Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Political Action

I asked Cammie if I could post on the political activist groups that have become more and more common in the last few years, and she thought it was a good idea. Many of these groups have become quite powerful forces for political action by making it easier for the average citizen to not only find out about the issues that are being debated and voted on in congress, but also to raise their voice in the political process by signing petitions and making direct contact with their representatives. I have been really impressed with the issues raised by some of these groups, how easy they make it to simply click an icon to send a pre-formatted letter to my representatives (or make a direct phone call just before an important vote), and just how effective they are in the political process. There have been a couple of petitions that I signed that were later included in a bill and actually passed into law. That is genuinely refreshing and empowering when it often feels like my vote doesn't count when compared to the billions of dollars spent by corporations and other political action committees and that there is little I can do to improve the political mess I see around me. I really feel like these groups are taking a big step towards fixing a broken system, and making the US a real democracy again by giving more power to the people.

I want to pass on some information about a couple of these political activist groups that I have been particularly impressed with in the hopes that it will be useful to others as well as stimulate some discussion that may point out other groups that I should become involved with. Below is an introductory video to True Majority Action. If you can't see the video in your browser you can also find it here.

Although I can't say that I support True Majority completely, I am glad to be involved with them. They linked me with, which is also worth looking into. I have to say that I have been a bit disappointed in the often overt partisan focus (and have expressed it to them), and so I have chosen not to take part in a couple of their petitions. However, having said that, I have gladly signed quite a number of the petitions they have emailed to me, and would not want to miss out on them just because there are others I don't think are necessary. To name just a few that I was most excited about- universal health care for children (which I believe was recently passed unless Pres. Bush vetoes it), more funding for alternative energy sources, taking back civil liberties lost in the Patriot Act (including habeas corpus and stopping the torture of prisoners), and stopping the federal funding that subsidizes the cost of farming for large corporations (which was originally intended for family owned and operated farms) that allows them to sell their produce in the US and internationally for less than it costs to produce (thereby giving them enormous advantage over smaller farms in the US as well as in places like Africa which purchase the produce from these corporations instead of their own farmers).

I know this is a long post, but I have to include the group that I think it would be very hard not to support- the One Campaign. Whatever you may think of Bono or celebrities preaching about their favorite of the world's problems, you have to recognize the good that the One Campaign does. They focus on more and better aid to impoverished countries to fight child mortality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and devastating poverty. The most impressive things to me about One are that they work through effective nonprofits who are on the ground in the impoverished countries instead of passing the funds off to corrupt government leaders, and also that One is genuinely effective at pressuring the US and foreign governments to take a more active role in dealing with these issues. When I saw all the celebrities endorsing One I imagined some sort of "hands across the world" program, but I have been impressed with how much they actually do and how good they are at it. Below is a video about the campaign, which can also be seen here.

If you know of other groups that you think others should be involved in, let us know!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Today I woke up early and, although I should be a teeny weeny bit frustrated that Soren has this new tendency to climb in bed with us during the middle of the night, I'm in a very good mood. (I wouldn't mind it much but since we have lived in Scotland we have a double bed which is smaller than a queen.) I think I'll try the "bed by the side of the bed" strategy.

Things that make me happy. . .

Play lists that Jason makes for me and how happy he gets when I listen to them.
Soren crawling around like a tiger and dancing while Jason plays the guitar.
How much Soren loves pasta and occasional carrots while reading bedtime stories.
Jason's breakfasts.
Hearing Soren say prayers.
Alone time--walking to the stores on Byres Rd. or just being alone like right now.
Talking with family on the phone.
Discussions with Jason about life and politics and religion and humanity and. . . anything.
Jason's creative facial hair designs.
Dancing and stretching during the day.
Reading a good book and finishing it!
Thinking about the sun and vacations in the sun.
Thought provoking art.
Being a part of art.
Seeing how my family and friends make aspects of their lives art.

Ok, I'm going to go and stretch now while I have some alone time. Isn't it great to be a woman--that's another thing that makes me happy! To be a woman.

PS. The boys are still sleeping! Shhh.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saying "Good Bye" and Soren Cougar Mellencamp

My friend Antonella (on the left) and her family just moved to Ireland this morning and we will really miss them. Here are some photos of our get-together before they left. There is a cute cafe called Theo's that caters to moms and toddlers. Such a breath of fresh air! There's a slide, toys and a darling rocking horse for all to play with.

Laura (also in the first photo) and Antonella are two of my first friends since we moved here and they are both from Italy. They are beautiful women and beautiful moms and I'm so glad we all know each other! They have helped make my time here so wonderful.

When we get together we speak Italian and it is really good practice for me. Soren says, "mama's talking Ciao" and Laura's official name according to Soren is also "Ciao" . . . He says stuff like "are we going to Ciao's house?" --it's so fun. I hope he is picking up a bit of Italian along the way.

All the cheeky monkeys together! Soren, Sofia (Laura's little girl) and Brendan
(Antonella's little boy)

When I showed these photos (below) to Jason the other day he said, "Soren Cougar Mellencamp" and it is so true. I just love this jean jacket and Soren was pretty excited about it too. He's really good at that stance--check it out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


OK, so granted Michael Moore isn't the best spokesperson for most discussions I still have to give big kudos to him for his film on Universal Health Care.

Jason and I just finished watching "Sicko" and I have to say that we really agree with the message. Universal health care is such a great system to have and I really don't understand why the US has gone so far from caring for its people (on so many levels). Because we live in the UK, we have experienced first hand the benefits of such a program. There is absolutely no fear of medical bills and all are equal--rich, and poor alike. It is unbelievable that one of the richest nations, the US, can ignore such a massive problem and go to great lengths to make sure its citizens fear a universal health program. With such wealth, I feel that the level of health care or lack of it for many Americans is one of biggest follies and sins of the US government.

They have a wonderful program here in the UK and we have been very pleased with our doctors. We live one minute walking from the ER and had to take Soren a few months ago. During our visit the doctors and nurses even encouraged us to stay longer to make sure everything was OK. There was no stress that we weren't going to afford something and the doctors always showed that they were there for our best interests. They will even do house calls when situations require it. . . again, free of charge. If you take a taxi to the ER they will even refund what you spent on the taxi! All medication costs the same-- $6.50. If you have a medication that is, lets just say 500 dollars in the states, guess what you pay? Yep, $6.50. This eliminates the drug pushing that is constantly going on in the states all over the TV. "Ask your doctor about this drug. . ." was such a common phrase from commercials and is absolutely absurd. . . Legal drug pushing. Doctors in the states actually get bonuses for having patients use certain drugs. Scary.

When insurance companies wrongfully deny patients they will spend billions settling out of court so that their cases don't become public and this keeps them rich beyond belief and not having to change their ways.

After seeing the documentary, I spoke with some of my Scottish friends about the differences with the US and UK health care systems and they couldn't believe what I was telling them. One of the fears that is pushed in the US is that with a socialized program there will be horrible waiting--this has not been our experience. There are signs up in the ER that say, "if you have been waiting longer that 15 min, please let a nurse know." I have been told that in very difficult situations (like specific rare treatments) one may have to wait but they is no question as to whether someone will be treated. In the US, in my opinion, the waiting seems much worse. At times a patient is waiting to know if treatments will be covered by insurance or if they can pay the deductible. They don't even know if they will be helped.

With the socialized program here, one can also have private health insurance as well. So, if you aren't satisfied with the government program you can pay for something more. It is a win, win situation. I don't think I know anyone with private health care though--it seems like most are happy with the government program.

Doctors are encouraged to help their patients stay well with incentives to the doctor for those patients that quit smoking and the like. They live well although they may not have the massive wealth that doctors acquire in the states. They live a good life and focus on getting people well. They would probably make about 200,000 pounds (400,000 dollars) per year (I'm guessing). Not bad.

It seems to us that universal health care is the most ethical and reasonable option for a health care system. Jason told me that he had recently read a news article about a bill that had been passed to provide universal health care to children in the US, but that it was expected that it may be vetoed by the President. We are really hoping that Moore's new movie will encourage enough interest and debate that universal health care will be provided for everyone in the US.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The end of our travels. . .

Our travels with Grandma and Grandpa have come to a close and we finished with the best of trips to Paris for 3 days! We had a very lovely time and it went all too quickly! France was gorgeous and the people were friendly and kind. We also learned to use the subway there which is so great and smart! We were all pretty proud of ourselves and felt quite able to get around and figure out how to get from one place to another. I wish every city had subway transportation like Paris. You can't really feel stranded there because a subway station is never too far away. . . Well, our journeys are finished for a while--so so sad. We miss you Grandma and Grandpa--Thanks for EVERYTHING! We love you-- Soren sends his kisses! The time he spent with you is priceless!

Enjoy the photos!

Here it is--home of the Can Can. Who knew it had a windmill? Pat was really surprised about that. We actually came to it by mistake. The tour bus (hop on and off one) had 4 different lines to take and we got on the one that takes you to the Moulin Rouge.

We love all of the iron balconies. Such beautiful architecture!

In all her glory!

Dinner was De-lish. We actually ate at a really cute Italian restaurant but don't worry we got our fill of French crepes, sandwiches and pastries as well. They have this savory cheese crepe that is yummy! Very rich stuff!

Da Vinci code here we come! Jason and I didn't go in the Louvre this time (we were there in January) but Pat and Jim said that it was so packed that Jim even took a picture of the crowd (it was that crowded and crazy with tourist). . . and yes, they saw the Mona Lisa! Below is a photo of the Notre Dame and that was very packed with tourists as well. I love Soren's pose in the photo. He was such a great traveler.

Happy Birthdays

Yesterday was Grandma Pat's Birthday and Jason's was the day before! My friend Patsy made 2 wonderful cakes--one for each and we ate to our hearts' content (notice the umbrella on Pat's--the joys of rain). We traveled home from France for most of Jason's Birthday and it was almost never ending. We started with about an hour on the subway, an hour and a half bus ride, an hour flight and then 45 min. in the taxi to get home due to traffic. Yes, it was a long journey home! (France photos are coming soon--We love love loved the trip).

After we got home Grandma and Grandpa were so kind to babysit while Jason and I went to a charming Indian restaurant for dinner called Spice of Life. Yum, yum.

Yesterday was spent doing last minute shopping in the center and having a great dinner at the LOFT a very cool restaurant in Ashton Lane--one on my favorite hidden streets with hip places to eat. The LOFT was originally a cinema and has a fab ambiance and movie memorabilia. . . and then we ate the cakes.

It was a great night! HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAT AND JASON!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Edinburgh. . .

The bus tour is a great way to see the city! Grandma and Grandpa were cruising!

Castle in Edinburgh

We love all the colors!

PS. This country is castle crazy!

Finally . . . The Beach!

What can I say. . . It was a perfect day! We took the train to Prestwick and the day was filled with sunshine and beautiful scenery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

For Aunt Ann

We happened upon the Piping Festival and enjoyed some wonderful Bagpipes. Soren danced around and eventually wore himself out. It was a great day!

I Heart Modern Art

. . . from the Goma. There was a wonderful room filled with mobile type pieces. When Soren is a bit older I want to make some with him.

This last piece is knitted! . . (I think)

Touring Glasgow

Here are some photos of our recent travels around Glasgow. Grandma and Grandpa Monson are here and we'll be keeping you updated! We went to the Goma (Gallery of Modern Art) today and I LOVED it! The first photo is of Soren and Grandma Pat in the children's section. They had some really cool toys. It's fun to be a tourist in the town we live in--there is so much history here.