy-like ideals when she is lacking sleep.

I admit though, I often wonder how we can truly repair the damage which has been cast upon our state and the people within. Can we mend the fences which have been torn down and start dismantling ones which have been erected? Will those friends we lost on Facebook pop back into our scope? Will family dinners be less combative? Will online commenters (cough, cough) return to a space of civility?

So what’s next – what will happen after Tuesday?

Fast forward to current day….

Confused? I started writing this piece shortly before the election. I had become so entrenched with volunteering for the campaigns that I simply never finished writing. And clearly, it has taken me some time to get back into the swing of things as I muddle through my emotions.

Not only did I take a writing break, many things took a backseat in the recent past. My house was a little messier. And I had stopped my exercise routine; yet somehow still managed to lose 6 pounds…I guess I forgot to eat too.

I met so many wonderful people. Gobs of them. I can’t believe these people have existed in my geographical area all this time and I hadn’t left the house enough to notice! I learned so much about the political psychology and processes. I have learned how critical volunteering truly is to elections. And I have learned that some things are worth losing for. (Yes, I still shudder at the thought of losing…hell, I AM human!!)

Have I noticed a change in anything in the last 10 days? Are people being kinder, gentler, and more respectful? Nah. At least I don’t think so. Perhaps I need to give it more time…let the storm settle a while longer.

Being in Racine lends itself to a unique perspective from the rest of the state right now. While many of us are sad that our recall efforts were not quite successful in the gubernatorial race…we sure had an important win with John Lehman.

I organized the election night party (food, drinks, decorations and what not) at “Lehman Headquarters”. I was able to stay away from TVs and the news most of the night because I was so incredibly busy. But as the night began to die down and after Barrett conceded…it was time for a seat, a cry and some potato chips.  Most were ready to throw in the towel. But my gut kept reminding me, “Hey, this isn’t over for John…just you wait.” And I repeated that to a few others with a nervous smile.

Well, low and behold…late in the night (or early in the morning I should say)…some familiar faces emerged from a back room with toothy grins and tired eyes. We did it. We friggin’ did it. Seven hundred some votes (now, eight hundred something)…Racine prevailed.

I returned home after everyone was sleeping to find a homemade condolence card from my daughter lying on my pillow. And the next day she proudly informed me, “Lehman won, though, Mom!” That is when I realized how it really was all worth it. We have one more person to stand up for us, for my kids, for our community. We have a great group of people in Racine who work ENDLESSLY to help the right people get elected. We have lived experiences many out there will never know. Worth it. Worth it. Worth it.

As I begin to step back in those shoes I used to wear every day, I am noticing they don’t fit quite so right anymore. I have changed. My expectations have changed. And I am pretty sure my future has changed. I think I will be in need of a new pair of shoes…

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/looking-for-a-new-pair-of-shoes

 

Vote for Lehman – The Only Choice – Patch

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There isn’t much mystery in for whom I will be voting on June 5th in the Senate Race… And being so – HOLY COW – amazingly close to Election Day, I would be remiss to pass up this opportunity to lay out my motivations and reasoning for choosing John Lehman and why I think you should do the same. (P.S. It has nothing to do with being cool just like me…that is merely an added benefit.)

As you can see in one of the photos with this piece – I have been a John Lehman supporter for quite a long time.  And his loss in the last election was a painful one. However, we have dusted off and Van Wanggaard generously provided us with more ammunition (ironically) and inspiration to get this thing done.

Let’s just go over a couple bullet points, shall we?

Divided We Still Stand…in Heels – John Lehman co-authored a bill in 2009 which created an easier path for women to seek justice when discriminated against in the workplace. As it stands today, women in Wisconsin typically get paid 77.8 cents to the dollar what men earn. And while there is a federal bill to act as protection for this purpose; the law repealed by Republicans (Van Wanggaard being the final vote) made justice more attainable by using circuit court instead of federal court. The federal path is much more costly and difficult. And really, we have to ask ourselves, why repeal a bill which was doing no harm or costing any money? Aside from more divisive strategies, there was no reason to waste legislative time on repealing the Pay Equity Bill.

Creepy, Van, Just Creepy – Well, this is a recent development that even the biggest pessimists may not have anticipated. Perhaps you have yet to hear about a recent mailing delivered to the voters in Lehman’s district.  Some may call the mailing racist as it depicts the unfortunately popularized (by the Trayvon Martin case) hoodie scene. Most would have to agree that is pure fear mongering. And whether people are saying it or not, the ad is nothing more than a disgusting attempt at using dishonest distraction. I realize Wanggaard’s campaign didn’t flip the switch on this ad. However, he was given several opportunities in the press and at the debates to disavow the material – he chose, instead, to support it. Classy.

Hello? Is There Anyone Listening? – One of John’s greatest assets is his incomparable accessibility. I mean, the guy publishes his home phone number on his campaign literature! We, as constituents, so often feel ignored by those hired to serve US. Van ignored many voters in late 2011 and early 2012. Letters, phone calls…even showing up to his office may have gotten you some Starksy and Hutch action. He simply did not want to make himself available to those with questions and concerns. When John says he is there for us, he really means it. When Van says it, “us” really means big donors and corporate interests.

That’s Not MY Job – I don’t think anyone can deny that one of the most evident causes for the loss of American jobs is the fact they are being shipped overseas. John Lehman did his part in attempting to stop those policies with his authoring of The American Jobs Act. Yet the pursuit by Wanggaard and his ilk to attract hopeful employers is with promises of deregulation, legislative paybacks and selling off our own backyards. Van often pats himself of the back for this smokescreen they are touting as “job creation.”  But I have to ask…how many of these jobs for which they are boasting were actually due to the President’s stimulus package or even on the schedule prior to the new administration? How many are actual living wage jobs? How many are seasonal or temporary?

Star Tech – Yep, there has been a lot of back patting lately (how’s that shoulder, Van?) He loves to speak about his authoring a Tech Ed High School Diploma Bill. But I have heard from several different reliable sources that RUSD and Gateway were already working on a similar program (without the need for legislation) before Van went along with party lines and voted to cut funding to Gateway by 33 percent and public education by billions. After that, the planning for the program ceased and Van was able to gallop in on his horse with flowing cape and take all the credit for this idea himself. Superhero? I think not.

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to…Defund – Last, but certainly not least, is the stark contrast in how Lehman and Wanggaard approach education. Lehman, as a parent and former teacher, values the concept of public schools and what they do to build our communities. Wanggaard has shown us that his priorities are different as he has given $2.3 billion in tax breaks to corporations and the very wealthy. Van recently stated in his debates that contrary to popular belief, RUSD was doing swimmingly. Yea, sure…if you are swimming in the Hudson.

He brags that because of tools (ugh) the budget provided, RUSD actually has four additional teachers this year. This tidbit of info has been naggin’ at me. Four additional teachers? Well, it led me to wonder, how many more special needs students this year? How many aids and assistants were let go? How many full time teachers had hours cut down to part time? I know that almost 100 Educational Assistants were let go. This is a huge blow to the classrooms where they are needed most. And I know that Special Needs teachers are being overwhelmed. But by all means, Van, send the money to private schools that can pick and choose their students, not be held accountable by comparable testing and have educators who are not necessarily qualified. Sorry, but your “four more teachers” really doesn’t make up for all of that.

Do our community a huge service and please vote for John Lehman on June 5.

 

http://mountpleasant.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/vote-for-lehman-it-only-makes-sense