"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday ... what every child should see

I have come across two things recently that I feel strongly every middle-class American child should see.
The PBS Frontline Documentary that tries to answer: What Does Poverty Mean to Children? and a photo essay entitled: When a Kid's Bedroom Isn't a Room.

I saw the documentary right before Thanksgiving and I sat on my comfy couch - with my big television and my laptop and everything else that I see every single day and the guilt washed over me and I just cried. I went on Facebook and I vented but that doesn't seem enough.

I worked in a shelter for battered women and children for a number of years. I remember they came to the shelter with the clothes on their backs and maybe a backpack. People asked me over and over how I could work in such a depressing environment. The answer always was that there was joy in that house. A sense of hope and a sense of unity that I have yet to find anywhere else. Do not get me wrong - it was stressful and it was frustrating and it was hard. The hardest part for me was leaving my job at the door of the shelter when I went home. But I thought that was my calling - to help others as others had helped me. But I got burnt out ... always with the system, never with the women.

I think this was a good experience for my older son because he would come to the shelter with me and help sort through donations. He would come with me to events and things - he got to see children who were happy with what they had  - and they did not have much.

Now I teach a class on social change to college students. I try to teach them that there is a connection between everything in the world (specifically for this course there is a connection between the government (public) sector, the business (private) sector and society (nonprofit) sector). I try to teach business students about corporate social responsibility - about giving back for all that they receive.

I try to teach social entrepreneurship - let students know that making a difference and making a profit do not need to be mutually exclusive. So maybe this is my way to give back ... I don't know.
But what I can do is make sure that when my children ask for new phones and iPods and video games and action figures they understand that there are children who don't have toys. When the six-year-old complains that there is not enough food he likes in the house I can remind him that there are children who have no food. When they get frustrated that we don't have the money to do all that we want to do or get them all that we want to get them I can remind them of the 10-year-old girl in the documentary collecting cans so her family can have money for food - while they are living in one motel room with no refrigerator.

The world we live in is so insane! The distribution of wealth sometimes makes no sense to me. We work and work really hard to succeed in our own version of the American dream - and then realize that we are really one tragedy away of raising our children in a shelter. It is scary. And what we really want to do is hide from it - because in it we see ourselves.
So pay it forward - one good deed at a time - small bites.
  • Teach the lesson at home that you can't judge a book by its cover.
  • Teach the lesson at home that being grateful fills you more than material things.
  • Teach the lesson at home that bringing a smile to a stranger's face counts.
  • Teach the lesson at home that living a comfortable life as opposed to an affluent life is not a failure.
  • Teach the lesson at home that there is always someone who has it worse than we do.

It is only when we start looking out for each other and stop looking out for number one that this world will be a better place for all children to live in. Maybe that sounds socialist - but that isn't exactly what I am trying to say. If you work hard you should do well - and you should be proud of doing well. But do not forget that there is someone out there working equally as hard - who may not have had the privileges or opportunities you had, but never-the-less needs to feed their family. Maybe they clean your office, or pick up your trash or wake up at 4:00 am so you can get coffee on your way to work. Those families should not be valued any less than the people who sit in a corner office making the decisions that will impact the lives of people they will never meet.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Literature Tuesday ..... The Christmas Bells

Shortly before Halloween I found a book that I purchased for story time to share with the 6-year-old: The Night Before Halloween, by: Natasha Wing. It was one of those kids books that you read with a grin and then think to yourself "why didn't I think of that!"

So after Halloween I looked and sure enough she had also written: The Night Before Thanksgiving.

So now that Thanksgiving is over we have begun reading the holiday classic: The Night Before Christmas.
Over the years I have read a lot of Christmas stories. Some were cute and cuddly like Santa Mouse by: Michael Brown. Some always made me cry but I had to read them, like The Little Match Girl by: Hans Christian Anderson. And some were just classics like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by: Dr. Seuss.
I could go on forever talking about the stories that remind me of being a kid at Christmas. I remember very vividly my mom reading me a chapter a night of this book called Uncle Wiggily Stories (It took me forever to find a link to this one)! But I remember every night she read a chapter I wanted her to read more! I still have this book and I have read it to my older son and I will read it to my youngest!

I have read all the classics:
The Nutcracker
And of course I have read the Bible story of the birth of Jesus!
But then in college, when I was trying to search for the meaning of life, the meaning of religion, the meaning of everything I learned to appreciate poetry - which I think is something that people should strive to appreciate and not necessarily understand. We covered poetry by Frost and Dickinson and Milton. The poem The Shivering Begger by Robert Graves made me giggle more than it should have.
But by the end of that semester I had come across Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and he was the one who reminded me what Christmas was about - it is about having faith in man when all evidence shows that you should not. So the last Christmas literature I will share today is the Christmas Bells.  
Christmas Bells
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet
     The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
      Had rolled along
      The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
     A voice, a chime,
     A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
     And with the sound
     The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
     And made forlorn
     The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
      "For hate is strong,
      And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
     The Wrong shall fail,
     The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."                                                                                               

Monday, November 26, 2012

Medical Monday - the holidays and lupus

I have decided to get back to my original blog plan to keep myself organized and on track. With the holidays coming and my ardent desire to maintain this blog I need something to keep me motivated and on track!
So today it is the holidays and lupus. The holidays are stressful and there is no way around that. As I get older and live with lupus longer I am realizing that I can't ignore lupus as much as I would like to. Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis have probably figured out that I love to have people at the house - big family dinners, parties for the kids. And I love to cook. But the party we had for Halloween and Thanksgiving dinner reminded me that I can no longer go and go and go and go without there being consequences. Those consequences include massive lupus fog, headaches, joint-pain and exhaustion.
So I did some research on lupus and stress. I began with my go to webpage for lupus information, The Lupus Foundation of America. They have their own blog which has a list of other "lupus" blogs. Then I googled "Lupus and Holiday Stress." And while I should have been grading final papers I read.
Some of the information is frustrating (as lupus in general is frustrating). Because much of lupus is nonspecific, in the sense that people who have lupus react differently to having lupus. Some people have severe skin reactions, some have lung involvement, some have kidney involvement, some have joint-pain, some have fibromyalgia, some have eye problems, some can't work due to exhaustion, some work two jobs .... I think you get my point.
But the general consensus seems to be that stress in lupus patients can cause a lupus flare (periods where symptoms of lupus worsen), can cause some symptoms of lupus that a patient does not normally have, and is basically not a good thing for lupus patients to experience.
So then my research continued to how one handles the holidays and lessens stress if you have lupus. This too was frustrating. I learned for the first time a phrase: the 4 As - Avoid, Alter, Accept & Adapt.
  • Avoid - stay away from situations that cause you stress by planning ahead, avoid people who bother you, learn to say no, prioritize you "to-do" list so you know which things you can not do.
  • Alter - ask others (politely) to change their behaviors that cause you stress, communicate your feelings openly, manage your time better, state your limits in advance so people don't expect more of you.
  • Accept - Talk with someone about your stress, forgive others and forgive yourself because it takes energy to be angry, practice positive self-talk, learn from your mistakes.
  • Adapt - adjust your standards (do you expect too much from yourself), stop gloomy thoughts immediately, reframe your situation, adopt a mantra ("I can do this"), make a list of things that bring you joy, look at the big picture.
So ok, this is a reasonable list. It is logical and it makes sense. The list is reasonable but often not realistic. Don't get me wrong - I actually do a lot of these things already and had no idea they were on a 4 As list - again because these are logical things to do and people with a chronic illness just do them because it is the only way to survive. But these are really good things we can do regularly - it changes when the holidays are here, when there are expectations of things you need to do for children, family, work, friends, etc.
Most of these expectations we place on ourselves. Our children do not come right out and say to us "I want a perfect Christmas mommy." Our friends do not sit us down and say "I demand a spectacular holiday dinner at your house - complete with homemade desserts and a dozen kind of cookies." But, Better Homes and Gardens creates those expectations. Martha Stewart creates those expectations.
So what have I learned in my quest for a stress free holiday -
  1. Plan ahead
  2. Forgive yourself
  3. Ask for help
  4. Rest
  5. Be realistic
  6. Set reasonable expectations
I don't know if it will work .... but if all this fails it is so important to remember the one thing that will reduce stress no matter what time of year it is .... laughter is the best medicine! And the holidays are full of laughter .... don't ever forget that in the end this is what the holidays are all about - lupus fog or not!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Perhaps Christmas Means a Little Bit More .....

I was going to title this post let the holiday shopping season begin ..... but I don't think that will be my world so much this year.
I did go out on Black Friday and I got some really good deals on things the kids wanted for Christmas (I can't list those here, just in case this is the one post my teenager decides to read). It was a completely insane experience. The lines to get into the stores at the mall were at least a half-mile long, the parking lots were complete full at 12:30 am. In Massachusetts, Blue Laws do not allow stores to open on Thanksgiving (I hope this doesn't ever change) so people were chomping at the bit to get into the stores. Since my husband and I are not crazy Black Friday people we waited in the car until almost 1:00 am and then went into two stores when the lines went down and went home. I went back out later in the day to do my shopping. And this is what a lot of people don't pay attention to - most of the sale prices last all day. Since none of the "door busters" were things I wanted to purchase I had all the time in the world to shop. And I am now done with all the things I have to purchase (except of course for the stockings - but I can pick those things up anytime).
That being said it is time to go down the rest of my list -
hostess gifts
aunts & uncles
kids of the cousins, friends, etc.
and so on and so on and so on ......
This year I have decided hand-made will do. I have a new addiction .... Pinterest. I have found some GREAT ideas! And the best part is I have all the materials on hand to make what I want to make. I know that some people will say this is a cheap way out - but I disagree. I think this is exactly what Christmas is all about. Sharing with friends and family - share your time, share your creativity, share stories and friendship. It is the connection of caring with $$$$ that has destroyed Christmas.
St. Nicholas was a Greek Christian in the village of Patar (this is now part of Turkey - but at the time was part of Greece). He eventually became a Bishop and spent his life counseling the poor, helping people who needed it both spiritually and economically.

Over the years the stories of this "saint" traveled the world and was brought to America by Christopher Columbus (who named a port in Haiti after St. Nicolas on December 6th - this date would eventually become St. Nicolas Day).
The first stories of St. Nicolas flying from the north in a sleigh with reindeer appeared in 1821 and then in 1823 a poem was written: "A Visit from St. Nicholas." It described St. Nicolas like this:
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
Yes, this was later renamed "The Night Before Christmas."
Eventually the churches began associating the legends and stories of St. Nicholas (the trees, stockings, gifts, the new "jolly old elf" image) as part of their Christmas celebrations to increase attendance at Church. And by doing so (in my opinion) began the disconnect we have about the true meaning of not only Christmas - but St. Nicholas! This obviously is a VERY brief history of St. Nicholas - if you want to delve into some other stories there are some good ones at the St. Nicholas Center.
When my oldest son hit that moment when he did not believe in Santa we read Yes, "Virgina, there is a Santa Claus." I told him that Santa lived in our hearts and it is what makes us donate to those less fortunate, it is what makes parents want to see the sparkle in their children's eyes on Christmas morning. We talked about the birth of Jesus and how he lived his life helping those less fortunate (much like St. Nicholas). And I tried to instill in him a sense of giving as opposed to a sense of receiving. I will have to wait a couple of years to see how that played out - but I am hopeful.
So it amazes me that in times of economic crisis (which we have been in for a couple of years) people are still spending more than they have to celebrate the Christmas season. This is not what Christmas should be about. It should be about mending fences, spending time with family and friends. It should not be about what we can get but about what we can give .... our time, our homes, our friendship.
So this Christmas I will be preparing in my craft room and my kitchen. I will be reaching out to those that mean a lot to me. I will be teaching my children that this is a time to share with others who are not fortunate enough to have what we have. We are not wealthy (I am not even sure we are middle class anymore) but we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food in our bellies - we are not rich but we are fortunate. And this is the season to share with those who are not so fortunate.
I know this blog post may sound preachy and for that I apologize - I am just disheartened and I am afraid that this generation is not learning these important life lessons. I can teach them in my home, but the stores, the televisions shows, the media seem to be forgetting these vitally important aspects of the holiday season.
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

My last post was about my anger over losing Thanksgiving to capitalism (I am still angry about that - if you agree here is a petition you can sign). This blog is about family traditions - some which are old and some which I would like to start.
I recently broke down and created a Pinterest account. There are so many cool things posted there about the holidays, but I have to admit, most of them are so beyond my energy level or capability. They just seem to create more pressure on people during an already stressful time of the year.
Holiday traditions should be fun. They should be memorable. They should be things that we look forward to every year. In my house those things mostly revolve around food! But I would like to start some new fun things that we can create or do every year!
Let us start with the Thanksgiving meal. In my house there are some things that you have to have:
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Boiled Onions
Turnips (for my dad - no one else seems to eat them)
Butternut Squash
Crescent Rolls
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Feta Cheese
Kalamata Olives
Baby Gherkins
I have the BEST turkey recipe! Recently however I found a post somewhere that said if you cook your turkey breast side down - instead of breast side up - your turkey will be moister. I think I am trying it this year. The rest of the recipe is below:
I start my turkey the night before with a brine recipe I found. I know it looks weird but it works! The only change I made is that I use fresh thyme instead of dry. The next day I dry the turkey, and then cover it in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Inside the turkey I put lemons, onion halves and some more thyme. Then I put some slices of butter under the turkey skin. I put the turkey in an electric roaster at 325 degrees and roast based on the chart below.

Whole Turkey (pounds)
Unstuffed (hours)
Stuffed (hours)
3.0 – 3.5
3.0 – 3.75
3.5 - 4.0
3.75 – 4.25
4.0 – 4.25
4.25 – 4.5
4.25 – 4.75
4.5 – 5.0
4.75 – 5.25
That is it! I don't baste, I don't touch it until it has been cooking for awhile - and then I am only testing for doneness. I use a thermometer and turn the roaster off at 165 degrees and let it "rest" in the roasted while I put out the other things.
This year I am adding corn pudding and roasted parsnips to the menu - we will see how those go. They are new recipes and if they don't turn out it is ok because there will be plenty of other things.
I listened to a news program today about planning your dinner so it is less stressful. They talked about writing out a plan and using post-it notes and all these other things. Listening to it made me stressed!
I have a simple plan - make desserts the day before. Prep as many of the vegetables as I can the night before. And then begin cooking with the things that take the longest to cook. I like to keep things as simple as I can (we recently had a Halloween party where I forgot my basic plan and I was still cooking when people got to the house - I hate that)!
This year I would like to have a things that I am thankful for activity. Maybe have everyone write one thing they are thankful for on a canvas. Then next year I can put it out again and we can add to it every year.
Basically I just like having people at the house! I like sharing the holidays with people that are important to me and I like feeding them! I worked a lot of years to be able to have a house for people to come to (and if I do say so myself - my husband and I have some pretty awesome parties). This is what I am thankful for.
I would love it if people who read this blog share what their Thanksgiving traditions are. New ideas are always fun to share and perhaps a new tradition for my family will come of it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What happened to Thanksgiving?

Hallowgivingmas is an actual word in the Urban Dictionary. It is the reality that in October you can purchase your Halloween costume, your napkins for Thanksgiving and your Christmas lights all at the same time in the same store. It is ridiculous and sad!
My husband and I used to LOVE Black Friday. The kids would stay at my mom's house, we would get up at 4:00 am and be at the store for the 5:00 am opening. The stores would have coffee & donuts for the "crazy" people waiting in line and we would meet some very interesting people while we waited. The reality is we never really bought much. We just really thought it was novel and fun to get up early and go shopping. Every once and awhile we would find a good deal (I purchased my first digital camera on Black Friday) - but in general it was just fun (we are both avid people watchers).
And then one year there were police cruisers in the parking lot (just in case). The coffee & donuts were gone. The people in line were now corralled around the store. The conversation was no longer friendly. Then there were the people who were trampled to death and pepper sprayed and the fighting (there is actually a webpage that ranks the most brutal Black Friday incidents)!  And the sales - well it was just junk they had not been able to sell the rest of the year. Then stores started opening at 4:00 am, then 2:00 am, then midnight. And this year they have all but eviscerated Thanksgiving: stores are opening at 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving beginning the new tradition of "Black Thursday!"
So what is the tradition of Thanksgiving anyway? Why do we celebrate this holiday in the first place?
I try not to think of the story of Thanksgiving as beginning with the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Because let's be honest, the Native Americans shared their farming techniques and their food, the Pilgrims shared Small Pox and thievery. But that is a story for another blog. For the purposes of this blog we will just talk about the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving began as a religious holiday to thank God for a good harvest and and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  But states all celebrated on their own day and in their own way. Then in 1863, President Lincoln needed something to bring the nation together during the Civil War so he declared one national day of Thanksgiving - which would occur on last Thursday of November.
So, for 78 years people used the Thanksgiving holiday to be thankful - for a good harvest, for times of peace, for family, for friends. It was a holiday where no gifts were required. People shared food and good conversation. The change began in 1924 with the Macy's Christmas parade - which began as a way for employees to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. And it changed completely in 1941 when Franklin Roosevelt changed the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November so that the Christmas shopping season could be a little longer. It was all downhill from there!
Go to a store today looking for Thanksgiving napkins and you are not likely to find them - they have been on clearance shelves for weeks at this point. Ask people what their plans are for Thanksgiving and it will likely have a reference to an early dinner before the shopping spree begins. What happened to being thankful for what we already have?
This of course is a blog about the bigger picture since we as a people seem incapable of being thankful for what we have. As technology moves faster and faster - as there is always a new generation of phone or tablet or video game, there is always something to stand in line for because the product we purchased 6 months ago is not good enough now.
But look closer and you will find pockets of thankfulness. People who are just happy to sit around a table with people they don't get to see as much as they would like. People who are thankful to have food to eat. People who are grateful to have one day a year to reflect on the good things that have happened since last Thanksgiving. My home is one of those pockets.
I am planning my Thanksgiving this week. The menu, the food shopping list, schedule of cooking. My husband and I may get up early on Friday and go shopping - but I refuse to go shopping on Thursday. I hold sacred the fact that this is the one day a year where we focus on family without distraction.
So happy Thanksgiving - however you choose to celebrate!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What will the country look like now?

The elections are over but the rhetoric continues. I saw a blog posted on Facebook today which was an incredible reality check to the election. A reminder of the fact that one of the things that makes this country great is our ability to change things  every four years if we don't like the way things are going (every two years if you count the mid-term elections).
And then I read the comments at the end of her blog (over 400, I would kill for that). They started with things like "thank you" and "well said" and then they started to degenerate. At first some differences of opinion, then name calling, then more differences of opinion. People really missed the point. After I got over the fact that so many people really do not know their American history, or what is actually written in the Constitution I was saddened.
How difficult is it to say "I respect your opinion, but I disagree." Why do we have to make each other feel bad for our political beliefs, our religious beliefs, our lack of religious beliefs, our gender, our race, our nationality, our sexuality .... there is always something. Life would be very boring if we were all exactly the same.
The reality is that if we want to continue to live in a democracy we are going to have to make compromises. We are not always going to be happy with the results. We are not always going to get our own way. We are not always going to like the people or the party in office - but we have to remember that the majority of the people in the country do (or the majority of the electoral college if you are Al Gore). So take a breath and do the best you can with the options that lay before you.
More and more I am realizing that the problems in this country have very little to do with who sits in the White House. The problems have to do with our "my way or the highway" attitudes. The lack of respect we have for our fellow human beings. Our lack of consideration for the people around us. It is evident from the way we drive, to the way we comment on someones Facebook page or the way we judge people we know nothing about based on "appearances."
I was happy with the result of the 2012 elections. While all the candidates I voted for will be starting their jobs in January, not everything I voted for passed. And that is ok. I have said it before and I will say it again ... this is what democracy looks like.
So thank you Jo Ashline for your blog. While the comments were disheartening, the sentiments we spot on! So what will the country look like now that the election is over? I don't know, but if I don't like it that is ok, in a couple of years we can try again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who will be the next US President?

I have been off the radar for awhile - frustrated with the blog thing I guess.
I have wanted over and over again to write something about the US election that is happening today, but every time I started something I ended up sounding like a ranting lunatic, which I'm not.
But I am frustrated.
  • I am frustrated with the process. With politicians being able to stretch facts and outright lie to the people they work for. It just isn't right.
  • I am frustrated with conservative politics - with words like "legitimate rape" and "binders full of women."
  • I am frustrated with the American public - just watching the politics roll by - repeating sound bites without understanding the consequences.
  • I am frustrated with politicians saying they are Constitutionalists - while they take away some one's right to marry who they love because it says so in the Bible (rightly so the Founding Fathers were pretty clear about that whole separation of Church and State thing).
  • I am frustrated with liberal politics - for not being better at explaining that economics of the wealthy will not make our lives better.
  • I am frustrated with the theory that privatization ... of medicare, of education, of FEMA, of social security, of prisons, of sewage and trash collection ... will solve all our problems.
  • I am frustrated with people forgetting that we need the EPA because before regulation companies polluted our water and air and soil.
  • I am frustrated because people so soon forgot that unregulated (unethical) business practices led to our financial collapse - the loss of our homes, the loss of our jobs, the loss of our hope.
  • I am frustrated because people hate the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare) and they have never even read it.
  • I am frustrated that we have allowed our government to define a corporation as a "person" and have in essence destroyed the democratic process.
  • I am frustrated that people are using our one and only fundamental right - the right to vote - as a way to suppress one political party from being able to vote.
  • I am frustrated that the color of ones skin is still an issue in this election (Colin Powell would NEVER support President Obama if they weren't both black).
  • I am frustrated that while the American public is focused on this election, they will not even give the government a second thought until September 2016.
  • I am frustrated that billions have been spent this election cycle and there are still children in the US who go to bed with no food.
  • I am frustrated that CEOs of the very corporations that destroyed our American dream are getting bonuses worth millions - while the people they "laid off" have no homes.
  • I am frustrated that oil companies are still getting millions in tax breaks - along with their millions in profit - while hard working families can't afford to drive to work or heat their home.
  • I am frustrated by how many of my students have never read the Constitution.

Overall I guess you could say I am frustrated. Having said that I see patches of bright light and hope in my gray frustration. I am hopeful that President Obama will have 4 more years to undo all the damage that has been done to our country. He will be able to continue to rebuild our reputation abroad, rebuild education, rebuild the housing market, rebuild the middle class and the American dream. I am hopeful that women will not allow all that has been gained to be flushed down the drain. I am hopeful that my children will have access to a better education and a brighter future. I am hopeful.

As ugly as it gets - the negative ads, the name calling, the outright lies. This is what democracy looks like. I have to go now - it is time to get to the polls - I am hopeful that I will make a difference and help to build the world I want my children to grow up in.