Thursday, December 30, 2010

Progressives in Western Iowa?

Living in one of the most Republican saturated congressional districts in Iowa, Democrats may feel isolated and under constant scrutiny. Yet we're not alone. In spite of the fact that District 5 keeps electing Steve King, Democrats keep getting elected to county and municipal offices. This proves that we're not only not alone, but that many of our fellow progressives are committed to public service and to our communities- AND that they are trusted and respected by their constituents- our moderate and conservative neighbors.

I'd like to encourage other Democrats to be unashamed of their convictions, undaunted by the potential ridicule of right-wing ideologues in their workplaces and families, and make an effort to connect with one another and network with other progressives in Iowa and the Midwest so that we can remain informed and better organized.

To help us do this, I'd like to recommend three great resources in particular:

If you're like me, you've had people question the validity of your faith because you support Democratic candidates. Sociologist, Pastor, and author, Tony Campolo's latest book, Red Letter Christians proves that Christians not only can, but should consider liberal and progressive political positions in the light of Jesus' teachings, and examples.
Visit the Red Letter Christians Blog at

Opposing gay marriage, abortion, and evolution are NOT the only issues Christians should care about, Campolo addresses these as well as education, poverty, corruption, campaign finance, lobbying, foreign policy, war, gun control, immigration, tax structure and many more. 

Campolo's contention is that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, Republicans and the religious right have miss represented Christianity in the media and politics in the U.S. for decades, their positions are not necessarily always as supported by Scripture as they claim, and if we look at all of the Bible (and contemporary political issues and current events) in the light of Jesus' teaching (the red-letter portions of the Gospels, such as the Sermon on the mount in Matt. 5-6)- we will have a hard time seeing Republican and Tea Party attitudes as being very Christ-like at all. We should look at each issue individually for ourselves rather than assuming that one party or candidate is right on every issue just because we agree with them on one or two issues.

George Lakoff's book, 'Don't think of an elephant' is something that every Democrat needs to read because we need to learn how to communicate our values: 

  • a strong America
  • broad prosperity
  • a better-future
  • effective government
  • mutual responsibility
  • empathy
  • equality
  • accountability.
We have to share our values and start couching every discussion we have about every issue in terms of these values. It's absolutely imperative that we work on counteracting or at least eroding the myths that our friends, families, and neighbors are being barraged with about liberals, Democrats, and progressives. We are not misled, we are not anti-American, anti-family, or anti-God. We are not NAZIs or Socialists as Glenn Beck would have people believe. We earnestly care about our nation, state, communities and families. I believe that if we internalize, personalize and start peppering our conversations with these ideas that Lakoff points out have already been our long shared values- our fellow Western Iowans may gradually become less afraid of us and less prejudiced against us.

Finally, 'You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America' by former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean is an excellent book with lots of ideas for reinvigorating  our grass-roots. Like Campolo and Lakoff, he explains how Democrats have always held values of community and mutual responsibility, as well as equality and empathy. He presents a clear and easy to understand case for how the right wing has mismanaged the economy and abused political power- but have been more organized and deliberate about communicating their supposed values and appealing to the general population- inn spite of the fact that they really only represent a narrow group of interests. Dean isn't some kind of weird radical, his book is incredibly clear, concise, personal, practical and applicable. Those active in party leadership should especially enjoy and find use for this book.

If you're reading this, you could easily order any or all 3 of these books online. They're all reasonably priced.

I hope you'll all find ways to find out who your fellow Democrats are, especially here in Crawford County. get to know each other and support one another. Connect with blogs, facebook, twitter, email, and texting. And remember to make sure you're Republican friends, coworkers, and family members know that you're not only not the enemy, but that you care about Iowa and are intelligent and informed. Share your values sincerely and don't try to argue over specific policies, instead share your perspective on them in a nonjudgmental way, while couching your opinions (which they probably don't share) in the context of your values (which they probably do share).

Happy reading and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

POEM: The color of snow

Some people complain about how the landscape never changes all winter
perhaps they find it anticlimactic after Fall's finale
but I think these are the same people that gripe about Fall's epilogue of beige after the harvest is out and the leaves have been raked
they're the same people who fail to recognize how many different greens there are in the depths of summer,
or how much they change from May to September
But my friend Monet has taught me to see and to savor the colors of snow
he showed me the blues and turquoise, the creams, golds, ambers, lavender and rose
No two months in winter, no two weeks, days or even hours are the same, the rainbow is constantly, quietly, gradually fading in and out,
like waves of hue on one of those fiber optic lamps,  ebbing and flowing washes of light
Some days you feel like you're indoors because there is no line on the horizon, the white of the ground, identical to the sky.
Other days the blue of the sky is is tight and sharp and crisp and refreshing
simultaneously it is never more contrasted to the ground and yet how could so much of such pure, clean blue not be reflected in the snow
In the city it goes from off-white to grays and sooty indigos, leaving some gutters iridescent
By March, plenty of snow in the country will be full of browns and ochers and ash with mud and soup
Some of the most magical mornings are when the freezing fog have left a flocking on the trees
Spruces and pines look like they've been sprayed with paint for sale on the Christmas tree lot
While the branches of elms and oaks seem to have fancy white feathers
I like it when it's not just a visual experience, but an auditory one too
Big FAT flakes visiting the Earth like manna, not falling, but gracing us with their advent,
muffling all sound, silencing the cacophony of everyday life.
What I really like is when it's the frigid cold that silences everything,
but the crunch and the squeak of my feet walking on dry powder compacted into ice.
This Christmas, it came down in heavenly flakes of mica, peeled from the layers of stones in New Jerusalem,
spinning and shimmering as the descend
Amazingly there were drifts and hills of ground diamond powder
it was enough to make you believe in angels and cherubim
and miracles and singing

Friday, December 24, 2010

La Vida Loca

What a rocky road. School has been really busy, so I haven't had a chance to write anything here- but there's sure been plenty going on to write about.

  • After 2 or 3 games, my  two best veterans (each other's best friends) quit, no explanation, by text mind you, just before we were getting on the bus for our first away game.
  • The following Monday, I found out that one of them was in the hospital all weekend. She'd gone to the doctor on Friday, not feeling well and found out she had Type I Diabetes. Certainly not something that has to prevent you from cheering, but in spite of my pleads, they don't want to come back. Never did get en explanation why.
  • They say that everything happens for a reason though, and I've wound up having to do more actual direct, deliberate coaching that I have (at the HS level) for a few years. One of the remaining girls is very heavy-set and not the most socially adroit, but she seems to have been part of an incredible junior high program at her last school because she has a load of good skills and instincts. The one veteran left is a Junior Latina. She's always been one of the quietest girls I've ever known. She doesn't live in town and doesn't have her own car, so she hasn't been able to come to practices (since her ride is one of the two girls who quit). But in some ways this has been good for her because she'd been forced to step up into a leadership role at games. The other two, a Sophomore and another Freshman are INSANELY shy and quiet- no one would ever have thought they'd even go out for cheer. I spent one practice just working on getting these 3 to be LOUDER. Another practice we spent working on being more synchronized. I'm proud to report that not only have they not flopped, they keep getting better each game.
  • Meanwhile, one of the girls who cheered during football season announced she was pregnant. Sigh. I want to be supportive of her, but I have to admit to being disappointed. Teenagers aren't ready to become parents and therefore shouldn't be sexually active. That's it, bottom line, regardless of what you think about it on moral or religious grounds- not to mention emotional, psychological, or social maturation. I had a cheerleader pregnant last year too who at least seemed to be much more humble and somewhat private about it. This girl, is as excited as my kids before Christmas. It's like she's obsessed about it the way people get about a new pet, toy,car, computer, whatever. Whatchya gonna do? I'm trying very hard to be supportive and non-judgmental. Be that as it may, I think we have at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 pregnant students at our school this year, it's getting ridiculous. Someone needs to do something about this. I don't know if it's up to parents, the board, our guidance counselor, principal, teachers, or who.
  • Finally, my little Junior High squad has been chugging along. I have one 7th grader in particular who is a phenomenally hard worker. She has learned a ton, and taught her self more, and she's been more consistent with her grades and attendance than any other middle schooler. She's the only one who's cheered for both football and basketball this year. She never misses a game and will even cheer alone when no one else shows up. 
  • On the other hand, we had an 8th grader this year with lots of difficulties. Her IQ is only in the 50's, she's on medication for Schizophrenia, she has a pretty pronounces speech impediment, and has a lot of trouble with coordination and rhythm. I was proud of her and excited for her because she'd been having so much fun, feeling like she was part of something, and little-by-little, getting better at cheering. The Thursday before Varsity's first pep rally, Junior High had a game. I thought that the JrHi squad was doing well enough and were responsible enough that they could perform unsupervised. I was SO worried about making sure that my quiet/shy/insecure Varsity rookies were prepared for their pep rally that I told the MS squad that they were flying solo. The next morning, schizophrenic 8th grader came to me before school and told me that she couldn't finish out the season because she took a job as a babysitter. Later that morning, her Special Education teacher (also the MS girls' basketball coach) came to me and shared that the 8th grader had thrown a tantrum, cussing a blue streak before the game in the hall. She recommended that I suspend the girl from cheerleading- moot point since she'd already quit earlier that morning. Later that afternoon, another JrHi cheerleader reported to me that the 8th grader's older brother (her legal guardian) had attended the game and perhaps was embarrassed by either her performance or her inappropriate behavior because he made her go home with him before the game was finished and wanted her to quit cheerleading.
  • I am at the same time relieved to not be responsible for her, frustrated with her for her misbehavior (however unable to control it she may be), ashamed of myself for being relieved to not have her awkward physical and social challenges on stage as part of my program anymore and broken hearted for her that life and circumstances have handed her such a raw deal. I cared a great deal for her older sister, who had also been in junior high cheer. The sister would've graduated last year, but had transfered to another district after having had a falling out with their brother. Their mom had been a drug addict (which caused the 8th grader's physical and mental health problems). The older sister attended a school for at risk girls for at least one semester and is now a recovering addict herself. Not sure if she's gotten her GED or is still planning on college or not, but I at least know from facebook that she has serious boyfirend.
  • I know this was hard to follow since I didn't use any names. I don't want any of them or their parents/guardians to ever be offended by anything I write/reveal here about them. I want to protect their identities.  I hope I'm not making myself sound like any kind of big hero, I'm not. I just think it's amazing how fascinating some of these kids and their lives are. I've known dozens of kids with stories just as painful, difficult, heroic and sordid over the last 17 years of coaching. That doesn't make me all that fascinating or heroic, but you can see why I wanted to have a place to write about it. I believe that cheerleading can make a meaningful difference in these kids lives, I do hope that somehow God can use me to help them along the way, at least in some small ways. I'd like to think that just by being a stable, "traditional" adult in their lives, that makes some kind of difference. 
  • As you can see, truth really is stranger than any fiction I could try to come up with. What fiction offers is the ability to write about these crazy, amazing things without worrying about airing a real person's dirty laundry or appearing to cast any kind of judgement on them. But then again, I never have time to write about reality, let alone fictionalize it. You'll notice I'm writing this on Christmas Eve- on vacation from school!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here are a couple of acrylic paintings I did today. 
This is of Dada/Surrealist photographer and artist Man Ray. The Spongebob animators liked him so much they made him one of Mermaid Man's arch villains. I think it turned out to be kind of a mixture of Raymond Burr, José David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rod Serling.

Everyone easily recognizes Psychology pioneer Sigmund Freud. Naturally, a student gave me a hard time about including a cigar, since just the day before I'd disallowed him from drawing a cigarette on his final self portrait. One cool thing about this painting is that I think it looks a little like it's in the style of his grandson, English painter, Lucian Freud.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't kill mockingbirds

"Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird's nest

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O be joyful
Over the marshes and uplands

Look at songs
Hidden in eggs"

-from Carl Sandburg's 'Cornhusker'

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feliz Navidad

 took the camera to some poinsettias today and unleashed some macro!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Surreal take on a surrealist

Here's a montage I made in Photoshop in the spirit of Surrealist Man Ray. Below are two of his paintings and one of his photos which I used.

Driveway moments

it's not so much that the story on the radio is so fascinating
but the car seat is kinds cozy
and the heater has finally started to work
after the whole drive in

my vehicle is my cocoon
no one telling me anything
no one asking anything from me
no one I need to supervise, or mediate, or negotiate

the morning is still quiet
what if I didn't go in?
out her (in here) the world can not touch me

eventually the gas would run out
someone would knock on my windshield
and ask me what I'm doing out here
if everything is okay

in here there are no bills
no emails
no expectations
no one to disappoint

just a radio
a heater
my radio
the comfy driver's seat

no rich
no poor
no popular or cool
or dumb or disliked

just this little space
these three minutes
the parking space
out in front of work

one last sip, the story's over
inhale deep, and sigh
remove the key, open the door
and face the cold, and face the world, and face the day

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cheer&Dance Stuff for Christmas- Varsity Shop

Cheerleading Uniforms & Dance Uniforms - Varsity Shop

Here's the website to go to for all things Cheer- from pajamas to jewelry to bags and tees, and of course accessories. Even your own poms if you want it so bad.

I'd say if there's something you want for Christmas or your birthday, tell your parents about this site instead of asking me about all the piles of catalogs I get.

Happy Human Rights Day

On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was based on the U.S. and English Bills of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It's framers wanted to include the Four Freedoms mentioned in U.S President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address; Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want.

U.S. Delegate to the U.N., Eleanor Roosevelt supported the adoption the UDHR as a declaration, rather than as a treaty, because she believed that it would have the same kind of influence on global society as the United States Declaration of Independence had within the United States. Elenor Roosevelt was the Chairman of commission charged with drafting the Declaration. If Mrs. Roosevelt was to the UDHR like John Adams or Ben Franklin were to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, then Canadian Law Professor John Peters Humphrey was it's Thomas Jefferson, who spent his life fighting for human rights around the world.

Here is a simplified version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  from the Human Rights Education Association's website:

Summary of Preamble
The General Assembly recognizes that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, human rights should be protected by the rule of law, friendly relations between nations must be fostered, the peoples of the UN have affirmed their faith in human rights, the dignity and the worth of the human person, the equal rights of men and women and are determined to promote social progress, better standards of life and larger freedom and have promised to promote human rights and a common understanding of these rights.
A summary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
1. Everyone is free and we should all be treated in the same way.
2. Everyone is equal despite differences in skin colour, sex, religion, language for example.
3. Everyone has the right to life and to live in freedom and safety.
4. No one has the right to treat you as a slave nor should you make anyone your slave.
5. No one has the right to hurt you or to torture you.
6. Everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law.
7. The law is the same for everyone, it should be applied in the same way to all.
8. Everyone has the right to ask for legal help when their rights are not respected.
9. No one has the right to imprison you unjustly or expel you from your own country.
10. Everyone has the right to a fair and public trial.
11. Everyone should be considered innocent until guilt is proved.
12. Every one has the right to ask for help if someone tries to harm you, but no-one can enter your home, open your letters or bother you or your family without a good reason.
13. Everyone has the right to travel as they wish.
14. Everyone has the right to go to another country and ask for protection if they are being persecuted or are in danger of being persecuted.
15. Everyone has the right to belong to a country. No one has the right to prevent you from belonging to another country if you wish to.
16. Everyone has the right to marry and have a family.
17. Everyone has the right to own property and possessions.
18. Everyone has the right to practise and observe all aspects of their own religion and change their religion if they want to.
19. Everyone has the right to say what they think and to give and receive information.
20. Everyone has the right to take part in meetings and to join associations in a peaceful way.
21. Everyone has the right to help choose and take part in the government of their country.
22. Everyone has the right to social security and to opportunities to develop their skills.
23. Everyone has the right to work for a fair wage in a safe environment and to join a trade union.
24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.
25. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and medical help if they are ill.
26. Everyone has the right to go to school.
27. Everyone has the right to share in their community's cultural life.
28. Everyone must respect the 'social order' that is necessary for all these rights to be available.
29. Everyone must respect the rights of others, the community and public property.
30. No one has the right to take away any of the rights in this declaration.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Moment of clairity

there is a moment of dusk
that is not dim or dull
instead it is sharp
and clear and rich

the colors are deep
and the world appears
as if in a cameo portrait
with variegated darkness just at the edges

the colors of the hills and roads and sky
have more meaning
than at noon
because they are about to be lost

but, it's only a moment
between the golden hour and the twilight zone
one bright, bold,
optimistic moment

when everything is more real
more real than usual
but, like all moments
it is fleeting

and the curtain falls for another moment
and the house lights go out
the previews are over
the night show is about to begin

be careful not to blink
because when you open your eyes
that bright moment will be over
and you'll wake up in the dark

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lame Congress

GOP says "hey 2 Mill people unemployed because of Bush/Republican policies- screw you, Hey Multi Billionaires, have a tax cut!"