Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why You Should Be Concerned About the Recent Fairness Debate (.... even if you don't support the ordinance)

As we all know, Fairness is the issue that drives me when it comes to politics.  It's my litmus test.  It inspires and enrages me.  Fairness is my jam.

During the last few months, as the Berea City Council finally came to a vote over amendments to our anti-discrimination ordinance (AKA the fairness ordinance),  I was able to  attend council meetings and forums on the issue.  Despite the brave "yes" votes from Virgil Burnside, Diane Kerby, and Billy Wagers, the amendments were defeated.

What I saw makes me concerned about the state of our democracy in Berea, and I think everyone should give  a second thought to the workings of our council, even folks who don't support anti-discrimination when it comes to our LGBT citizens.  Here's why.

During the course of the council meetings, I saw and heard the following from our council members.
  • Some council members appeared either not to have fully read or understand the ordinance they were asked to vote upon.  Even after multiple meetings and multiple readings of the ordinance in meetings, these members still seemed to have fundamental misconceptions about the provisions of the ordinance, especially the exceptions around public bathrooms, churches, and landlords. 
  • At the public forum, one council member suggested amendments to the ordinance that would contradict the state anti-discrimination laws.  Even after being corrected by colleague about the impossibility of superseding state law, this council member persisted.
  • At multiple meetings, a council member conveyed inaccurate information about how the city Human Rights Commission works.  This council member seemed to think that the HRC, a city agency, was the same as Bereans for Fairness, a grassroots action group.  The council member also seemed to think that the HRC had already investigated claims of LGBT discrimination and not found any.  It doesn't; without an anti-discrimination ordinance, LGBT cases are not yet part of their investigative job.  Council members should know that. 
  • Finally, more than one council member expressed the view that the ordinance amendments should be put to a popular vote, but that is not how local law making works.  By voting for council members, the people of the city appoint those members to make laws for us.  Then if we don't like how those council members work, we vote them out the next time.  That's basic high school civics.  
That's why, even though I'm upset that the Fairness Ordinance did not pass, I'm even more dismayed about the state of our council and our local democracy.  I'm alarmed that Bereans are represented by a few individuals who have seem to have misconceptions  and misunderstandings about their jobs.  That's why I hope that even people who are not moved by Fairness will thoughtfully cast their votes on November 4th to make sure that we have competent representation for the next two years.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Straight Talk With Tweens -- Scared Silly

So sometimes you just have to lay it out for the tweens in your life.  This monologue happened here last night in response to some snooty disapproval about some television programming which I was consuming at 9 PM.

"Look, sweetie.  Look. [It's election season, so I naturally went to politician speech with the "looks."].  Your dad and I just cannot be appropriate all the dang time. We have to have some time in the day to be adult humans.  Now that we are two years into this experiment of you staying up until 10 o'clock, which is as late as I can stay up, I just cannot be child friendly at all times.  Your dad and I have to have time to hang out with each other  and watch grown-up shows and talk about current events.  So if you're going to be hanging out until ten, there is going to be some 'Key & Peele;, there is going to be 'Colbert.'   I'm not going to watch 'Louie" or John Oliver when you're around, and I'm not going to cuss my head off.  Still, your dad and I are going to sit on the couch together and hold hands, which I know is completely gross.  If I have to watch one more Food Network show, I am going to poke my eyeballs out.  These are the consequences of being awake and in the living room after 9 o'clock.  I just have to be able to be an actual adult during some part of the evening, and it's going to have to be okay."

To which Mr. Hobson's Choice muttered, "This is the real me now; I no longer have an inappropriate self; I am only child-friendly in content."  From the number of times I've heard him say "Gosh, darn it!" in the last few years, even when children are not around,  I have to acknowledge what he says might be true.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The dog wants to know if she should get LinkedIn

The family dog, like her owner, is updating her resume and applying for jobs. Unlike her owner, she's only applying for openings in a niche field:  mailman murdering. She is available for any and all jobs requiring the regular murder of postal workers and  UPS drivers. She will consider positions branching out into the maiming of pizza delivery guys. That's not her dream job though. She also prefers jobs where she can murder mail MEN; female letter carriers are free to go in peace.

Also, unlike her owner, she's willing to relocate for any job in the field of bloodshed. Frankly, in her position as Hobson's Choice family dog, she has not had the opportunities she thought she would have when she took the job. In fact, she has not been allowed any contact with mailmen and their kind. When a delivery requires opening the door to a letter carrier, she is shamefully scooped up into her owner's arms or else shut in the bathroom (albeit with a piece of dog bacon). If she didn't know better, she would suspect that her All-Knowing God/Mom Jenny has some kind of arrangement with the postal service where the dog is not granted any access whatsoever to the mailman's ankles.

When she first began her stint as Hobson's Choice Family Dog, she thought her life was back on track. She wasn't living in some mean dude's car any more. She had food and regular access to lap-sitting and ear-scratching. She was allowed to steal the occasional pair of underpants and eat them. She  had a backyard that could veritably be coated with her dog scent. Unsurprisingly, a house with a yard ranks more highly on the Dog Livability Scale than an Oldsmobile Olds.

Looking back, she should have noticed something was wrong when the All-Knowing God/Mom made her wear a human onesie with a maxi pad for a week and then followed up that indignity up with abdominal surgery. Still, the dog  had felt utterly terrible and confused that week, even beyond wearing feminine hygiene products, and she had felt so much better after the surgery. Perhaps God/Mom had done this thing for her benefit. She tried to dismiss her concerns with her job.

Five years into the gig as the family dog, she realizes it's time to get back out there and see if the job market has improved in her chosen field. She knows she's going to miss God/Mom, who graciously lets her sleep on the bed under the covers. And she's going to miss the dog bacon.

But how much sweeter the taste of mailman ankle. She hopes that potential employers won't be deterred by her advanced age and her small size or by the fact that she rolls over on her back in submission ten seconds after meeting actual humans. She's ready to get back out there with the biggest and fiercest of them. References available on request...if only she can get outside, find the current mailman, and get a reference letter from him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Favoritism -- "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Last night was the first reading of the fairness amendment to Berea's current anti-discrimination ordinance. After three years of thinking about it, a town born out of an anti-discrimination movement of the 1800s is finally getting its act together to vote yea or nay on continuing on in that history of justice or turning into ...something else.

Something else was well represented last night in the council chambers.  Proponents of discrimination turned out in large numbers in red t shirts that read "just say to no to favoritism."

Seeing those t shirts made me quietly blow a blood vessel in my brain.  Last night was a silent meeting for the members of the audience.  Following the council's protocols, yesterday's meeting was time for the council itself to read and discuss the amendment.  On September 16th, the council will take public comment on the ordinance at a large public meeting at the Folk Center.  But last night was a time when the public was silent except for the messages emblazoned on shirts, and the silence and the word "favoritism"  made my brain melt.  

The folks in the favoritism shirts are currently protected from discrimination under the city's anti-discrimination code.  It's currently illegal in Berea to discriminate in housing, employment, and public accommodations because of a person's religion or advanced age (defined as over 40 in the ordinance!).  And these folks in the t shirts were overwhelming over 40 -- no surprise there --  with conservative religious beliefs.

On the other hand, it's perfectly legal to discriminate against people because of their perceived sexual orientation.  Perfectly fine.

So let me review.  Discrimination against the religious and the old:  illegal.  Discrimination against LGBT people: legal.  If someone tries to rent an apartment while wearing a read "No to Favoritism" shirt, you may not discriminate against them.  If  a potential renter wears a blue "Fairness" shirt, you can go to town on the discrimination.

So who are actually the beneficiaries of favoritism here? Yes, it's the folks in the red shirts.  They want special treatment because they do not want to include others in freedom from the discrimination they themselves fear.

As an old English major, an old English teacher, and a wrangler of small children -- who are the world's experts on the concepts of fairness and favoritism -- I am made mad by this fundamental misinterpretation of a concept.  

So I'm worried:   I'm worried because the folks in red shirts were out in droves last night.  And I'm further worried that if they can't understand what a simple word like "favoritism" actually means, then how confident can we be that they understood the provisions of the amended ordinance which state that they don't have to hire gay preachers or rent rooms in their own homes to lesbians?  The mayor read those provisions last night; those exceptions are in the ordinance.  I'm not sure who was listening last night and understood.

I expect we'll find out exactly on September 16th when the public makes comments.  Last night, you could see the "on the fence" council members tallying votes by the colors of shirts in the room.  There are going to be ugly, hateful things to hear on September 16th, but we all need to grab a blue shirt and get ourselves there if we want end the true favoritism currently casting a shadow on Berea's historical quest for justice.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Battle Picking -- The Next Generation

Slowly, slothfully slowly, I'm learning to mother a preteen.  It's a whole new ball game, as the saying goes, and I'm not a naturally good ball player.  There are reasons why I left teaching middle and high schoolers to work with the very young, and those reasons become more and more apparent the further our family inches into adolescence.  I'm trying to get better.

Yesterday, in the course of two minutes, I discovered the following:
(A) an open window in an air conditioned room ("so I can tell if it's raining"),
(B) spilled orange juice drying on the counter,
(C) peanut butter and jelly smeared in other places on the counter, and
(D) a sopping wet bathroom floor, covered in damp towels and dirty clothes.

All of these threatened my calm and poise.  Each mess made me crazier than the next.  Still, yesterday, the lightbulb flashed,  and I realized that I couldn't ask the child to take care of all four of those things at the same time.  At least, I personally couldn't do it without losing my cool and getting mean.  I had to ask the child to just fix one of these things and quietly take care of the other three myself, even if I didn't want to.

Later, I explained my thought process to Dr. Hobson's Choice, and he replied, "Oh, it's just like teaching composition."    Exactly.  Let me explain.

Long ago and far away, I tutored and taught developmental writing --  what used to be called "remedial" writing --  at a community college.  I loved that job more than any other I've had, and I learned quickly that I had to prioritize  goals in trying to get new students to the point where they could take and pass college composition.  Even though we in developmental writing knew that the college level instructors expected writing with few errors, there was no way that we could start with the goal of error-free papers.  In a three page paper, I would find at least fifty errors of all kinds, but I could not give a paper back to a student with more of my markings than their writing.  The students would quit; they could not possibly keep going when presented with the magnitude of their writing errors.  I wasn't a parent yet, but I learned the concept of "picking your battles" in the composition classroom.  So on any given paper, we would work on getting one thing fixed.  While acknowledging that we had a long way to go to get to college level writing,  we would just work on run-on sentences in this particular paper or just on commas or just on spelling, etc., etc., etc.  We picked one thing so that the students could learn something that would stick with them, with the hopes that they would eventually be able to take English 101.

How does what I learned about teaching writing apply to parenting an adolescent?  I tend to think that because the tween looks and sounds more and more like an adult every day, she should behave more and more like an adult every day.  I can't process the idea that someone that big and smart doesn't get the concept of wiping peanut butter off the counter.   Also,  it seems like in the course of any given day, there are so many adult tasks of daily living that she just gets spectacularly wrong.  My mind goes quickly to assuming that she lazily thinks that I'll take care of things for her, rather than that she's just now starting to learn the tasks of adulthood.

In fact, she is just now starting to learn those things.  She's mastered the task of "make one's own lunch;" she's even mastered the concept of  "wipe off dirty counters."  She's just still working on "wipe off dirty counters well enough so that they get clean" and "wipe off dirty counters when there's an interesting friend to talk with."  If children begin the process of independence at birth,  that timeline goes into fast-forward in adolescence.  All of a sudden, there are dozens more tasks we expect children to be able to do at home, at school, and in the community.   At the same time, their brain and body development are giving them fits.  It's no wonder that we see spectacular, luminescent failures of self-care on a daily basis.

When children are little, "picking your battles" generally means "is this worth a tantrum?"   While striving toward consistency on the big things, dealing with your toddler means always making decisions about whether to take things to the nuclear level.  You're sleep deprived; you've been wiping poop off butts for seemingly years; you're chopping food into teeny-tiny pieces three times a day.  So "picking your battles" with a toddler means asking yourself if you feel strongly enough about an issue to endure the frothing-at-the-mouth and summoning-of-demons that is a temper tantrum. What we don't realize as young parents is that we're doing the same thing we will do with our teens:  choosing which lesson to work on today.

My tween is headed toward independence just like my students were headed toward good grammar.  There's a long way to go.   If I pick on everything she does wrong, I'm just going to drive her and me up the wall and around the bend.   Worse, if I try to teach everything at once, she'll give up because the path will seem so hopeless and I'll seem so angry and mean.  I'm learning slowly, too, how to be a mom to someone who looks like an adult but who still needs me.  I've got to pick and choose so that we can learn to do this independent living thing... together.

So for today, I'm focusing on the wiping of  counters because, idiosyncratically of me, that's the thing that makes me the most bonkers.   I'll keep on her to get that peanut butter off while I quietly --invisibly if I'm lucky-- shut windows, pick up towels, and turn off lights.   Then next week, we'll try something else.  I'm working on getting her to college level independence, you professors and adminstrators, and I'm not going to fail her by overwhelming her now with everything she needs to do in 6 years.

That's my hope anyway; ask me about it again when it's time to start driving lessons or even just after the next time I find lights on in an empty room while slipping on a wet floor.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I can go to the movies!

I try not to write about it here, but those of you who know me away from the internet also know the worry and anxiety I go through over my continued unemployment status.  Is there anything more boring than another whiny middle class white woman talking about her career choices?  Maybe CSPAN in the middle of the night, and CSPAN doesn't run as much risk of being offensive as me talking about my unemployment.

Still as we enter the third year of what I like to call my "taking one for the team," the worries take bigger and bigger space in my  mind.  A better way of saying "taking one for the team" is perhaps "honoring my children's begging that I be home when they get home from school, supporting my spouse in a still-new time-demanding job, and feeling grateful that I have the opportunity to do those things."  In year three, it feels more and more like a sacrifice for someone who loves to work and has always worked until our move here.  In a community with a deep historical value of labor, it gets increasingly unpleasant to answer the questions of "what do you do?" with "still unemployed."   There may be long  stories behind that "still unemployed" -- the offspring begging and the corollary which is the so far unsuccessful hunt for part-time work in a small town-- but it's still boring.

 I tell that the children that "boring" is a word that doesn't exist because there is no such such as "boredom," so I really don't want to hear the word "boring" unless young people want an opportunity to clean the bathroom or sweep the stairs.  Even so, I acknowledge that the discussion of my employment status is, though time consuming for me, is "boring."

However, after a year, I made an important realization about one of the perks of unemployment.  See, I love to go to the movies.  I love, love, love the movies.  I always have adored them  from my childhood when it took forty-five minutes to get to the nearest theater with my mom's smuggled trash bags of homemade popcorn.  I haven't seen movies very much in the last few years.  No parent of young children has.   First off,  Dr. Hobson's Choice does not enjoy going to the movies.  On those occasions when he can take an evening away from work and our children are at Grandma's, we're more likely to hike, wander around town, or get a meal.  And besides, if the children aren't at Grandma's when he gets one of those rare evenings away, it seems willful to blow that much money on a babysitter in a one income household. I'm not entirely sure I could enjoy $20 movie tickets if I knew they were also going cost us $30 for a babysitter.  Remember that I was raised by frugal parents of the popcorn smuggling fame?

I don't know why it took me a year to figure out, but this morning brought the lightbulb moment while I was on my way to the grocery.

They show movies during the daytime.

 I could go to a movie during the daytime.  They say that when you're unemployed, you should spend your entire day focused on your job search while wearing a suit. But I've never had a job that required a suit, and I spend too much time cleaning toilets every day for that to work out anyway.  While I wait... while I wait for returned emails from professors who might have advice on renewing my Kentucky teacher certificate, while I wait for my substitute certificate to find its way here from Frankfort, in between scouring all the web pages for part-time work and scouring the bathtub, I could take up again a beloved old hobby:  the movies, the dark room with the big screen and tacky floors.  

So next week, I am going to "Guardians of the Galaxy."   If anyone would bring "Boyhood" to the nearest theater, I'll go to that in a minute.  I may rent "Grand Budapest Hotel," which I missed last spring.  And I hear that Rohmer's "Summer Tale" is getting a US release.  Bring it here, and I'll go wallow in French and remember my friend Ron.  The movies, it is.

It's still hard to wait.  I'll still be scouring the papers and the internet.  But perhaps, while I wait, I can be a little less dull with the help of, yes, the movies.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thoughts on Tuesday


  • This morning, I've decided to do my writing every morning after I come home from the gym.  I wonder if there will be a difference in my product or process when my work is created through a haze of stink.  
  • Paul reports that today will be a Triple Dipple Dipple Dipple Bonus Day.  That's any day where three good things happen.   For him today:  it's pizza day at school; his class is getting a pet hermit crab; and the Lego he ordered with some grandparent money is due to arrive.
  • We are hoping for a Triple Dipple Day for the new semester at the college.  Being one step removed from life in the college, I feel like a parent on the first day of school.  I won't be there, but I'll be wondering and sending hope all day long.  
  • People like to say that the freshman get younger every year, but this year I'm just wondering if they get worse at crossing streets.  It seems like the traffic, both foot and vehicle, has been particularly snarled this year.  I think it's more likely that I'm suffering from cranky middle age than that they youths are having more trouble than usual getting from one side of the street to another.  I will be happier in a couple of weeks when the world doesn't feel like Crazy Taxi.
  • Speaking of which, which of one of you City Council candidates would put a turn light onto the Main/Chestnut/Estill intersection?  You have my vote.  I would even campaign for you.  I would go door to door for the Turn Light Platform.
  • Meanwhile, in the parental bucket list, the tween has officially asked that I not walk near her when she is going into the school (if I happen to have business in the school myself at the same time.  Good lord, I'm not walking a seventh grader into school in general.).  I am officially now excruciatingly embarrassing.  Her main concern seems to be that my current purse looks like a little backpack, and she is worried that people will think that I'm going to try to go to school because of it.  I think every adult out there can agree that there is NO danger that I'm going to try to attend middle school.