Friday, January 9, 2015

Not a Rhetorical Question

A friend of mine (hi Melissa!) posted this wonderful article today: What Ruth Bader Ginsberg Taught Me About Being a Stay At Home Dad at The Atlantic.

going off on a tangent here: either The Atlantic has become really wonderful in the past 2-3 years or I have grown into reading their work. Either way, they're doing great and they should carry on. 

In addition to a lot of wonderful anecdotes about the Notorious R.B.G., author Ryan Park talks about the difficulties in being a stay-at-home dad for a year while his wife was finishing her rotation in pediatrics at Georgetown. This year was after he had spent a year clerking for Justice Ginsberg, which seems like a step down... until you read his article.

Of course, if you read anything at all about staying at home with kids, you'll wind up reading about Swedish family leave policies. To the point where I honestly rolled my eyes when I first came across it in this article and thought, "Oh sweet Moses, it's Sweden again." Anyway, Park talks about his friend who is married to a Swede and she went home to have her baby. He took a 5 week paternity leave from his residency in the US and was roundly mocked for it by his peers.

Yadda, yadda Sweden is sooooo amazing... but I got to this paragraph (talking about his American friend married to the Swede and moving to Sweden after the baby was born):

Despite his joy at becoming a father, the drudgery of life with a newborn didn’t sit well with him. His wife, a doctor at the same institution, agreed to stay home for the rest of the couple’s allotted time. But on his return to work, the hospital’s leaders pulled him aside and delivered a stern lecture on the poor example he was setting. He was soon back to changing diapers and warming bottles, and the couple redistributed their leave more evenly.

This resonated with me. I've now been a mom for 12+ years. I took a 12 week maternity leave with both of my kids. With our firstborn, my husband took 2 weeks off, but because our son was born during football season, he had to work a little during that time. The university where I worked gave a paid 8 week leave. I had to tell my boss about FMLA (9 years after it was put into law) in order to take an additional 4 weeks as unpaid leave because she was really sticking by that 8 week number. 

With our second, my husband also took 2 weeks off and I took 12, but I recall him working a lot more during that time mainly because he had to take so much time off when I was pregnant with #2 and had a lot of drama. And I remember both times people PRAISING him for staying home with me. I know a lot of women with husbands who were back at work a day or two later because they had to be there or they would lose their jobs. In addition to that, I went back to teaching in mid-May. My husband took #2 with him in his little playpen to work until mid-June when I would be home with the baby again. He's kind of a rock star. 

Aside: shortly after the birth of the first, we were living in the south and I cannot even tell you how many times I would hear friends says "my husband is babysitting the kids tonight." I wanted to scream

But I didn't. Sometimes I said it nicely. Sometimes I didn't say it at all. And if someone asked me, "who's watching the kids?" I would say, "Their dad, because he's their dad." 

Back to the topic: I never wanted to stay home with the kids. With our first, I was home 5 months because we moved to South Carolina when he was 3 months old and I couldn't find a job. I was only home with him for 5 months because I went back to school. I really hated being a stay-at-home mom. 

My husband, despite having a new job, supported my going back to school. He cared for our son in amazing ways. He let me lock myself in our room and work on lesson plans and my graduate thesis and all kinds of ridiculousness. He was the primary earner and the primary caretaker of our son for a year and a half and it is an investment for which I will always be grateful. 

With the 2nd, I was home with him for a year. Again, because of a move- this time we moved from South Carolina to Virginia. Again, I couldn't find a job. But this time, I made a concerted effort to enjoy my time at home. Or at least, not wallow in my misery. I made a ridiculous effort to meet moms with similar aged kids and hang out with them as much as my little introverted heart could handle.

In the summer after we moved, the boys and I were fixtures at the local pool. We swam every day for 16 days before a rainy day closed the pool. When school started for #1, I ended up getting a membership to the indoor pool which was heated but still pretty cold. #2 and I could tolerate it for about a half hour before we would go warm up in the shower, but let me just say that #2 swims like a pro and has never taken a lesson. We went to the park. We went to the library. We went to the children's museum. I was seriously aggressive in my wanting to be in public with my kid(s).  

Then, after 14 months of staying at home, I got a job, a wonderful job, a job I still have and love. 

I happily sent my child off to daycare/pre-school for a year until he started kindergarten and I have never looked back. 


What if it was different for us here in the US? (we've finally reached the not a rhetorical question part of this essay). Would I have felt differently about staying at home with the kids? Would they be different people? Because they're pretty awesome kids, I don't know if I would want to change them. 

But if it was widely accepted that BOTH parents stay home at some point, would we all feel differently about staying at home? 

How do we change this? There's so much talk about how the US is at the bottom of the list, internationally, for parental leave of any sort. 

I have a self-selected sample among my friends, but seriously, almost everyone is in favor of this. Even the non-parents, because parents come to work sick because of their little germ vectors kids and the parents get the non-parents sick, and who needs that? Stay home if you're sick!!! 

This is totally from, but If ALL parents, regardless of socio-economic status, had a chance to be with their kids more, would we see less mindless consumption? Would parents be less likely to spoil their kids with crap they don't need because they wouldn't feel quite so guilty about spending so much time away from them? 

Would we see better educational outcomes with our kids because parents wouldn't catch shit from their employers for having to go to a conference with the teacher? 

What can we do to change this? Why does it seem to be such an uphill battle in the US to make reforms that will support the entire population? Even if you're not a parent, you were a kid once! 

Additional reading, if you're so inclined... a quick trip down the Google rabbit hole brought me these:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recommendations on Health & Fitness

Once Christmas passes, people tend to start thinking about health, fitness, and new years resolutions. Why not think about them now... and if you get some Christmas money or Amazon gift cards, spend them on things that will change your life?

In the past year, I stopped skating with my derby team and I changed my life. Derby helped me get past fears I didn't even know I had. At the end, it stressed me out to a really unbelievable extent. Today I'm a lot healthier and slightly more sane than I was when I was skating.

In the past year, I've lost a full clothing size (maybe more- I haven't been clothes shopping recently) and approximately 25 pounds. More importantly, I've lost almost 7% body fat. Because of these changes, people have asked me what I do/use/eat. Here's my recommendations, all in one tidy package.

I joined a gym and found a trainer I like. I like my gym- it doesn't smell bad, the towels are nice, the showers have good pressure, and I never have to wait for a bike. It has gotten to the point where the trainers and the desk staff at least know my face, if not my name.

I see a trainer once a week. If you say that you're not fit enough to see a trainer, you're 100% wrong. Everyone should see a trainer once in a while- you don't need to see one once a week if you don't want to. She's helped me with my form, pushed me to try things that are now a major part of my fitness agenda, told me to get one more rep wen I wanted to give up, encouraged me when I am feeling down about how I look, made me feel sore in muscles I didn't know existed. I also have a repetitive use injury in my left knee from derby, and she has helped me strengthen the muscles supporting it as well as show me how to protect it when lifting.

I bought the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women. I have bought more than one fitness book/guide/whatever in my time. This is the only one I followed like it was my job. I took 6 months to do the entire program.

The only part of it I ignored was the nutrition advice- mainly because I'm super picky. I ate about the number of calories they recommended- the theory is that you can either focus on losing fat or you can focus on gaining muscle but if you do both at the same time you won't do either one very well. So I changed my focus to muscle for 6 months. I lost exactly zero pounds doing this program. I lost an entire clothing size. I gained unbelievable pride in the muscles I am finally starting to see.

I bought a Misfit Shine - it's like a Fitbit, only prettier. I am motivated by competition and this motivates me. I like to see the lights reach the goal. It works for walking, biking, swimming (it's waterproof)- pretty much anything. On non-gym days I am totally motivated by making sure I reach my goal so that I can keep my streak going.
It's so pretty!
I did a detox. Yes, I really did. Actually, I did it twice. I did the Metagenics 10 day detox that a friend recommended because he's a chiropractor and he's also done it. It was really awful the first time in February. It was moderately unpleasant the second in October. The hardest part was cutting out sugar. I lost weight both times but I really reformed my eating habits and that was the goal. 

I set very specific goals. I have goals for body fat, weight, clothing size, time to run a mile, and a few others. I have never been very good at goal setting, so this is a big change for me!

Lastly, and maybe the most important thing, I changed my mindset about eating. I am an all or nothing person in most areas of my life- I can't do something halfway, it's not the way I'm programmed. Which means that I'm either dieting or I'm not. In the past year, I've changed that. Instead of having a "cheat day" which means that I could literally eat insane amounts of food, I have moved to having 4 cheat meals a week- I typically eat 5 meals a day, so 4 out of 35 meals in a week are cheats.  A cheat meal is far less damaging. It also means I feel far less deprived- planning to eat out with friends? Have the burger and beer. It's not the end of the world, or the end of the diet. I'll be back to drinking green smoothies in the morning. 

I also make a great effort to not think about eating something for the last time. If it's something unusual that only comes around once a year, I'll eat it. But I try to remember, I'll probably get a chance to eat it again and I don't eat like a starving man. I haven't gone on a big vacation during this time- if I went somewhere with unusual food, I would probably eat a lot of it. But I'd go back to being my normal self when I returned. It's all part of the deal. 
There you have it- all my secrets. If you want to ask me any questions, feel free- if I can help you, I will! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Mean Teacher

Here is something I don't understand: the teacher who is proud of student failure.

Does it make you feel tough? Strong? Smart?

To be smarter than a bunch of students who are either willingly or not putting their learning in your hands?

Teachers have a tough time in America these days. We are definitely not afforded the respect we are due.

However, if you're out there saying things like, "No one gets an A on my tests." YOU ARE A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Teaching in an online format requires a lot of things that don't normally happen in a regular classroom.

An online teacher needs the support of the school (or parent, if homeschooled) to monitor tests, to report grades, and to act as a go-between when there is difficulty. The majority of my interactions with these people we call mentors is when I send them an email to confirm that a student was absent and so they can have an extension on their assignment or to let them know that a student has fallen behind.

Some mentors will talk to me as a peer- I am, after all - and work with me to help the student succeed.

Some mentors treat me as the enemy. They make excuses for their student. He is taking classes at a college in addition to high school.  She has 7 AP classes. He is student council president. She has an internship.

Mentors: I understand. I totally get it. I have the best students at schools all over the state. And a few not even in this state. They are all way too overcommitted, but that's another blog post. However, they signed up for this class. It's 100% an elective course. But it's a college level elective. And if they don't do the work, they will fail. I won't give them a failing grade, they will have earned it.

I didn't do that to them. They did it to themselves. I'm available a ridiculous amount to answer questions, to help them, to re-teach the work. I actually want to do that! I love meeting with the kids! It's the best part of my job. If they don't want to talk to me "live," that fine, all of my videos & notes are available on my site, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I want them to get it. I want them to love the way the economic world works the same way I do. I want them to hear a story on the radio and get excited because they understand why the Saudis are pushing oil production or why banks got in trouble for foreign exchange fraud.

So teachers who say NO one gets an A. Screw you. I am so happy when my students do well. I get so excited when I see a kid who has been struggling get 100% on a quiz. I send them emails congratulating them on their work. If you deny yourself that happiness, that's on you, terrible teacher.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Can't Win.

I'm letting you in on a little secret: I am so awkward at personal interaction.

You just said, "Oh, hey, me too!" This isn't a competition, but no, you're totally not.

Here is the problem. For my whole life, when people tell me the truth, I'm not offended. I wish someone had told me when I was younger that I didn't have a great voice. But they didn't, and I embarrassed myself for years singing in front of people.

My mom used to tell me that I was loud all the time. I was offended at the time because she's my mom and it's my job as a kid to be offended but in truth, it was useful information.

*Disclaimer: in truth, when my family (mom/dad/brother/sister) tell me the truth, I'm totally offended. Everyone else gets a pass.

Why this is a problem: I cannot get it through my head that other people are not the same way. I also cannot seem to get that people are not always telling me the truth.

When I tell people the truth, they get offended.

Here's how I learned to get around that. I try to keep my mouth shut.

Here's why I fail at that. When I keep my mouth shut, people say I'm a snob. Or I'm mean. Or that I hated them.

I know that people say that, because I've had about a billion conversations with people and at some point they say, "I used to think you were so mean/snobby/bitchy/horrible but people just need to get to know you!"

And when I get to know you, I get all attached. And when I get all attached, I let my guard down. And when I let my guard down, I tell you the truth.

You probably don't want to hear it. If you don't and you can't tell me that, we probably won't be friends much longer.

People who are my true, good friends are people who I have argued and cried with. They have probably told me at least once (in the past year) that I said something offensive. And there are always 3 reasons for this:

  • at the time I didn't realize that it was offensive, 
  • at the time I was super emotional about something, 
  • or I spoke freely at a time when I really shouldn't have. 

And sometimes- most of the time- like a teen age girl - I just don't get why that is. But if I don't talk to people, I have no friends- because I'm mean/snobby/bitchy/horrible... actually just scared to open my mouth because who even knows what is going to be said.

For the record, I'm totally aware of the situation. But here's the deal. Sometimes, you have to tell me I was offensive. I probably didn't mean to do it, and I'll be sorry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'm not a role model... wait, yes I am.

Does anyone else remember this commercial? No? Ok, moving on. 

This post is about as revealing as a person gets, so sit down, strap in, hold on, and shut up.

No, please don't shut up.

Three years ago, a former student messaged me on Facebook. She wanted to tell me I am a failure.

She intended for me to be a role model. I was a female teacher who was willing to question the establishment in public.

She was used to being treated as a higher being. She was smart and a lot like Reese Witherspoon's character in the movie Election. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's good.

She came from what was perceived as a good family. Her dad was an attorney. She planned to go to law school.

I was pregnant the semester she was in my class. I had a fairly high risk pregnancy which ended with me on bed rest for 10 weeks and a lot of drama. I don't know why this is relevant, but it's part of the story. I was under a lot of stress. It was also only my third year teaching, so I was still kind of a fuckup.

This student was in my last class of the day. I seem to remember that it was a smallish class, but it was full of personality. That's what teachers say when you have kids who are pretty wild. In this class a lot of the kids didn't like each other and were assholes about it.

This student was in the class with her boyfriend. He was a classic brilliant underachiever. Teachers typically hated him. I didn't, I found him entertaining.

One time, we had a lockdown drill. This meant that we acted like there was a threat of some sort in the building. This was an unannounced drill which also meant that we weren't sure if it was a drill or the real thing. Teachers locked their doors, covered the windows, turned off the lights, students were pushed into a corner and we were all supposed to act like there was no one in the room. This particular student started freaking out. Her boyfriend was hugging her and telling her it would be all right. Two other students in the class apparently gave her shit for freaking out. I don't know, honestly, I was busy trying not to freak out myself and I was really worried that they weren't being quiet. Anyway, she loudly called him an asshole.

I wrote her up for it. Standard disciplinary procedure. In her message, I should not have done that because they were "two of the biggest shitheads in class."

Huh. I didn't realize that justice was for the mostly good. I thought it was for everyone.

There was a student in her class who might have been new to the school. I honestly don't remember. I do remember that she did not dress like the other students. She didn't look like them. She didn't act like them. And some of them gave her crap for it. This student in particular, gave her a lot of crap for it. In her message, she asked me if I remembered accusing her of bullying a student without asking how she felt about it.

I didn't accuse anyone of anything. Which is my failing. The student and her mom accused two of the students and I supported her version of events. I should have done the accusing. I watched it happen. They taunted her daily. The student went on homebound instruction for the rest of the year because she felt like she couldn't deal with school. I feel really shitty that I didn't do anything first. So no, I don't give a fuck what she felt about it.

During this student's senior year, I took a group of students to Washington, D.C., for Obama's first inauguration. It took an insane amount of planning to get that trip together. I was told by the administration that I could only take students who were currently in my government course at the time. Since I had to take a minimum number and the trip was expensive,  they allowed me to open the trip to honors or AP students with their approval.

She asked to go on the trip. Despite what I saw as a personality conflict with her, I asked the administration anyway. I wanted to say no outright, but I went ahead and asked.

They said no. She was being criminally investigated at the time. While I know the details of the situation, I'm pretty sure she was a minor and so I'm not going to say anything incriminating. Let's just say that it was extreme bullying. It was pretty horrible, honestly.

One day, just as the bell rang, this student tried to stop me on the way out of my classroom.

I have a small bladder. I can barely make it 90 minutes of class, and there were times where I had to call over another teacher to keep an eye on my class so I could run to the bathroom.

Anyway, she tried to stop me. I had to pee. BAD.

She says I slammed the door to my classroom in her face when she wanted to know why I couldn't take her on the DC trip. Really, it was the door to the bathroom. She could have waited for me to finish. But she didn't. I don't know that things would have turned out differently for her. She wasn't allowed to go. I didn't make that decision.

I was reminded of all this today.

A friend of mine posted this amazing article on Facebook:

A quote from the article:

Here’s an insanely revolutionary act: why not counter each ill thought that comes through your head with an acceptance—the acceptance that you’re not always going to agree with everything every woman does. Or an acceptance that some women will be tricky and some will be actual bitches, some of them will read Lean In and be the next Sheryl Sandberg, some women will call BeyoncĂ© an anti-feminist, some will be walking contradictions, or some women will say that I’m a fake behind my back, or that I’m a liar, and that I don’t write well, or whatever—and just to accept that people are just people, women are just women, instead of reacting poorly and slamming them in whatever juvenile way that you see fit.

I realized that I have been accepting but not liking certain women for years. When I was being a butt head when I was a kid, my mom would say, "I love you, but I don't like your actions."

I have accepted my students, flaws and all, and there is more than one that I have not loved. But love or not, I have been fair.

I have always been fair, no matter what their age, gender, sexual orientation, socio economic background. I will not give you a free pass to misbehave because you are smart or white or rich.

And so while this student carries this viewpoint of oppression with her, I am proud. I am damn proud of what I've done and what I continue to do. I am a role model. I try to choose to do the right thing. Sometimes I fail. I'm totally human. But I believe in fairness.

I hope this student finds peace and acceptance. Believing you are oppressed when there is no reason to do so is a horrible cross to bear.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Good Enough Mommy

I gave up today.

I am not a typical Pinterest mommy. I didn't cloth diaper. I didn't take pictures of my kids on the first day of the month. I didn't make my own baby food.

Pinterest didn't even exist until my youngest was 3, so I guess I have an excuse.

I typically use Pinterest
 to pin things that I will never wear.

To pin things that make me laugh- this one is the most repinned of anything 501 times as of this writing.
To pin tattoos that I want
and of course to pin things I want to do for the kids

If one spends too much time on Pinterest, one can feel inadequate in about 100 different ways. I don't make dessert every day. I don't have enough money/time/energy to label everything in my house with wee tiny chalkboards. I don't work out enough. When I do, I don't wear cute enough clothes that I made myself by upcycling t-shirts.

This definitely goes for moms. I don't pack my kids lunches. I don't make them into adorable shapes. My kids won't touch kale. My kids don't  have bedroom signs with adorable saying on them.

We did do bubble art

Once, we made bubble art. I totally micromanaged it. It still hangs in the boys bathroom and looks super cute, but I was a huge pain in the ass when we did it. I didn't want it to have too many bubbles, I didn't want the boys to be covered in food coloring.

Since before my boys were even born, I have liked scrapbooking. I totally get that it's mommy homemaker, but I like office supplies, pictures, and stickers, and scrapbooking combines all those things into awesome fun times for me.

As the boys got older, I discovered digital scrapbooking, which I actually enjoy even more.

HOWEVER, it's so much work. Editing the pics. Laying out the book. Organizing them by event. Putting cute titles on the pages.  And so on... that now I'm behind about 3 years. By the time I get to even editing the pictures, I won't remember why I took the picture of Agent X with the sassy look on his face or Agent N up to his elbows in mud.

And so I've decided not to continue. I'm going to put pictures in books. I'm sure I'll edit some. But I'm done with the titles and the stickers and the ribbons and the papers. Pictures in books because they tell a story of the things we've done and they remind of of the fun we've had. The boys like to hear stories of what we did together when they were too young to remember. And that's what's important.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

When the Windsor case decision was handed down from the Supreme Court back in June, 2013, I kept hitting refresh on my internet browser like a monkey on crack. I was at a conference in Richmond and when it was clear that DOMA had been overturned, I interrupted the speaker and announced it to the room. Most people were happy and those that weren't had the good grace to shut up about it.

Today, when the same SCOTUS declined to hear cases that overturned same-sex marriage bans, therefore making them legal, I was happy about it, but also had the overwhelming sense of well, it's about time.

Marriage is a government institution. Society benefits from it.

And now, a famous quote from Liz Feldman:

Personally, I am very excited about “gay marriage”, or as I like to call it, “marriage”.  Because I had lunch this afternoon, I didn’t have “gay lunch”.  And I parked my car, I didn’t “gay park” it.  Although, I totally parked like a fucking fag!