Friday, February 29, 2008

Barack Obama

I still can't understand why people care what religion Barack Obama may be. Lately it's gotten really nasty out there, with people circulating rumors about his supposedly Muslim ties. I got this email yesterday from Jim Wallis, defending Obama's Christianity.


I don't endorse political candidates, but I will defend them when it becomes necessary. On this, I agree with my friend Richard Land, the conservative Southern Baptist leader who is often identified with the Religious Right. Richard and I agree that faith has a place in politics and, when we agree on fundamental moral questions, have worked together. Richard says, "I have defended various candidates from time to time when I've felt that they have been unfairly or inaccurately criticized. At other times, I have been asked by the media for my assessment of a particular candidate's chances or weaknesses and strengths. Neither defense nor assessment should be confused with endorsement. As a matter of policy, I have not endorsed, do not endorse and will not endorse candidates."

So I am going to defend my friend, Barack Obama, from an increasing number of ridiculous and scurrilous attacks on the Internet and in the media. The latest incident occurred when a loud-mouth radio talk show host in Cincinnati let loose with a barrage of disparaging remarks against Senator Obama and kept using his middle name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama—over and over, seemingly to tie into the Internet accusations that Obama is really a Muslim who, as a child, attended a Muslim "madrassa" school in Indonesia that taught Islamic fundamentalism, etc. As a Chicago Tribune blog piece commented, "Anyone who uses Obama's middle name repeatedly, like Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham the other day, knows what he or she is doing and what feelings they are trying to evoke. There's simply nothing innocent about it."

The occasion for the shock jock's diatribe was his introduction of Senator John McCain at a rally. To his great credit, McCain denounced the remarks when he heard about them, disassociated himself from this kind of attack, and reaffirmed that his campaign would be conducted on higher ground. Good for you, John McCain. So of course, the local loud-mouth, Bill Cunningham, quickly withdrew his support from McCain and now is denouncing him too; which, of course, was quickly picked up by his mentor, the national radio loud-mouth Rush Limbaugh (whom the local Cunningham seems to desperately "wannabe"). And, of course, Rush is now denouncing both Obama and McCain.

I watched last night as other cable news shows told this story and subtly tried to add more fuel to the fire. Lou Dobbs downplayed the Cincinnati outburst as unimportant and suggested it was no different that telling the world that John McCain's middle name is "Sydney." Sure Lou; and it was interesting that Dobbs followed with more innuendos and rolled eyes over the moment in the Tuesday Democratic debate when Obama was asked about Louis Farrakhan, about suspicions that Barack's home Trinity Church on the south side of Chicago was "black nationalist," and about why Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, wouldn't come on Lou's show to discuss his alleged sympathies for Farrakhan, etc. It is certainly no mystery why Pastor Wright didn't cancel his retirement celebrations and drop everything to come on Lou's show. Would anyone?

An Associated Press story entitled, " Obama Fights False Links to Islam," commented on the new flare-up, "For Barack Obama, it is an ember that he has doused time and again, only to see it flicker anew: links to Islam fanned by false rumors, innuendo, and association."
During the Democratic debate, Obama again "denounced and rejected" the ugly anti-Semitic comments that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has often made, as he had done many times before. Farrakhan hadn't actually endorsed Obama, but recently said, "This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better." Asked on Tuesday night about whether he would accept Farrakhan's support, Obama said: "I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him."

So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of the U.S.'s 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest.

And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book, The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since. And after he gave his speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in June of 2006, E.J. Dionne said that it may have been "the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican."

Like his politics or not, support his candidacy or not - but don't disparage Barack Obama's faith, his church, his minister, or his credibility as an articulate Christian layman who feels a vocation in politics. Those falsehoods are simply vicious lies and should be denounced by people of faith from across the political spectrum.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Alexander feels slighted, having notice I haven't posted about him in awhile. So here goes.

Alexander loves to bake. The other night I was trying out a recipe from my new cookbook The Sneaky Chef. It's a great cookbook - you learn how to hide all sorts of good-for-you foods inside regular kids' foods. My kids will eat just about anything, so instead of hiding it, I tell them what's inside. This night I was making pigs in a blanket, hot dogs inside homemade bread with yams and carrots added. I had some extra dough, so I gave it to Alexander and he created this yummy starfish.
While we were eating dinner, I looked over at our picture wall and noticed something slightly awry. The boys do chores each night, and the night before it was Alexander's turn to dust. Obviously, he dusted each and every picture. Now we just have to teach him how to put them back correctly when he is done.
Alexander stayed home from school yesterday with the stomach virus. He can't wait to be 100% better so he can finish up my sneaky brownies - brownies with spinach and blackberries snuck inside.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Goodbye Braces!

Today was a big day in the Weinrich household. A trip to the orthodontist produced a smiling, brace-free Benjaminm! Although his teeth feel "slimy," he is happy to have them off. He was worried that he would hate the retainer, but he's found it is better than the braces.

That's the good news about Benjamin. The bad news is that last night he used his destructive powers in our garage. While trying to get a game, he pulled on our metal shelves and ripped them off the wall. This resulted in the mess you see above, as well as two very grumpy parents. Benjamin spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out the games and playing pieces, which he thought was completely unfair. Just wait until we fix them and he has to spend the whole day working on it. "I didn't mean to" has become a familiar refrain in our house.

For your amusement, I also am posting a picture of Jonathan in his Buzz Lightyear costume. I bought the costume at 90% off after Halloween, and then he got a set of masks for Christmas. Very cute.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A good running day!

This morning Alexander and I both raced. He ran a 5K in his personal best time of 34:40, an improvement of about 2 minutes from the last race. I ran a 10K, and my goal was to run in under 1 hour. I finished at 59:19, and I was elated! I had 5 minutes to get over to the start line for the 5K, which I ran with my friend Carrie. Her daughter Lynnlee was running with Alexander. It was Carrie's first 5K, so I helped pace her. She wanted to run in about 35 minutes, and we finished at 33:21! It was an all around great race.

Oh, did I mention the rain? As the 10K started, it was drizzling a bit, which felt great. By the middle of the 5K, though, it was pouring! It's the first time I've really run in rain. Usually I wimp out and go to the YMCA when it is raining. But this time I had no choice. I had a great time, although my shoes will probably remain wet for days!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Obama Endorsement

Why Obama will get my vote
Published February 3, 2008


Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate in literature, once famously described Bill Clinton as America's first black president (in a 1998 column in the New Yorker). Last week, she wrote a letter to Barack Obama, an actual black man, to endorse him. Here is her letter.

Dear Senator Obama:

This letter represents a first for me - a public endorsement of a presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: This opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert.

However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: That in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination, which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class or earn it in the workplace - that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

- Toni Morrison

© 2007 • All Rights Reserved • St. Petersburg Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another resolution update

Noticed that I have not updated my New Year's resolution lately? I had resolved to eaat better and lose those 5-10 pounds that I have gained in the past few months. How's it been going? Not well at all. I started with a bang, losing 2 pounds right away. But since then, I've slacked off. Not with the exercise, but with the eating. So I'm going to have to do what I didn't want to - start tracking my Weight Watchers points again. It's the only program I can really adhere to. They give extra credit for exercise, too.

Today I ran 4 miles, and I stayed within my points range. It's a good start, and this time I'm determined to keep it up until I've lost those 10 pounds. Hopefully I'll have positive updates soon!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

An afternoon on my street

I went out for a run this afternoon before the boys got home from school. As I was finishing up, coming down Harms Way (yes, that's really a street in my subdivision!!!) and noticed a whole bunch of trucks at the end of my street. As I rounded the corner, I realized it was four animal control trucks, two police cars, and a TV van. What could be happening? Here's a summary from a "Citizen Alert" email I received a few hours later.


The Port Orange Police Department received an anonymous call concerning conditions of a home on Wild Holly Drive off Clyde Morris Blvd. The caller advised the conditions of the home were deplorable due to an excessive amount of cats living in the residence. Contact was made with the resident who gave consent for the Animal Control and officers to enter the residence. The interior of the residence was extremely filthy and covered with cat feces, cat hair, and pet food. Animal Control located 70 cats inside the residence with several cats with matted hair, soiled and obviously had ear infections which would require medical care. These cats were seized from the residence and transported to Halifax Humane Society. Misdemeanor charges for animal neglect were filed against the resident. Additionally, the resident was issued a citation for the City Ordinance Violation regarding the excessive amount of domestic animals in the residence. Port Orange Code Enforcement was contacted due to the unsanitary conditions of the interior of the home and also the health department has been notified.

I've never talked to the woman who lives there, but I've seen her out in her yard a few times. When Chris ran by there on Sunday, he noticed a strange smell. No, he was not the anonymous tipster, but I wonder who was.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Working from home

I'm into my second week of working from home. I think the biggest challenge is ignoring everything that needs to be done around the house. I've gotten laundry down to a routine. Each morning the boys sort the laundry and I run one load. They also empty the dishwasher so I can load the dirty breakfast dishes. I take Jonathan to school at 8ish, and then get to work. So far I've completed two units and worked about 20 hours! I'm continuing to learn so much about African-American history. Harriet Tubman was the topic of my second unit, and now I'm working on a fifth grade unit on slavery. My biggest complaint: my butt aches after hours of sitting at the computer. Sometimes I'll break it up with a run in the middle of the day, and I also have the trampoline to use. Tomorrow is going to be a bit different. I plan to spend the day researching, so I have a huge pile of books to skim, and 4 or 5 videos to watch. Then I'll get busy writing again on Friday. Although I haven't seen the money yet, it's nice to finally contribute substantially to our family budget.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yes, We Can!

Watch this incredible video about Barack Obama. He won three more states this weekend! He is by far the most inspiring speaker I've ever heard. If anyone can unite this country, he can. It's been a long time since I've really believed in a candidate like this. Enjoy the video.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Our Taxes are done!!!

Yes, that's right, I've just finished our taxes and filed them electronically. I had some strong motivation since I knew we would be getting a refund. I'm sending it directly to our savings account. It's our spending money for Europe this summer. And with the exchange rate so terrible, we're going to need lots of it. We also heard a rumor that if you file your taxes quickly, you'll get your just passed rebate faster. We're hoping to get it by the end of May so it, too, will be our spending money. The more we can save, the more places in Germany we can visit!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday!

In honor of Grandma, the kids and I baked fastnachts (donuts) today. It's tradition in our family to eat them (as well as raise cakes, which I didn't bake) the day before Lent. I pulled out her recipe this morning, and realized it called for 11 cups of flour!!! I quickly halved the recipe and still ended up with more than we could ever eat, as you can see.

I used the bread machine to do the kneading, then left the dough to rise. Grandma's instructions say to let it rise for four hours OR overnight. Well, I didn't start early enough, so they rose for about 2 hours before we cut them into donut shapes. We then let those rise for over 3 hours.

Somehow I ended up with Grandma's deep frier (credit that to my mom, who saves everything!) I plugged it in and got ready to fry up these donuts. All of a sudden, however, a strange odor penetrated the room. I looked over and saw the frier was SMOKING!! I could smell burning plastic - I discovered that smell earlier this week when I placed my plastic mug on the burner - so I quickly unplugged it and went to "plan B." All of the oil was poured into my regular frying pan, and I used my oven thermometer to get it to 375 degrees.
We ended up with a TON of delicious donuts. My favorite way to enjoy them is to coat them in confectioner's sugar, but we also served them with cinnamon sugar, karo syrup, and jelly. I lost count of how many the boys (and I) had. It is Fat Tuesday, after all.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mary McLeod Bethune

I've begun my first writing assignment. I'm creating a unit on Mary McLeod Bethune, who began a school for black girls right here in Daytona Beach, Florida. When I taught second grade, we took a field trip to her home each year and also visited Bethune-Cookman College. During my research, I've learned many interesting facts about her.
  • During a mayorial election in Daytona Beach, the KKK threatened both her and her students. When they were burning crosses in front of the school, she turned on all of the outside lights, spooked the horses, and revealed some of the participants. She continued to register black voters, and the candidate who supported her school won the election!
  • She was the first woman to hold a high federal position when she was a member of FDR's "black cabinet." She and Eleanor Roosevelt struck up a friendship, and when FDR died, Eleanor sent Mary his walking stick, which she proudly used for the rest of her life.
  • She often took her school choir to sing at area hotels. This being a time of Jim Crow laws, they showed her to the back of the building. She always used the front door instead.
  • When one of her students needed hospital care, she was kept on a cot on the back porch of the hospital. Mary's next project was to build a hospital.

That only skims the surface. She was quite an amazing woman. I think I'm going to enjoy this new writing project of mine.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Chris!

Yesterday I somehow forgot to post about Chris' birthday. He turned 39!!! He's decided it's a fun birthday to have because whenever someone asks how old you are and you say "39," they don't believe you!

After opening presents at home, Chris arrived at school to a decorated classroom. It seems he let his birthday slip last semester to some of his students, who, despite not having his class right now, remembered and decided to celebrate. They brought balloons (they sang happy birthday on helium), cake, and a present (two Onion books.) Quite a surprise, and, I must say, a little more exciting than my present of two sweaters.
After school, we went to dinner at our friend Jonathan's restaurant, then went out for ice cream afterwards. All in all, a pretty nice birthday. Now I can tease him because he's once again older than I am! And that's the best part.