This post is a continuation of my series about some things going on in our family right now. Those are posts are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

The pictures are a continuation of my trip to Disneyland with Chic for her 5th birthday.

For the most part I am opposed to school awards. It somewhat ties into the same reason I am opposed to allowances for very young children or for children who do chores around the house. To me, every family member has work to do in a house, and giving my children money to do their share of work teaches them that they should be paid for everything. When my children are a couple of years older, I will start with allowances in order to teach them money management, but it will not be tied to chores.

Similarly, it seems to me that school awards have often devolved into awards for things that should be expected, not for anything truly meaningful.

At the end of last school year, Chic’s school had an awards ceremony. As the art teacher, I was instructed the day of it that I needed to give awards for art class. I asked what the criteria were. “Whatever I want.” With so little time, I gave awards for “Excellence in Artistic Ability” and “Excellence in Attitude.” Not more than two people in each class got an award.

One of Chic's favorite rides was "Dumbo" because she could be in charge of what happened to it. (My stomach was better if I was pointing the camera at fixed objects.)

But many think today that everyone needs an award. Awards for showing up to school. Should everyone not be expected to show up to school? Why would there be an award for that? (This only translates to people thinking they need special treatment later in life at their jobs because they did the job for which they were hired–the one they were expected to perform.) So I cannot think of a reason why I would support the idea that “everyone wins.” If everyone wins, it takes a lot of the steam from the person(s) who really won, and in my opinion does nothing to promote initiative. If everyone must receive something, I am not entirely opposed to getting recognition for participation, but an award is extreme.

So back to last year’s awards. Before the event, I talked to Chic’s teacher about it and asked her how she meant to handle the awards. My reason for this was that as a first grader, Chic was ahead of everyone in her classroom (including the second graders) in reading, spelling and math. From my dealings with parents or art class students, I knew that if Chic got awards for all the areas in which she excelled, other parents would be angry. A large part of me does not care about that, but that anger comes out in their kids at school. So I asked. Her teacher, (from now on, Ms. J) said that she gives awards for all kinds of things, not just academic performance, which assures that everyone is included. I did not discuss this further as I thought that would satisfy the masses (even though I do not necessarily agree with it).

This ride made me so sick that when Chic wanted to do it again, we had to find some people who would go with her. Her stomach is made of sterner stuff than mine!

So awards night came. Chic got four awards: Presidential Physical Fitness, Principal’s List, Science and Art (Excellence in Attitude. I realize it seems like I was favoring her, but I am not kidding when I say she has the worst class for behavior in the whole school. She absolutely does NOT cause any trouble in art class and always has a nice attitude. I gave the award to one other girl who was rotten all year but really improved the last month.) The first 3 awards were completely objective. The first two were from the school, and the third one from the Science teacher who apparently awarded it to her top students. But Chic got no awards from her everyday teacher.  As I listened to the awards being listed and students going up, I was shocked. Yes, the teacher gave awards for spelling, math and reading, but Chic, although ahead of the grade above her in all of the subjects, got none of them. Then the teacher made up awards to cover the less studious people which included things as irrelevant as “nicest smile” (SO not kidding), and  Chic got none of those. But get this, some of the other students got multiple awards from Ms. J.  I was taken aback, but decided I was not willing to address the issue. I will discuss this teacher at length in a later post, but the short story is that it is difficult impossible to have a coherent conversation with her, and because I knew I would have to deal with her at least one more year (Chic’s 2nd grade) and possibly another 3 years (also Chicklet’s 1st and 2nd grade), I did not want to anger her.

This was on a 25+ - minute boat ride. Chic found a friend right away.

But Chic noticed. She asked why her teacher did not give her any awards. Although I knew the answer, I thought she might not, so I asked, “Were there not other children in your classroom that did not get any awards from the teacher?” “Only Hunter,” she said, “but I know the Ms. J does not like him.” To me those are profound words coming from the mouth of a 7-year-old. I personally knew Ms. J did not like Hunter because I had heard her complain bitterly about him (I personally like him. He had some issues, but was willing to try and learn, and he was kind.), but for my daughter to notice that was quite another story.

So what was I to do? My daughter wanted to know why her teacher did not see fit to give her any awards. I lied. I said she probably was so busy she just did not remember to include everyone.  I will admit it is not the first time I have lied to my daughter about what goes on in her classroom. She has never once complained about her teacher, but she has asked questions on several occasions or told me scenarios that make me realize she is quite astute at assessing situations. I want her to respect her teachers, so I lie because if I tell her the truth, there is little room for respect with this teacher.

So why are awards so important? What is gained by them? Does the person who was doing just OK in spelling but got the award have an incentive to do better in spelling? Does the person who got the “nicest smile” award have any incentive to do anything better? Does my daughter have any incentive to excel in her own classroom? Seems to me not a lot of incentive was generated on any front.

Note:  This year we have a new principal who has a different view of awards. There will be specific criteria based on having maintained a certain grade for each of the first three quarters of school. I am grateful for this change, but I do believe the other award mentality is more prevalent among most of the other teachers (excepting the science teacher) and definitely among most of the other students and parents. What a battle we seem to be fighting almost every single day.

Chic was only 5, so we did not stay for the fireworks every night. The night we stayed, the weather did not allow them to go, but they made it snow for us instead. I would love to show you the picture of Chic's face full of wonder catching the "snow," but I do not post such pictures on the internet. It was beautiful.

For Part 1, go here.

These pictures are from three years ago when we were at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Since we do not have piles of leaves in our immediate area, it was like an amusement park for my girls.

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A short story about the half-Hispanic/half-Iranian boys from the last post. The girls were more rude to them than the other boys in class. The boys were not actually rude to them, but just avoided them. One day for their art class, most of their class was late except for the two boys I liked so much. As people trickled in, the seats filled up, and of course the last seats available were the ones by the two. The most obnoxious girl of all came in last, and there was no place for her to sit except beside one of the twins. She made a HUGE scene. Not being a “real teacher” and having little “teeth” last year to effectively manage problem behavior, I told her to sit down or go back to her class. But those nice boys got someone to trade with them so they were next to another more unpopular student so the mean girl could sit with her friends. I do not know if she thought about that, but I hope someday the memory is at least a small wake-up call.

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Chic is the top of her class. Last year she was in 1st grade and was in a classroom with 1st and 2nd graders. She was ahead of everyone in reading, spelling and math. We knew long before Chic ever went to school she would be a star scholastically, so we have worked with her since before Kindergarten to help her understand that although she understands school subjects better than a lot of people and is ahead, she is not better than anyone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and just  because she can do some things  better than most kids does not mean they cannot do some things better than her. She understands this. We have made every effort to assure her humility, and it seems to have been successful. But this does not mean other parents have done the same. Chic is mocked severely for being ahead of her class. This happened a little last year, but to a greater degree this year.

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Although Chic easily overheats, she does not like wearing shorts to school because they show her muscular legs. She has not a bit of fat on her body, but her legs are bigger than all of the rest of the girls, and they make fun of her because she is different than they are.  Yes, she can run faster and jump higher than any of them, and she is chosen for teams right away, but because she looks different, she is fodder for derision. (And seeing other behavior in the children, I sometimes wonder if part of it also has to do with her pale skin and red hair.)

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Forgive me for being irritated that I am doing all I can to raise well-behaved, good-mannered, kind and caring children who do their best to excel at whatever they attempt (at least the first one–the jury is way out on whether the second one will even care about excelling) when it seems like the parents of my daughters’ peers are not bothering to raise them much at all and are apparently modeling inappropriate behavior. As parents I feel like Prince Charming and I might have failed Chic because we taught her humility, not how to face the bullies. We wanted to make sure she would not be a bully. We never dreamed one so successful in everything she does would be treated with such disrespect. (We are diligently working on this now.  Should we tell her when people make fun of her legs to say, “At least I don’t have skinny bird legs like you!” No, that is not how we believe anyone should be treated. But it is difficult to teach a child  humility without putting them in a position of getting squashed in school.)

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When I was in elementary school, I remember my parents talking about a relative who married an African-American. (Let’s go back more than 30 years to near the very center of the United States.) During the discussion these words came out of my mom’s mouth: “It doesn’t bother me what they do, but it’s the kids who will suffer.” That caught my attention. I said, “Why does it hurt the kids?” Both of my parents explained that they would be neither “white” nor “black,” so neither family or race would fully accept them. I asked why. They explained how people do not accept people not like themselves. I said, “But your making the statement in the first place shows that you think they are different.” I loved my parents, and I truly think there were not much better ones put anywhere in the world, but potentially a filter in what they said in front of my brother and I would have been wise at such a time. Statements like that in front of children would likely encourage children treat the “unfortunate” children differently in most cases. It is no different today.

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My belief is that most parents — if they even think about it — want their children to be replicas of themselves; they want them to have the same opinions and beliefs. (Maybe deep down I want that, too, but if it happens, I want them to arrive there on their own, not because I told them to or showed them no other options.) Most parents in my realm (I can only speak for my small corner of the world) have not been educating their children to accept all people as I attempt to educate mine. Maybe in more cosmopolitan areas there is more tolerance for people not like oneself, but I have not seen much in the places I have lived.

But I am going to say that from my experience in Blogland, there might be tolerance for people who are different in ethnicity, but not a lot of tolerance for differences of opinion. No, not everyone is like that, but I really am amazed at the statements I see coming out of blogs with abject criticism of people with differing opinions–not just criticism of these opinions, but also of the people who have them. (And if you are reading this, you are likely not the writer of one of the blogs to which I refer.)

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I am much too cynical realistic to think the lack of tolerance in the world is ever going to dramatically change. But I can assure you, it will not even budge if people cannot handle a viewpoint that is not their own without attacking (even mentally) the person who holds it. And if people cannot refrain from attacking people not like them, no matter in what way, I do not see a better future for anyone.

This is the end of my “tolerance” post. It was originally one, but it ended up way too long, so I cut it in half. There will soon be more on things that I believe relate to this topic and society in general and how all of that relates to our family.

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Note: I have no pictures for this post, so found some old ones of South Dakota and Colorado.

Raton.Mountains

Much of what I think I will say in this post has been in my head for months, really for at least a year. It started to gel into something I wanted to write about last October and November near the elections. Chic’s school held their own elections, and it was not a pretty thing in my opinion. I mentioned this last year, but as a reminder… they voted on the actual presidential candidates. My personal opinion is they should have thought of another way to teach about the election process because all the kids did was ask their parents for whom to vote. When Chic (age 6 at the time) asked Prince Charming and I, we did not tell her. We instead told her as much as we thought she could understand about the positions of the two main candidates and let her decide. We believe it is our job to shape the values and principles of our children, but not necessarily their opinions. Yes, values and principles will affect opinions, but we do not believe in telling our children what to think about every little thing. Long story short, Chic got her voting preferences from her best friends at the time which happened to be for the losing candidate. Being a volunteer at the school, I knew she would be very much in the minority, so I told her to keep her “opinions” to herself. She did, but the other “party” was pretty belligerent about getting others to tell their preferences. Ridicule was rampant for those with whom they did not agree. Chic kept quiet, but it still bothered her that being a supporter of “her” candidate would cause so much ridicule. After the election it was even worse. Because she was quiet about what she did, it should not have been as bad, but the bullies (which was pretty much everyone who voted differently than she–from 1st grade through 8th grade) assumed that people were quiet because they were the losers, so she was harassed anyway. (Had her candidate won, I do not believe the tables would have been turned for those children are among the very. few. well-behaved ones in art classes.)

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That attitude lasted ALL YEAR LAST YEAR.  Students continually asked me for whom I voted. I would not tell them for many reasons, not the least of which I do not think it is the responsibility of teachers to try to form political opinions in their students. So because I would not tell them, they attempted to ridicule me. Of course I did not put up with this, but it just made me wonder what in the world goes on in their homes that they have nothing better to do than disparage people they perceive to be not like themselves. And it did not end there; it continued into the first six weeks of this school year. Intolerance clearly starts at young ages.

Chic goes to a school that is affiliated with my church. About 30 minutes from my house is another similar school sponsored by another church of the same religion. Many members of my church who believe in Christian education send their children to the “other school.” When we first moved here, Chic was nine months old, and we almost immediately started getting hit by the people who sent their kids to the other school telling us why we should do the same. There were so many reasons why it was a “better” school than the one actually sponsored by my church. But I have to tell you the biggest reason. People actually said OUT LOUD to me, “The new school is sort of known as the ’white school,’ — the one sponsored by the church is the ‘Hispanic school.'” Seriously????

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Now if these people knew me at all, they would have known those were the wrong words. If I had no other reason whatsoever (which I had plenty), I would never send my kids to school where the parents of the students (which would show in the students of themselves) thought they were better and elite because they were “white.” OK, I am white. I am pale, lily white. As far as I know, I have little else besides Irish blood running through my veins. My daughters are paler than me and have strawberry blonde and red hair. But I would NEVER go to a school because there was more of “my kind” there; I would prefer to have diversity. Last year in Chic’s classroom, there were 16 students, and she was one of the two who did not have beautiful, smooth, dark skin (were not Hispanic.) Did that bother me? Not in the least. I never even thought about it,  unless I remembered those idiotic words people said to me and sat and looked at the kids. Then I smiled.

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During last school year, two new students entered in the fall. They were twin boys in 8th grade. I loved them because they were so polite and well-behaved (as opposed to the other 8th graders.) But they were outcasts to their class. Why?  Because they were not fully Hispanic. The 7th and 8th graders were in one classroom.  There were 17 of them, and all but those boys were Hispanic. They were half-Hispanic and half-Iranian.  Sometimes I wonder why I can still be so shocked by people, but I can, and this was one of those extremely shocking things.

To be continued… (Friday?)

Sunset.Mountains

The photos below have nothing to do with this post. I had no pictures to put with the post, so I just took a series that I was pretty sure would never make it to SkyWatch Friday. This is a sunrise about 3 weeks ago. The pictures were taken within about two minutes and I think include the view from every direction from my house.

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Before I started blogging, I hesitated quite a long time to do it, even though pressured to do it by two of my cousins. The main reason was time. I  knew I did not have time. I still do not, as evidenced by my irregular posting and visiting. But another reason is that I thought it was a bit narcissistic. I thought WHO CARES about the daily happenings of anyone else.  Before I dove in myself, I spent several months reading other blogs. I realized they are not all self-absorbed. (I do not read the ones that I think are.)

However, I have been thinking about my blog lately because one fairly regular reader and commenter once said something like “whatever your blog is about.”  I laughed (I often laugh at his comments; he has a wonderful sense of humor whether or not he means to be humorous.) because it is true.  My blog has no theme. I knew it would not, but it is glaringly apparent when compared to the blogs I visit. Most could be categorized as something. Mine cannot. It is about me. It does not get much more narcissistic than that. And this post will probably be the worst yet. Thank you to all you who come here even though the topics are so varied and there might be three sentences one visit and an epistle the next. And for putting up with me.

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Today I did not really want to say anything about September 11 because so many others have. I also find it irritating how something so tragic that drew a nation together for a few days (or an afternoon?) is now often used in a political sense to tear it apart. (Certainly not everyone, but I have seen plenty of  “Remember 9/11, and be sure you remember why this event makes me right in my political opinions.” I have seen this from opposing viewpoints. Can we just remember a tragedy without being disparaging?) I rarely mention politics in  this space because I hate politics. I hate extremes. I think all sides have extremes. I think the extreme left and the extreme right both want to take away freedom–just in different ways that appeal only to them. (My viewpoints make both sides upset, so if I really got into this, I would likely alienate my entire readership.)  I hate statements that have little other purpose than to be inflammatory. I hate it when people can dish it out but cannot take it.  So I choose to avoid the topic entirely–most of the time. Which is why I was going to avoid any mention of 9/11.  But something compelled me to tell my part of that day’s story. I was pregnant with Chic. I was at work. The tiny television in the Conference Room was on for people to watch the horrific scene over and over. (I am personally not a fan of watching the same tragedy over and over.) Then the Pentagon was hit. Just a couple of weeks before that Prince Charming had been doing an internship at the Pentagon. (Leaving my pregnant self home alone much of the summer.) What was horrible before was real then. But real for me was not, and will never be, what real was for the people who lived and worked  in New York City and Washington, D.C. on that day or who lost someone. They know real. The rest of us just speculate.

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click photo to enlarge

In my car today, on the way to drop off some stamps and to pick up Chic, I suddenly started crying about my mother. There is  nothing special about today in relation to her, but maybe I was thinking about the 9/11 loss. Chicklet was talking to me, and I could not even speak. When I started blogging, I thought I would write a lot about my mother. About her life. About her death. About her 10-year dying process. But I have written very little. Some days I want to just unload it all. But part of me is afraid. The few times I  have discussed her before, the reactions have not been at all what I expected. My reason for wanting to share her story has to do with lessons learned. It is not about me at all. I do not want sympathy or consoling words. I want people to understand what happened and why. I guess I do not know how to say it in a way to make people understand, or else I am not ready. But today, I missed her.

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Last Friday (or Saturday, I don’t remember when it went up) I did a post and said I would see you on Monday. I did not. The day had several totally unexpected things happen (I spent most of the day in front of the computer working on things for Art Class), but ended well (and also unexpectedly) with an afternoon/evening with our “gaming friends” playing Settlers of  Catan–Cities and Knights. (And have been behind blogging since.)

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click photo to enlarge

Now for some more random (and hopefully lighter than the first two sections) things…

1– I  have decided I do not like cooking much right now. Nothing has changed, really, but I get SO. MUCH. ACCOMPLISHED on days I do not cook. I am great at multi-tasking, but I think I hate it. When I cook, I want to focus on cooking. When I cannot focus on it, I think I would rather not do it at all.

2– Our electricity has been flashing lately for every thundercloud that goes over. I realize this is common in some parts of the country (southern Missouri, for example), but it is not common here. And it is starting to get on my nerves because I am at a computer so much of the time.

3– I have two times a day when I can think–really think. Those times are when I exercise and when I cook. (And cooking might involve so many other things that it does not count.) But I am thinking about a post relating to my aerobic activity which is biking (usually to school, but sometimes in the neighborhood). It will mostly be a rant, but I cannot get it out of my head.

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4– My husband is gone. He will be gone most of the weekend at a seminar related to his position at church. I hate it when he is gone. (For many reasons not the least of which he is not here to have water boiling on the stove to add to my bath when it gets cold–because I do not like running water in the tub because the wait for hot water is too long.)

5– Tonight’s bath is scented with Black Amethyst from Bath and Body Works. I was not into that scent much during the heat of summer, but I am liking it a lot again now. (Have I told you how absolutely glorious September is in this part of the country?)

6– My biggest project of the week has been doing my taxes. No, not estimated quarterlies, but the ones that were due on April 15. The last few years we have filed for extensions (even though we always get money back) because I do not have time to do them (and Prince Charming, forgive me, is useless in this area). But they have NEVER been this late. If I were married to Daryl (which I think is impossible because neither of us are lesbians, though neither of us oppose them and their relationships, and who also has a wonderful 9/11 post today), she would have divorced me by now for how long this has taken. Prince Charming is just happy he does not have to bother with financial things.

7– I really, really, REALLY do not like word verification on Blogspot. Really.

8– When I grow up, I want to be her.

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Flag at Visitor's Center in Zion National Park--July

Flag at Visitor Center in Zion National Park--July 2008

When I first started blogging, I said that I would likely not enter my words into the political arena. I have kept true to that, I think. (Although I have left a comment here or there on political posts.) But today these things are nagging me, and I just have to say them.

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But FIRST…

SO much more important than any amount of politics, it is my cousin’s 40th birthday! As is tradition for our family, I have not sent her gift yet (part of it is done and did not require my creating a package, so that was easy), even though it was my full intention to send something exciting and ON TIME since it was her 40th. Maybe if you all go say Happy Birthday on her blog, it will be as good as something big I could have sent. (I even knew what I wanted to do, but now it is too late.)

(I was going to insert a picture here, but I thought an unauthorized one might get me in REALLY big trouble!)

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OK, back to the politics.

Jeri at In the Gutter said something to this tune a few days ago and has earlier said it on her blog–where she basically banned political discussions.

Why do people have to be so NASTY about it? Can people not just express and opinion and not be judged as a person because of it?

I rarely voice my political opinions. For one thing they are complicated. I would call myself an Independent, but there are not a lot of good choices from that category; I cannot fully embrace either of the major parties in our country. A lot of people who know me would naturally assume I would be of one political persuasion because of my lifestyle. Others think the exact opposite because of the things certain opinions of which they are aware. But truthfully, I am a mix of everything–and nothing.

A bigger reason my political opinions are not worn on my sleeve is because of the reactions of people who disagree. This is completely annoying to me because if they disagree with me, I obviously disagree with them, but I take extra pains to not treat those people as lesser human beings because they disagree with me. Those people usually do not go to the same pains on my behalf. (I am tough and can handle it, but it irritates me.)

Yesterday evening, I was walking with my daughters to take one of their friends home. The parents had a campaign sign in their yard. I asked if I could have it tonight so I could use it for a base when I need to put out signs at school. (For our Fall Festival, I made signs and put them on real estate signs that cost me $15 each. One was stolen the first day. I am now trying to collect less expensive signs.) They had an extra and told me they would be happy to let me have all (and they knew where to find some that had been thrown in the street), but they jokingly said I had to put the sign in my yard until the election was over. That was about 26 hours, so I decided I would. I guess I should not be surprised, but the sign was gone this morning. Why would someone want to steal it?

When I was riding my bike to school this morning, I there was a sign that had been twisted and thrown into my path for the candidate opposite of what was in my yard. Why would someone do that?

Why would people put opinions on their blogs that go beyond opinions on policies and platforms, but instead disparage the people who might disagree with them? Do people think there is only one way to look at things (their own)?  Do people think that it is just fine to say all who disagree are idiots, for lack of a better word? Call me crazy, but I think that people of all persuasions come to my blog and most others. I know I would not throw vile comments about those who disagree with me in any way out on my blog. From looking around, I know there are a lot of people who disagree with me, but I like those people anyway. I have met so many wonderful, interesting and considerate people through blogging. Some have political opinions similar to mine, some do not. Some, I have no idea. It does not matter; it is not important to me.

An interesting side note to this is something I have learned from my first grade daughter. Apparently there is quite a lot of political discussion at school. She has asked both Prince Charming and I who we are voting for (although we share common ideals, we do not necessarily vote the same on every single office/issue). We have told her, and she immediately says that is who SHE supports. We have tried to make her understand that she should not support anyone just because we do, or because her friends do, or because of ANYONE but instead to base her support on what she believes. And she is too  young to research and have a belief system that would pick a candidate, but we do not want to cram our opinions down her throat. (I wonder why any parent would.) Anyway, we told her that at school, she does not need to tell everyone who “she” supports because she does not understand enough to know who she supports. I guess she has kept that to herself, but she has reported back who others support. I found it hilarious because I teach these kids once a week. There is a clear division of political preferences. The children who cause trouble in class, refuse to follow directions, do not bring assigned materials to class, etc. are of the same political persuasion. (Or I should say, apparently their parents are. Obviously being 6 and 7 years old, I hesistate to say they have true political persuasions other than those instilled by their parents.) The kids who follow directions, listen in class and clean up after themselves are of the opposite political persuasion.

This was NOT a scientific study, just an observation. It did not include every child I teach. It made me laugh because I would have never predicted such a thing. If only I had the time to pursue a doctorate… I have so many discertation topics rolling around in my head.

I have gotten a bit side-tracked here, but have one more point to make. The BIGGEST reason I do not voice my political opinions is because when I encounter people who do, they usually do it loudly and annoyingly and often obnoxiously. (I am not saying that this is always the case. There have been a few blogs I have read that voiced their opinions in a rational, tolerant manner.) Someday I am sure I will write a post about “negative role models,” but for now I will say that sometimes what I do, or do not do, is because I do not want to be like someone else. My keeping my politics to myself is largely because I do not want to be like many of the people who do not.

So tomorrow, can everyone be nice again? Most everyone is nice most of the time, but then it gets to politics, and it all falls apart. I know I am tired of all of it. I do not even watch television so do not get that bombardment, and I am STILL tired of it.  It bothers me so much that we exert such energy into criticizing one another for our own beliefs and opinions. I believe that energy could be better spent for worthwhile endeavors.

I promise to be nice tomorrow (but I am pretty sure I have been nice in the past) and to almost NEVER post about politics!