December 30, 2014

Choosing our words and also our reactions

Everyone has heard the cautionary tale about the little boy who cried wolf, or what happens if you yell FIRE! in a public place when there isn't one. At some point, we become desensitized to the language and when a real emergency happens, nobody reacts.

Elementary schools always have some sort of anti-bullying policy and children are taught to never-ever bully, but they don't always seem to be taught what exactly constitutes bullying. I see this phenomenon as a substitute teacher in the district where I work. Nearly every day, one child makes an unkind or unfiltered remark to another, something perhaps as innocuous as your hair looks weird today or I don't like the color of your sweater. Within moments, I have a child telling me they've been "bullied". I'm put in a position of mediation, but in a culture that is so hyper-vigilant, every utterance must be monitored. In fact, if I don't react properly, I could be responsible for not addressing the situation.

I'd like to teach our children instead to be ducks and let it roll off their backs. When did the teasing that is inherently part of children being children become a rallying cry for preventative measures in every exchange? In no way do I wish to diminish the very real and serious problem of bullying, especially with the lengths true bullying can go in today's cyber world. However, I believe that the culture reduces the problem to the level that when real bullying happens, it's often ignored, in a slew of ongoing offenses we commit against one another.

When I was in high school, our drama club did a very funny play called The Stuck Pot. Here is a synopsis from Dramatic Publishing:
Some boy is always getting stuck with an awful "lemon" for his date at the annual dance. The boys have decided to establish a consolation prize to be awarded to the boy who gets stuck. They call it The Stuck Pot. The girls retaliate by establishing a stuck pot of their own. So much money is collected for the two stuck pots that everyone (almost!) wants to win. Alice is particularly anxious to win. She's not much interested in boys and she'd like that "pot" in order to buy a microscope. Alice is a whiz at chemistry and she cooks up a unique new "perfume," the smell of which should send any boy running for the hills. Meanwhile, some of the other girls are vying to be the most unattractive, and it results in probably the most riotously funny dance scene your audience will ever see. The dance reaches a humorous climax and a delightful resolution. 

I remember laughing hysterically at this play 30 years ago. The same play this year was rejected by the administration as having too many undercurrents of "bullying".  When the reason was explained to me, I absolutely understood, but I couldn't help but wonder why nobody ever considered it a generation ago?

funny looking shoes
I've addressed my own issues with bullying as both the giver and the receiver, and have seen glimpses of it while raising my own children. However, we don't teach elementary school children that sometimes people just aren't always nice to each other, and that isn't the same thing as terrorizing, harassing, or bullying. It's about learning social skills to diffuse a situation instead of escalate it.

When I was about 10 years old, I had a pair of boots that my mom picked out for me. They were very stylish in her eyes, but they weren't at all like anything my classmates wore. I didn't want to wear them to school, because I knew what would happen. But of course, Mom made me wear them to school and sure enough, I got there and everyone made fun of my boots. They were strange looking for the style of the day. I recoiled, embarrassed that I had to spend the day in boots that I knew people would tease me about. I got home, barely able to conceal my anger, and refused to ever wear the boots again. I look at the boots today and think they are pretty cool. But to a 5th grader in the mid 70s, it just didn't work with the styles my peers were wearing.

What happened with the boot incident was not bullying but a series of life lessons. I learned that sometimes people tease you for something you cannot control. You either learn the confidence to manage it or you let it hurt you. Or you find a reason to stop being teased. In my case, I knew my boots were funny looking in elementary school eyes. I gained the confidence to stand up to my mom and grow into a more independent person. I didn't hate my classmates or internalize the teasing. They were making fun of the boots, not me.  But I wonder how such an incident would be repeated today. Would a little girl wearing the funny looking boots think she was bullied? How can we check that reaction and instill the coping skills to manage some uncomfortable moments?

I think that's what it really boils down to. We need to learn to manage moments of discomfort. Those moments we're either embarrassed or ashamed, and how we handle it. It's about how we're reacting to what someone is saying.

Being thoughtful isn't a one way street. It's not just about what we say, but also what we hear and how we react. A little more thoughtfulness would go a long way.





December 29, 2014

Goal for 2015

Many years ago, (at least seven), I started blogging under a pen name. I woke up every morning and wrote something. A lot of it was ridiculous, some of it was sublime, but the ritual was necessary. I wrote and shared and folks gave me feedback. Sometimes the feedback was "what in the world are you talking about" and sometimes it was "wow, you really nailed it". But feedback helped me grow. It helped me grow so much I stopped writing privately and brought it public. Then I stopped writing.

I started marketing and selling and making sure that what I said fit my intended audience. And it got tiresome. I started to drift. I stopped making sense.

Since my days of regular writing, I've found a lot more commercial success, but I've unfortunately, my writing skills have atrophied. I like to think it's like riding a bike, I just need to get back on it and it will all make sense. I'm training my fingers to do just that and hope my mind comes along for the ride.

As long as I'm talking about bike riding, I need to shout out another goal. I joined an exercise studio over a year ago, one that specializes in spinning. For those who don't know, spinning is an intense stationary bike workout. It's cool because unlike when you ride on the road, if you slow down, you don't get left behind, you simply slow down. I ride a little slower for several reasons. One is that I am overweight. I'm trying not to be. But I am. The other is a slight heart condition. I have been diagnosed with "mitral valve regurgitation". Basically what that means is that one of the valves that sends oxygen to my blood doesn't always close and the oxygen flows the wrong way. At least that's how I understand it based on my research following the diagnosis. But I get short of breath sometimes, with a legitimate reason. My heart doesn't always get the oxygen where it needs to be. My doctor is watching it. As am I. I just realize that if I'm having a hard time breathing, I need to slow down and catch my breath.

It ties into the theme of my decision to write again daily. I need the fresh air. I need to breathe. I need to try to write again, every day. I have a goal of writing a biography for someone and I need to get back on that bike and ride.

Here is my bike. The chain is oiled, the tires full, and the handles ready.

So am I.

To writing, breathing, riding and life.
L'Chaim!

December 22, 2014

I'm not racist (but) ... and other lies we tell ourselves

I'm a white woman living in a white world. My life is pristine and crisp. But I think I'm enlightened. I participate in discussions about race and keep an open mind. Heck, I even told one of my black friends (because all us enlightened folks have black friends we reference as proof we aren't racist), that I understood. I even went so far as to elaborate. I explained in great detail how big I was for understanding the need to even the playing field, as I continued about my own personal experience. I was in college and applied to be an RA in the dorm. My competition was a black girl. Or at least one of several competitors. But she was the one who got the job. I remember the shock and outrage that she was selected, and not I. Never mind that 14 were selected. She was the one I should have beaten.

I explained this very sincerely. Halfway through the explanation, I realized, I. Am. An. Asshole. This from a woman who doesn't curse on a regular basis. But it fit. I placed an incredibly arrogant myopic view on my experience. I told myself for 25 years that I lost to a black woman. I comforted myself with false magnanimous declarations that it evened things out. I never took a moment to consider that I had been competing for a job with 13 other candidates. Only that I lost the the black girl. So I again repeat, I. Am. An. Asshole.

You see? I have sold myself on the assumption that white people deserve jobs and if black people get them, it's about quotas, not quality. I was so myopic, that I didn't consider perhaps I wasn't as qualified, or didn't interview as well. I assumed the job was mine. Because I'm fabulous and I know it.

Ha.

I recoil in my assumptions but embrace the chance to learn. In a time when we are barely openly discussing race, I am not going to miss my chance. I had an epiphany last week. In the middle of explaining to my friend how "big" I was for understanding that I had to take the hit, I realized what a jerk I was. I realized that my WHITE PRIVILEGE never had me consider that maybe I just wasn't the best person for the job. I am embarrassed. As I discussed my experience with my friend, I recoiled in shame.

This is the crux... I live in a bubble. I don't know what I don't know. This doesn't make me a horrible person. This means I need to recognize that just because it isn't in my realm, it doesn't mean it isn't real.

This means that it took me over 25 years to realize that I wasn't the best person for the job. Period.

Thanks, Staci, for listening to me and being my friend. I love you.
P.S. Happy Birthday, friend.

December 18, 2014

The meaning of Christmas

To me, Christmas is a year round celebration, not the weeks leading into nowadays Halloween and Thanksgiving. I get frustrated by the retail push to encourage us to spend money on kitschy junk as a way to "celebrate". Then there is the stress to get it all done, adding tasks to an already full plate. The past few years, I've given myself permission to skip one of the must-do tasks as a way of offering a reprieve. One year, I didn't bake cookies. Another year I didn't mail out cards. Another year I didn't write a Christmas letter, etc. But even by allowing myself a breather, I still feel overwhelmed and out of breath. I can completely understand the sentiment behind John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas, which was adapted into the film Christmas with the Kranks.

This year, for a number of personal reasons, I am not feeling any of it. My heart isn't in the mad retail or decorating melee. I've written Christmas letters, but not copied them and gotten cards, but still not mailed them. I decorated the tree but decided we didn't need to do outdoor lights, only to have to undo them in a few weeks. I'm just not in the mood for any of it. I don't want to bake, I don't want to decorate, I don't want to put on a fake smile. I just want peace. And quiet.

But, then once I get that peace and quiet, I remember why we even have the season. Over two thousand years ago, a baby was born into a humble life. There are a lot of stories about the hows and whys and the expectations of this young baby. When we stop thinking about another blow up Santa yard ornament or reindeer antlers for our car or ugly Christmas sweaters, we may remember the words that young baby grew up to share. We may remember His parables and stories, reminding us that Christmas is anything but all the stuff we force ourselves to do to celebrate. The things that ultimately leave us wanting. You see, Christmas has nothing to do with any of the things I am stressed about or not feeling.

Christmas is about the words of Jesus. Whatever you do or don't believe about religion, if you recognize Christmas as any sort of holiday, you must recognize the words of the namesake. Words like:
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.
He opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

These are the words that remind me what Christmas is about. The words Christ spoke, repeatedly.

Here in my town, I've been given a reminder. A man in my community is reaching out to the people that often are overlooked. Those who hide beneath our bridges and huddle in vacant buildings. People who haven't seen a shower or had a hot meal in days. People who need medical help. People who most of us turn away like we never saw them. He is finding them and going to where they are camping in a Tent City along our river. A loosely organized group has been doing daily outreach. They are going to where the houseless live, in makeshift shelters, up and down the banks of the river. Building trust with people the world has ignored and shunned. The group is helping keep our brothers and sisters warm, fed, and restoring dignity. They are no longer faceless ghosts we try to ignore. They are men like Will, who wants to find work in a restaurant, or Freddie who can work as a janitor. Or Jen who has worked as an office manager and billing clerk. The group is collecting bus passes and survival gear. Planting fruit trees so the camp will one day bear edible fruit for anyone who needs it. But more than anything, they are planting hope.

Jesus didn't charge us to hang wreaths from our eaves or put large plastic light-up figurines of His birth on our town square. He didn't ask us to yell at clerks who don't say Merry Christmas or write companies expressing outrage at a policy that won't allow it. He didn't ask us to exchange useless white elephant gifts and laugh about sticking someone with something nobody needs. He didn't ask us to bake piles of food and eat like gluttons while Lazarus sat the the gate waiting for even our scraps. Those aren't the messages we're supposed to hear about Christmas.

Thank you to a humble local shepherd, for reminding so many of us what we should be hearing.

If you're interested in learning more about Tent City and how you can help, please visit Go Fund Me. 


Let's all remember the Reason for the Season.

Amen.

November 10, 2014

She probably didn't think I noticed

Last week, I had an opportunity to spend time with a faraway friend.

We originally met online several years ago as we both were looking for freelancers to collaborate with. The writer and the graphic artist met and became friends, then colleagues. We worked on a few projects together and then due to the nature of our work, life got in the way of our collaborations. We still were working, but coordinating that work in the same place and time became cumbersome and our careers moved forward, albeit separately, not as a team. 

We still would touch base from time to time, seeing how the other was doing, but our contact was superficial and tangential. Then this past June, I sent her a note. I mentioned how much I missed our conversations. 

We haven't touched base in a while, but I thought it would be nice to catch up. You're on my mind from time to time and I wonder how life is going. I cannot believe our emails go back 5 years, it seems like yesterday we took that spring break trip to visit you. I hope you're well.
June 18
6/18, 3:03pm
Well at the moment not so great... dealing with possibly having breast cancer. Should have a better idea in the next few days just what is ahead... surgery... or surgery and chemo. So that's my deal for right now.
Distract me dear friend with what has been going on with you?

That conversation quickly became a diagnosis. She has Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer that has spread. She may only have a year of life. Or 13 (the years of the person she met who has survived the longest). Or more. But the diagnosis is clear. It's an ugly cancer and it's tough to beat.

But what do strong women do when they hear that? They plan a trip with friends. Or at least that is what my friend did. She asked me if I wanted to go see Wicked. So completely on impulse, the two of us combing the internet for discounts, she got us a fantastic room overlooking Times Square with a Priceline bid and I was able to find fabulous discounts on theater tickets. The rest of it was left to chance and energy. We knew better than to plan a million things, taking fatigue into account.

I drove in and my friend took the train. We arrived within an hour of each other and commenced on our merry-making. We did all the things that friends do when they have a limited amount of time together and that time is in NYC.

We went for cocktails at The View, a rotating restaurant 48 floors up from the city. It was so elegant and touristy. I loved our ever-changing view of the city.

There is lot of things that happened between the start of our time away and the end. But I want to highlight something I don't think my friend knew I saw.

We had tickets to see Wicked. The energy and enthusiasm surrounding our evening was evident. We were looking forward to the night and all it would bring. I never realized it would bring a moment of honest clarity such as this.

We were in the restroom and as is typical of NYC, the restrooms have attendants. As my friend was leaving, she slipped the attendant a $20 bill. It was subtle. I barely noticed but I do admit to looking and catching that moment.

She didn't say a word. That wasn't what it was about. In fact, it isn't why I'm writing this post, to be honest. I wanted to point out to anyone who reads this... no matter WHAT your situation is, it improves exponentially when you consider another person. We had a great visit. We didn't focus on the unpredictable, but instead focused on our friendship and time together.

When she didn't think I noticed, I remembered all the reasons I love my friend. She is generous and loving. She thinks of others. She had a moment to do something random and kind for someone else and grabbed it. She wasn't about glory or recognition. As I said, she probably didn't even see that I saw.

She just knows that when you can do something that makes another person's life better you should take that opportunity.

Thank you for being my friend, Holli.

I love you and I love our friendship. You're a special person and I am so grateful you're in my life.

October 20, 2014

On our anniversary

Today, Mr. Fresh Daily Bread and I celebrate 24 years of marriage.

Don't run, this isn't going to be your typical sappy lovey-dovey post. I promise. In our years of marriage, my husband and I have tempered each other's natural personality. There was a day I would have been sprinkling my post with rose petals, unicorn farts, and rainbows. That isn't today. Instead, I smashed a fruit fly in my computer screen and quickly disposed of his carcass.

I want to discuss what 24 years of life with the same person can bring. The good, the bad, and the honest.

I've never found a person more annoying in my life. Nor have I ever appreciated the ability to know what's coming. Those quirks, those compulsions, those rules. I tend to be the sort of person who flies by the seat of my pants. I deal with things as they approach me, head on. I'd totally lose in a disaster preparedness competition. Maybe. I am a planner, but not a predictor. I am the sort of person who decides what the weather will be by stepping outside, not watching radar or Weather Channel. That attitude has burned me as often as it has served me. I know that Weather Channel watchers can testify much the same. Weather, much like life, is not predictable.

We have two children. I often tell them, "this is a life lesson", when they have to deal with difficult circumstances, whether it be a group project, an aggravating teacher or a difficult friendship. You figure it out, and life doesn't stop because things aren't perfect.

Little did I realize that marriage with a complete opposite would be an ongoing life lesson. Upon reflection, we've oft commented that the first year we were together, if we were not married, we may not be together. But we'd made that commitment and dangit, if our stubborn arrogant selves weren't going to admit it, we were going to get through it. It was tough. Nobody tells you that, but I will. It was tough that first year of marriage.

You'd think it got easier as we went along. After year one, things sailed smoothly. We both worked, continued our educations, and built our savings accounts. We took great vacations and though our time together was limited, we made the most of it.

Then we decided to start a family. We had very carefully discussed it ahead of time. My career wasn't moving forward quickly and his was. We knew it was time to figure out what was next. We had our firstborn and with his success and our years of saving, I quit my job and took on a new one. Raising our daughter.

On a personal level, it was a huge adjustment for me. I had been very devoted to my job and my fellow co-workers. I loved what I did, but knew it was time to head in a different direction. I had to figure out who I was again. I can remember spending time with a former co-worker, a few years later, sharing some of the projects I had undertaken (including a stained glass window I made) and the co-worker telling me I really needed to get a life.

I didn't say anything at the time but I was stunned.

I wanted to say, "Why is my devotion to my family and finding side hobbies any less indicative of having a life?" But it gnawed at me. I knew that my brain was restless. As much as our family meant to me, I realized a little piece of myself was dying daily.

I decided to make my dream come true. As a child, I dreamed of writing. Of arranging words on paper in a way that people wanted to read them. My decision to pursue freelance writing as a career was not a "mommy-blogger" motivation. It was an angle that fit an audience I knew intimately.

You may be wondering why I'm still not discussing my marriage or anniversary, since that was the headline. The fact is, I am, but just not in a way that is expected. I am married and in many ways, yes the two became one, but in many others it's been a journey of being myself, losing myself and finding myself. All in the midst of being a partner.

Time moved forward. That baby is an adult and has an almost adult sister. And our marriage has been up as often as it's been down. We fight. We disagree. And in the end we concur, there is no better way to walk through this world than together. We balance each other. Two opposites. A save the world hippie and a process minded efficient engineer. We came together and somehow have made it work. There isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't tell me a better way I could do something and there isn't a day that goes by that I dismiss his fears and compulsions. We look at the weather differently. There are days he studies his radar and carries coats and umbrellas, unnecessarily, and days I step outside and do the same.

But in this journey, after one half of my life, I don't know how we'd have done it without each other. I cannot imagine a day I don't wake up with my husband and I don't want to. Our life has worked. It isn't always pretty and it isn't always precise, but it's ours. I'm not a romantic, I'm a realist. And our life together is much better than it would have been apart. I'm grateful for our journey.

Happy Anniversary to my partner, my bud, and my sweetie.
It's our day.








October 1, 2014

Is this for a grade?

When I'm not pounding like a maniac on the keyboard writing or trying to find someone who will pay me to write, I substitute teach. In my state, I can teach any grade short term, which is defined as less than 5 consecutive days.

I teach in two local districts and due to my daily schedule, usually stick to middle school and younger. I've discovered that with high school classes, I'm more or less a test or study hall monitor. I don't really get to learn or teach a thing. 

This week, I was substitute teaching middle school Social Studies. The classes were American History and World Civilization. I enjoy the refresher course in things learned in ages past. I remembered things I knew about Ancient Greece and Sacagawea. In some ways, it reminded me of the scene in the movie Big, when Tom Hanks played a 12 year old who became "big" overnight. He was at a dinner party and the host's son had a question about the three ships that Christopher Columbus sailed (Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria), and an adult pipes in about seeing the same documentary. 

As we reviewed a video and I passed out review sheets to compliment the video, several students piped up and asked "is this for a grade?" I paused. I honestly didn't know if it was for a grade or not. But in shock. I said, Does it matter? Would that change your quality of work? Would you not look for the right answers if it was?

I was not as stunned when the next class had the same question, and I quickly answered that I wasn't sure, but that at some point, it would be, so why not get a jump on what you need to know now?

The overriding concern with grades and scores reminded me of the changes in education. To be fair, grades have always mattered, it is how we could tell how much we had learned. It is a way for the teacher to know what they still need to teach. But the underlying tone that if the lesson wasn't for a grade, it wasn't important really struck me. Shouldn't all our work, whether we are in first grade, high school, college or life be done as if it mattered? As if we are being graded? As if we could assess what we knew and didn't know? 

It struck me as odd that students would gauge how hard they worked on whether that work would be measured. And if it wasn't going to be measured, it wasn't worth the work? Something got skewed in our educational system where we only teach what will be measured and we only work if we are going to measure it. 

To sit in a classroom with the opportunity to learn something new for free, what a gift! 
Or we could just hope that  someone who did learn about it makes a documentary.

September 30, 2014

You're not invisible

I live in a depressed area of the midwest. In 2011, our city had the highest concentrated poverty rate among core cities in the United States’ 100 largest metropolitan areas. Driving through the town, it's not uncommon to see dilapidated houses, homeless people, and abandoned cars. Where I live is outside the core city, but often have to drive through the city.

Yesterday, it was a lovely 75 degree fall afternoon and I was on my way to a meeting. My sunroof was open and the radio was tuned to my favorite station. I mentally cursed as I saw the light I was approaching turn red, slowing my journey. I grumbled even more when I spotted the far-too-familiar person on the corner with a cardboard sign asking for money.

My mental inventory was rattling off a course of action, while I rolled up the window on that side of my car as I came to a stop. I kept telling myself not to make eye contact, "don't encourage him", the typical narrative we tell ourselves when we see someone who makes us uncomfortable.

In the periphery, I saw him standing still on the corner, not approaching any of the cars, just hopefully holding his sign, willing someone to open their window, or maybe their heart.

I had just stopped at the ATM, put some cash in my wallet, and it was tucked into my purse, laying on the passenger seat. Something hit me in that moment. All I needed to do to get money was drive through a magic window, punch a few buttons and it popped out of a little slot. I never would know what the indignity of standing on a street corner in an economically decimated town with a makeshift cardboard sign, hoping for the kindness of a stranger. I knew I could do better than avert my eyes. I could do something.

In that split second I reached into my wallet and grabbed one of the crisp bills I had just gotten from the ATM. I rolled down my window and motioned for him to come over. It was broad daylight, so I wasn't worried for my safety, in fact if anything, I wanted him to know that I didn't meet the stereotype anymore than maybe he did. I didn't want either of us to be invisible to each other.

He was polite and graciously appreciative and told me not to be scared, he'd never hurt a woman. The light was about to change and so there wasn't a lot of time for chit-chat. I don't know a thing about why he was begging or homeless. It didn't matter. He didn't know a thing about why I had a luxury car or a crisp $20. We saw past the stories we tell ourselves about others and only saw two people helping each other. Yes, he helped me. He helped me soften my heart. I wished him luck and told him to have a nice day.

My friend with the cardboard sign smiled broadly and he must have said "thank you" 10 times. The light changed as I drove off and he waved and then resumed his quietly dignified stance, as dignified as I imagine a person who is begging for money could be. But he was smiling. Someone saw him and someone cared.

Now I'm not suggesting we throw money at every person who asks for it, without wondering why they need it. Or maybe I am. Maybe it doesn't matter why they are asking. Really, think about it. That bill I handed him meant so much more to him than it would to me. In fact, I've even gone into a forgotten pair of pants or done laundry and found a $20. I'm pretty sure that's never happened to someone like him. I had it to share, so I did.

Maybe I am suggesting we take off the blinders and remind those in need that they are not invisible. They exist and they need to be seen. We exist and we need to be seen. We share this planet. Let's see each other as neighbors.

September 17, 2014

Trouble Maker

Last year, after my firstborn child started college, and my second born was old enough to drive, I realized my nest was half full. For years, I've felt that I was meant to be a teacher. I mean this with no immodesty; I am really good with kids. I like them and I convey that. Because they know I like them, they respond.

I learned that I am not meant to be a full time teacher because I don't like planning or paperwork or tests. I like getting in and getting my hands dirty. I'm grateful for the carefully arranged lessons and statistical measures that each teacher must do. Me? I get to come in for a day and be a rock star. I read the lessons, ask questions and watch young eyes and minds come to life.

Sometimes. Sometimes, I see a child who is either struggling or beaten down.

Yesterday, I became reacquainted with some of my students from last year. My heart tugged as I saw a young man I met last year. He had been identified as a trouble maker last year and actually accused of crimes that were later proven he didn't commit. He seems to have found a comfortable place as the trouble maker and that saddened me. I don't have the arrogance to suppose that he isn’t as bad as he seems, but boy, I sure hope that I can give him a glimpse of someone believing in him.

He’s a bright young man. I read his work and it’s as good if not better than anything his peers produce. But he’s labeled. Last year, he was accused of stealing, and even under intense scrutiny, he denied the theft, explaining that he was allergic to peanuts, and that there was no way he would steal a Reese’s. The aide at the time nodded to me knowingly, explaining, he may not eat it, but he could probably sell it.

I actually understand why such a young man would fall under scrutiny. He is a behavior problem. The part where my heart breaks is that our egos don't give us the chance to let go when that scrutiny fails. We continue to accuse and suspect, even when we don't have a rational reason.

He was allergic to peanuts. He did NOT steal the Reese’s peanut butter cup, and in fact, a teacher came into the room later that morning and asked, did you find the money I left last night when I was here for conferences? The case of the missing candy bar was solved, but the cloud of suspicion hung over that young man.

The story stuck with me from my day as a sub. As someone who comes in and out one day at a time, I don't purport to know more than those who are there daily. But I see things differently. Yesterday, I saw my young friend again. We smiled knowingly at each other.

The work was assigned and he balked. He found one excuse after another to avoid doing it. The aide again told me, “All he does is get into trouble”. I remarked that sometimes things like that are self-fulfilling prophecies. He gets in trouble because that is what expected of him. I went over to him and said, “You need to stop stalling and do this or you will have to stay in for recess and work on it”. He began, albeit 20 minutes later, and wrote what I consider a very age appropriate and persuasive essay. I do not get to grade the essays, and honestly, I'm probably not even supposed to read them, but my personal fascination with this young student got the better of me. I had to see if he wrote anything of substance. He did.

My anecdotal evidence is simple. He is smart. But he is labeled. I don't see him daily so I can ignore the label.

But I also see the writing on the wall. This smart young student will not surpass his label. He will not be encouraged to reach further than his life. My heart cries for him. My heart cries for the thousands who are in cities around the nation, who are labeled and not listened to. A trouble maker he was labeled and that is who he will become.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

July 15, 2014

Shhhh... I'm letting you in on a light bladder leakage tip!

Many thanks to Poise for sponsoring today's story, and keeping me confident!

When I gave birth to my first child, she was five weeks early and I went into labor shortly after my water broke in the store parking lot. During our childbirth instruction, we were warned that we should drop a jar of pickles if our water broke so nobody would think we pee'd our pants. Nearly 20 years later, the fear of light bladder incontinence continues to plague women everywhere. Age really has nothing to do with it. When women give birth, a lot of things never completely go back to normal. Let's face it, you don't even have to give birth to experience moments of light incontinence.

Who can forget the line from the movie Pretty Woman, where Edward quickly covers up for Vivian's comment?
Old Lady at Opera: “Did you like the opera, dear?”Vivian: “It was so good, I almost pee'd my pants!”Edward: “She said she liked it better than Pirates of Penzance.”
We all know what it's like, if we're being honest. We know that there are certain times we will be together with good friends and get to laughing so hard we pee our pants a little. Instead of BYOB for such get togethers, I think we should think about BYOP. P for Poise. Protection. Personal Dignity. Privacy.

When I first thought about doing this campaign, my initial reaction was befuddlement... what could I possibly know about incontinence? Turns out quite a bit. I'm in my late forties, and while I may not be thinking about bladder control, but I wasn't thinking about weight loss, grey hairs, or bifocals, either.

I'm not going to deny it, there are times a sneeze or fit of laughter causes me to lose my control a little. Let's be realistic. Nobody wants to sit around soggy or stay home from events when there is a perfectly Poise'd solution. And with a personal introduction to SAM, their Super Absorbent Material, we have the confidence and comfort in social situations without worrying about laughter, sneezing, or not knowing where the nearest bathroom is.

You just never know when the years are going to attempt to steal the things you think you can control, but don't let age rob your future. Hang out with SAM and Poise and you'll be ready for anything.

If you are interested in meeting SAM for free, and learning what it's like to have Poise, simply follow the links in this story. 

May 27, 2014

For a friend who needs a voice #YesAllWomen

A friend needed a place to share her story, why #YesAllWoman hit home. I offered my blog space and my writing skill for her to tell the world what happened to her. This is her story, in my words. 


Over the weekend, a movement for women's rights took place in the most viral of ways. The hashtag #YesAllWomen took over Twitter in response to the horrifying events that unfolded in Santa Barbara over the weekend. 

I refuse to give a name to the perpetrator. I hate when someone commits a crime and becomes famous. Nor do I suspect any victim wants to be famous for their victimization. 

Instead, I step back a few and generalize. It seems a logical extrapolation. Guy hates that girls aren't into him. Thinks it's appropriate to plan and execute revenge. I oversimplify, no question. The details of the event can be found anywhere online. 

I am going to tell a much more personal account and why the #YesAllWomen not only resonated but also why I still feel compelled to tell my story privately and express any level of sexuality the same way. 

When I was a college junior, I had finally saved enough to move out of the house. I had commuted to college my first two years, but wanted desperately to spread my wings. I had been very sheltered and my dad was strict. I am the only girl in my family. He guarded me with a baseball bat. 

I was so happy to have some independence. You see, through the years, I had never have spent even more than a night or two away from my family. I never went to camp, I had a few youth group retreats or sleepovers. I visited friends at college, but my time away from home was limited. I had no autonomy. 

Enter living on campus at college. 

You may have imagined, I lived up the stereotype. The sheltered kid went wild. I flirted, I met guys, I drank more than I should. I went to nightclubs and I stayed up late. I ate when I wanted. I was free. 

And that freedom got me forcibly assaulted sexually. There is another word for it, but to use it keeps my post from being published.

And for many years, I have believed it was my fault. 

I shouldn't have drank, I shouldn't have gone back to his room, I should have been louder when I told him no, stop, no. I should should should have this that this. 

I recoiled in blame and shame. 

After he r'ed me, I slinked back to my room. I thought we were just going to watch Saturday Night Live. I had hung out with him so many times before, I never assumed that being alone with him would be dangerous. In fact I felt so safe, I fell asleep. 

I woke up to him climbing atop me and trying to maneuver his penis inside my dry, sleepy, body. Everything was a fog except me saying no, please, no. But he did what he wanted to me. And I was ashamed. 

I said nothing. I scoured my shame down the drain and prayed away the filth. I stopped going out, knowing that if I went out I was at risk. I convinced myself I was the only one to blame for what happened. I told nobody. 

Until I ran into a girl I knew from across the hall. She was a first year student. *She* was young and naive, and didn't know better. She was visibly upset and I asked why. The same young man who r'ed me, attacked her. She held up her arms to show me the bruises where he pinned her against the wall in his attempt to be affectionate. She hung her head and said, I thought he was a nice guy. 

I decided that it was time to overcome my shame, that obviously this person was a creep and it wasn't just me. I looked at my neighbor and said, I need to tell you something. My incident had taken place about 10 days prior. There was no physical evidence. Only my word and her bruises stood between him and his word. 

We contacted the residence hall director who informed us that we needed to file police reports. My friend opted out at that point, but I had broken the silence and wasn't done. I went to the campus police where I was treated like a liar. I was informed that there was nothing they could do unless I went to the city police department to have a r. kit taken but that after the amount of time had passed, that there was no evidence to prove my case. 

Meanwhile, sensing there was no personal justice to be had, I opted for an awareness campaign to at least protect other young females in the dorm. I petitioned student services to offer an awareness/sexual assault workshop. They did, but I heard the murmurings of fellow female leaders that I made up my story to get attention. Then I knew why the hall director brushed me off. 

Even women didn't believe me. 

The story was that "we had sex but he blew me off and I made up the r. story to get revenge". Well, why not, they continued, she was involved with him and him, why was he any different? 

I never really got over that shame. The shame of my fellow women doubting me. The shame that even though I said no, something I did kept me from being believed. The shame that I should not have been there. 

I confided in my family. I don't know why I did to this day, because the first thing my dad said was "what the hell were you doing in a boy's room?". And he blocked it out. Because even last year when I dared to mention it again (in relationship to a news story about some athletes r-ing a girl who was drunk), he said, you never told me you were r-ed. 

Yes. I did. And I stopped talking about it because your first reaction was to blame me for being stupid and imply that I deserved it. So I never mentioned it again for over 25 years, and now I know why. 

Because #YesAllWomen should worry. 

You should not trust men to look out for your best interests. Trust yourself. Even your father, who will find it easier to blame then deny that anything horrible happened to you. Because it's easier to blame you than admit that men are dangerous. That society instills an idea that women are objects, not people. 

#YesAllWomen, because you and I are sisters. 

#YesAllWomen. 

Because. Because you and I are the same person. 

January 29, 2014

Do you know if you're Hot or Not?

Find Hot or Not on Facebook
Before there was Facebook or YouTube, there was a simple rating site developed in 2000 by two Berkely engineering students, Jim Young and James Hong. Little did they know their disagreement about whether a girl was "hot or not" would evolve into a wildly popular site, that was receiving over 2 million hits/daily within a week of launching.

It's always interesting to find out how others see you. Several years ago, Hot or Not debuted with wild success as a fun, flirty way to learn how we are perceived by others.

As a woman in her late 40s, I admit I know a thing or two about being hot, as in having hot flashes on a regular basis. There are days and nights I think my personal theme song is Hot, Hot, Hot. I'm not sure I personally need an APP to determine my own personal hotness, a simple hand to my forehead is likely to answer that question.

Get the APP today
All kidding aside, the science of attractiveness has proven that perceived attractive folks have a biological advantage. A 2006 study found that there are 29 points on a person's face that determine attractiveness. In general, the more symmetrical a face, with certain percentages of width to height proportions, the more attractive a person is considered. Most Hollywood stars score higher in the science of attractiveness, setting a societal opinion of what is considered attractive. However, beauty is only skin deep, and social opinions of attractiveness change with each era.

For example, Elizabethan women in England were plump and fair skinned. Thin and tanned skin was considered signs of poverty from lack of food and working outdoors. In fact, some of the popular makeup used was ceruse, a white paint that made skin appear even more light. Some even went so far as to paint delicate blue lines on their face to convey their "blue blood" status and wealth.  Such an appearance today would hardly be a pinnacle of beauty.

If you're curious how others see you, there's an APP for that and if you check it out, you can enter a :
$1000 sweepstakes

January 13, 2014

The State of Children's Health (infographic)

ChildsHealth
Source: www.http://www.socialworkdegreecenter.com/

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