Last weekend, a new addition was welcomed into my family fold, with many phone calls and much celebration.
My brother's wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Rachael, and let me tell you, her older sister, Dana, was pretty excited to finally meet her.
After months of telling everybody she would soon have a younger sister, Dana held Rachael for the first time, the first of many firsts to come, and someone was able to snap a quick photo of the two. Four-year-old Dana looked like a pro as she cradled Rachael in her lap.
I wasn't able to be there for the momentous occasion, so these photos are all I have to go on for now, though I hope to make a trip to visit my brother and his family soon.
As I looked at the pictures, Rachael's little hands curled into tiny fists, that look of newborn confusion on her face, all I could think to say to her was this:
Welcome to this messy world, baby girl.
National headlines haven't been great lately. Particularly disturbing to me are the ones that showcase state governments across the country filled with elected representatives whose appetite for passing laws regarding women and their reproductive systems seem insatiable.
Just as disturbing is the way it's being discussed on a national level. The conversations taking place are absolutely abhorrent.
I want something better for my nieces.
I want them to grow up in a world in which women don't have to testify before Congress about the cost of their contraception - for any reason - only to be dragged through the mud by a man sitting all alone in a radio booth somewhere, broadcasting his unadulterated contempt for any woman who has the audacity to speak from someplace other than her kitchen table.
I want them to grow up in a world that values them as people and does not see them as something "less than" simply because they had the perceived misfortune to be born as girls instead of boys.
I want them to earn good grades in school and, when they get older, know the satisfaction of putting in a good day's work. And I want them to be paid the same as their male counterparts for doing so.
I want them to grow into good people who make good decisions and - lawmakers and pundits take note - above all else I want them to grow into respectful adults who are kind to others and kind to themselves.
A complete lack of kindness for and respect toward others is at the heart of the condition of political discourse in this country. Whoever shouts the loudest is winning, and that's no way to get things done.
I understand that regrettable things can be said in the heat of the moment when discussing volatile social issues, but that's not a valid excuse anymore. The heat of the moment has lasted far too long. It's time to calm down and have the type of conversation that is expected from grown people.
Let's have a discussion instead of a free-for-all. Let's use words in that discussion that we wouldn't be embarrassed to say in front of our grandparents. Let's talk, not yell. Let's look at an issue from every angle before impugning anyone for their point of view.
Let's be kind in what we do.
I hope to visit my brother sometime next month and say hello to my new niece for the first time. And if I was allowed to say just one thing to both of my wonderful nieces, I would use the wise words of a great American author, Kurt Vonnegut: "Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies ... you've got to be kind."
Editor's Note: Jackie Stark is a Marquette resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.