20 April 2015

Why We Still Need Women's History Month

As Women's History month drifts to a close I feel like we are running in place with once step forward, two steps back on improving gender equity.  And don't get me started on intersectionality.
I read the article reposted below and agreed 100%.

But I can't count the number of times I have advised women clients on how to be more assertive without crossing the invisible line into being "a bitch." [Read More]

15 April 2015

Story Weaving

This morning, I heard someone say "women hold up half the sky", and I thought, "I would be happy if most people just held up their half of the conversation."  I'm hosting an event this evening where I will spend a lot of time chatting and being charming... [Read More...]
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The women of Spiderwoman Theatre.

27 March 2015

Women I've Known

The people who produce the William-Sonoma catalog are diabolical. Dinner plates in soft pastels, serving dishes with whimsical bunnies, botanical linens all scattered with charming alabaster eggs. It arrives in the middle of the grey, mucky winter and makes me want to whip out my Am Ex card and I don't even set an Easter table. [READ MORE]
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23 March 2015

Cowardly

I asked my daughter what she might say to help a friend have the courage to do something new even though they were scared.

After clarifying that the scary thing wasn't something I was trying to trick her into doing, she gave me some good advice. [READ MORE]

11 February 2015

The Right to Be Right

The comment was "Anyone who doesn't think we are living in a police state is deluding themselves." It was made in response to the video of the public defender who was "arrested for resisting arrest" while trying to protect her clients rights.

I don't think the person making the comment really meant a police state like the Stasi or Gestapo, it's just insanely difficult to name the disbelief and outrage at police behavior that seems increasingly arbitrary. [READ MORE]

21 January 2015

Gee Haw Whammy Diddle

My sister and niece were over the house to celebrate my daughters 16th birthday yesterday and, as usual, a bizarre bit of our childhood folklore floated to the surface of the conversation.

My daughter loves these glimpses into our past. Of course it never seems odd when you are living it, but it sure can sound that way thirty years later. My sister and I were talking about my Dad's various hobbies and I mentioned the Gee Haw Whammy Diddle.

Yes, its an actual thing. [Read More]

16 January 2015

Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks and the Brutal Truth of Video

There is a moment in every public discussion of race where the topic is no longer the justice or injustice of an action, the existence of structural discrimination, or lack thereof.

Comments explode beneath news stories, viscous and sticky, about what the personal appearance says about the people involved.

If the subject is a black woman they start with her hair, move on to her nails and end up with her clothes. If the subject is a black man the sequence is usually hoodie, sagging pants, and "gang related accessories", meaning anything from his shoes to his tattoo's to his jewelry.

Just how "white" does a black person have to look, dress or sound before their appearance isn't a factor that caused what happened to them? [Read more...]
Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice's mother

12 January 2015

10 Things I Learned in 2014

I recently saw a picture of Cinderella’s slipper with the caption “If Cinderella went back to pick up her shoe she wouldn’t have become a princess.”

Whatever your feelings about that ashy inspiration, I personally find it useful to occasionally look back and see what if anything I am learning. So 10 lessons in no order. [READ MORE]

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.

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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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