05 November 2014

How I Fail as a Mother

We all have moments that take the stuffing out of us and make us question our worth. When in full command of rational thinking these are moments that build character. Occasionally an experience requires distance to reduce the sting so you can learn from the mistake. Other times all you can do is acknowledge and wallow in your failure. [read more]

21 May 2014

Guest Rant: I Did Not Love My Mother

I re-post this as a salute to my friend who is brave, kind and more than just a pretty-good Mom.

A Mother's Day Essay

An ugly third-degree burn scar covers most of my left outer thigh. This is one legacy my mother left me. I was two years old and, the story goes, I climbed on top of our stove, turned it on, and sat down on the red-hot electrical burner while my mother vacuumed upstairs, unable to hear my screams. [Read more...]

11 May 2014

Beauty Scape

I came very late to the habit of going to the salon. For 30 years I wore my hair very long (and usually pinned up in a bun). For 15 of those years I dyed my hair various shades of bottle blonde. [Read more...]

23 April 2014

My Value as a Woman

Despite my feminist sensibilities I've never been able to suppress the anxiety of being judged and found wanting when it comes to "homemaking".

A little Martha Stewart shaped devil sits on my right shoulder pointing out the crumbs in the silverware drawer and the cobwebs in the chandelier. My deficiency is glaringly apparent in the lack of top-dressing on the house plants and fresh liner paper in the linen closet. [Read more..]

08 April 2014

Tepid Water

Being  a homeowner is one of the most overrated experiences I can think of. Part of the great American Scam to buy buy buy. Because what else do you do once you've bought a home but start the Sisyphean task of fixing all the broken bits on what is now your former "dream house?" That means contractors if you have the money, or Home Depot if you are like the rest of us unfortunates... [Read More]

03 April 2014

Dad Music

I woke up humming the chorus from a song my Dad used to sing when he was happy - "Honeycomb won't you be my baby, Honeycomb be my gal" - an old Jimmie Rogers tune.

What I remember of my dad's musical taste consists of Tennessee "Ernie" Ford, Boots Randolph, and a lot of Henry Mancini...[Read more...]

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19 March 2014

10 March 2014

No Duty to Retreat

An uncomfortable truth is hidden under the national discussion about music being played too loud, and the hoodies that criminals wear. Racism is not going anywhere.

I feel this observation needs to be made especially in light of the recent Academy Award's presented to Lupita Nyong'o and John Ridley. I don't wish to minimize their achievements, just to point out that they will eventually be used by someone as an example of our post-racial society [...more]

18 February 2014

Mash Up

I love word mash ups. One of the best in recent memory is the explanabrag. I don't know if the word was coined on the TV show Community, but that is where I heard it first.

Along with complisult. I love the way blended words can so precisely skewer a behavior or state of being. Sometimes.

Not all mashups are as memorable or worthy as explanabrag. Some have become so common its easy to forget they were created (motel, chortle, bodacious, cyborg, fauxhawk, carjack) others you can only wish they will disappear from usage. I vote for brony & twerk but that's just me.

I was in a meeting the other day and as it was wrapping one of the women said she had a request to make. She went on to a lengthy explanation of the very important and highly dangerous work that her very accomplished and smart son-in-law is doing internationally. And then she asked that we all keep him in our prayers.

Having just finished teaching a workshop on networking and self-promotion, I filed away this technique for future reference.

I have no real beef with this woman being proud and wanting to brag about her son-in-law, but the fact that she did it under the pretext of asking for "prayers and thoughts" made me want a new word to describe it. Explana-prayer? Requetsa-brag? Braga-quest? Suggestions welcome.

I find this woman endlessly entertaining in a tiring sort of way. She is elderly, southern and in the habit of saying things like "Bless her heart, she just doesn't have a clue about what she's doing."

I think that fits tidily into the category of a "blessisult" but something else may have already been coined that I haven't heard yet.

My favorite song about words.

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16 February 2014

Radio

Anyone who knows me knows that I am Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion and Pro-Reproductive Justice. The objections people raise about other people having an abortion don't move me. I find it ludicrous that a stranger can disagree with, and try to influence, a medical procedure I elect to have.

Given this is an issue I have been championing for 30+ years, I thought I had read and/or heard all possible arguments for and against abortion. I was wrong.

I recently found myself listening to a broadcast called "Station of the Cross" while driving through a rural area. A project I am working on is requiring a bit of driving and when I am alone in the car I tend to cruise the radio stations rather than listen to music or pod casts.
Station of the Cross is a Catholic station that alternates call in talk shows with liturgy and religious music.

The talk show I came in on was talking about a demonic possession in Gary, Indiana. A reporter, and supposed eye-witness, was relating the exorcism preformed on two boys under ten who it turned out were being infected by a demon that was actually possessing their mother.

The possession, with its details of children talking in demonic voices and floating to the ceiling at the pediatricians office was bizarre enough, but the explanation the talk show folks gave for the cause of the possession was even more bizarre.

The host asked the reporter how the priest discovered that the mother was the conduit for the "The Evil One" and she related the following story.

The mother had been engaging in extramarital sex with a boyfriend who was not the father of her children. This created a moral crack in her soul that allowed "The Evil One" to come in. It was this kind of sin that the demons were looking for when they were flying around trying to find a body.

The host went on to discuss at length how "The Evil One" especially hates and targets women for possession because the Virgin Mary defied him. Because he hates Mary he goes after women and tells them its okay to kill their children. He sets traps for women by making them think that killing your baby while its inside you is okay. He uses the so called Women's Movement as a way to create cracks in women's souls.

Women have to fight "The Evil One" by refusing to use birth control or having abortions, which lets him into your body.

That was a neat trick getting from possessed children to don't have an abortion.
What really struck me about the discussion was their matter of fact acceptance of the existence of devils juxtaposed with feminism being a tool of Lucifer. I knew in theory that people literally believed in these things but I had never heard anyone in real-time admit it.

There is no space for rational discussion of reproductive rights if your belief system supports sins as means for the devil to enter your body and steal your soul.

That, my friends, is the ultimate reason that abortion must be protected by law.

Happy Valentines Day.

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06 February 2014

Mom Club

My daughter asked the other day if I thought that being a mom was a big sacrifice because you have to do everything for your kid. I said I didn't because I never felt "selfless"  and didn't considered having a child to be the ultimate accomplishment of my life.

She was a bit insulted by that information.

My daughter (along with my husband) is one of the most important and interesting parts of my life. But she is not my whole life. Nor am I hers.

I've never been comfortable with the idea of my identity being tied to being a Mom. Not because I have anything against my child or actual parenting, but because the tradition of dismissing other relevant information about a woman once her mother status is revealed is disturbing.

Membership in the Mom Club is automatic and accompanied by a million rules. It seems to be a Club full of clich├ęs, assumptions and ideals designed to highlight my inadequacies. For instance, I am not a crafty Mom. I didn't make my own baby food, knit things, or do kitchen science experiments.

Nor was I the fun Mom. I didn't make blanket forts, pack the van full of kids for sledding or throw fabulous birthday parties. Ditto for Sports Mom and Classroom-Volunteer-Mom-that-all-the-teachers-adore. And I certainly didn't qualify for Doing-whatever-it-takes-Mom, being lucky enough to enjoy a decent income and husband who co-parents.

I'm not sure what prompted my daughter's question about the self-sacrifice involved in parenting.  To my mind, it's not a sacrifice if it's what you want to be doing. Anything I gave up I chose to give up. We chose to have a child and I chose to work full-time rather than stay home. I hope every member of this club enjoys the same choices.

Good days, better days and all the tough ones in between add up to living your life as a parent. Although I am now fifteen years in, I may never reach advanced membership in the Mom Club.

And I wouldn't change a thing.
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29 January 2014

Red Card

I'm not a terribly sports oriented person.

I don't like watching professional sports other than tennis, and always preferred pick up games to organized teams. I'm equal parts overly competitive with games and bored by watching rather than playing.

I know just enough about professional sports to not embarrass myself in casual conversation, but not enough to actually care who wins or loses. Yet even with my non-sport attitude I could see the tremendous utility of the referee hand signals a clever student created for the American Philosophical Association. Well done Landon Schurtz, PhD. Wherever you ended up teaching adjunct classes, the students are lucky to have you.

I can see a potential for a Roberts Rules of Order version of hand signals to be used during congressional debates so folks watching can follow the action.

An Official Congressional Referee armed with the ability to call penalties for poor logic might raise the level of debate. At minimum seeing yellow flags hit the floor would be entertaining.

Unfortunately, they would spend the next hundred years debating what offense of logic in debate would red card a senator or representative.

And yes, I do know that I just mixed football and football.
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20 January 2014

Un-Wealthy


There has been a lot of discussion lately about poverty in the US both because of the 50th anniversary of LBJ's War on Poverty, and the proposed extension of federal unemployment benefits. An unfortunate amount of the analysis centers around why LBJ's war failed, and stresses and how social programs like welfare and unemployment benefits cripple a persons natural drive to succeed.

At the heart of the belief that handouts hurt is the old "bootstrapping" narrative. The rags to riches, work hard and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, anyone can be a Rockefeller stuff of American legend.

This kind of twisted, blame the victim argument really gets under my skin. Not only is it not logical - by the rules of logic not just my opinion - but it is also usually spouted by millionaires. In this case millionaire politicians  - 1% of Americans are millionaires, but more than 50% of Congress are. Go figure.

I find myself irritated by all the talk about poverty and no talk about poor people. I've seen working class, lower-middle class and the working poor all used to describe the same income brackets. That would seem to indicate that there is still a stigma to being called poor.  Of course stigma is minimized if you are "hard-working", "upstanding", "church-going" , or other kinds of credit-to-your-station adjectives.

Maybe referring to poor people as the Un-Wealthy would be more in line with current attitudes. Or better yet Pre-Wealthy so we can still incorporate the idea that just a little more effort on their part will propel them to the promised land of the middle class.

As the Senate debated the extension of unemployment benefits the people affected become in Janice Yellen's words "less employable".  Talk about a downward spiral.

Studies are showing that the longer you are unemployed the less likely you are to actually get a job. Not having a job is being used as criteria to screen applicants. And its legal for hiring managers to do so. If you don't have a job there must be something wrong with you so why would we hire you? What part of that is being lazy, unmotivated or entitled?

While the unemployment extension bill is not 100% dead yet it is certainly on life support. Maybe 6 or 7 of those wealthy GOP senators will be persuaded over the weekend to stand up for the un-wealthy. It's not too late for me to suck up to Rob Portman is it?

A logic refresher since I promised myself I wasn't going to rant about bad reasoning.

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Today.

13 January 2014

Sucker

It's taken five years but I feel I am now fully trained.

I got really excited yesterday when the six Republican Senators voted to allow the vote on the bill to extend unemployment benefits. I was ready to email Rob Portman's office and thank him for being one of the six! Positive reinforcement and all that. Cloture is now sexy!

Then, this morning while reading the transcripts of Obama's speech, I thought about how I had gotten excited about a bipartisan vote (of the slimmest margin) to prevent filibuster, which of course doesn't guarantee those same Senators will vote for the actual bill.

The bill would only extend benefits for three months, the media is still full of the "lazy poor" bullshit narrative and the House is floating the idea of passing it in return for a one year delay in the Affordable Care Act so its likely dead in the water anyway.

The political obstructionism we've lived with for the last five years has trained me to treat these scraps of cooperation as victories. Maybe it is progress but I sure felt conned. Congress has trained us to expect nothing from them so NOT having a filibuster counts as progress.

I must not be cynical about national politics yet if I can still be conned. That's something at least.

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11 January 2014

Time Out

Time off means different things to different people.

For me, stretches of "free time", also known as "Holidays", usually mean "Project Management". Winter break projects usually involve paint, furniture rearranging and closet cleaning. Spring break is generally a major area like the attic of basement, or weather permitting, outdoor work. When you own a house there is always something that needs doing and packing it into weekends doesn't quite cover the punch list.

The slop sink that I intended to replace before we moved in nine years ago still reproachfully lists and overflows. At least its on the list.

This year my time off was more of a time out.

2013 was a tough row and though I had good intentions of being productive during this break, I just powered down instead. Turned off my email, put my cell phone in my upstairs office rather than my pocket, stopped checking facebook. Even stopped posting to my blog. What I did instead was lounge around the house reading books, went out to the movies, had long, rambly conversations with my husband and daughter, and ruminated.

I don't know about other folks but I need space and time to do any serious thinking. I know and rely on my capacity for fast processing, organization and quick decision-making every day. These are skills I use like whipping up a weeknight dinner without a recipe.

But ruminating is more like bread baking.

Bread needs to be mixed, left to rise, kneaded into itself, divided, rested, baked, cooled and stored. A few simple steps over a good space of time. That is luxury: the time to pay attention.

My time out is almost over and I am trying to not jump the gun and feel it slip away before it's actually gone. It's an unfortunate habit of mine to feel bad that vacation is ending before its ended. I can't be the only one who does this.

While it has been very useful to be quiet, I find I still have so many things I need to say, to myself, to you.

And so begins 2014.

Happy-new-year

08 January 2014

Sandy Hook

It is disheartening how little impact the mass murder of 20 elementary school children has had on gun regulations. Increased background check legislation stalled, restrictions on automatic weapons and military grade ammunition not happening. I guess the horror fades for some folks if it's not your kid, and the political will to take on the gun lobby is clearly nonexistent.

In fact "In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law", however, of the 109 laws passed 70 eased restrictions and expanded the rights of gun owners.
Unbelievable in the wake of the unspeakable.

Below is what I wrote a year ago in reaction to the massacre of 20 children and the 6 teachers trying to protect them.

December 21, 2012
It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It's a place you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." 

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre points to our "blood-soaked culture" as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based on the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, and we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

After it happened, we talked with our daughter about Sandy Hook. She talked about the intruder drill they had at school the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn't feel safe with this one particular teacher, and that the room had too many windows. The drill had kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn't matter anyway because it's about as useful as  "duck and cover."

When she identified other rooms and teachers she'd rather be with if "something happened for real", I asked her to imagine what she'd do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something "real" ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn't think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don't know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that's racist. (I think the DSM-V should consider including this as "The White Folks Dilemma.") We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and it was clear that none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies always know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. It's useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. It's not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct. 

It's so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of "the world is a dangerous place" fear, seems implausible to me. I'm much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office, which just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office.

I don't have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart - "To know the good is to do the good". 

Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of "the good".

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07 January 2014

Mercy

The other night I watched a movie about lateterm abortion. It was a documentary called "After Tiller" that followed four doctors who were colleagues of Dr. George Tiller the abortion provider that was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in May 2009. These four doctors perform abortions at 25 weeks and later.

The procedure is controversial because a baby might be considered "viable", or able to survive outside of the uterus, after about 27 weeks. But viable is a word with a lot of room for interpretation.

The movie showed the women, often with their baby's father, seeking this procedure because their baby had horrific fetal anomalies discovered through testing. I remember from when I was pregnant that bone-deep fear during scans if the technician hesitated a moment too long.

These women were living that nightmare fear.

They were grieving and distraught and very relieved there was a clinic and a doctor that could help them. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not just Pro-Choice, I'm Pro-Abortion. This movie reinforced those beliefs and made me notice where and when my judgement kicked in. When I thought a woman was making a bad choice, or a doctor should have been more authoritative, or what I would have done.

That's what the question always comes down to when we cut through the rhetoric. What would I do in that situation? My answer won't be the same as yours. My decision today may be different than what my decision would have been 10 years ago.

And why exactly should my decision about my life and my baby have any impact on your decision? I will never understand that bit.

The thing that really struck me about what I saw going on in those clinics was the mercy and compassion offered to these women in profound need. A stark contrast to the judgement and ugliness they passed through on the sidewalks outside the clinic.

You hear people say sometimes "No one wants an abortion" but I think that's backward. What no one wants is an unplanned pregnancy. What no one wants is a baby with profound complications. Lots of women want an abortion. 

And when they do want an abortion, for whatever reason or no reason at all, having a kind, compassionate doctor trust that they can make their own decision is a mercy.

See "After Tiller" if you can.

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17 December 2013

My Dad

My Dad died December 2, 1992. He was 62. He had cancer and treatments and it all seemed to happen very fast. The space of a year from diagnosis to the end. Or at least that's how I remember it.

While my mother's death anniversary makes me melancholy, each year the anniversary of my dads death makes me reflect on all that's happened since he died. Big things like he never met my husband or child, and little things like he would have loved the world of gadgets we live in now.

For some reason I find myself measuring my adult life against his at a similar age. Getting married, having a child, buying and selling a house, burying my parents and brother, changing jobs, achieving  professional success - that's where I am, where was he when he was 48?

It would have been 1978 and I would have been 13. A different world.

I don't think I knew my father very well. I never understood what he did for a living until I was an adult (he was a systems analyst.) But then he wasn't much for sharing personal stories from the past.
I learned more about him after my mom died and we had to sort out the house. I found he performed in plays in high school, was in the marching band, and, from his war ration books, discovered he either grew 5 inches between 1941 and 1942 or someone measured wrong.

Fragments and bits to weave into my memories.

This photo I happened across in an envelope in the attic shows my dad around age 10 or 11 with his sister Susie, and his brother Jack on the right. They look a bit grim, but maybe that's just the posing. Although I swear that's the only expression I ever saw on my Uncle Jack's face.

Still when I look closely I imagine my Dad's grin lurking around the corner of his mouth in this photo. Or maybe that's just my memory of a smile.

Till next year.

James, Sue and Jack Shaffer 1940?

13 December 2013

Super Sniffer

The way things smell is very important to me. I have a super sensitive nose. I can only buy certain mascara and lipsticks because I can smell them on my own face. I can smell mold on food before anyone can see it. I am what is known as a Super Sniffer. Its an actual thing.

During a recent car trip, the smell of rest stop industrial pink soap makes me miserable enough to consider carrying my own soap around like germaphobe. It's not the germs (although rest stop bathrooms can be disgusting) that bug me, it's the smell on my hands. It invades the car. One of my ways of coping is to slather on nice hand cream as a counter smell.

My current favorite is Tuscan Blood Orange by Pacifica. Every time I use it I think "I am now the best smelling person in this house (car, rest stop etc.)" My family indulged my visiting two different crunchy hippie stores this past weekend so I could find some. My nose will not tolerate drugstore brand or (shudder) Bath & Body Works.

I also still use incense even though I am way past being bohemian. 20+ years of burning a stick of jasmine once a week makes our house smell like our house. Although a friend did come in once when it was burning and assumed we were smoking pot and trying to hide it from the kids. That was an interesting snapshot into his past.

I recently found an appreciation for my Super Sniffer when heard about some new research into detecting disease with breath tests. Turns out the chemicals in your breath, and other body odors, may be able to provide early clues for some cancers. I was not surprised by this because, being formerly poor and without health insurance, I had once visited Chinese doctors who diagnose by examining things like your breath, skin, nails and hair.

I am interested to see how traditional medicine can be formalized through research.

Even more intriguing is thinking about how the phrase "Does it pass the sniff test?" may have roots in our physiology. This idiom pops up in politics all the time to stand in for the vague, undefinable, something-is-just-not-right moments both real and fabricated. Who knows what will evolve if science eventually figures out how to sniff out disease.

Maybe we can crowdsource funding for a breathalizer that analyzes Lie and Obfuscation Content instead of Blood Alcohol Content. I'd donate $25 to that. Wouldn't you?
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11 December 2013

Progress

Sometimes the future arrives when you aren't even looking.

The other night we attended the fall concert at my daughters high school and I got to see the future up close. The school has a tremendous music program so the evening included chamber music groups, concert orchestra, concert band, symphonic winds and two jazz ensembles. And they were all outstanding.

In the concert band trombone section a girl who identifies as a boy was allowed to wear the jacket, trousers and bow tie boys uniform rather than the floor length black dress that the girls wear. No one blinked when she made the request. No one remarked when she performed.

Later during the jazz ensembles I remarked how the pretty (and talented) drummer would be a good match for one of the boys and my daughter said "No, she's a lesbian." And no one blinked.

I remembered the boy in my daughters middle school that came out as bi-sexual in seventh grade and the girl who came out as a lesbian, and thought this is why I live here. This is my community.

In this one place, for these children, it is okay to be gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. There may be other problems in their lives but hiding part of who they are at school is not one of them. That's some kinda progress.

And I am thankful.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays and continued progress.

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10 December 2013

For What It's Worth

I was rummaging around in envelopes of old photos when I came across one of me ironing when I was a child. I am three or four years old, in the kitchen, happily ironing the quilt my grandmother made for my Mrs Beasley doll. I distinctly remember getting this ironing board and iron for Christmas.

Normally, a photo of me performing this gendered work would have only registered as cute and ironic given the fact that my husband now does this chore for both of us.

Instead I had an epiphany about value. Staring, and staring at the triptych of images I could see how the seeds of both my feminism and self-sabotage were planted with that child-size electric iron.

At a lecture I recently attended the presenter talked about how women are taught their value. As children girls are usually praised and complimented for learning tasks or completing chores, while boys are generally paid. This system is roughly Men work for money and Women work for love.
She gave examples of babysitters who when asked what their rate is, reply "pay me what ever you think is fair." These examples where from her personal experience in the last several years, not the distant past. She went on to point out how leaving payment up to the client teaches them (and you) that you have no value.

This is something I carefully coached my daughter about when she started babysitting so she would state her rates upfront. I even helped her figure out how to inform clients that she had an increased rate now that she is in High School. I am helping her learn her value.

Unfortunately, as I stared at those pictures of me ironing I realized I had failed to do the same for myself in my coaching business.  I set my rate but immediately discounted it because of the need to rapidly accumulate hours for my accreditation. I finished my certification but have yet to enforce my rates. I was horrified to realize this.

I am now determined to not only set and keep to my rate because what I do has tremendous value to my clients, but I am also going to establish standing days and hours for appointments. Not that I won't be accommodating, but I need to set clear boundaries. For myself.

Because I know what I am worth.

Amanda ironing 1968_1 Amanda ironing 1968_2 Amanda ironing 1968_3

25 November 2013

Name Game

I got into an interesting discussion with my daughter about the custom of women taking their husband's name when they get married. She was for, I am against. My position is that if the name change were more than a custom it wouldn't be optional, it would be required or automatic.

When we got married neither my husband nor I changed our names. This was not a difficult decision. I suggested that I would be willing to add his name to mine if and only if he added mine to his. The deal breaker to this potential compromise, other than the fact that a man has to actually petition the court to be allowed to do it,  is the amount of effort it takes to legally change ones name. In addition to having to print all new stationary you need to notify:
  • Federal agencies: IRS, Social Security, passport
  • State agencies: BMV, voter registration,
  • Businesses: insurance companies, banks, credit cards, credit reporting agencies
  • Groups: charities, memberships
  • Employer
  • retirement plans & investments
One big hassle that for practical purposes makes no sense.

The philosophical issue is much more complicated for most folks. My birth name is a through line for my identity and is separate from any joint accomplishment with my spouse, namely creating a child.  Keeping my name doesn't indicate I am less commitment to my marriage any more than my husband keeping his name signals lack of commitment on his part. And our daughter has four names.

My Aunt famously asked me what would be on our checks if we have two different last names to which I replied 'we each have our own checking accounts'. It honestly didn't occur to me to have a joint checking account with my husband until several years ago at which point we had checks printed with both our names. Problem solved.

Everyone has their own reasons for keeping or changing their name. In addition to societal pressure there can be family, peer and religious pressure to change or not change your name. I think it also makes a difference if you have "made a name" for yourself before marriage.

I don't have a problem with either choice but I do have a problem with folks assuming there is only one right way. Taking the husbands last name upon marriage is not done in all cultures and countries. Just like having the right to have an identity is not done in all cultures.

Ask women in Saudi Arabia who only gained the right to have their own ID card in 2001 and who still can't travel abroad, open a bank account or work without permission from a male relative how they feel about identity. While Saudi Arabia is the most oppressive country in the world when it comes to women's rights it still serves as an example of how identity can be tied to other personal rights.

Like abortion.

In my view its a slippery slope from not being expected to have a unique identity to being considered an incubator for fetuses. My name. My body. My choice in both cases. And I will fight till the day I die to protect my right, my daughters right, and your right to continue to make these choices for yourself.

22 November 2013

Perspective


Driving to work today I heard a report about the victims of the recent Philippine typhoon. The story was about the role of the Catholic churches in the recovery and the lives of the victims.

One of the women was talking about her trust in God. The typhoon reminded her that we can't rely on our own powers, that what we can accomplish is nothing compared to God's help through prayers. Another woman spoke about how material things are secondary in light of still being alive after such a disaster.

The priest was telling the congregation to take strength through the suffering of Jesus.

This is a phrase that has never been accessible to me. I understand accepting ones suffering because the other choices are railing against the elements or fate or allowing your circumstances to make you bitter. What I don't understand is the minimizing of ones personal suffering because it cannot compare to Jesus's suffering on the cross for all mankind.

Someone will always have it worse than you and Jesus is the ultimate trump card.

"Offer it up to Jesus" was one of my mother's go to phrases when faced with a complaint from any of her children. Along with "Some people don't have any legs." Same difference - I wonder if she had criteria for when a complaint qualified for one or the other?

The problem I have with "offering it up" is that it seems to demand that you stop feeling what you are feeling because someone else has it worse. Maybe that is my interpretation.
I think you can always find perspective when you consider the scope of your problems or suffering (the first world problems meme covers this handily), but its okay to own feeling bad for a minute before you get perspective.

I recently read an article on Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter actor) who mentioned that whenever he would complain his father would say "You're not down in the mines." Granted there is a lot to say for knowing that your worst day will be better than some folks best day, but everyone is entitled to grouse once in a while.

Suck it up, do what you need to do, don't wallow in self-pity. I agree with and use this philosophy with my daughter, but I find it more powerful if there is a moment of comfort where her father or I acknowledge "Yeah, its sucks, wish it weren't so."

I hope the Filipino's find a moment of comfort when the priest reminds them of Jesus's suffering. It is a deeply Catholic country. I hope they find grace and God's love in the aftermath of the typhoon and the ongoing national disaster.

And for what its worth, I wish it weren't so.

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17 November 2013

Context Matters

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Context matters. Until it doesn't.

Watching and listening to the story unfold of how NFL player Richie Incognito bullied and used racial slurs against teammate Jonathan Martin, I noticed a theme in the commentary and reactions about how "context matters".

Not quite "boys will be boys", the explanations and defense of the NFL locker room culture sounded almost antiquated. Most apologists have couched what sounds like hazing, threats, bullying and racial slurs in the context of team camaraderie that only the initiated can appreciate.

It didn't take long for those "the way things are" arguments to sound ridiculous despite their apparent accuracy.  The truth of the NFL culture (in or out of the locker room) permitting and, if Incognito is to be believed, even encouraging racist, bullying, and harassing behavior goes beyond what most people can justify or excuse even from a violent and aggressive sport.

I have to stress the word "most" because fans commenting on stories think this is the stuff that's turning America into a bunch of sissies. Being "overly sensitive" to abusive behavior when, in the context of the physically and verbally violent sport of football, the abuse has been historically accepted and expected. Again and again context is the excuse.

I feel sorry for Incognito. The cultural change in the locker room, as small as it may end up being, will be the hardest on guys like him. The new expectation that things do not cross a certain line when players are busting each others balls will be tough to figure out when there was no line before.

The idea that you could be considered a racist if you use racial slurs will be the new context. And a reason is not an excuse. That may be a bit deep for most folks, but I'm putting it out there anyway.

The context arguments reminded me of a scene in the movie Babe when the cow says, "The only way you'll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are." The duck (who is fighting becoming Christmas dinner) says "The way things are stinks!" For whatever reason Jonathan Martin, like the duck, could no longer accept the way things are.

I hope the NFL follows suit.
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