Dear Readers,

I love my blog! I don’t spend enough time here, but this blog has been with me since 8th grade and has been a good friend. But now I am graduating and moving on to a new blog: Cassie at College.

Have you ever been to any kind of graduation ceremony where they didn’t explain that commencement is about new beginnings and not about closing things down? I think it’s a lie. Or a myth. Or wishful thinking. But I AM starting something new —- my college career.

With high school graduation, I am formally graduating from my first blog Political Teen Tidbits and moving on to my brand new grown-up college blog right over at Cassie At College!

The themes and colors there will change when I get a chance to play with all that, but I will always be me.  Still politically left, still writing about prison and drug reform, and adding in my feelings and experiences moving from the world of high school to the world of college.

Maybe in four years from now, Peanut Butter and Betsy will buy me the “Cassie at Law School” website or “Cassie in the Working World”.  Some day I might even buy my own site!  And of course, one of us needs to reserve PresidentCassie2032.com.

Please visit the new site and follow me on my journey to Princeton.

No, I’m not valedictorian or salutatorian and I don’t get to give a speech at my high school graduation, but I’m still reflecting and considering and getting scared.

When I was a little girl, Pocahontas was my favorite movie. As I approach my high school graduation, there is a part of me that isn’t ready to leave high school — a piece of my heart that wants everything to stay exactly the same. Last night, I was reminded of the old adage that everything always changes. Just as a river changes the lives and the plants it touches, so the river itself changes from moment to moment, and so do our lives.

The real Pocahontas was a young teenager when the English settled at Jamestown and her life and the life of our continent changed forever. The Disney movie places her closer to my age and her questions are similar to my own.

What I love most about rivers is:
You can’t step in the same river twice
The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people, I guess, can’t live like that
We all must pay a price
To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing
What’s around the riverbend
Waiting just around the riverbend

I look once more
Just around the riverbend
Beyond the shore
Somewhere past the sea
Don’t know what for…
Why do all my dreams extend
Just around the riverbend?
Just around the riverbend…

Lyrics here

Unlike Pocahontas, I know where I am going. I have no marriage proposals to consider, but I do have a scholarship to Princeton. My dreams await past the shore and into the sea. The river of high school has changed me, as have all the streams and rocks and reeds in my life.

In the past 18 years, my river has included rough and smooth waters and has taken some unexpected turns. I have a sense of what lies just beyond the river bend, and I’m gathering the courage to explore the rest of the twists and turns.


Last year I wrote a hateful, whiny, anti-mother screech for mother’s day.  But this year I am older and wiser and a little bit less angry, so I am going to try again.

Mother’s Day is important even if you don’t have a mom around.  Maybe it’s even more important and here’s why.

If we are lucky in our lives, a lot of people love us, and some of us in mothering ways.  If we’re smart, we let them.  And if we’re really smart, we thank them.  Our own original moms may have had a choice whether or not to become a mother, especially in the 50 years since the pill came out, but they didn’t choose to mother us specifically unless we’re adopted.  But many of us get mothering love from people who chose us and who love us even when we’re not perfect.

So now I want to thank all of the real life and internet moms and aunts who love me even though they don’t have to.  Thanks to my brother, who was my first substitute mom, and thanks to Hazel’s mom, Agnes, Uncle Dave, Aunt Betsy, Auntie Sue, Mrs. B, Bob, all of the Beach House moms & aunts, and Grandma K.  One day I will be a great mom because of all of you.

In the United States, there is a large stigma regarding mental health issues. The Mayo clinic website explains this well.  However also implies that the age of stigma has passed.  It hasn’t. People seem much more comfortable saying they have diabetes or asthma than saying they have a mental illness.  For many years this has resulted in unequal treatment of mental and physical illness and in employment and insurance, but that may be changing, and it must.

An editorial in yesterday’s LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Tribune notes that:

[I]f we continue to let mental illnesses go untreated because of paltry insurance benefits and under-funding of public efforts at mental health care and intervention, we’ll continue to pay an escalating monetary cost — in law enforcement, in prisons, in emergencycare at the county level of people in extremis.

Last week, the congress and Obama administration passed new laws that are intended to bring equality to the treatment of mental health issues.  In a New York Times article, Robert Pear said this:

Insurers cannot set higher co-payments and deductibles or stricter limits on treatment for mental illness and addiction disorders. Nor can they establish separate deductibles for mental health care and for the treatment of physical illnesses.

Such disparities are common in the insurance industry. By sweeping away such restrictions, doctors said, the rules will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism,schizophreniaeating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

Unfortunately, this may not be the case — at least not for everyone. The same New York Times author points out that:

The rules apply to group health insurance plans of the kind typically offered by employers. Federal health officials said the rules did not apply to the individual insurance market, where policies are sold directly to individuals and families. However, some states have laws that apply to the individual market.

Even if the laws apply to individual insurance buyers, it may not be enough. Robert Preidt’s article in BusinessWeek’s Health Day News from yesterday points out:

Fears about losing status at work and about confidentiality are among the main reasons that many American workers are more hesitant to seek treatment for mental health issues than for physical health problems, according to a national survey released this week by the American Psychiatric Association.

Very few of the editorials call for  what I think is equally necessary: equal and adequate treatment of mental illnesses in the prison system and administered by the courts.  Society’s destigmatized acceptance of mental health will take a lot longer.

In case you missed it …. I’ve been published in a real magazine! Over at Mother Jones.  Yes, of course it is about being a kid with a parent in jail.

We love seeing bad parents getting punished. Why don’t we care how that affects their kids—like me?

No, I didn’t choose the photo and no, that is NOT what I look like.

You already guessed that I am going to start out with something in sports and then actually talk teen/kid politics, right?  Oh good.  Then no one will be disappointed.

I watched the BCS Rose Bowl last week because UT played and I live in Longhorn Land.  While the rest of my friends were yelling about quarterbacks and kickers and coaches, I focused in on something else entirely.  The TV announcers kept focusing on Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (who probably had a good game, right?), but instead of talking about his running or catching or something relating to football, they kept talking about his dad.  Cool.  His dad must have been some kind of hero?  Maybe single dad who raised him? An astronaut?  A war hero?  No, another football player (OK, so maybe the announcers knew him), but a football player who is now in jail.  And giving his son moral support.  Wha??  Gimme a break!  His dad is in jail.  What else is he going to be doing with his time?

The news articles did the same thing. Here’s one from the Daily News:

Alabama running back Mark Ingram plays in Rose Bowl as father watches from prison

But more than that is on Ingram. His father, a wide receiver for theSuper Bowl XXV-winning Giants, will be watching from behind bars. He is in a federal jail in Queens awaiting sentencing on bank fraud, money laundering and failure to surrender on charges. The sentence reportedly will be meted out tomorrow.

The third charge stems from Ingram Sr.’s failure to report to a federal facility in Kentucky in December of 2008 to begin serving a 92-month sentence on the first two charges.

He risked the longer sentence so he could watch his son’s freshman season and was apprehended in the family’s hometown of Flint, Mich., just hours before Alabama played in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

“It shows the type of relationship we have, the type of bond that we have as father and son,” Ingram said. “That he’d sacrifice that? Any son has to love that and appreciate that.”

That’s not sacrifice! That’s going to make Mark the younger feel guilty when his dad serves the extra time because he was supporting Mark!  Look ten minutes into the future. Duh!

I know that feel-good stories sell, but let’s focus here.  The dad is in jail because he committed crimes and then ran away from the law.  He is a convict.   He is not there because he was wrongfully imprisoned.  And he’s not there because that’s the best place for him to support his son’s career.

How many words were said about Mark Ingram’s mom?  She was at the game.  I bet she even raised him.  I bet she’s the one he calls when he needs to talk.  I bet she cooks for him when he goes home.

WTF is wrong with these people?

Generation Change book cover

Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors was recently asked to review a book, and because the target audience was people under 30, he asked me if I wanted to take on the project. I agreed, then emailed him and a few other people about how to go about reviewing a book I didn’t like. Taking only some of their advice, this is the result.

Cassie

Generation Change by Jayan Kalathil and Melissa Bolton-Klinger fails in its attempt to encourage the Obama Generation to continue the campaign for change. Published by Skyhorse Publishing and subtitled “150 Ways We Can Change Ourselves, Our Country and Our World” this book is geared toward readers under age 30. The unsigned description on the back cover indicates that the “fun, witty, and optimistic approach [is] sure to attract readers of all ages” but the font size and writing style are more appropriate for middle-class or wealthier sixth graders. If reduced to a size 12 font, with chapter titles at size 14, the book would likely fit into 150 pages rather than the current 210.

Would you pay $12.95 to read a book that tells you to “Stay Young at Heart” and devotes a chapter to flossing? The best suggestion is #5, which encourages us to blog for good. We’re already doing that. “Find the cause that keeps you up at night and get blogging!”

(more…)

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