Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Candidates on Disability - Part IV

It's time to wrap up this series, including: McCain on disabilities, Obama on disabilities, Biden on disabilities, and now, finally, Palin on disabilities.

Let's start with the obvious. Sarah Palin has an infant with Down syndrome. I was once in her position! I too found out, while I was pregnant, that I would have a baby with Down syndrome. My first reaction is to think: we have something major in common! She gets me, the way only other people who have been in this position do. But does she? Let's take a look at the evidence.

First, there was her speech at the Republican National Convention. She said, "And I pledge to you that, if we're elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House." I liked that a lot. Plus, her son was there, frequently on camera. This led to quite a bit of positive exposure for Trisomy 21, including several news reports that were much more accurate and balanced than those I'm used to seeing. Hooray!

But what did Palin mean, that she'll be an advocate for me, for children like mine? She didn't specify - then or since - and "Maria Comella, her spokeswoman, would not elaborate on what Ms. Palin would seek to accomplish for disabled children as vice president."

OK, so she's not talking specifics in this campaign, and she doesn't have a congressional voting record like the other three candidates so we'll look back at her record of volunteer work, charitable giving, and political actions as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska.

1) Volunteerism: I couldn't find any public record of Palin volunteering. If you find information about her volunteerism for disability-related causes, please leave a link in the comments section so that I can update this post.

2) Caritable giving: Again, I struck out here because Palin won't reveal finances until after debate with Biden.

3) Speeches: Other than the RNC speech referenced above, I found nothing.

4) As Mayor: I found nothing applicable.

5) As Governor:
  1. In the "Issues" section of her campaign web site, Palin didn't mention disability.
  2. This summer she celebrated the "18th Anniversary of the ADA" in Alaska.
  3. Governor Palin signed a bill produced by a legislative task force that reallocated money within Alaska's education budget, shifting funds to more rural school districts and increasing the per-student allotment for students with special needs.
  4. But on the other hand, she vetoed half of the proposed Special Olympics budget for 2008 (Page 100, SB 221 with vetoes).
  5. Here's a video of Palin talking about these accomplishments . . . though perhaps her claims are a little exaggerated. And she believes that government just "gets in the way" of medical research for diseases like cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.
  6. "When a young governor line-item vetoes six appropriations for community disability services or for accessibility modifications to public accommodations, that governor gives us reason to be skeptical about promises and prospective performance."

Of great concern to me is Palin's repeated - and recent - assertions that the size of government be cut way back. I support government funding for ADA enforcement and many other disability-friendly programs. I am concerned about a politician who vetoes previously noncontroversial educational budget items like libraries, textbooks, and safer landscaping, explaining that funding can be found elsewhere rather than from the government. (The entire text of the budget and the governor's vetoes are widely available online, if you have the time and inclination to wade through it all.) Also of especial concern to me is Palin's position on healthcare, specifically the desire that "Health care must be market-and business-driven," and her advocacy for "personal responsibility for personal health & all areas," as "personal responsibility & choices key to good health." Those quotes are from this year and aren't great news for those with "pre-existing conditions."

In the absence of much concrete information about Palin's support for disability-related programs, I'm looking at similar government programs and am very concerned by her positions.

I googled until my fingers were sore, looked through newspaper reports, budgets, and dozens of speeches. Outside of that comment at the RNC, I've found nothing from Sarah Palin supporting families with special needs. (For example, see On the Issues.)

In conclusion: Sarah Palin might indeed turn out to be an advocate for kids with special needs. But I've no evidence to show that she shares my priorities in this area. I can't vote based on that blind hope alone, without any assurance whatsoever that she supports the sort of legislation I'd like to see for people with disabilities.

Recap of my summaries for the other candidates:
  • John McCain: Other than general support for disabled veterans, McCain has very little to say about disability-related issues on his campaign web site, and I am concerned about the importance he places on disability issues, and what that suggests about the policies he'd support as President. (Especially with all this regulation/deregulation stuff.)
  • Barack Obama: Obama is far and away the strongest candidate with respect to disability rights and programming. He has long had a page on his web site devoted to disability issues, and has a long and strong track record of both supporting and sponsoring legislation to help people with disabilities and their families.
  • Joe Biden: Biden is a strong supporter of disability rights, but he's not an activist. He votes the way I'd like him to on those issues, but it's not quite as high a priority for Biden as it is for Obama. Still, a good, solid record.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fathers' Rights

I'm way behind on Newsweek, again, so I missed my opportunity to respond to Dahlia Lithwick's article "Rethinking Fathers' Rights."

It's a good article, for the most part. Custody rights are a very difficult issue to tackle.

Because scientists and sociologists have done studies and written papers, we all know that women make less money than men. We also know that, after divorce, women fare much, much worse that men do, financially. And we know that married women bear a disproportionate amount of the burden for running the household and caring for the children, regardless of whether or not they work outside the home.

Part of what makes the issue of custody rights tough is that divorce can often be hard on everyone involved. It's rarely a black-and-white issue. And most of us probably know good parents who feel that they've been screwed by the system as well as by their exes. Sometimes those good parents are dads, who pay a lot of child support and see little of their children, or have ex-wives who talk negatively about them to the kids. That sucks for everyone.

But it's still hard to let go of that "children need their mothers" thing. Most of us know that continuing to paint fathers as incompetent ninnies when it comes to child-rearing is counter-productive. But given the other factors stacked against women in divorce situations (see above, remembering that with money comes power) it must be hard to give up that one big piece of power.

Because most of us can't bear the thought of losing our kids.

So, yes, it's an interesting article tackling a difficult issue.

But Lithwick misses a major point. She makes a significant logical misstep, and she repeats it twice in the short article. It goes like this:

"Many good fathers will be downgraded from full-time dads to alternating-weekend-carpool dads. They will be asked to pay at least a third of their salaries in child support for that privilege."

Umm. No.

When you have sex, you are taking the risk that you might become a parent. And when you do become a parent, you bear a financial responsibility for your child, regardless of whether or not you have whole or partial custody of the child.

You're not paying child support so that you can see your child. You don't get off the hook and get to stop paying if you forfeit your right to see your child. You're still responsible for your child financially, if in no other way.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of men who skate out on child support payments, complaints that the payments are too high, etc.

A couple of things. First, it's lousy. Second, yeah, kids are expensive. Really, really expensive. And if the dad's not paying, the expenses don't go away. It's just harder to see the way the day-to-day expenses add up when you're not right there every day.

And maintaining two households is significantly more expensive than maintaining one. So . . .

I won't get into my feelings about how we should handle the problem of divorce in our society, at least not in this post, though I find the conversation fascinating. I just couldn't resist pointing out Lithwick's offensive suggestion that non-custodial fathers "pay for the right to see their kids on alternating Sundays."

No. Fathers pay so that their children can eat, wear clothes, have shelter, afford school fees, and, perhaps, go on the occasional field trip once in a while.

It's true that withholding visitation rights is sometimes the stick to get deadbeat dads to pay. But would you say that the main reason you don't murder your annoying neighbor is because you don't want to lose your right to vote? No, that's just one possible consequence of the action, and probably not even the most significant one.

If you want to prove yourself a good parent, then withholding money your kids need for food and shelter is not such a great idea. That is, after all, what you're paying for.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Few Things On My Mind

1) This Great Country

The United States of America comprises over 301 million people. 8.3 million of them live in New York City. Nearly 14 million live in New England. 36 and a half million live in New York.

You know what else? Hollywood has thrust upon the nation such "liberals" as the dreaded activist and former union president Ronald Reagan. Yeah, I said it. Look here:

Nearly 60 million of us - nearly 1/5 of the population - live in places routinely denigrated by conservatives as being somehow un-American. Listen to the sneer in certain politicians' voices as they talk about New York media, Hollywood liberals, etc. Guess what? Those are Americans, people.

2) Anti-Intellectualism

I look forward to a day when we've cured cancer. I look forward to reading the next world-changing novel that becomes a classic for the next generation, an encapsulation of our time, of the entire human condition. I am anxiously awaiting the world's next big peacemaker, uniter. The world needs more smart people, more intellectuals. More people who are excited by new ideas, who seek them out and surround themselves with thinkers, who take tons of information from all over and synthesize it to form informed opinions.

I look up to and learn from the elite, the "the best of a class," educators. How on earth did we get ourselves into a place where intellectual, elite, and professor are used as insults?

3) How Long Will it Take Us to Ruin the Next Generation?

When Ellie started at a public preschool, she came home chattering about her classmates: Bilal, Shiroz, Indy, Umar, and Maddy. Her favorite giant floor puzzle features cartoon kids standing on the outside of a globe and as we're searching for the appropriate next piece, she describes what she needs: the boy in the green shirt, the woman in the white dress, the ballerina, the soccer player. It's not self-conscious political correctness; race honestly doesn't occur to her yet as a categorization for describing people. Now, that's American.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Great Forest Park Balloon Race

The Great Forest Park Balloon Race was last weekend. Friday night was the balloon glow, and Ada especially loved the fireworks afterward. (Not my shots.)

[Pretty balloon pictures deleted because they took too long to load.]

Saturday was the race itself. And though they didn't go very far this year - some balloons only went a matter of feet - it was still a lot of fun. It was a beautiful weekend to be outside. And the girls enjoyed it. (Pictures taken with Paul's phone, please forgive.)

Last year. And not my shot:

[You'll have to trust me if you weren't there; it looked cool.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's Fair?

The lectionary last Sunday was the parable about the field laborers who were paid the same whether they worked all day or just the last hour.

All the talk about how "It's not fair! I scrimped to pay my mortgage and he lived large, but now the government is bailing him out!" reminds me of that parable.

If we focus a little more narrowly, more on ourselves and less on our neighbors, it looks like this:

I took on a mortgage. I pay it. I'm getting exactly what I signed up for. That's fair.

If we compare ourselves to others, that will never look fair. And it also doesn't help solve anything.

That ways lies unhappiness. We're in a crisis. I look forward to listening to the various measures our elected leaders and their appointed advisers suggest we take to handle it. I hope that we get out of the mess soon, and trust that we'll manage it without allowing the chaos to spread into the credit sector and cause many of the rest of us - who took on mortgages we could afford and paid them on time - to lose our own jobs, homes.

Matthew 20:14
Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Candidates on Disability - Part III

The Bottom of the ticket.

The top of the ticket is what really matters, but just in case and all that. So let's take a quick look at Biden and Palin and where they stand on disability rights.

First, Senator Joe Biden. The first thing I noticed about Biden and disabilities is that he uses people-first language, which is rare enough that it jumps out at me and I really appreciate it. He also supports stem cell research.

Biden co-sponsored an amendment to the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (Amendment No. 2067) that added - among other designations - "disability" to the list of protected groups.

On his senate web site, Biden doesn't list "disability" as a separate issues tab, but there's stuff there if you look for it. According to his legislative record and his own web site, under the Civil Rights tab, this is what Biden has to say about his support for disability-related issues:

Helping Americans With Disabilities: Senator Biden always has been a strong supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He has long championed efforts to allow Medicaid to provide home- and community-based support services needed by disabled individuals to remain out of institutions. He also fought to allow low-income families with disabled children to buy into the Medicaid program.

Protecting Against Genetic Discrimination: Senator Biden has fought to prohibit employers and insurance companies from collecting or using genetic information when making decisions about hiring, providing health coverage, or discriminating in the pricing of an insurance policy.

Preserving the Privacy of Medical Records: Senator Biden knows how important it is to patients that their personal medical information be kept private. He supports: making sure individuals’ medical information is not used against them or unknowingly sold for commercial profit, and ensuring that as we move toward more efficient, cost-saving electronic medical records, privacy interests remain a priority.

If you look at the legislation Biden has sponsored, a lot of it is related to foreign policy. For demestic policy, he's a big supporter of women's rights and other civil rights. Conclusion: Biden is a strong supporter of disability rights, but he's not an activist. He votes the way I'd like him to on those issues, but it's not quite as high a priority for Biden as it is for Obama. Still, a good, solid record.

Stay tuned, we all know what's coming.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Debate Watching

This morning I filled out my Rent-A-Center application. I'm sure they're busy calling all my references now, to make sure that Paul really is gainfully employed and we're not trying to make off with an oh-so-portable huge TV.

That must mean that . . . debate party season is officially on!

We'll start with a casual gathering this Friday night. BYO-something-to-share, or not. If you're interested in a blatantly partisan evening, you're welcome to come jeer at the TVs with us. That is, you're welcome if I know you a little, or it's easy for me to discover that you're really friendly and not a scary Sarahlynn-hater.

This is a warm-up party, of course. The main event will definitely be the VP debate next week, since that's here in St. Louis. We'll hang our diplomas on the wall and pretend that we're down on campus. Or not.

Hopefully all the party favors I ordered will arrive on time.


While Paul and I are politics junkies, we're absolutely not sports junkies. Or, really, even sports fans. I love the Olympics, and hard court volleyball. Paul . . . likes the Olympics, too, but just in an I'll watch prime time while I work on my computer kind of way. Both of us enjoy going to a couple of Cardinals games every year, though.

It's entertaining to us to watch our two girls, who are definitely St. Louis natives. They are both HUGE Cardinals fans. They are nuts about the ballgames. Ellie saw Paul in his Walk in the Park shirt the other day and got so excited, sure we were going to a game. She insisted on wearing her shirt, too. So Paul got tickets for the two of them to go tonight while I stayed home with Ada, whose bedtime coincided with the first pitch.

Ada thought this horribly unfair. She acquiesced, however, when I agreed to let her put on her Cardinals shirt and go for a walk around the block (or two) before bed. "Cardinals! Cardinals!" she says, pointing at her shirt. "Fireworks!"

Paul and I might be forever transplants here, but our children will be St. Louisans, through and through. I just hope they don't start saying "warsh" or talking about the traffic on interstate "farty far."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feminism and Stuff

Bitch needs help.

And if feminism is your thing, you might be interested in some of this discussion, especially the links. (Charging victims for their own rape kits as a "cost-cutting measure?" Sick! Sign me up for the ever-disparaged Big Government.)

If you're looking for a new media personality to thumb your nose at this week, consider Donny Deutsch:
Equating Palin to a "product," CNBC's "The Big Idea" host Donny Deutsch jubilantly declared that the governor represents a "new creation that the feminist movement has not figured out in 40 years … the feminist ideal. She's sexy. She's still young enough to have physical appeal. Hillary didn't get it—she wouldn't put on a skirt."

And Call Me A Feminist, Please is an interesting article by Elisabeth Eaves, deputy editor of Forbes.com's opinions channel.

Following her advice:

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Last weekend I had the best birthday I've had since - well, probably since I lived at home with my parents. My mom has always been great at birthdays.

I was sitting with the other moms and nannies at the side of the pool during Ellie's swimming lesson one morning this summer when the talk turned, as it inevitably does, toward husbands.

"Your birthday was Saturday, wasn't it? Did you have a good weekend?" I asked the mom next to me.

"It was very nice," she replied. "I've just about gotten used to not getting a present from my husband. But this year, he took me to the nursery so I could buy some plants for the garden and did his annual one day of helping me outside, which I really appreciate."

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the middle of another group of women sharing funny stories about their silly silly husbands, and I tossed something into the ring, I don't remember what, Paul dyeing all the laundry pink or overfilling the dishwasher or something that had a funny-in-hindsight result. I got the response I respected: Hah! You're so lucky that your husband knows where the washing machine is!

Our therapist looks down upon the common practice of spouse-bashing. She likes the idea of a united front, speaking about each other with respect. She's got a really good point. Which seems better: passive-aggressive comments to friends, or straight-forward discussions with your partner?

Sure, on one hand you get that moment of we're-all-in-this-same-crazy-boat-together. But on the other hand, you have the chance of actually improving things.

Last year, after another hey-that-was-my-birthday, I had a very specific talk with Paul about what my mom did for our birthdays growing up, why it means a lot to me, and, some "I feel loved when" language.

Guess what. It worked! See, birthdays were different in my husband's house than in mine, growing up. We have different ideas of normal, of special-day. And my little stories of what my mom did, which seemed like broad hints to me, were just stories to Paul, not how-to lessons. But when I told him what I really wanted, he listened, took notes, and made it happen.

My birthday started out fabulously when Paul woke up early with the girls and took them out to get doughnuts and Starbucks to bring home. Later that morning, we all went to the 48th annual Kirkwood Greentree Parade, then Paul took Ellie to gymnastics and Ada and I came home. I wrote an op-ed piece and sent it off to an editor, then Paul made me a delicious sandwich for lunch. Since the girls had early naps, when they woke up we all headed down to the arch. Ada's long been fascinated by the arch and both girls were really really excited by the experience. Ada's still talking about it. "Mommy! Mommy! Arch! Climb up! Tall!" She makes big stomping motions with her feet, emphasizing the journey up as though she climbed the stairs herself (in reality, there's a tiny, egg-shaped elevator crammed with 5 Mork-style chairs). Too, too cute. "Daddy hold me! Look out da window!" Ellie says.

The next day, we'd intended to have a few friends over for dinner, but as we had no power, Paul arranged a dinner out. He also contracted with the bakery who made our wedding cakes to make a delicious carrot cake for my birthday. Perfect! I could have done without the sombrero serenade at dinner, but other than that, the whole weekend was great.

Many thanks to my thoughtful husband! In return, I promise: never another clown for your birthday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Q&A with Author Joanna Campbell Slan

I placed the names of everyone who entered the contest (both via blog comments and my email) for a copy of Paper, Scissors, Death into Ellie's purple butterfly rain boot. Congratulations to . . . Laura! And, if memory serves, this is actually the second prize you've won from this blog, though the first one was years ago and certainly doesn't disqualify you. Wasn't it it a box of novelty band-aids? This is better.

Now on to a Q&A with the author, Joanna Campbell Slan!

Writer questions:
1) How long did it take you to write Paper, Scissors, Death?

My friend Terri Thayer, author of Wild Goose Chase, once answered this by giving her age, so in my case it took 55 years. The book is the sum of all the work I've put into the craft over my lifetime. Now, the first draft took me 28 days. I sat down the first day in February--wearing my pajamas--and worked all month, devoting my attention exclusively to the book. Then, over the next two years, I re-wrote and re-wrote even though the book had been sold. My publisher, Midnight Ink, suggests a few small changes, but my skills had grown, so I cleaned up the book in a lot of ways. I probably reworked the whole manuscript four times.

2) Is this Kiki Lowenstein's first adventure, or had you worked with her before, in "practice novels" or short stories?

No, she was a completely new character.

3) How many words was your completed manuscript?

Around 85,000.

4) Did you have a hard time finding an agent?

The second agent I pitched at SleuthFest took me on. The first looked at me, scratched his head and said, "Why on earth would anyone be interested in reading about a scrapbooker?"

5) Working with a smaller press, did you get a lot of hands-on editorial assistance?

It's possible there is, but for this book, I didn't need that. Midnight Ink wanted a few changes, but not many. I think what was more valuable to me was the access to decision makers. The important part for me was being able to generate ideas and have them heard. I spoke with one of the owners yesterday, and she told me how much they valued working with authors who are willing to work hard to promote their books. In return, I value at least having them open to my ideas such as putting a coupon in the back for 50 free digital prints.

Reader questions:
1) Is CALA based on a real school? (Is it MICDS?)

It's a combination of several local private schools. But since my son went to MICDS, it had a strong influence on me. Like Kiki, I went to a podunk public school. MICDS was culture shock for me. My son got an excellent education there, and I got plenty of ideas for stories.

2) What's your favorite local scrapbooking shop?

Oh, gosh, there are so many. I love Archivers because they have a great selection, and I was just up at ScrapFest, so I met the buyers. I'm a big believer in face-to-face interaction. It changes everything. I also love Rock, Paper, Scissors in St. Charles, Red Lead on Manchester Road in St. Louis, Scrappy Ann's in Weldon Spring, The Scrapbook Garden in O' Fallon (IL), and The Inkspot of Natalie in Kirkwood. What's fascinating is how every store has its own personality. Each has its strong points, and so each continues to amaze me.

3) When can we expect to see Kiki next?

Cut, Crop & Die is scheduled for early summer, 2009.

4) I love how many things in this novel are not simple black-and-white, like Kiki and George's unusual marriage and the way many of the "bad" guys are nuanced rather than evil through and through. What did you start with when you were creating this book? Was it Kiki herself, the mystery, the marriage, or something else entirely?

It was definitely Kiki. She was very clear to me. Then Mert, her best friend, materialized and her voice was unique. Next I imagined a situation which would compel Kiki's life to change. A situation which would demand that she snoop around. For that to happen, someone near to her had to die--and her daughter had to be somewhat at risk. (And that was a fine line because I knew I couldn't stand a book where a child was in danger, so the risk had to be something else.) After I had those essentials, the pieces more or less came together. I'm a big fan of complex characters. People aren't usually all good or all bad. We struggle with our decisions, we fight to get our needs met, and on occasion we panic and make really bad choices.

5) Where do you write? Do you write full-time or do you have another job?

I have a large office in our basement. It's not as gloomy as it sounds because the lower level of our home is a walk-out, so one wall is lovely windows which look out into a forest. Writing is my full-time job now that my son is off to college.

Thank you, Joanna! Best of luck to you and Kiki.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Warning! The free book contest ends today! I'll hopefully be posting an interview with author Joanna Campbell Slan tomorrow, and will announce the winner at the same time. Last chance to enter!

Thinking of writing. My class ended this week! As you might have noticed, I'm working on my first mystery novel ever. I've been working on it for several months, and it's begun to seem . . . silly and obvious to me. Won't it be immediately obvious to everyone?!

The instructor has read my first few chapters and my complete outline. In response to the outline, he said that he was worried that "it seems a bit complex." As in - it is not a good thing to confuse your readers.

I say, hooray! Not silly and obvious, then. Perhaps I've come up with a clever plot. Now I just need to work hard to keep it clear and not confusing. But my characters are supposed to be very smart, clever people. I prefer the challenge of making a complicated mystery accessible than trying to make a simple mystery - well - mysterious. And interesting.

My story involves a little technology (but only the fun bits) and one of the characters is a Luddite, so there's plenty of opportunity for explaining and re-explaining the tricky parts. I was a little worried about page count and coming in short. Now I know I should have plenty of material. It's all good!

I've enjoyed the Gotham Writing Workshop experience, and I expect that I'll do it again. I'm taking the next session off to concentrate on my writing, though. These are mostly 10 week courses, and every week there's a lecture to read, a discussion about the lecture, an optional chat room session with the class, a homework writing assignment, and other students' submissions to critique. For each 4000 word classmate submission, I put in at least an hour of work on the critique, and there were 2-4 of them to complete each week.

All that learning and critiquing is great practice for my own work, but it also cuts into my available time for writing. So I'm looking forward to having some work time during the evenings again, in addition to my 5 beautiful, wonderful, unassailable coffee shop daylight hours.

Which resume tomorrow. So, good night!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Candidates on Disability - Part II

Disability issues are not a new interest for me. During the primary season, I checked out candidates' websites to see what (if anything) they had to say about the issues. As you might recall, I posted a quiz from Minnesota Public Radio that ranked the candidates according to how closely their platforms matched respondents' values. I focused on the candidates most closely aligned with my views overall, and Obama was one of the top candidates - though HRC was number 1 - and was pleased with what I found.

Disability issues are not new to Barack Obama, either. On his campaign website, under the "Issues" tab, there's a whole page for Disabilities. On that page there's a mission statement (copied below) a video, and a plan. Within the plan there are supporting documents, including one about autism spectrum disorders.

Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities

“We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination .... policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.”

— Barack Obama

Under the "People" tab, there's also a page for Americans with Disabilities. Note: this site has information of interest about Obama's specific legislative efforts to support people with disabilities.

If you search for "Disability" on Obama's campaign website using a Google search (disability site:barackobama.com) you get 7,950 results. Many of those results are from "MyBarackObama" pages, where individuals with disabilities and their advocates talk about why they're supporting Barack Obama in this election.

Among other legislative efforts, Obama is a supporter of IDEA and the ADA Restoration Act. He also discusses universal health care and health care for disabled veterans. "Barack Obama is a cosponsor of the Genetic Information
Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of genetic information by Printed in House Paid for by Obama for America employers and health insurers. The Act also applies health information privacy regulations to the use and disclosure of genetic information." There's a lot of information on his web site, and it's great reading if you're interested in disability related issues.

It is clear that disability issues are important to Obama the candidate and Obama the legislator.

As for Obama the man, on the video mentioned above (which, by the way, is close captioned) he talks about his father-in-law's experience with muscular dystrophy. In his 2007 tax return, Obama lists charitable donations to 33 organizations, including Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Head Start, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National MS Society, St. Leo's Residence for Veterans, and other groups that impact the lives of people with disabilities.

Disability issues are important to me. And looking at the two candidates' platforms, it's clear to me that one of the candidates places a lot more importance on this issue than does the other.

Speaking of charitable giving by the way, in case you're interested, here are some statistics: "Obama gave $240,000 to charity last year and McCain gave $105,000. Both of them are millionaires. Obama made his money from royalties on two books he wrote. McCain's money comes primarily from the beer distributorship his wife inherited from her father. Sarah Palin has not released her tax returns." Joe Biden is not a millionaire. In fact, while far from poor, he is the second poorest senator in the nation (he was the poorest in 2006). He gives, on average, $369 to charity per year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Candidates on Disability - Part I

I'm sitting in my car outside a closed Starbucks, finished with my pumpkin latte but still slurping down the dregs of their wi-fi. Ike's leftover fury hit St. Louis early this morning with a deluge: flooding our roads, knocking down our branches, and taking out our power. (Update. Starbucks turned off their WiFi so I've driven across the street to McDonalds, where I'm paying for access. The madness! This will necessarily be a short post as I have little laptop battery remaining and no idea when our electricity will be restored.)

If you go over to John McCain's campaign website and click on the "Issues" tab, there's no listing for "Disability." Under "Health Care" there are certainly some items of note for people concerned with disability issues, including a statement about autism.

On the "Education" page, we learn that McCain supports No Child Left Behind. (I have blogged about the effects of this program on full inclusion for children with disabilities, links under "Labels" in the sidebar.) We also learn that - surprise! - "There is no shortage of federal programs targeted at early child care and preschool." In exchange for all that money that our schools get, we need to prepare our preschoolers for their own federally-mandated standardized tests: "Every federally supported program (including Head Start) must include meaningful, measurable standards designed to determine that students are ready for school by measuring their school readiness skills."

Under Human Dignity and Life we see nothing about disbility. The platform discusses abortion, adoption, gay marriage, embyonic stem cell research, online pedophiles, and online pornography.

A search for "disability" on the website turns up just 7 results. Among those results are a couple of unrelated pages, McCain's support of "closed captioning, hearing aid compatibility, and video description," and his support of services for disabled veterans.

In closing, there's definitely information of interest on John McCain's website for people with disabilities, though you have to look around for it.

Disability concerns aren't high enough on McCain's list of priorities to deserve their own tab or page, and are often mentioned in general terms if called out at all.

According to McCain's 2007 tax return, all of his charitable donations go through the John and Cindy McCain Family Foundation, which primarily supports private schools that his children have attended. Other recipients include "Operation Smile, which repairs facial abnormalities in children and young people, and . . . the Halo Trust, which removes debris left behind after wars, especially land mines."

I am concerned about the importance John McCain places on disability issues, and what that suggests about the policies he'd support as President. My next post will focus on what Obama's campaign web site says about disability, then I'll move along to legislative records.

Assuming, of course, that we get power back at some point.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walk in the Park

Last Sunday was the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis's annual Walk in the Park event at Busch Stadium.

There were 3500 people there in the DSA block; here are about a third of them:

My girls love going to Cardinals games (Let's Go, Cardinals!) Ellie loves everything to do with the game and the crowds and the food . . . and she especially enjoys being around other people with Down syndrome. Ada likes pointing out all the Cardinals she sees posted around the stadium. (For the record, there are a lot of them.) And she also loves the fireworks. Thank you, Albert Pujols, for that home run!

Here's Ellie with a crowd of new ballgame friends. (Already she's ditching her parents for a hipper crowd down the row!)

During a freak storm the other night, the weather station kept blasting a weird warning siren that sounded a lot like a particular cue from the ballpark. Ellie punched her right fist out, screaming, "CHARGE!" each time. Priceless.

Here's Ellie "Charging!" at the game:

Also featured: Paul's butt.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

May I Have Some More, Please?

I have a post about politics and disability tickling the tips of my fingers, but I'm going to hold off until Monday. Consider yourselves forwarned!

In the meantime, I'm going to remind you about the contest for a FREE BOOK. Be sure to check out the excerpt booklet or make some likely guesses and respond either in the comments below or via an email to me. Good luck! The drawing will be on Tuesday.

And staying on a happy note, this Saturday is my birthday, so, naturally, the entire week is a celebration. Ellie tells me happy birthday every day and asks if we're having cake. So I thought: why not? She and I are going to make a pilgrimage down to Jilly's Cupcake Bar later this week, just the two of us. Time alone with either child is a nice little luxury when there are two children in the family.

In addition to the all-important issue of cake, birthdays involve presents. And every single day this week the UPS man has brought me a package! Now, granted, these aren't all birthday presents. Today's package, for example, was the book I'm giving away next week. But I'm saving all of the packages in a stack in the foyer so that I can feel all excited and important, like a little kid.

Cake, presents . . . party hats! That one is more Ellie's birthday obsession than mine. The only reason I'd wear a party hat this year would be to cover up my ever-increasing grey.

Moving right along to dinner. Paul took me out tonight for a birthday dinner, sans children. At my request, we tried out a neat looking new little Mexican place right in downtown Kirkwood. Downtown Kirkwood has a lot of great restaurants, and we'll have more time to visit them since I don't think we'll be headed back to Amigos Cantina anytime soon.

I loved the decor, both outside and in. I also liked the menu. Although there were no cheese enchiladas anywhere on it (my favorite) on the other hand, there were no cheese enchiladas anywhere on it, if you know what I mean. And the salsa was good. The food was just fine, overall.

But the service! Our server was initially very attentive, coming back to see if we were ready to order yet 3 times in the first few minutes we were there, bringing me a fresh Diet Coke when my first was still full. As this was a rare chance for me to actually look at the menu rather than ordering something fast the first time I saw any member of the waitstaff and asking for a box and the check along with my food, I didn't want to feel so rushed. (Although I really did appreciate that Diet Coke later.)

Once we'd placed our orders, that was the last we saw of our server! Someone from the kitchen brought our food, which is fine, but the server never came back to check on us. No drink refills. No additional chips or salsa. No dessert! No check! We sat there alone for an hour! I hate to be a pest but after flagging him down with gestures failed entirely, I was about to go up to the bar and ask the bartender to send over the manager. I have never done that and the thought of doing so made me a little sick to my stomach. Just then, Paul managed to attract a busguy over to our table. He got us a server. (Not our server, but a very nice server who apologized and tracked down our server.) Our server then brought us the bill. And that was it. No profuse apologies, no throwing in the Diet Cokes for free, nothing. For the first time ever, we didn't leave a tip.

Oops, we've strayed right away from happy notes. Well, let's go all the way. What bad restaurant experiences have you had lately? Do tell!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Paper, Scissors, Death

Have you ever read a book by someone you know? It's a bit dangerous, because there's always the chance that you won't like it. Or, worse, that it will really suck. Then what do you say?

I'm no scrapbooker. In fact, I'm not very crafty at all. I know how to make neat homemade candles and fill jars with delicious recipe mixes. That's as close as I get to "craft" other than, you know, writing.

So when Joanna Campbell Slan, president of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of Sisters in Crime, announced that she had a mystery publishing this month, I was thrilled for her, excited to see it, and a little bit worried. The worried part came from the fact that this is Paper, Scissors, Death, the first in a series of "Scrap-N-Craft" mysteries starring Kiki Lowenstein.

I needn't have worried. Kiki the professional victim drove me a little crazy at first, as I'm more of a (less hairy) Dodie, myself. But I loved the way Kiki's friends Dodie and Mert quickly signed her up for "Tough Tamales University, School of Hard Knocks" and toughened her right up. "No More Mrs. Nice Guy," indeed.

What I'm saying is that I was hooked from the first word to the last. I finished the book this morning, and have spent the rest of the day still thinking about Kiki's life and imagining what will happen next. The characters were real to me, the sense of place was perfect, and the mystery was solid, deftly handled.

One of my favorite things about this book was the setting. I love a good book set in St. Louis, and this one was more so than most. It wasn't just the names of the streets and malls: I know those Ladue moms! I loved how Kiki held her flashlight like she was Albert Pujols at bat when she was going after the intruder in her house. I used to live right near Kiki, Anya, and Gracie's "transitional neighborhood!" And, yes, she did manage to work, "What high school did you go to?" into the story.

But it's not just local flavor. Slan is a great writer with a real knack for description. When she's depressed, Kiki sees a November sky like mixed concrete. The whole book is full of great little observations like that. And while most of the book is very fast-paced and funny, occasionally Slan slows things down with some fabulous descriptive prose. Witness this image of an early spring trip out to Babler State Park: The earliest spring flowers - jonquils, crocus, and snowdrops - had faded on yellowing stalks. The next wave was gathering courage to burst into bloom. Bare tree branches were tipped in a watercolor wash of celery, celadon, mint, lime, and olive. In a week or two, the skyline would shout hosannah with verdant life.


But I guessed whodunnit before Kiki Lowenstein did. Will you? Here's your chance to try for free! There are three questions below. If you answer them correctly, you'll have a very good chance of winning a free copy of the book, donated by Joanna herself.

Not a big fan of cozy mysteries? Not to worry. Are you local? This is fun for the St. Louis angle, alone. There's more heft to this novel than most cozies, weighing in at 327-trade-paperback-sized pages, though it's still a very quick read. That's because there's a bit more action and violence than you might find in most cozies. And, for the romance fans, well, there's Chad. I won't say more than that.

Here's your chance.

Just answer the following questions here, in the comments. (I recommend you also pop on over to Joanna's site to sigh up for her newsletter; she won't spam you.)
  1. What is the name of Kiki Lowenstein's dog?
  2. What is Detective Detweiler's first name?
  3. What is the slogan on the coffee cup that Mert gives Kiki?

The answers can be found in the excerpt booklet, which I highly recommend! If you'd prefer to answer privately, email me at: ms_sarahlynn@yahoo.com to enter.

But wait! There's more!

Joanna Campbell Slan will be guest-blogging here a week from today. Do you have any questions you'd like her to answer? Anything you're burning to know? Leave that in comments, too. She's an expert scrapbooker as well as a great writer, so let your imagination wander.

hint: all the answers do appear somewhere in this post, though none of them are labeled . . .

Monday, September 08, 2008

Feeling the Love, Sharing the Love

Steph from 'Til My Head Falls Off recently awarded me the I Love Your Blog Award. Which is really sweet! Thank you!

I love Steph, too. In return, I'd like to pass the award along to:
  • Abby's blog, where the Olympics series alone is worth it. (She's my niece; I'm allowed to be biased.)
  • Disability Studies, Temple U. This blog makes me so happy. And sometimes it makes me cry a little. But I do love it.
  • Lovely and Amazing, because Emily Elizabeth, her children, and her blog are both.
  • Falling Down Is also a Gift because I fell in love with Moreena and her family long before I ever met them in person. I'm praying for Annika, now and always.
  • A Room of Mama's Own, because, well, if you've been there, you know. And if you haven't, this is a beautifully written and excruciatingly honest view (my favorite kind) into a private room very unlike - yet somehow oddly like my own. And possibly yours, too.

One of the biggest bummers of my schedule this year is that I've given up reading most blogs. Occasionally I check in on an online friend or family member, but most of my blog reading involves vainly trying to keep up with writing/editing/agenting/industry blogs (see sidebar, lower right). But I'm already not sleeping nearly enough . . . I miss you, my online community!

Other great blogs linking here recently include:
Brooke at Rivervision
Laurie from Monkeygirl
Suzanne Reisman for BlogHer
Chorus from I Am Chorus

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Does anyone know how I might go about renting a TV? I've gone the Rent-A-Center route before (for our last debate-watching and election night parties) and am willing to do it again, but would appreciate a more convenient option. My husband, unsurprisingly, thinks this is a great opportunity to invest in a new TV (plus an entertainment center to fit it, new DVR, etc.). Sure. Ahem. If we skip our vacation this year. (That's no new TV, then.)

I guess I haven't posted much about our television situation. It kind of sucks. When we got married, Paul had a 19" color TV that became "our" TV. It's very old now, but we still have it in the basement. Upstairs is were we keep our "nice, new" TV. (Those who have been to our house are snorting coffee through their noses about now, having seen our TV.) Our first one of these we inherited when one of Paul's grandfathers died. It was held together by black electrical tape and gorilla glue and was 29 inches of diagonal hugeness. Our second one of these was inherited when Paul's other grandfather died. It was the same model TV, actually, same size and age. But this one wasn't cracked! Instead, it had a little problem where the picture would drift slowly down the screen until we were only seeing the very top of the picture below a lot of blackness. No problem, though. Paul rigged up a little string I could pull every now and then that somehow yanked the picture back up.

I wouldn't agree to buying the nice, new, expensive, huge flat panel TV Paul wanted to get (it wouldn't fit into our inherited entertainment center)! But Paul wasn't willing to buy a new 29" regular TV. So he went to Craig's List and got a used one. It works just fine, but is old and makes a loud farting noise every time it's turned on.

Paul does have a point about us maybe getting a new TV sometime. But we like to travel!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

But It's Saturday!

Hello, and welcome to a rare weekend post from me! This one is specifically for any of you who might have happened over here after reading an article in the Sunday New York Times about Governor Palin and the role in this election of funding for services for people with disabilities.

If you just read that one, please be sure to go back and read the last one that quoted me: Genetic Testing + Abortion = ???. It's a great article, part of a great series, and for the interested, the part about me includes this, "[A]s a woman who continued a pregnancy after learning that her child would have Down syndrome, she also has beliefs about the ethics of choosing, or not choosing, certain kinds of children. “I thought it would be morally wrong to have an abortion for a child that had a genetic disability,” said Sarahlynn."

OK, now that we're clear and all on the same page, welcome! Please feel free to look around. In particular, I'd invite you to check out my "Passionate Posts" linked over there in the sidebar and also some of the "Labels," like Ellie and Down syndrome.

Both of my daughters are such amazing people. They're both such blessings to me, I can't imagine my life without either of them. They have taught me so much about love, and myself, and have challenged me to grow in wonderful ways.

I hope you'll share my journey a little, here.

I support a culture of life in which fewer women face unintended pregnancies. I support education and access to birth control for all women who want or need it. I support social services supporting children and families, so that fewer women feel like they "can't" have children. I support funding for early intervention, education, and therapy services for children and adults with disabilities, carrying respect for life on through. I support full inclusion of people with disabilities into all walks of life, reminding others that people with disabilities are people first, people with a lot to offer our society.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ada's First Days of School

Two mornings this week, Ada put on her brand-new, toddler-sized backpack, loaded down with only a cup of water, and headed off for Kids Day Out.

The first day, drop off went great but she was a little tearful afterwards. It looked a little like this:

The second day, drop off was terrible, but all went very well after that.

The 4 hours (over two days) this afforded me allowed me to venture into a favorite local coffee shop, order a pumpkin latte, and write well over 2000 words of my novel during daylight. Alleluia!

Finally, we wind up this week with a cool and refreshing present from Gustav, now kinder and gentler than it was to our neighbors down near the Gulf.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Upon further reflection.

I still do have reservations about Palin's personal decisions and how they impact her political decisions. But those are my personal feelings and I am very uncomfortable with those issues being front and center in a national debate.

I am especially uncomfortable at the way the discussion's being framed as an assault on Palin as a working mother. I do not apologize for my opinions - far more balanced for me as concerns about both Palin and McCain than the way they're echoing around the public discussion - but I do apologize for the extent that my comments on this blog played into that noise.

These personal issues are merely one of the several areas in which I am uncomfortable with Sarah Palin as a candidate. I wish the media, the blogs, everybody would spend more time on the other issues. For example:
  1. Palin wanted to ban books from the library (and reportedly threatened to fire a librarian who opposed her).
  2. Palin wants to eliminate a woman's right to choose.
  3. Palin supports the teaching of "creationism" in public schools.
  4. Palin injects polarizing positions into issues that should be community-building (like guns and abortion into a local race that should be about roads and schools).
  5. Palin supports abstinence only education. (To clarify, she is against against sex education and the teaching of contraception in schools and other institutions that receive federal funding.)
  6. Palin supports secrecy in government, not letting local department heads talk to local press without her permission when she was mayor.
  7. Palin thinks that "community organizing" is a big joke, a laughable endeavor.
  8. Palin has no foreign policy experience, and got a passport and traveled outside the US for the first time last year.

These positions scare me in a candidate for the second - and potentially first - highest office in the land.

Many believe that Palin's experience is on par with Obama's. I disagree, especially with regard to the experience that matters most to me in this election, and here's why.

  1. Two terms as mayor and city councilmember of Wasilla, Alaska (then population around 5500, I believe) which is not inconsequential, but is at most a stepping stone toward the Vice/Presidency. Palin's take on her own executive experience, so commonly touted by her party as being twice that of Obama's and Biden's (not to mention John McCain's, I suppose): According to an October 1996 article in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, when asked how she would "effectively run a city without experienced leaders," Palin said: "It's not rocket science. It's $6 million and 53 employees."
  2. One year as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
  3. 18 months as governor of Alaska. (This is significant experience, for better and worse, but I'd prefer to see more than 18 months of it.)

  1. 8 years in the Illinois senate (iVAWA, EITC/tax cuts, early childhood education, videotaping of confessions and interrogations in capital cases)
  2. 3-1/2 years in the U.S. Senate (sponsoring 131 bills, co-sponsoring 4-500 more, including tax-spending accountability and ethics reform)
  3. Extensive foreign-policy experience, including serving on three of the four Senate Committees dealing with foreign policy issues (no other Senator matches that record).
  4. "Obama has also traveled extensively in his capacity as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and has visited Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan in Asia; Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, and the Palestinian Territories in the Middle East; and Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa in Africa."
  5. There's also the pre-public life experience, including his degrees and his history actually living abroad.

Palin has experience being the boss, and that's very important in a Commander-in-Chief. Obama also has experience being a boss, though not in elected executive office. That particular experience, while important, is far less critical to me than the sophisticated understanding of international issues necessary in today's world.

I presume that we're spending so much time contrasting Obama and Palin because of McCain's age? It seems an unusual way to go into an election.

Regarding the convention tonight. Giuliani's speech - and the reactions to it - were some of the ugliest politics I have have ever seen, and I've watched a lot of these conventions. It made me feel sick to my stomach, the way I feel when I've said something I shouldn't have, or have silently witnessed someone being bullied. I felt like I needed a shower.

I liked what Palin said about children with special needs. I liked it a lot. But I didn't like the way she made political hay out of her son's upcoming deployment. (But how cute was was that adorable little girl licking her hand and smoothing down her baby brother's hair?)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin and Sexism

It's RNC week, so here's another post on Sarah Palin.

Fortunately, we're beyond some of the most obvious racist and sexist attacks. This doesn't mean that racism and sexism are dead. It just means that we have to be a leeeetle more subtle with our verbal darts. (Note my post on Obama's supposed ego.)

But this applies to sexism, too, of course, and Sarah Palin. While I disagree with Palin on nearly every policy position, there's no ignoring that many of the attacks against her - like those on Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier in the campaign season - are both terribly sexist and often lobbed by "liberals."

Some of this falls on the McCain campaign. Legitimate questions about her positions and experience are often met with challenges of sexism by a campaign spokesman. That's disingenuous; you can't have it both ways. Women politicians are full equals, or they're delicately above reproach because of their gender. Also, Did you notice McCain standing very close to Governor Palin during her first speech as the nominee . . . apparently reading over her shoulder and mouthing the words along with her? Was this because McCain is a control freak? Or just lacking in confidence somehow in his running mate?

Regardless, there's plenty of blame for the left. Plenty of it. Some of it blatant. All of it inexcusable.

But what about the questions regarding her family? As a voter, family values and what sort of parent a candidate is do matter to me. One of the parts of Biden's story that touched me most was the part about how, after his wife and child died, he was conflicted about taking the oath of office. He eventually went ahead and did so, but never moved to Washington, commuting home to Delaware every night. Family has been a big part of Obama's campaign, too, with many press questions and interviews discussing what's going on with his kids while Senator and Mrs. Obama campaign. I think all that is important.

So to focus on the top of the Republican ticket, it bothers me a great deal that Senator McCain lived in Washington while his wife raised their children in Arizona. ("The McCains have a commuter marriage in which he stays in Washington, she stays in Phoenix, but they vacation together twice a year.") It also bothered me that she recovered alone after her stroke. And, of course, there's the stuff about his first marriage (ignore the post, it's the comments that matter).

Shouldn't these issues get as much attention as what Governor Palin is planning to do for childcare during this campaign and afterward, if elected?

It's fine with me if people have open marriages, long-distance marriages, or rarely see their own kids. (No, wait, that last one does bother me if it's a choice rather than a necessity.) But I'm also free to draw my own assumptions about a candidate, to some extent based on his or her personal life.

In the end, I'm left with this: I'm glad I never seriously considered a life in politics, or married a politician. That's not the life I want for myself, or my children. We do, of course, need good, qualified men and women to choose differently.


Did anybody else watch President Bush on NBC tonight? They used the audio directly from the satellite feed. Which, while crisp, clear, and synced with the video, didn't include crowd reactions. Wow, did that make the speech painful and awkward and devastated the speech's intended crowd-rousing effect for the TV audience. I'm thinking somebody at the network got fired for that switch-feed blooper. I thought that Thompson and Lieberman did a good job with their speeches, though I thought Lieberman had delivered his last line about 10 separate times.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Friends Are Friends Forever . . .

Early last week, I dropped off Ellie at school. For the first time this year, she didn't run straight to the bean table after hanging up her backpack and selecting her name tag from the table. Instead, she veered left and went straight for the kitchen, got busy making lunch.

I got busy talking to the teacher about something else, and a few minutes later, I looked over to the kitchen and saw it full of little girls. Oh, how wonderful, I thought. Friends! But wait. Where was Ellie?

She was across the room in a corner reading nook, by herself. Still, as usual, etc. And it's not like that's likely to improve with age.

The ways in which it hurts so badly to be the mother of a child with special needs are not always the ones you imagine first.