Life in Every Limb

Brave New World: Gender Selection

I haven’t tackled a topic like this in a while.  But, y’all, I can’t write about pretty graveyards and fall hikes all the time.
Today I read this story  about an Australian woman who traveled to the United States to undergo in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to achieve her desired goal:  a baby girl.  “The process involves harvesting a woman’s eggs, injecting each one individually with sperm, then growing the embryo from a single cell to around 130 cells, at which point it’s possible to tell whether the chromosomes are XX or XY. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus.”
Here’s just one example of a facility in our country that provides this service.  From their website: “While the desire to choose whether a baby would be a boy or a girl has been present throughout human existence, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available. With improvements in gender selection technology, demand for gender selection has also been growing steadily.”
There’s that slippery slope that I’m always being told is a logical fallacy! It goes on to say, “Sometimes gender selection can be “non-medical” or “elective.” In such cases, a child of a specific gender is desired without obvious medical indications. The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing,” when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.”
Y’all, please understand, after three boys in a row I was very much hoping #5 would be a girl.  I also was hoping #4 would be a girl!  Instead we got William, and unlike the lady from Down Under, I did not “[sob] with disappointment to discover I was having a second son … and then a third.”  
Anyway, I understand the DESIRE for a daughter.  But most of us just suck it up and appreciate the children we have.  Maybe we accept that God knows what he is doing and set about parenting the kids we were lucky enough to get.  Maybe we realize we should be grateful for conceiving in the first place and for producing a healthy baby of any gender.  Remember when our mothers were having kids, and there was no way to know in advance what they were having, what they said when people asked if they wanted a boy or a girl? “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”  I haven’t heard that in a long time; have you?
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I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be. My desire for a daughter caused me to spiral into depression and left me virtually housebound. Every time I went out, toddlers in pink seemed to taunt me.”  
If “gender disappointment” was so “crippling” to her, what she needed was not a daughter, it was therapy and lots of it.  She doesn’t just SEEM ungrateful, she IS ungrateful.  One can only imagine what her sons will think of all this when they come across this article online in the future–if they don’t already sense her feelings toward them now.
And what about that little girl, who has a lot of expectations heaped upon her already?  My Facebook post on this topic has generated some indignant comments.  One person said, “I hope the little girl likes karate instead of ballet!”  Well, you know, since ALL KIDS tend to do the unexpected, and since they are, you know, INDIVIDUALS, that’s just as likely as not.  There’s no one kind of “girl” and no one kind of “boy,” which is why I always find these stories about “gender balance” so ridiculous, and why I always think it’s funny when people think one boy and one girl is the ideal complete family.  My three boys are NOTHING alike.  My girls are not much alike either, and their gender is only one part of what makes them unique and special.
There is so much about this story that is disgusting.  The fact that she paid $50,000 for this procedure.  That could have been used to send one of her boys to college.  Or to fund the adoption of a daughter. The fact that this is a for-profit venture in the first place. From an article in Slate:

“Just over a decade ago, some doctors saw the potential profits that could be made. . . They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable. They marketed their clinics by giving away free promotional DVDs and setting up slick websites.  These fertility doctors have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer.”
Then there is the immorality of the procedure itself.  What happened to all those little boy embryos, after all?  They were discarded.  Her own children, and she threw them away BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS.  And where is all this headed?  Do you really believe that selecting for other desired qualities won’t be a thing in the future?  From the Slate article: “In 2009, [Dr.]Steinberg came under a worldwide media firestorm when he announced on his website that couples could also choose their baby’s eye and hair color, in addition to gender. He revoked the offer after receiving a letter from the Vatican.” Thank God for the Vatican, is all I can say.
Says the happy mother/satisfied client:  “It’s not about playing God, it’s about giving women reproductive freedom.”  Um, no.  It IS about playing God. And it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Taking up My Pen Again . . .

Three years ago, when our house burned down, I lost an important part of my identity.  Now, this was a part that had been dying out for awhile, but the fire ended it definitively.
Along with being the person with a lot of books, I was also a letter-writer.  I’ve written letters almost all my life, starting in fourth grade when my best friend moved to Indiana.  We have stayed in touch for close to 40 years, and while now it’s via email and Facebook, I doubt we would still be close today if it weren’t for the letters we exchanged.
I took letter writing to a-whole-nother level when I went away to college.  I maintained regular correspondence with around 14 people.  My first year I had a rule that I had to answer each letter on the day I received it, meaning that on the day I received 17 letters I was up writing until two a.m.  My husband worked at the Georgetown Post Office, and he tells me I was known their by name, and that they made jokes that I should have my own zip code.
I didn’t quite keep up that pace all four years, but I did keep writing letters.  And I saved the replies.  Until they burned in the fire I had a foot-locker-sized box full of letters.
As email and then Facebook changed the way people kept in touch, I still kept writing letters.  I had a few correspondents, but I even sent letters to folks who didn’t reply.  Every year after Christmas, for example, I’d write a quick note to anyone who had written a personal message or enclosed a letter (even a form letter!) in their Christmas card.  Right up until the house burned down I was still taking pictures on film and getting extra prints so I could enclose them in my letters.
I had a briefcase that was dedicated to my letter writing enterprise.  It contained the address book I had maintained for many years, various cards and stationery, address labels, stamps, pens, pictures or clippings I planned to enclose in letters, and any letters I needed to answer.  When I would go out by myself, I would bring it along and write a letter or two.  I was going months between letters but I was still writing them.
Well, now I don’t have my briefcase or my address book or a camera or even any letters to answer.  But what I do have is a LOT of blank cards and address labels that have come my way via inheritance (Grandma AND Mima) or via pleas for donations by various charities.  I realized exactly how many when I was rummaging about for a Get Well card last night.
I miss writing letters.  And I don’t want all those cards to go to waste.  So I am going to start writing again.  Maybe not ten-page epistles like I used to do, but at least little notes to let people know I am thinking about them.

Forks of the River: My Favorite Trails

Bear with me, y’all because there are going to be a LOT of pictures in this post.
Emily and I have walked on the Forks of the River trails five times, because there is a lot of territory to cover and also because we didn’t plan very well for the task of completing all the trails with the least repetition.  But I can’t say I’m sorry, because we’ve had the opportunity to explore the place in Spring, Summer, and Fall.
There are wildflowers throughout the Urban Wilderness, but Forks of the River takes the prize no matter the season.
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But even in late fall, there is plenty of color!
This area can also not be matched for its variety.  You can walk through meadows or in the woods.  Some paths are flat, but along the river bluff there are challenging climbs.
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Also of note are the beautiful views:
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As always, I encountered a few mysteries while walking here.  For example, it looks like this area was lived in at some point, judging by some plants you’d expect to find in someone’s garden:
At first, I thought this cactus must have been cultivated as well.  But it turns out that prickly pear cactus is native to East Tennessee:
Now that we’ve hiked almost every trail in the Wilderness, I can tell you that this area is my favorite.  It’s definitely where I would recommend you start if you are interested in exploring these trails.
I’ll miss hiking here as we move on to another walking adventure but I’m sure I’ll be back!
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For more on walking in South Knoxville, see below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI
Walking in South Knoxville VII
Walking in South Knoxville VIII

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

I’m linking up with RAnn of This, That, and the Other Thing for Sunday Snippets, that weekly famous gathering of Catholic Bloggers sharing their week’s posts.  This week there is no question of the week to answer (and yes, RAnn, I DO miss it!) so it’s straight on to the recap:
It’s the first full week of NaBloPoMo, and I’ve done pretty well–I did miss one day this week.
I led off the week with this post  about the elections. (Yes, I voted!)
Next I posted a little homeschooling update.
I wrote about another cemetery.
And because what I wrote upset some people, I wrote about it some more.
Then I wrote about another cemetery.
Finally, I participated in a weekly photo linkup.
I hope you will take a look at any you may have missed this week, and that you will check out the other linkup participants.

Byrd's Chapel Old and New

Perhaps you’ve wondered how I choose which cemeteries to visit and write about.  There isn’t just one answer.  Sometimes I choose one that I’ve driven by many times and have always wanted to visit.  Sometimes lately I ask my phone for advice on the nearest cemetery!  And sometimes I just happen to see one I’ve never seen before and I stop.
That’s what happened a couple of weekends ago, when I was up early on a Saturday taking Lorelei to a Girl Scout event at St. John Neumann School.  Driving home, I decided to take the back road, a road (Yarnell) I hadn’t driven in many years, and this little church caught my eye:
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And there was a graveyard behind it!  I was so excited!  I couldn’t stop right then, but I went home to take care of my duties there with plans to return before picking up Lorelei.  When I did, I was rewarded with this:
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This is truly one of the loveliest, most picturesque, and peaceful graveyards I have encountered.  I took over 50 pictures here!
The whole graveyard is bisected by a winding drive, with graves on narrow strips along either side.
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The earliest burial in this cemetery was 1866, as far as I can tell–and members of that family (the Marcums) are still being laid to rest here today.
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Yes, this is still a very active cemetery, with several burials this century, and flowers on many of the graves.
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It’s also a very nicely kept place, with only a couple of exceptions:
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Some people might question my fascination with tombstones, saying that our deeds should serve to memorialize us, not monuments erected over our graves.  I think that’s why the baby graves are so important–these little ones never had a chance for action.  If their parents are gone, these stones may be all that’s left to show they ever existed, that they were important, that they were loved.
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Many of these little ones have their death certificates posted on Find-a-Grave, and it’s heartbreaking to read about the ailments that killed children back then.
Like all graveyards, this one has its mysteries, starting with this one:
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I figured there must be a good reason for a Jewish couple to be buried in a Christian cemetery, and it didn’t take much research to discover that Mrs. Kraut was born into the Stansberry family, many of whom are buried here.
Another mystery is the pattern of graves in the cemetery.  Just behind the church are many older graves, most from the 1940s, and the remains of stone pathways.
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As you walk the path away from the church, graves on both sides are much newer looking.  But if you walk all the way to the end, the neat layout gives way to scattered 1800s graves, many too old to even read clearly.
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Byrd’s Chapel Methodist Church was organized in 1934, so the graves directly behind it make sense.  But death records show a cemetery here called Byrd’s as early as 1915.  Did this start as a family graveyard that became a community cemetery and only later a church site?  I have not been able to find out.
Here are a few final things that caught my attention:
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The Living and the Dead: Writing about Graveyards

My post on Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery upset someone yesterday.  I am tender-hearted and wouldn’t ever want to hurt someone’s feelings.  I took down the pictures of the grave of that person’s loved one, and I made some clarifications on the original post.  But since I don’t want to stop writing about graveyards, and I don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings, I thought I would tell you a little about what goes into my graveyard musings.
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When I walk into a cemetery, I don’t arrive with any definite agenda.  I like to absorb the atmosphere and think about what that particular place is saying to me.  What is its story?  I could just take pictures of every headstone, or write the names of everyone buried there, but you can see that at Find-A-Grave.  I’m looking for atmosphere, and also to tie that cemetery into my thoughts on other topics.
For example, in this post I spoke of how lucky we are to have these little oases of peace and beauty in the middle of all the otherwise unbridled development in West Knox County.
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In this one I talked about the importance of names.
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This one was about remembrance.
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If I’m in a smaller cemetery, I try to read every gravestone.  I think about the people there, wonder about them.  Sometimes, especially if they are babies, I pray for them or even talk to them.  I tell them that today, even if only today, they are remembered.
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When it’s a larger cemetery, I try to walk through as much of it as I can, especially the older sections, which are the most interesting to me.  I make notes about when the earliest burials took place and the names I see, particularly if the names are familiar as local place names.  I take pictures of whatever interests me.
After I leave, I almost immediately start doing research.  Not a lot of research, because I am not getting paid for this!  But I look on the KGIS website to see what I can find out about current and former owners of the property.  I look it up on Find-A-Grave.  I Google for the history of the cemetery, and sometimes do a little genealogy research on some of the people buried there.
By the time I sit down to write, usually something, some angle from which to approach that particular cemetery, will have occurred to me.  It would be pretty boring if all I did was describe the place and post pictures without comment.  I’m trying to tell stories, not just document.
But documentation IS part of what I do.  And if a cemetery is in bad shape, I’m going to say so.  I don’t know why it’s in bad shape, and I’m not making value judgments.  I’m wondering, and I’m raising questions.
For example, in the case of yesterday’s post, this was the first thing that I saw when I drove into Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery, and it stirred up some questions that I raised in my post.
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I wondered:  WHY is a cemetery with the same name as the church, and right across the street from the church, not owned by the church?  WHY is this sign so emphatic?  If the church used to own the cemetery, why and when did it stop?  WHY would a private association take over such a large and active cemetery requiring so much upkeep?  WHO are the people being buried here now, if not church members or family members (there are lots of new graves.)?
Those were just a few of my questions, and my research answered some of them.  The rest I put out there with the post.  I do that with a lot of these posts, and sometimes I am rewarded with answers!
When I write about cemeteries, I am trying to make sure that the dead are remembered.  I’d like to think that if they could see my posts, they’d appreciate them.  But all I have to go on is the opinions (usually positive!) of the living.
If people get upset because I mention that a cemetery is in need of some maintenance, they are being too sensitive.  I’m just reporting a fact, and I’m not accusing anyone of anything.  In fact, I went out of my way in that post to mention that cemeteries require lots of upkeep and that it’s expensive, which is one reason I was wondering why a private association would take that on.  I’m familiar with the financial struggle my own parish has in keeping up the Catholic cemetery, and the assistance we require from the Knights of Columbus and youth groups for periodic cleanups.  The more cemeteries I visit, the more I see what a problem upkeep is–whether because no one is left to care, or people don’t have the energy, money, or time.  Whatever the reason, it’s a tragedy when the last tangible reminder of a human being’s existence is obliterated.
I have had it suggested that if I’m upset that these cemeteries are in bad shape, then I should come help clean them up. 🙂  But see, I can’t clean up every cemetery in Knox County.  And it’s not my job to do that.  It will be my job to make sure my parents’ (who are both still here!) graves are maintained, and I will.  The job I HAVE taken on is to write about cemeteries, and if it raises awareness of the very real problem of keeping them in shape, that’s a good thing.
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Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery: Appearances Are Deceiving

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This is the first thing I noticed when I parked my car at Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery.  I couldn’t decide whether it was the church attempting to disown the cemetery or the folks who run the cemetery disowning the church.  For sure, it’s an emphatic sign.  And I suspect there’s a story here.  Because up until 1991, the church across the street DID own this cemetery, which they then sold to the Rocky Hill Cemetery Association.
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The cemetery was originally in the churchyard, as was customary, or perhaps I should say the church was originally in the graveyard, since it’s the church that has since moved across Northshore Drive.  The church was founded in 1888 and the land for the cemetery donated in 1891.  It’s still very much in use today.
Before our house burned down we drove past this cemetery multiple times every day and I often thought of stopping there.  It doesn’t look that big from the road and I figured I could look at every stone.  But looks are deceptive.  This is actually a good-sized cemetery.
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In my (admittedly limited) experience, foundations or associations are not usually responsible for active cemeteries.  Typically they take over when the church is gone. the congregation dispersed.  It’s a lot of work to maintain a cemetery, and not cheap either, and this one was in need of some attention the day I visited.
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(Note to self:  never get a flat gravestone.  They get covered up way too easily and then you aren’t even a memory anymore.)
The need for landscaping here is in painful contrast to the adjoining property now occupied by a development called (pretentiously) The Summit at Rocky Hill.
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Here, for $800,000 or so, one can have a home with a commanding view that includes the cemetery below.
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Something else about this cemetery, perhaps because it is run by an association instead of a church or a corporation–there don’t seem to be the usual rules about how graves can be decorated.  Maybe that’s part of the charm for those who choose to be buried here?  It’s certainly a colorful place.
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When this graveyard first opened,  “The graves could be “sold only to white persons of good moral standing.”  It would appear the standards have changed a bit, judging by this:
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That’s the only dog headstone I found, but as always there were many babies and small children, some especially poignant:
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The Cottrell, Ellis, Currier, and Peters families are well-represented here.
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A few final things that caught my eye:
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Update:  This post has been edited and pictures removed because one of my readers objected to the inclusion of her father’s grave and misunderstood some of what was written here. No disrespect was intended, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I’d say more–and perhaps later I will–but I have a kid to get ready for school right now.

We Are Still Homeschooling

I haven’t written a post on homeschooling in a while, probably because I’m too busy doing it to write about it–or about anything.  Last time I homeschooled, John worked in an office and had a full-time staff.  This time, the office is the house and the staff is me.  Mostly this works out fine, with me getting Lorelei started on a task, which she can work on here in the office with me while I attend to my own work.  But sometimes, involved in whatever I am doing, I lose track of her and how long (very very long) it is taking to do her math or whatever.  She has been known to even wander away while I am otherwise occupied.  So I need to work on that. [This was an ongoing problem that I am happy to say has improved a lot in this, our last homeschooling year.]
Another challenge is that I have had to leave the house during the school day more frequently lately.  Jake’s injury [A tendon in his pinky severed by a box cutter while cutting drywall to patch a hole in our basement] means twice weekly therapy appointments as well as doctor visits.  If Emily isn’t home, Lorelei has to come along.  We don’t do well with disruptions to the routine.
Still, at the moment I would call homeschooling a qualified success.  Lorelei is certainly happy!  She has no desire to go back to school (judging from how she acts when I threaten her with it when she is bad!).  I’ve already written about some of the fringe benefits of homeschooling.
Here’s what’s going well:
We are going to Mass once a week, on Wednesday mornings.  There’s a 9:00 a.m. Mass at All Saints, just five minutes away from us.  Lorelei looks forward to going, and that makes me happy.  She actually suggested we should go on First Fridays too, so we are going to start doing that this month.   After Mass we walk on the walking trail and Lorelei plays on the playground.
We are on track with our spelling program, and Lorelei never misses more than one word.  She’s never going to be a spelling bee champ and thank God for that.
We’ve finished two reading books already!
We’ve memorized the Beatitudes and the Corporal Works of Mercy and are almost finished with the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
We are exactly where we should be in the English book.
We went on a great field trip to the symphony last week.
Here’s where we could use improvement:
Lorelei does not like math, and since we were doing it toward the end of our day, it sometimes got skipped.  In the second quarter, we’ve moved it earlier in our school day to combat that tendency. [Math remains a struggle.]
We need to move faster in Social Studies.  We’ve only done half the states, and I want to have the whole state part of Social Studies finished by Christmas so that we can do Presidents the second half of the year.
Another thing Lorelei hates is Penmanship.  I’m trying not to stress out about this too much–I still want her to learn cursive, but my goal of doing all work in cursive isn’t going to happen this year. [Never happened, never will.]
I want to incorporate more field trips.  Originally I had hoped to take one every week, or at least every other week, but all the interruptions for doctor appointments have made that difficult.
So that’s where we are, almost three months in.  And having written it out, as so often happens, I feel even better about it. 🙂

Get Out There And VOTE!

vote here 2Tomorrow is Election Day!  If you are like most people you either 1) already voted early or 2) aren’t planning to vote at all.  Yes, that’s right, not even half of the people who are eligible bother to vote in midterm elections.
Not me, y’all.  I’ll be voting tomorrow, and, remembering fondly my own childhood, I’ll be bringing Lorelei along so that she can push the buttons.
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I always feel a little excited on Election Day.  Midterm elections aren’t as exciting as Presidential elections, of course, but here in Tennessee we have some pretty important matters on the ballot.
Amendment One has certainly gotten the most press.  I’ll leave it to you to Google the exact wording if you are interested, but a yes vote on this amendment will give the legislature authority to enact laws restricting abortions and regulating clinics that perform them.  It’s been met by predictable hysteria from the pro-choice folks, many of whom have probably fallen for deceptive advertising, but I promise you this amendment will NOT ban abortions; it doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade; and not even the most pro-life legislator is going to attempt to ban abortions in the case of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.  I will be voting YES for this amendment.
Amendment Two has gotten a lot less attention, as it’s about judges, a topic that doesn’t tend to inflame the electorate.  I’m voting NO on this one, going on the recommendation of my husband, who is an attorney and knows more about this than I do. (For the record, John and I frequently come down on opposite sides of political questions, but if I haven’t had time to do my own research I will just ask him to tell me who I would want to vote for–not who HE is voting for, mind you, but who he thinks I would want to vote for based on my beliefs–and he tells me.)
Amendment Three wants to make it part of the constitution that there never be an income tax in Tennessee.  I find that silly.  I don’t particularly want to pay more taxes, but I’d be delighted to swap the sales tax on food for an income tax–I think we’d come out ahead.  Anyway, there’s no need to amend the constitution over it, so I vote NO.
Amendment Four has to do with lotteries.  I was and remain against the lottery, but we have it now and I doubt it’s ever going away.  This one is about whether to allow veteran’s groups to raise money in this way as other non-profits already can do.  That’s another YES.
We also get to vote on selling wine in the grocery store.  Who’s going to say no to that?
See below for more information and get out tomorrow and vote your beliefs–and if you stay home,  don’t complain after the fact!

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