Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Those I Supervise: Overthrow me.

Act #243:  This is bigger than any one person.

Today I'm making a request to those I supervise - past, present, and future:  over throw me.

Let me start with a confession.  I don't have all the answers.  And sometimes late at night, I sit straight up in my bed gripped with panic, that I might have somehow made the wrong decision that day, or worse yet - stifled someone's dream.  While my life experiences and a few pieces of paper are somehow supposed to convince you that I am qualified to set a course, a vision, a fool-proof plan of action, you should know that I just can't do that.  At least not without you. 

You see, I stepped into these shoes a bit reluctantly.  Like you, I started out merely believing in the same cause that you believe in.  Then a couple years passed by and I managed to figure out a few ways to work smarter and multiply the impact of my work.  A few more years went by and people began asking me for advice on how to also work smarter and multiply the impact of their work.  Then committees and organizations began tapping me to help figure out ways to work smarter and multiply impact in entire communities.  Then I began seeing possibilities and potential, and clear paths to get to them.

And over time, here I stand - all eyes and expectations on me - to lead.  When in all reality, I'm still just the same girl who merely believes in the same cause that you believe in.  I need you to remind me of this every once in a while.  When I'm on the phone with bank presidents, setting board agendas, preparing for auditors, like I was all last week, I need you to pull me aside and thank me for my role in eradicating sexual violence (insert your own cause here). When I get beat down and rejected, and start suggesting ways for our organization to remain safe, I need you to remind me that our clients, our customers don't need us to be "safe", they need us to stand up for them - and sometimes that's not safe. 

I need you to speak up and have a voice on things that really matter.  And resist the temptation to breath life into things that deplete our energy and distract our focus.   I need you to stand right there beside me holding our organization's vision at the helm of everything we do.  To see me not only as the fixer of problems or the provider of resources, but as a true partner you are willing to engage with authentically, and commit your time and talents to fully, while at work.

I need you to continually challenge both of us - our evolving roles, and how together, we might have the most impact.   And if at any point in time, you feel you can no longer find your voice, or you can no longer see a clear path to our mission....overthrow me.  This organization, any organization is bigger than one person.  Any cause, any movement is only possible because of the collective efforts of all of us, and because of the magnitude of our strength to believe we can indeed impact change. 

So go on, give this movement all you've got.  Work hard.  Speak up.  Believe.  Challenge both of us.  Focus.  Reject negativity.  Respect the contributions of others.  Remember why you chose to work here.  Remember our purpose.  I promise to do the same.  And if I don't, overthrow me.  Because at the end of the day, I'm just a girl who believes in the same cause that you do.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What To Wear on Girl's Night? Your Self-Esteem!

Act #242:  Go out with the girls.

Fifteen years ago, my idea of a night out on the town with the girls included 4-inch heels, cranberry juice , triple sec and a splash of lime, and a purse so teeny that would only fit one single car key, an ultra-thin make-up compact, a credit card, and my driver's license.

It's been a while, but tonight, I'm hitting downtown once again - and I can hardly wait.  My girl and I are hitting up some hot dinner spot and we have tickets to a controversial theater production.  But unlike the mid-90's, there will be no heels, no cranberry cosmopolitans, and these days one could fit a small mini-fridge in my purse.  And my girl is my 13-year old niece, Abby.  We have tickets to see The Girl Project, a year-long culmination of a pilot arts and activism program designed to improve the self-esteem of girls.

 
The Girl Project aims to make a fundamental positive impact on the lives of young women during a crucial stage of their development.  Over the past year, 18 local girls were recruited through social media, theater contacts and schools, and engaged in weekly creativity workshops, relationship-building exercises and mentoring by positive female role models.   Why am I spending my first free night this week with a 13 year old?  Because six times as many girls 18 and younger underwent breast augmentation surgery in 2007 than in 1997. Because 95 percent of the 8 million Americans with eating disorders are girls and women ages 12 to 25.  Because there is a line of Victoria's Secret underwear specifically marketed to middle school girls.  Because as she enters high school next year, I want my smart and tender-hearted teen-age niece to have permission to talk about these things.  To be aware of these things as they are portrayed in mainstream media.  To challenge these things.  To reject these things.  To forgive herself for feeling these things. To know that she's not alone, that we've all been through these things.  And most importantly, to realize that her self-worth is higher than all the main female characters on Nick Teen combined.

I've never been so excited about girl's night.


For those in the Lexington, Kentucky area:

The Girl Project

What: Theater and multimedia piece that is the culmination of Kentucky Conservatory Theatre's yearlong project exploring teenage girls' self-esteem and their place in society.

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 29-Sept. 1

Where: Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St.

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 seniors, students and children. Available at (859) 225-0370 or Lexarts.tix.com.

Learn more: Thegirlprojectusa.org

Thursday, August 29, 2013

6 Surprisingly Common Words Banned From This Household

Act #241:  Check your sexist language.

1.  Hot
I almost died the other day when my 6-year old son described some girl on Nickelodeon as "hot".  Suggested response:  You know dear, the word hot is used to describe temperature like how it feels outside or how your food feels when you first sit down to eat it.  What exactly do you like about the way this girl looks?  Is her hair shiny?  Is that a colorful dress she's wearing?

2.  Sexy
I blame LMFAO for this.  He heard their hit song once at a wedding two years ago and till this day, every once in a while I'll walk in to him singing "I'm sexy and I know it".
Suggested response:  "Sexy" is a grown-up word dear.  It's not appropriate for you to use it.

3.   Policeman
I also correct him every time he refers to particular careers in gender-specific terms like using "he" for doctors, or "she" for nurses.
Suggested response:  Police officer.

4.  Pink
9 times out of 10, if we come across a pink article of clothing at a store, he'll ask me, "Mom, don't you like this?"
Suggested response:  Actually, I don't really like this one, but maybe they have it in another color like red or yellow?

5.  Calories
Damn those 100-calorie pack cookies that I sometimes buy to expedite the lunch-packing experience, there was a time period when he wanted to know exactly how many calories were in every food item he put in his mouth.
Suggested response:  You can have cookies every once in a while, as long as you also eat your fruits and vegetables and make sure you have plenty of time to play outside.

6.  Pretty
Sometimes when he's working it, trying to get his way, he'll say (only to me and not his father), "Mama, you're so pretty.  Can I have another cookie?"
Suggested response:  No.  (I figured the simplest way to demonstrate that flattery, especially the sexist kind - is not going to get him very far.)




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How To Talk Down a Gunman

Act #240:  Slow down and notice those who are hurting.

Last Tuesday a woman successfully persuaded a gunman to put down his rifle at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center just outside of Atlanta, and surrender.  Not a single person was injured.  She wasn't a trained hostage negotiator.  She wasn't a law enforcement official.  She wasn't the gunman's mom.  She was a bookkeeper named Antoinette Tuff who spent about an hour or so not hovered under a desk, not begging for her life, but rather  divulging her own personal struggles to a mentally unstable stranger, telling him she loved him, and offering to walk him outside so police wouldn't shoot him.

Ever wonder what you would do in the same situation?  Would you remain calm under pressure?  Would you have it in you to see someone for who they are, and not for the horrendous crime they are about to commit?  Would you be willing to show your vulnerable side and treat someone intent on hurting others, with that level of compassion?

What if I told you, that much like Antoinette Tuff, you and I have the power to stop a gunman?  What if I told you that you didn't have to run out and get a job at a front office of a school, but that you could, in fact do this at various moments throughout your daily life? 

It's easier than you think.  All it takes is us slowing down to notice people around us who are hurting, relating to them as equals, revealing some of our own vulnerabilities, and expressing unconditional love.  They are all around us.  We just have to notice.

The man who cuts you off on the interstate
The rude and disrespectful fast food clerk
The guy from college who posts offensive Facebook comments
The problem kid that bullies your child
Your confrontational, passive aggressive co-worker
The punk teenager in your neighborhood

Slow down.  See them for who they are beyond their troubled, defensive exterior.  Meet their scowls with a smile, their harsh words with kindness.  Tell them you may have also had a crappy day or two.  Tell them it will be OK and that they are appreciated.  That they matter.

You never know when you might be foiling a future gunman.

 
"It's going to be all right, sweetie.  I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life."
 
~ Antoinette Tuff
 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Letter to Governor Bobby Jindal

Act #239:  Toss out the salad and bring back the melting pot.

Dear Governor Bobby Jindal,

Thank you for your recent thought-provoking editorial, "The End of Race," commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's speech in Washington.  How did America miss such depth of insight and perspective about our nation's century-long struggle with racism, oppression, and discrimination?  How did no other politician, sociologist, anthropologist, academic, or American fail to consider your ground-breaking and innovative solution to end racism:  Throw out the salad bowl and bring back the melting pot.   

You are sheer brilliance and I can see why the citizens of Louisiana have reelected you for a second term, why the Republican Party selected you to offer the party's response to President Obama's address to Congress.  Of course.  You are a living testament of how we, as a nation, can overcome racism simply by giving up our "separateness".  How could we have missed that, Bobby?  Or shall we call you Priyush, the name your Indian parents gave you, that you switched as a child because you connected so well to the youngest Brady boy?

You have hit the bull's eye, Bobby.  As minorities, we place "far too much emphasis on our separateness, our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans."

More minorities should be born from engineering professors who migrate to the country like your parents did when they moved to Louisiana from India.  Why didn't we think of that?  More minorities should  work harder to save up their pennies so their children can attend Brown University and Oxford University like you did.   For the love of our country, more of us should convert from Hinduism to Catholicism in high school just like you did. God love us for clinging on to that pesky stubborn "separateness".  And just think, if more minorities would just follow in your footsteps to work for Fortune 500 companies and serve as college presidents, maybe we wouldn't be in this predicament.  Maybe there would be more of us heading up states and serving in Congress.   

You are right, Governor, it's time we start calling each other just Americans.  It does have a nice ring to it.  You are right, Governor, it's time for progress.  After all, we are all "created in the image of God — skinny, fat, tall, short, dark, light, whatever." And yes, it’s time to get over it. It’s time for the end of race in America. What a novel idea.  I can't believe no one else thought of that? 

Your parents did it by moving to the deep south a few years after the assassination of Dr. King and they were only judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  You did it by getting elected as governor in a state where David Duke got 44 percent of the statewide vote just a few decade ago.  I'm all in.  I will follow your lead.  I will shed my faith, get adopted into a family of engineering academics that can afford to send me to an Ivy League institution - which will in turn set me on my path to Fortune 500 employment.  I will call myself Marsha, and by golly, I will once and for all, stop clinging on to separateness. 

Thank you for setting me straight.  God Bless America.  May we all melt together in a big, happy, boiling pot of togetherness.


 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Parents: 4 Reasons It May Be Your Fault Hannah Montana Began Twerking

Act #238:  Try mindful parenting.

1.  You don't listen to "real" music in the presence of your kids, and you've never instilled true music appreciation in your children.  So when they watch award shows, they are not looking for quality, memorable musical talent (they have no clue what that even is), but rather, a "performance" shocking enough to tweet about instantaneously to their friends.

2.    You don't nurture a true rebellious spirit.  You don't challenge your kids to think beyond established boundaries, so they grow up defining courage and bravery as dancing around with life-size teddy bars and pointing foam fingers at one's vagina, rather than questioning concepts like freedom, justice, and oppression.

3.  You don't teach your daughters to celebrate their body.  OK, so one might say that last night's VMA performance was the ultimate celebration of female sexuality.  What's more liberating than dancing around in your underwear on stage, grabbing your crotch, with your tongue hanging out of your mouth?  How about nurturing it, caring for it, filling it with wholesome nutrition and activity, and then ultimately accepting it?  If you invested in your body that much, maybe you'd grow up believing that it was indeed too good to be dry-humping creepy teddy bears on national television?  Just a thought.  

4.  You keep telling your kid she/he is a superstar.  Newsflash:  So is every other kid in America.  You make them the center of attention, post countless videos of them on Facebook, when in reality, every other kid in America can sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star just as well.  When poor little Hannah Montana came to this realization, she probably panicked, clung desperately to that need to be noticed....so she shaved her head and got herself just a few tattoos.

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dear Boss, You Can Tell Me That I Look Pretty

Act #237: Foster a respectful, harassment-free work environment (and still have fun at work!)

Dear Male Bosses,

You can tell me that I look pretty.  You just have to mean it, and please don't do it all the time.  That might creep me out.  Just save it for those rare occasions like when we get all jazzed up for a fancy corporate party or a formal presentation.  I know you are probably just trying to foster an environment of personal connectedness and trust among workers, by taking the time to compliment something non-work related (like someone's appearance).  Just make sure you do this with all employees, including men too.  We don't want them to feel left out, and it helps me to not feel singled out.  You know something like this, You look sharp today, man.  You are rockin' that new tie.

You see, I don't want our professional relationship to be stifled by rigidity or fear that I might file sexual harassment charges against you one day.  I thrive off a work environment based on trust, the exchange of ideas and work flow, colleagues who see me beyond my end-product, and who appreciate how my personal story motivates me to contribute to my workplace productivity.

Please feel free to relax, and to even be funny every once in a while.  I would welcome an 8-hour day that is interrupted by moments of celebration and tasteful humor.  Tasteful, of course, being the key.  I know, this is where so many men seem to have a hard time, but I promise you, this is not rocket science.   Just don't share jokes or e-mails that degrade or minimize the value of a human being.  Any human being.

Simple enough, right?

Here's where it get's even simpler.  Truly respect me as a valued contributor to our work together.  That means: respect me as a qualified, capable, credentialed, thoughtful, experienced individual who has something important to offer to your organization.   You wouldn't have hired me if you didn't already believe this, I hope.  Once you can truly and authentically do that, your mind won't even have the chance to go there - to look down my shirt, or to conjure up sexual fantasies about me in your head, to want to grab my body parts, ask me out on dates, or make suggestive comments and jokes laced with sexual innuendos.

Don't degrade humans. 

Respect employees as valued contributors. 

And presto!  You've got a harassment-free work environment that maximizes our chances of collectively accomplishing what we're set out to do each morning.  So go ahead and notice my cute, new hair cut.  You can even make a comment about it.  Trust me, I notice yours.  After all, we're not robots.  And if we are going to spend this much time working side-by-side, day in and day out, it might help for us to actually like each other.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ask Your Husband For Sex, Change the World

Act #236:  Be vulnerable.

So I may be addicted to Ted Talks.  Just last night I asked my husband if one could completely transform their outlook on life buy watching a series of 18 minute videos.  I think I can.  Ted Talk by Dr. Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work has been one of my most influential.  As part of her research, she asked people what made them feel vulnerable.  

Having to ask my husband for help because I'm sick, and we're newly married                                           

Initiating sex with my husband; being turned down

Asking someone out

Waiting for the doctor to call back

Getting laid off

Go ahead, take 20 minutes to discover the importance of  letting yourself be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with your whole heart, even though there's no guarantee.  And then go ahead an initiate sex with your husband.  You just might change the world.

The ability to feel connection is how we're wired.  It's why we're here.  In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.  Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty.  I’m right, you’re wrong.  Shut up. That’s it.  Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are.  This is what politics look like today. There’s no discourse anymore.  There’s no conversation.  There’s just blame. 
 
- Dr. Brene Brown
 
 

Friday, August 23, 2013

When Your Kid Doesn't Play Ball (And His Parents Don't Either)

Act #235:  Wear red if you want to, kiddo.

Today the entire elementary school will be wearing blue and white.  At least that's what children from kindergarten through fifth grade were asked to do.  My six-year old was born the consummate rule-follower (except when he's at home) so while he's still snuggled comfortably in his bed (yes, I write this blog at 5 a.m. every day), my hunch is that when he wakes up, he will pick out a blue and white shirt to wear, just so he doesn't disappoint his teacher or classmates.

You see, this morning at assembly, two University of Kentucky basketball alumni, Jeff Shepherd and Doron Lamb will be speaking to the entire school about hard work, perseverance, and the importance of staying in school.  Kudos to the planners for their thoughtful efforts to expose young minds to  these important values.  While I'm not particularly athletic, I really get it.  I can appreciate the virtues of true sportsmanship such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence.  I know my son's bright and intelligent principal will do a beautiful job in connecting these virtues to personal choice, respect, responsibility, winning gracefully, and losing with dignity.  But I'd like to respectfully offer some possible scenarios that may be going through some of these impressionable minds.

This is cool, too bad I'm a girl.
I wish I could play ball.  What's wrong with me?
Do all tall black men play basketball?
I wish I were taller.
I play ball too!  I must be special.
Do I still need to stay in school if I don't want to play ball?

And some messages they are not pondering this morning:

I never knew girls could do that!  Maybe one day I can too.
The way I look has nothing to do with my capabilities.
Who knew that you could fight for justice by doing that?
I can be a cape-less super hero when I grow up too.

I've taken the liberty of putting together a potential future list of Kentucky role models for consideration:

Renee Shaw - host of Connections with Renee Shaw, a KET interview and discussion series that explores the cultures and concerns of Kentucky’s diverse minority communities and celebrates everyday heroes
Hasan Davis - Commissioner of the KY Department of Juvenile Justice
Kathy Witt - Fayette County Sheriff
Alison Lundergan Grimes - KY Senatorial candidate
Priscilla Johnson - former chair of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission
Marcellas Mayes - president of the Metro Disability Coalition in Louisville, a non-profit organization that promotes equality for people with disabilities
Silas House -  author, environmental activist

Note:  I love my kid's elementary school.  I have deep gratitude and respect for his teachers, his principal.  I even love his superintendent.  I have no doubt that they already have plans for different types of "role models" to be invited to assembly in the future.  I've never, even for a second, doubted their collective commitment to education and their passion to nurture and develop my boy.  But sometimes I disagree with them.  And that's OK.  They have always encouraged  and supported thoughtful push-back.  I bet every once in a while, they wished more parents would do the same. 

Gee, wonder what Plain Jane had to say about the time, the ENTIRE county cancelled classes for kids to attend the basketball finals?  http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/03/be-cool-stay-in-schoolor-go-to.html

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Happened When the Lesbians Moved To Town

Act #234: Really get to know someone.  You might be surprised at how alike you really are.

Last month the unthinkable happened to our quaint and quiet little town.  Two women packed up their belongings in a thriving city 2-hours north, and moved on in.  And we suspect they are not just roommates. 

It's hard for me to even write about this.  The way they look at each other.  The way they eagerly unloaded their hand-carved dining room table and African drums from the U-Haul truck.  Like they were going to settle down.  In my town.  Two women and their two cats, Zen and Banjo.  Not Fluffy, or Snowball, or Mittens.  What kind of people give their pets weird, sacrilegious names like Zen and Banjo?   I bet even the cats are female.  I hear that stuff can rub off on you.

I was told that one of them is a new professor at the college, and teaches in the Psychology department.  And the other is a therapist at the non-profit, community health center.  Why on earth would such a credentialed mental health professional and an accomplished educator give up their big city life to serve in our community?  Where will they buy their food and clothes?  For God's sake, WHO WILL CUT THEIR HAIR? 

I've been watching them from afar.  They shop at the farmer's market.  They grow vegetables.  And they dry and can their food. One of them even (gasp), mows their own lawn with a battery-operated lawn mower so that harmful emissions aren't released into the air.  This summer I watched as parades of adorable nieces and nephews came to visit, running and giggling through their home, making jewelry, wading in the local creek, playing Subway Surfer on their I-Phones, and participating in a host of other gay-indoctrinating activities.

I hear they've been a couple for six years and first met at the community mental health center that they were both employed.  You can't really tell just by looking at them, but if you walked by their beautiful, historic two-story in the evenings, you might see them watching the sunset together from their big wrap-around porch.  You might see them wave at neighbors, whom they already all know by name. You'll see them spontaneously invite people walking by, to join them for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. 

Last month, the unthinkable happened to our quaint and quiet little town.  Two women moved in.  And because of them, this town is better, richer, and in many ways, still surprisingly ordinary.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Twenty Things I Didn't Have the Guts To Do A Year Ago

Act #233:  You are stronger than you think.  Go ahead, be the change.

A year ago, I stood up to convention and finally learned to believe in my own power.  I quit my job, found my calling, found my voice, found courage to see the world beyond what it could do for me.  And after 40 years of living, without even realizing it or expecting it, I grew up.  And I grew into the person I was always meant to be.  Think you're not strong enough, not smart enough, not brave enough?  Think again.  Exactly one year ago, I had never done any of these things.

1.  Speak to entire communities about things that actually matter to me.  And they listened!

2.  Say no.

3.  Empower someone else.

4.  Nominate the president of the United States as the Democratic party candidate.

5.  Believe that I might have a completely original thought....and that it might actually be worthwhile.

6.  Publish an op-ed.

7.  Call a total stranger to ask them out for coffee.

8.  Dare to dream without limits.

9.  Redefine beauty for myself (shed heels, embrace glasses, pierce nose).

10.  Accept it when someone doesn't like me.

11.  Disagree with a president, a police officer, a boss, an attorney, and others in perceived positions of power.  Realize my own power.

12.  Walk away from toxicity.

13.  Lead a meeting wearing jeans and sneakers.

14.  Ask for help.

15.  Run a virus scan on a computer.

16.  Manage a $1.1 million dollar budget.

17.  Drive without the radio on.

18.  Hold someone accountable for underperforming.

19.  Write a blog halfway interesting enough to attract a thousand readers a day.

20.  Above all, be true to myself.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dear Girl With the Peace Sign on Your Shirt

Act #232:  Peace is more than a sign.  It's a choice.

Dear Girl With the Peace Sign on Your Shirt,

You can't wait to show off your rhinestone, sparkly new gear on the first day of school.  Your babydoll t-shirt, matching book bag, and even your socks all adorn that fashionable throwback sign in glorious shades all over the color wheel.  You wear these items with pride, attracting pre-teen oohs and ahs and where did you get that's along the way.  You feel groovy, as they would say back in the day. 

Did you know that way before you were born, and even before your mom and grandmother were born, that sign on your shirt was created to help campaign for nuclear disarmament?  That simple circle with 3 simple lines was born for the sole purpose of speaking out against war and mass destruction.  When you sit in the lunchroom cafeteria with your friends, talking about Justin Beiber, do you ever catch a glimpse of that sign on your shirt?  Do you really understand what is behind it?   That the sign on your shirt that you are about to accidentally splatter your school lunch on, is indeed one of the highest values of humanity?  That without it, you might cease to exist one day? 

Whether it is sparkly, made of rhinestones, or tie-dyed paint, that shirt you wear proudly symbolizes not only an absence of conflict, but true harmony.  True balance of status and power.    People and entire nations were willing to be arrested, face deportation, put their lives on the line just to honor it.   Just to advocate for it's immortality.  Did you know that people are still fighting for this all around you?  Just so you can sit safely in your world, in the middle of your cafeteria, and not worry for a second, that you might be harmed, or in danger. 

I'm going to let you in on a secret.  You can own more than that sign on your shirt.  You can own the meaning behind the sign.  You can do more than unknowingly pay homage to the hippy days of your grandmother.  You can walk across the cafeteria and invite that girl who always sits alone to come have lunch with you.  You can tell a teacher when you see someone getting bullied.  You can pass on those shirts that no longer fit you to girls whose parents might not be able to afford to buy  her any.  You can wear peace, but more importantly, you can be peace. 

And I promise you, there's nothing groovier than that.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Why I (Still) Won't Let My Kid Join the Boy Scouts

Act #231:  Pay attention to what others are teaching your children.

On Friday, my six-year old son came home with this Boy Scout recruitment flyer.  The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices and to prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader.  So according to the flyer, this is done through target practice and racing Pinewood Derby cars?  You may recall last year, the largest, private youth organization voted to repeal it's ban on openly gay members, but maintained prohibition against gay troop leaders.  Is the ethical and moral choice this:  gay children are harmless, but you can't trust the grown-ups?  Or is it this:  you'll be accepted until you turn 18, then we will value you less as a human being and you won't be invited to our parties?  Also, will the Boy Scouts prepare youth to become responsible participating citizens and leaders by teaching bigotry and discrimination (AKA, that gays should not be allowed to also participate as citizens and leaders)?   Hmmm... I see a need to sew up a few new patches.  One for exclusion, one for judgement, and maybe one for hypocrisy?

Thanks, but no thanks, Boy Scouts of America.  My kid will have enough challenges navigating this world without being indoctrinated with structured, community-organized hate.  I'll let you teach my kid how to shoot a gun, when you let me teach you that one can't be ethical and moral without first valuing human beings.  All of them. Deal?

 
 
 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Art for Social Change: Down to Earth - Artists Create Edible Landscapes

Act #230: Try planting something you can eat.

From the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education website:
http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/art/?ha_exhibit=down-to-earth-artists-create-edible-landscapes

Down to Earth: Artists Create Edible Landscapes is an exhibition that highlights the growing focus and emergence of “green” principles and sustainability in relationship to food, art, design and agriculture. The exhibition will include six artists or artist teams who are all working to create socially engaging interventions in the landscape related to food and agriculture, creating an aesthetic and cultural link between art and farming.  With the economic downturn, and rising fuel and food prices, a new focus on sustainability is emerging and artists are engaging these important issues. Works by artists are currently being exhibited internationally that address how food is grown, transported and consumed.  The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education presents a unique opportunity for artists to engage with the landscape, with its preserved open space and agricultural history. The site of the exhibition, Brolo Farm, is a small section of the overall 300 plus acres at SCEE and was at one time a working farm, though long ago abandoned. Each of the artists has created a large-scale work outdoors in this 3-acre site.
 

Joan Bankemper (New York, NY) is creating a contemporary “earthwork” which will function as a medicinal herb garden. Titled Willa after the Paleolithic fertility figure Venus of Willendorf, the garden is based on this archaic form. Inside the figure are 7 circles representing Hindu chakras or energy centers from root to crown; each chakra is planted with herbs that respectively lead to healing for that area of the body.
 

Knox Cummin, (Philadelphia, PA) has constructed Not Drain Away, a rain water collection sculpture off of the roof of the existing farmhouse complete with rain barrels, piping and irrigation system. The water collection system is gravity powered and uses no external energy to operate; by collecting rainwater, there is no additional load on the municipal water supply. 


Simon Draper and the Habitat for Artists Collective, with Todd Sargood and Odin Cathcart, (Hudson Valley, NY) Jeff Bailey ( Phila, PA) and Cathy Liebowitz (New York, NY) have installed a work titled Drawn to / Drawn from the Garden consisting of a mini art studio, potting shed, and seven vegetable/flower gardens. The project references the history of landscape painting and artists’ long attraction to the art of gardening. It also aims to encourage backyard food growing and the re-purposing of abandoned sites for gardening. Local artists and school groups have been invited to collaborate and to adopt two of the garden plots, provided opportunities for engagement and education.
 
Stacy Levy (Spring Mills, PA) will create a work titled Kept Out, consisting of an enclosure of blue metal fencing that will exclude deer from a small piece of the woods as a way to investigate how the deer alter their own edible landscape. The deer’s meal choices affect the growth of the forest and the field: their grazing results in fewer seedlings of native tree, shrub and herbaceous species. Due to human influence, deer populations are out of balance and destroying the sustainability of their own food sources in the field and forests.



Susan Leibovitz Steinman’s (Oakland, CA) 40’ square installation has at its heart a five-sided permaculture urban forest orchard, contained within a raised bed structure built using locally culled household salvage. The permaculture planting method mimics nature’s principle of combining diverse compatible plantings that conserve labor, water and soil, to produce abundant healthy food. The title Urban Defense and the form of the installation refer to Philadelphia’s myriad columned public buildings, and to the political strength of the U.S. Defense Department’s Pentagon. Ecologically, Urban Defense honors another American symbol, the apple—its five seed chambers of diverse seeds can create an entire sustainable food forest. Urban Defense includes more than a dozen varieties of trees, perennial bushes and annuals whose fruits will be shared in a public harvest this fall.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 Memories Every College Freshman Should Mindfully Capture

Act #229: Remember a time when you believed in possibility.

Today is move-in day at my college alma mater. While it was 22 years ago that I first stepped foot on that breathtaking and quaint college campus in Kentucky, I remember exactly how I felt, just like it was yesterday. The 18-year old me nervously navigating the world between MTV and teenage drama and self-realization and adulthood. I wish I could have bottled that idealistic feeling of anticipation, of sheer positivism, of total belief that this was indeed my beginning. That I had a clean slate to become who I was meant to be, and to do what I was meant to do.

These are the moments that transformed me during those first few days away from home. Moments and feelings that I still sometimes long for, but try as I might, I can never recreate. College freshmen, I hope you remember these moments and hold on to their essence. They will serve you well throughout your lifetime.

1. The face of the first complete stranger who makes you feel like you might possibly one day consider calling somewhere else, home.

2. The way the night air smells during your first walk on campus curfew-free, and the invigorating sense of freedom that you will feel during this walk - something you won't likely experience again without great sacrifice and intention.

3. The split second that you ponder doing something completely out of character, that you always wanted to do, but for some reason never did. Whether you've been held back by self-doubt, fear, or the fact that no one else believed you could, this is your chance to give it a shot.

4. Your intuition buried deep down in your gut, in your soul. Trust in it. Believe in it. It will protect you at your first off-campus party, guide you through your first mature love, and help you select a path of study that, above all, feeds your soul.

5. The blanket permission you give yourself to try. And fail. And try again. And seek. And yearn. And uncover. And discover. And do it over and over again until you finally feel comfortable in your own skin.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Five Signs You May Be Raising A Mini-Liberal

Act #228: Don't forget, they're always watching.

Sometimes when you're up against the big, wide, world, you begin to doubt whether or not you are really impacting the values with which your child is growing up.  You find hidden action figures with little toy plastic guns - ones that you swore you already removed. Your six-year old declares one day that only boys can be mayors.  And you secretly lie awake at night wondering if your social-justice-fighting self has somehow failed miserably with your very own offspring. 

And then, like a shining ray of hope from the heavens, at the least expected moments, your kid utters the simplest, most profound words. 

And you know that he is listening.
And you know that he is watching. 
And you know that he is indeed transforming the world,
merely by seeing it through the very lens of love and possibility...
that you gave him the moment he was born.

1.  When I grow up I want to be a daddy.  Try as I might, I can't think of a job more noble.  

2.  Mama, you look so beautiful, just like Velma.  In case you're wondering, Velma is the SMART one on Scooby Doo.

3.  Someday I think I want to marry a girl and not a boy. I think.  Yes, son that choice is yours to make.  Take your time.

4.  He's a grown up, why can't he cook his own food?  I was thinking the same thing, actually.

5.  Can boys be in charge of fighting for justice too?  Of course they can. Anyone can.  We all should.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Name is Not Sue

Act #227:  Don't try to change something just because it's easier for you.

Dear America,

My name is not Sue.  It is Mae.  I know it has three letters just the same, but it never ceases to bewilder me when new people I encounter regularly mistakenly call me, Sue - a name that has absolutely no connection to me.  Is it because you once knew a Chinese girl by that name?  Do I remind you of her?  If you want to know the truth, while I've been answering to Mae for most of my existence, my name isn't even Mae.  I have a story to tell.

41 years ago, a hopeful immigrant couple brought their only daughter into the world and gifted to her a name that was majestic and beautiful.  It translated to these words:  vast.....great.....earth.  They believed it would always connect her to her roots, but at the same time, ground her as someone with a significant place in the larger universe. 

The name, Maetinee was so beautiful it sounded like music to their ears.  That is until her first pre-school teacher unrelentingly butchered it.  So they gently corrected her, but she somehow never managed to get it right. And then people started asking, You mean like the afternoon movie?  And children in her class would giggle every time a new teacher took attendance and painstakingly struggled to pronounce the exotic name through their stubborn Anglo-Saxon lips.  And then their well-meaning American friends suggested that they consider giving her an American name - you know something easier (for them), more accepted (by them), and not as foreign sounding (to their ears).

And that is when the couple thought that maybe you would never be able to see the beauty in that name.  And they didn't want their only daughter to be taunted at the beginning of every school year.  So they began to call her Mae.  Pretty soon, all that was left of her name of origin, was printed on her driver's license and passport.  She morphed into someone that made more sense to America.  That was more comfortable for America.  That flowed with more ease on the lazy, complacent tongue of America.

And that is the story of my birth name.....and how it evolved in order to make you feel better.  My name is not Sue.  It is not even Mae.  My name is Maetinee.  Do you think you might be ready to handle her now?

Sincerely,
/māt·i·nē/

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I'm Not Complaining About My Kid's School Supply List

Act #226:  Change your attitude about school.

This week, I spent about $30 on first grade school supplies requested by my son's elementary school.  While I'm fortunate to be in a position to allocate such funds pretty comfortably, I'm well aware that there are others who aren't as fortunate, or who have multiple children, thus making such requests burdensome.  Before I even continue, I'd like to quickly acknowledge a few things:

1.  That I too question what supplies are deemed essential for learning (and whether or not paper towels and hand sanitizer should fall under that category)?

2.  That we should never stop holding accountable, those charged with disseminating public school tax dollars.

But now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'd like to offer a little discomfort.  I had the privilege of attending elementary school in two drastically different environments.  I attended kindergarten through 2nd grade in the suburbs surrounding  Chicago and 3rd-5th grades in Bangkok, Thailand.  Last week as I was shopping for school supplies at the local Meijer, I was surrounded by visibly stressed parents crowded in the narrow school supply aisles, eyes hurriedly darting back and forth between their printed lists and the remaining merchandise on the shelves.  Almost every present kid was uninvolved in the process, barely paying attention, dragging their feet and more than ready to make a run for it.  I was stressed just taking it all in.  My television set seemed to be taken over by uber cool pre-teens donning the latest back-to-school fashions to catchy music tunes.  Just a few weeks earlier, I chatted with family members who "dreaded" their kids going back to school, kids who were devastated that they would have to soon get up early again, and other kids who finally got through their required summer reading list.

This was a far cry from my back-to-school experience in the third-world country of Thailand, where local tax dollars are only able to cover public education up until 4th grade and where a large portion of the population have no choice but to discontinue their education at that point - when they are 9 years old to go work in farms and factories to help support their families.  There were no school lists.  There were no paper towels or hand sanitizers. Come to think of it, there were no Meijer's or office supply stores. But every year, months before school started back up, there were hoards of grinning, excited little children at department stores, shopping for school supplies.  That's right, pencil boxes and note books rose to that level of desire and importance - worthy enough for displays in malls reserved typically for special holidays.  And don't get me started on the options.  No one cared what kind of shoes you wore on the first day of school (uniforms were the standard in Thai schools), but EVERYONE would be looking at your pencil box, so kids got a kick out of selecting all kinds of cool and gadgety, multi-layered, secret-hiding-compartment pencil boxes absolutely essential for their learning.  Books were not inexpensive, recyclable collections of paper, but were the universal symbol for knowledge - knowledge that comes at a high price and is only reserved for those with the economic means to attain it.  So they were lovingly protected with intricate folds of beautiful paper.  Thais never threw, wrote, or stepped on a book.  It was taboo, for you would in essence be disrespecting one of the highest sources of wisdom.

In a culture where we too easily sacrifice for our children to have the latest video games and the weekly Happy Meal, maybe it's time we reflect on whether or not we are placing enough importance on one of the most valuable gifts we can give to our child in his or her lifetime? 

Knowledge. 
A life-long hunger for learning. 
And the freedom and possibilities that come with that. 

Maybe if our tax dollars only paid for a fourth grade education, we might start looking at the back-to-school experience less as a stress-inducing, resource-draining, Old-Navy-focused, dreaded event..........and celebrate it, along with our children, for what it could, and should be. 

An opportunity. 
A gift. 

A life experience reserved only for the most special, most privileged, most important people in our lives.  Now if only Meijer would make a double-decker Scooby-Doo pencil box with built-in pencil sharpener, I know a certain first-grader who would be ecstatic.  A first grader who, on his first day of school, proudly sported his raggedy, used red sneakers that we bought for him last year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Six Reasons My Husband is Not My Best Friend

Act #225:  It's OK to nurture your female friendships, even when you're married.  Trust me, you'll need them when 50% of you get divorced.  That was so wrong.

So I've been married for about 7 years and there are few things I value more than the partnership that I share with my husband, and the rich and colorful life we've built around that partnership.  Yes, we still hold hands and stay up talking till wee hours of the night.  We support each other.  He has my back.  And yes, we still dare to dream of a life and world full of possibilities.  But we also bicker weekly over who's responsible for the growing pile of unopened mail on the dining room table.

I love this man with every fiber of my being, and I'm probably not going to be the most popular person when I declare this publicly - but I don't consider my husband my best friend.  Here's why.

1.  Because I don't like sleeping with my best friends.  You know, it complicates the relationship.  Friends are so.....well, platonic.  I sometimes look at him with impure thoughts, especially when he's working a power tool.

2.  Because if he held that title, who on earth would I go vent to when, say.....a pile of unopened mail takes over the dining room table?

3.  Because I lived 33 of my 40 years of life without him, and I'd say that during that time I developed some pretty significant and close relationships with my friends who have SO earned the "best" title.  Listen, you've got to hold someone's hair back or pick them up from a squad car at 4 in the morning before earning that title.

4.  Because quite honestly, sometimes I need a break from my husband.......in order to hang out with my girlfriends.  And I know that he needs one from me too.  It's OK for us not to spend every waking moment together, and to still pursue personal interests and hobbies that feed our souls in different ways.  We even have one night each week designated just for that - guilt-free, kid-free, uninterrupted, no questions-asked days set aside every week, for us to do whatever we fancy........without our spouses.

5.  Because while my best friends know everything there is to know about me, my husband doesn't.  I'm talking details about past relationships, poor choices that I'm too embarrassed to repeat out loud even to myself (but that my friends witnessed first hand), and how I really feel about his cool orange shirt.  

6.  Because it's too much pressure, too much responsibility for us to place that level of expectation in ONE sole human being.  I like to spread out the roles, the love, the number of people I can call on when I hate the world.

So does this mean that I'm somehow less committed to my husband?  That I don't enjoy his company?  Absolutely not.  It just means that I value him as a life partner, a lover, a companion.  But when I have a crappy day, my jeans won't button, and forget to pack my kid's lunch, sometimes I'd rather just go over to my girlfriend's back deck and nurse a glass of Malbec.   At the end of the day, I always rest assured knowing that my husband is waiting for me at home.....with or without his tool belt - and I love him just the same.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Happens When Dark Brown Girls With Glasses Become Cover Girls

Act # 224:  Go ahead, imagine yourself beautiful.

Growing up, I was always that girl.  The sidekick for the pretty girls.   The nice, nerdy girl with the glasses - the one boys sought out...........to ask me to put a good word in for them....in hopes of dating my friends.  Make that the nice, nerdy, and dark-skinned girl with the glasses. 

I remember being 15 and thinking to myself, I can't wait to get contacts.  Maybe my skin will get lighter if I never, ever step foot in the sun.  Ever.  Beauty came in long, flowing locks of blond, voluptuous bosoms and teeny waistlines, skin so fair you could almost see right through it.  Beauty stared back at me from the television set and from magazine covers, reminding me daily of a world defined by standards I would never be able to attain.

So when producer, comedian, brown girl-with-glasses extraordinaire debuted on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this month, I was a bit blown away.  There she was, Mindy Kaling in all of her true, authentic glory.  Her rich, dark skin wasn't lightened a few shades by photo editors.  Her face adorning thick, dark glasses, almost identical to the ones I wore in my teenage years. 

And she was stunning.

And for the first time in my life, I dared to imagine a world where dark brown girls with glasses no longer played the sidekick.  Thanks, Mindy Kaling.

 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Art For Social Change: Caravanserai

Act #223:  Go on, join the caravan.

Caravanserai

Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet creates new pathways for Americans to experience the diversity of contemporary Muslim cultures by introducing U.S. audiences to exciting and dynamic artists from the Muslim world.   The name "Caravanserai" evokes the roadside inns in the Far East where caravan travelers would gather after a long day’s journey through the desert heat. At night, the caravanserais were safe-havens, cheerful resting spots for the sharing of news, companionship, and entertainment. Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet creates a modern caravan to experience and enjoy artists from the Muslim world.  Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet is produced by Arts Midwest on behalf of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations with leadership support from the Building Bridges Program of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Caravanserai’s film and media programming is coordinated on behalf of the program by South Arts.

Turkey, 2013/2014 Focus

The 2013-2014 season will explore Turkey through residencies by two leading musicians and a celebrated female filmmaker.
 
 

Omar Faruk Tekbilek 

 
 

Turkish world music legend Omar Faruk Tekbilek with his son Murat Tekbilek on percussion and renowned kanun player Bahadir Sener, explore traditional Sufi, Anatolian, and Middle Eastern musical soundscapes in Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s contemporary, global style.
 
September 22 – 28 | Lied Center - KU | Lawrence, KS
September 29 – October 5 | Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center | Post Falls, ID
October 6 – 12 | Out North Contemporary Art House | Anchorage, AK
October 13 – 19 | Centrum | Port Townsend, WA
 
 
 

Pelin Esmer 

 
 

Turkish independent filmmaker Pelin Esmer and her award-winning feature Watchtower. A touching personal narrative, Watchtower is the story of a man and a woman who seek refuge from their pasts and the world in the verdant forests of the Turkish countryside.
 
January 7 – 9 | Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center | Post Falls, ID
January 11 – 14 | Shangri La | Honolulu, HI
January 16 – 18 | Out North Contemporary Art House | Anchorage, AK
January 20 – 22 | Lied Center, KU | Lawrence, KS
January 24 – 26 | Centrum | Port Townsend, WA
 
 
 

Serkan Cagri Band 

 
 
Clarinet virtuoso Serkan Cagri backed by a seven-piece ensemble that takes audiences on a journey through the Balkan and Mediterranean music of Turkey’s rich cultural heritage.
 
March 23 – 29 | Centrum | Port Townsend, WA
March 30 – April 5 | Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center | Post Falls, ID
April 6 – 12 | Out North Contemporary Art House | Anchorage, AK
April 13 – 19 | Lied Center - KU | Lawrence, KS
 
 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Very Nice Letter to the CEO of Burger King

Act #222:  Let them have it their way.

Mr. Daniel Schwartz, CEO
Burger King Worldwide, Inc.
5505 Blue Lagoon Drive
Miami, FL 33126

Dear Mr. Schwartz,

I'm not a hater and this is not a complaint letter.  I actually have some fond memories of growing up in suburban Chicago with my working class immigrant family.  Every blue moon, we'd take a deviation from rice and noodles to have it our way, and we'd feast on chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, onion rings and fries.......while I'd proudly wear my very own paper King's crown on my head.  I have to admit that I haven't visited often in adulthood.  You know how taste buds change and all.  Plus, having since become a vegetarian (and somewhat health-conscious), the opportunity to stop by just doesn't present itself much.   I still dream of those onion rings every once in a while. 

So I was more than happy to take a little trip down memory lane yesterday when my 6-six year old son and I were on our weekly date, and he chose Burger King as our dinner spot.   Apparently, your television advertisements are quite compelling.  So there we were ordering our food.  Your cashiers and managers were friendly and engaging and I was excited to see a veggie burger on the menu.  My son ordered the kid's meal in the cool BK Crown Activity Box (although I was secretly hoping to get my hands on a crown), when your cashier asked, "Would you like a boy's toy or girl's toy?"  The choices we had before us were a light-up Care Bear ("girl" toy) and a Beyblade wind-up spinning top ("boy" toy).  I know that on your website, you don't really label these items by gender, but for some reason your employees are still referring to them in this manner.  You know, I'm not looking to be antagonistic and I appreciate that while the toys were classified by gender, my son was still offered a choice between the two.  But please hear me out.  I think it might serve your business well to merely offer a description of the toys:  Care Bear activity bears or Beyblade spinning tops.  Simple enough. The way I see it, you already recognize that there are boys who might want the bears and girls who might want the tops, or else your employees wouldn't even be offering up that choice to the kiddos.  Why label them in a way that might be embarrassing for a boy to have to ask for a "girl" toy and vice versa?  Why cause any unnecessary social discomfort right at the moment that childhood memories are quite possibly being created? 

In case you're wondering, my son picked the soft-serve ice-cream cone.  Thank you for that third gender-neutral option, and for celebrating the fact that kids - boys and girls - will almost always light up for any kind of ice-cream and any kind of toy.  They know what they like.  Please consider letting them make the choice for themselves.  Perhaps, let 'em have it their way?

Sincerely,
Mom who fondly remembers once being King

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear 90 Year Old Me

Act 221:  Give yourself a break.

Dear 90 Year Old Me,

So, you didn't save the world.  Get over it.  Ask yourself this:  Did you really think that you were going to see the eradication of sexual violence and the end of racism, homophobia,  and poverty in your lifetime?  Now ask yourself this:  In the course of your lifetime, did you on at least one occasion:

Speak out against injustice

Intervene in a volatile situation

Uplift a stranger

Give away something you needed, but that someone else needed more

Believe in someone that nobody else did

Accept someone with whom you disagreed

Hold someone's hand when they cried

Go against the grain

Embrace a different perspective

Listen

Stand up for someone who didn't have a voice

Choose love over hate

Fight for something that you believed in

Walk away from something that you didn't

If you answered yes to most of these, I would dare say that your existence mattered more than you realize.  That you didn't just waste almost a century of time passively letting things happen to you.

That the world is different, maybe even better because you were in it.

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the world was too big for you to single-handedly save in the first place?  Let go of that burden.  Share that passion, that responsibility, with those who will continue to walk the earth after you.  You know more than anyone, how much of a gift it is to be able to find the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep needs.  Perhaps your small daily acts sent ripples of change into the world.  Perhaps others were watching you the whole time, and they too began acting in small but significant ways.

So you didn't save the world. 

Give yourself a break.  There's no doubt you are leaving it a changed place.   And one more thing, if you REALLY don't want to have any regrets, please, for the love of God, stop passing up on that coconut crème brulee after dinner.

See you soon,
Me

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How the Girl With Blue Hair Helped Me Overcome My Fear of HardwareStores

Act #220: Embrace the blue-haired hardware goddess in you.

Last week our dishwasher began leaking and my handy, tool-belt wearing husband quickly determined exactly what parts he needed to fix it with his own bare hands.   He called in to order two springs, a connector, and a valve at a small, local appliance store located near my work and asked if I'd be willing to pick the parts up.  Of course I agreed, motivated greatly by a desire to return to my post-dinner life of spoiled first-world luxury.

To steal from a Kentucky politician's campaign slogan, I don't scare easy.  I feel confident in most situations, can talk to just about anyone, and before this point, no one really knew...........exactly how much I abhor going into hardware and appliance stores.  While I have made intentional efforts to at least have a working knowledge of most things that stereotypically fall in the male domain (like haggling car salesmen), I always feel like an inadequate, bumbling idiot in hardware stores.  I can barely tell the difference between the 8 million different screw heads and I know that the  testosterone-filled men behind the counter are laughing at me behind my back, scheming exactly how they are going to price gouge the poor little Asian lady.

But I desperately need that dishwasher fixed, so on my lunch break yesterday, I decide to drive over to the locally-owned, family-operated appliance store, bracing myself for the worst:  know-it-all, condescending, white males who will treat me like I'm incapable of grasping how mechanical parts operate..............which in this case, rings a bit true.  I sigh and take a deep breath as I pull into the parking lot and walk into the outdated, taupe warehouse-looking building. 

And lo and behold, before me stood the most exquisite sight I have ever seen. 

There, right before my eyes, working the typically all-white and all-male counter stood a young WOMAN with skin a few shades DARKER than mine,with bright, electric BLUE streaks in her hair.  And she commanded that store.  She was waiting on two male customers (who were asking HER for advice), dashing back and forth between the parts shelves, talking about electrical and plumbing parts like it was her first language.  I was blown away.  I was impressed.  I was no longer intimidated by the 8 million different screw heads before me.  This 22-year old tool goddess was my new heroine.  She owned that appliance store - well maybe not literally - but anyone who walked through those doors could take one look at her and know that this was not some little lady who didn't know her bolts and screws. 

I've had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary feminists in my lifetime, but I count  this unknowing young lady with blue hair among my most favorite, and definitely most influential.  I confidently walk up to the counter and ask for each and every part by name and manufacture number, like I personally plan to fix this dishwasher (and not like my husband sent me for the parts), and for a split second we shared an unspoken female bond.  Two brown women surrounded by hundreds of gauges and valves, owning our place in this traditionally male-dominated world. 

And I walk away thinking to myself, it's about time I learn the difference between a Phillip's and a slotted hexagon (screw heads, of course). 
 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Profile of a Game-Changing Man

Act 219:  It's never too late.

He's 41.
He's a male.
He's African-American.

Ever since he can remember, he wanted to grow up to help sick people or deliver babies.  So he studied biology in college.  He ultimately became a nurse.  He helped people with cardiac illnesses.  He worked alongside doctors in surgery rooms and tended to patients who required the highest level of care in ICU.   For a long time, he worked as the director of nursing for a dementia care assisted living facility.  For the last three years, he worked as a Hospice nurse.

He's 41.
He's a male.
He's African-American.

Last week, he quit his job and became a health sciences teacher for high-school aged students at the Coosa County (Alabama) Science and Technology Center.  He always felt that black boys, in particular, needed to have more positive male role models.   The Trayvon Martin verdict convinced him that maybe he could be one.

He's 41.
He's a male.
He's African-American.

Why are these descriptors so significant?  So game-changing.   When's the last time you considered switching career paths in order to make the world a better place?  How many 41 year-old African-American male teachers did you have growing up?  How might the lens through which you view the world look different....if you had one?

Meet Gerald Hogan of Aniston, Alabama.  He's 41.  He's male.  He's African-American.  And because of  him, countless black boys will grow up with the permission to finally believe in the value of those words.

 
 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to Cope When Your Son Throws Like A Girl

218:  Give new meaning to old sexist terms.

Last night, it was one of those picturesque last-week-of-summer-vacation evenings and we were enjoying dinner on the back deck amidst blissful 78 degree sunshine.  I remember breathing it all in and thinking to myself at that moment:  these are the good old days.  My six-year old was busy stuffing his cute little cheeks with his favorite snack - a simple cheddar cheese tortilla roll-up, when the last piece of his roll-up fell onto the deck floor.  Disappointed, he looked up at me to find a mischievous twinkle in my eye.  "See how far you can throw it!" I challenged him. Quickly getting over the loss of his final bite, my son picked up the tortilla roll and threw it halfway across the yard.  I was impressed and excitedly exclaimed, "You throw like a girl!"  He looked at me curiously, "I do?"   So I replied,  "Yes, you do!  You were awesome.  See how far that went?  You throw just like your cousin, Abby!"  His 13 year-old cousin has been an avid softball player for years and on occasion, my son has attended a few games to watch her play.  My son, looked up at me, beaming with pride, "I do.  I throw just like Abby." 

 
 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seven MORE Things Never to say to an Asian

Act #217: Would you say these things to a white person?  Exactly.

If anyone in your ancestry line has any connection to a country on the Asian continent, you've experienced this in at least 25-50% of your first meeting encounters.  You cringe.  You brace yourself.  You should be used to it by now, but it still makes your skin crawl.  The dreaded question:  Where are you from?  It doesn't matter if you've never stepped foot out of the great U.S. of A, or perhaps that you were adopted at birth, that you might be from a boring Midwest town, or maybe that you are generations away from being from anywhere outside the country.  As Asians, we've adapted, we've come up with answers varying from direct:  "Chicago", to passive-aggressive:  "Chicago.  Where are YOU from?", to resignation:  "I was born in Chicago, but my parents are from Thailand."  Also, the party isn't really started until someone throws in a Your English is so good.  But wait, there are more cringe-worthy conversation starters specifically designed only for Asians?  Gosh darn it, our people are so impossible. 

1.  Let me guess, you're Filipina (or Thai, or Indonesian, etc.)  Now my turn.  Let me guess, you are from Ireland? England?  Scotland?  Germany? C'mon,  now, give me a hint.

2.  I ate at this AMAZING Thai restaurant last week. Cool.  I had a pretty epic margarita at Casa Fiesta last week, but you don't see me bragging. 

3.  My daughter-in-law is Asian.  Excellent.  My math teacher in high school was white. So is my mailman.  And my barista, husband, college roommate, mayor, and garbage man.

4.  I think oriental women are beautiful. Yes, as are our rugs, silks, and orchids.

5.  How long have you been in America?  40 years.  Isn't my English just superb?

6.  Back in 1995 we spent two weeks in China.  Awesome, back in 1995, I spent a week in New Orleans.  It was Spring Break, I don't remember much.

7.  I only date Asian women.  Chirp.....Chirp....That would be the sound of crickets, because I've already walked away.

If you are interested in some alternate conversation starters beyond race and profession, do check out an oldie but goodie blog titled: 7 Non-Awkward Conversation Starters That Don't Involve Someone's Job

http://plainjaneactivism.blogspot.com/2013/04/seven-non-awkward-conversation-starters.html

And for THE most epic comeback of all time.......
 
 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Art For Social Change: Kentucky Foundation for Women

Act #216:  Go ahead, apply for a grant!

The Kentucky Foundation for Women was established in 1985 by Louisville native and author Sallie Bingham. Her founding gift of $10 million is one of the single largest endowments to any women's fund in the United States. KFW's mission is to promote positive social change by supporting varied feminist expression in the arts.  Each year KFW awards $200,000 to feminist artists and allied organizations in Kentucky through two grant programs:   The Artist Enrichment Grand and the Arts Meets Activism Grant. Grants range from $ 1,000 to $7,500. The typical grant award is $2,000 to $4,000 for artist enrichment grants, and $3,000 to $5,000 for Art Meets Activism grants.

Artist Enrichment Grant
Application deadline:  September 6th
Provides opportunities for feminist artists and arts organizations to further their artistic development to create art for positive social change. Applicants may request funds for a range of activities including: artistic development, artist residencies, the exploration of new areas or techniques, or to build a body of work. 
For more information:  http://www.kfw.org/artenr.html
 
Art Meets Activism Grant
Application deadline:  March, 2014
Supports feminist artists and organizations in Kentucky to engage individuals and communities in artmaking that directly advances positive social change.  Applicants should be able to demonstrate their commitment to feminism, their ability to engage community members, and have a concrete plan for positive social change through arts-based activities.  Applicants may request funds for a range of art activities that address social change including but not limited to: community participation in creating art, collaborative or individualized artmaking with women and/or girls, artists’ creation of new work in a community context, or arts education programs primarily focused on women or girls.  
For more information:  http://www.kfw.org/artact.html
 
2012 Grant Recipients
 
KFW is currently seeking new board members
Application deadline:  August 9th

The Kentucky Foundation for Women (KFW) invites applications for up to three new Board members to serve three-year terms beginning September 2013. Successful applicants must live and work in Kentucky and be able to demonstrate their commitment to the core components of KFW’s mission: feminism, art and positive social change.  KFW welcomes applications from women across the state of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations who share KFW’s mission.

For more information:  http://www.kfw.org/boardstaff.html
 
"The Rope" by Erica Meuser, 2006 KFW Grant recipient