Sunday, June 25, 2006

Separation Of Church And Common Sense

I opened up my Sunday edition of the News and found this story on the front page of the "Local News" section.

Thursday evening, we were made aware that the roof of the church in the story had caved in. There was no storm or other unusual factors that would normally cause a roof to cave in. What's more, the church was newly built. Then we learned that building codes were not followed when building the church. My initial thought was that someone had been conned by a shady contractor.

Then I read this little gem:

[Pastor Jeff Carroll], himself a homebuilder, said he was not aware of any requirements and remains unconvinced a government body should have a say in how a church is built.

I blinked and re-read that paragraph. Then I read more:

The Cedar Grove church designs were assembled by a church member and her daughter after looking at pictures on the Internet, Carroll said. Some hand drawings were made, then printed out on a computer program and used as the blueprints, he said.

The pastor said he volunteered to oversee the construction at no cost, or to hire a contractor. The church went with the pastor.

So is the pastor a professional homebuilder? If so, then I want to know why he was "not aware of requirements" for builders. I don't think I would want him to build my home.

Quite possibly the most astounding portion of this article are these two quotes from the pastor:

"If the state and the church are separate, I don't understand why they think they've got jurisdiction," he said.

"We were trying to build a new one the way our forefathers did, with blood and sweat and tears and volunteers and donations and people helping," Carroll said. "As far as I'm concerned, that should still be legal in America."

I hope he's just kidding. This isn't a question of free practice of religion. This is a question of following building codes designed to make sure that your place of worship won't... well... cave in. Further, you can still build a church with your own congregation putting in the work. That is still perfectly legal. Following building codes doesn't prohibit you from doing that.

The article goes on to say that the church is insured and that they expect to be covered for the loss. I am interested to see how that claim works out. Depending on the policy, the insurance company may not pay up because building codes were not followed. If the insurance does come through, I suspect that the church will be paying some insanely high premiums from here on out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Budgeting 101

It seems like a fairly simple thing. Income must be more than outgo. Distribute income among various needs according to how much you think you will spend. Create a separate fund to hold any extra just in case you need it later. If any changes need to be made, they can be made later.

What part of that is so difficult for Birmingham politicians? I (unlike Mayor Bernard Kinkaid) can fully understand the concepts laid down by consultant Doug Turner, who suggested that the budget be based on spending from the previous year. It's how I lay out my budget at home, and it works. What's sad is that Turner had to be hired in the first place to determine something that most people learn in second or third grade. And trust me, folks, consultants are not cheap.

I propose to the people of Birmingham that, before you elect any of these jokers back into office, you make sure that you can trust them to balance your checkbook for you. They are, after all, working with your money.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Boobs. My Business.

Everyone seems to be talking these days about breastfeeding. After becoming a new mother recently, I was faced with the decision to give breast or bottle.

Thank goodness that the government was there to tell me what to do.

Apparently, the Department of Women's Health has taken it upon themselves to tell us all about the risks of not breastfeeding in an effort to guilt more women into breastfeeding. To boot, they're also suggesting that warning labels (similar to those on packs of cigarettes) be placed on cans of formula. Do they honestly think that new mothers don't experience enough pressure?

I've personally chosen to breastfeed my baby girl, but I also give an occasional bottle. I'm saying this so that you'll know where I'm coming from in this debate. My mother, a former nurse, is a breastfeeding Nazi. My mother-in-law, who sees me get frustrated from time-to-time, is heavily encouraging me to wean my daughter in the name of sanity. So I'm getting pulled from both directions.

Before I became a mother, I learned everything I could about both breast and bottle, but nothing compares to the real world experience I've gained over the past five weeks. I learned more in the first two days than I had learned within an entire nine months from doctors, lactation consultants, classes, books, magazines, and Internet. From what I've seen, most moms are the same in that they educate themselves beforehand and then at least make an attempt at the breast while in the hospital under the watchful eye of nurses and lactation consultants who can help us through those awkward first latches.

Here's what I was told compared to reality:

Breastmilk contains nutrients that formula does not. This is true, but there are also some vitamins that are not found in breastmilk. Get ready to either supplement with a bit of formula or give a vitamin supplement.

Breastmilk is digested easier. ...Unless you have a baby with colic partially due to reflux (like mine). Formula, at least certain kinds, actually stays in her tummy a little better and is harder for her to spit up. Sometimes, the only thing that soothes my colicky girl is a couple ounces of formula. And yes, I've tried expressing milk and giving it via bottle. It gets spit up after only a few minutes. But I always give breast with the bottle because of the laxative effect that breastmilk has. Otherwise, I could end up trading a cranky baby with reflux for a cranky baby with constipation.

Breastfeeding is safe. ...Unless you've accidentally ingested something that you didn't realize that baby was allergic to.

Breastmilk keeps diaper rash away. Who made up this load of bunk? Leave a diaper on a breastfed baby too long and see what happens. Not pretty. In my experience, frequent diaper changes and Balmex keeps diaper rash away, not breastmilk.

Breastmilk prevents against childhood illnesses and boosts IQ. This is true, although I know plenty of babies who were bottle fed exclusively and lived to tell the tale and graduate high school. My mother, a registered nurse, is one of them. At the same time, I was exclusively breastfed, and I have had more illnesses than my bottle-fed husband. My husband is also one of the most intelligent people I know.

Breasts provide an opportunity for your baby to suck. It's not fun being a human pacifier. The best $4 I have ever spent was on a pack of two MAM pacifiers and a clip at Wal-Mart.

Breasts are more convenient. Whoever said this has never been kicked out of an establishment for breastfeeding. Fortunately, some laws now protect us from this, but that doesn't mean that management can't search for some other b.s. reason to kick you out. Just ask my cousin, who was kicked out of a McDonald's because she was being "too loud" while eating a cheeseburger. There's also the factor of not being able to pump when you have a child attached to the breast 24/7. Pumping in-between is not an option when there's little to nothing to pump out. It can take what seems like forever to build up a milk supply that is sufficient for pumping what you need. And don't get me started on nighttime feedings. It's far less complicated for me to have a bottle of water on hand with a premeasure of powdered formula by the bed. Dump. Shake. Give to Daddy. Go back to sleep. The end.

Breastmilk is free. Like hell!!! $150 for a pump and bottles (if expressing), $5 for storage bags, $5 for vitamin supplement, $10-15 for lanolin ointment, $10 for nursing pads, and $10-20 copay (if you have insurance) each for a round of antibiotics after getting mastitis and a prescription for thrush. Not only is formula not as expensive as people make it seem, but it's even cheaper once you sign up for samples and coupons. WIC also covers the cost of formula for those mothers who can't afford it, and you would be surprised as to how many of us fall into that category.

Breastfeeding protects against pregnancy. Yeah, go right ahead and explain that one to your obstetrician once you're back in there with a second pregnancy.

Breastfeeding gives you enforced rest periods that you need postpartum. Rest? It can be relaxing, but breastfeeding is WORK.

Breastfeeding creates a stronger bond between mother and child. Honestly, there are those days when I want to throw her out the window strictly because of breastfeeding. If it weren't for the occasional bottle of formula, I don't think I'd be sane. Plus, there is the fact that my daughter seems to relate better to my husband. She looks at me in much the same way that a starving man would look at a bologna sandwich.

And the government's new phrase...

Not breastfeeding has risks. I hope that they didn't forget to mention that breastfeeding also has risks, both for mom and baby. See the mention of allergies, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, mastitis, and thrush above. (I know one poor mother who ended up in the emergency room because of an unexpected peanut allergy. Her son almost died.)

There are other cons, too. I don't know how much she's getting from the breast. My nipples are in constant pain at times from bad latches. (Men, imagine having a blister on your penis.) I'm tied down. It's probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but then, that's just how it is.

I'm still breastfeeding, though, probably for the same reason why most women who breastfeed do. I want to give my daughter the best. But I've lowered my standards to allowing the occasional bottle because, the way I see it, some breastmilk is better than none. All or nothing is no way to go. Had I chosen to exclusively breastfeed, I probably would have already weaned her. I enjoy breastfeeding for the most part. I think I'll even miss it when I'm done and the occasional bottle has allowed me to stick it out this far. Plus, my daughter is getting vitamins that she wouldn't get otherwise, she sleeps for longer stretches at night (sometimes a full night), and she's calmer-- all as a result of that little bit of formula.

But the thing of it is-- I'd feel extremely guilty if I weren't able to breastfeed. Most women do whether it is by choice or not. Add that to postpartum depression, which is very real, and you have a disaster on your hands. Yes, women are strong, but PPD is a very real condition, and breastfeeding advocates need to remember that. Downplaying such a condition a la Tom Cruise isn't the way to win hearts and minds among women.

Further, while women are strong, they are still human. Bottle feeding doesn't make you a bad mother, no matter what the government tells you. Giving your baby a bottle will not doom him to a life of disease and stupidity. Giving your baby the breast will not insure that she never gets sick and that she graduates from Harvard. Both methods are time consuming, tiresome, and expensive in their own ways. But both methods are also wonderful and rewarding in their own ways. The same can be said of parenting in general.

But then, I didn't need the government to tell me that.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Our Priorities

Alabama Rationale Regarding Redundant Election-Year Legislation

Proposal to remove racist language from Alabama's constitution (2004): "We don't need this. Federal law already makes any of this language moot. Besides, the government has no place imposing moral values on its people. Not to mention, we could be taxed."

Keg ban bill: "We don't need this. It won't do any good in preventing underage drinking since most underage drinkers prefer to buy six packs. Besides, the government has no place imposing moral values on its people."

Child seat legislation: "We don't need this. How dare the government tell me what I can and can't do with my own children in my own car! It's a parent's right and responsibility to decide what should be done, regardless as to the danger it may pose to his child."

Hate crime bill: "We don't need this. Federal and state laws already prohibit and punish any of the crimes that may be committed. This is nothing more than policing thought. Besides, the government has no place in imposing moral values on its people."

Amendment One, banning gay marriage: "We don't need this. Alabama already doesn't recognize gay marriages and doesn't give out marriage licenses to gay couples. Why add another ammendment to our already lengthy constitution? Besides, the government has no place... Screw it!"

American Rationale Regarding Election-Year Issues

Government wiretapping without warrants: No big deal. Cuba's been doing it for years.

Identity theft of veterans: No big deal. They probably had their credit card info stored on their computer, anyway.

Iraq: Not interested anymore. It's old news.

Signing statements: Eh, we didn't expect the president to take legislation seriously, anyway.

Bribery and corruption: This is new?

Gay marriage: Get 'em!

Nice to know that we all have our priorities straight.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Did YOU???

Monday, June 05, 2006

Litter On A Stick And Ballot Access

With tomorrow being the day to vote in the Alabama primaries, I figured it would be a good time for me to point out a couple of things:

1. Please take the time to consider those who are still attempting to get on the ballot for the runoff elections. It isn't fair to the people of Alabama to only include the two major parties on the ballot, and the requirements for getting there are completely ridiculous. Regardless as to whether or not you like a candidate, you should at least have the opportunity to vote against them if that is your choice.

2. Are you as sick as I am of seeing those stupid political signs on the side of the road? Were you aware that it is illegal for these signs to be located in these places? Check out if you have the time.