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Friday, March 31, 2017

Women's History Month: A Reflection

As Women's History Month comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the month, what has been accomplished, and what is still to come.

We are not the first generation of women to fight for equal rights, but hopefully our daughters wont have to fight for what their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers have fought for.  Hopefully, by the time they are adults EQUAL will really mean EQUAL.

Our Progress Women's History Month 2017
We have accomplished a lot in the last 30 days, both at home and globally.

A Day without a Woman:  millions of women marked International Women's Day with varying degrees of protest and nods of solidarity as organizers aimed at demonstrating the economic power of women in the United States.   Female members of congress dressed in read and walked out of the Capitol together to show their commitment to women's issues.  Many schools were closed across the country as school districts supported female teachers and administrators dedication to this demonstration.  Marches in protest of the Global Gag Rule disturbed the natural flow of Washington DC, and a statue in the Financial District in New York City left residents and tourists feeling inspired.  But the impact of A Day Without A Woman was not just felt in the United States.  Similarly to the Women's March in January, International Women's Day was commemorated across the world with speakers at the UN and rallies in Tokyo and Madrid.  Even the president and his immediate family showed support for women with tweets and words of encouragement about women's' equity.

India Extended Paid Maternity Leave to 6 Months
In a controversial move, India mandated that new mothers be given 6 months of paid maternity leave.  In a country where only 30% of the work force is female, this is a giant step forward to providing mothers and families the financial and work stability needed to stay working after having a family.  This legislation coincides with similar laws which require companies with greater than 50 employees set up day care services for working mothers. This increases the paid maternity leave for Indian mothers to one of the highest internationally with countries like Italy, Hungary, Czech, Ireland, and Poland.  In comparison, the U.S. does not (and is the ONLY industrialized county to not) mandate paid maternity leave.
Weeks of Paid Maternity Leave Mandated by Industrialized Nations

Russian Women Fight Back
President Putin signed a bill in February that decriminalizes Domestic Violence towards women, effectively making it legal for Russian men to abuse their wives.  But Russian women are fighting back against this bill.  In a country where upwards of 12,000 women are killed annually by domestic violence, women in Russia petitioned the government to allow them to hold a protest against the bill that decriminalized domestic violence.  While they were denied the permission to protest, the women have vowed to continue the fight.

What Is Still To Come:
I find myself seeking a "next step". Where do we go from here?  What do we do to move forward?  How to we reach our end goals? The answer is simple: don't stop fighting.  Just because Women's History Month is over and the marches and protests have died down doesn't mean our commitment should waver.  Just today, a vote in the Senate was 51-50 (showing a handful of Republican Senators crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats) overturning Planned Parenthood protections put in place by the Obama Administration.  While this is a step backwards, it can also be looked at as a promising change for a few Republicans who supported keeping protections in place.  We have gained a few allies, but we still need more!  Women's reproductive rights are just one of the issues still being debated.  Here are a few ways that you, as parents and activists, can continue to fight for Women's Rights:

1.  Keep Emailing, Calling, and Writing to your Representatives.  Maintaining your communication with your Representatives is crucial.  They don't know how we feel about topics unless we TELL THEM!  They also don't know what issues are important to us unless we keep those issues on top of their desks.  Keep calling!  They will listen!
2.  Keep Talking to your Children about the Issues.  Your children need to know that the fight isn't over and that this impacts their futures also.  Teenagers can be involved in helping do activist work (marching, rallying, attending meetings, calling/writing representatives, etc) while younger children can be involved through simple conversations.
3.  Find a Group To Join.    Wikipedia offers a great list of Women's Groups, some of which work towards furthering Women's Rights.  Many offer local branches where you can get involved in local action.
4.  Get your Husbands, Fathers, Brothers, and Boyfriends involved.  We need men to fight along side us.  Their support goes a long way in the home and the work place.  They need to vouch for our needs and they need to physically show their support by attending meetings and groups.
5.  Get Inclusive.  Women's issues cross party lines.  Equal pay, access to healthcare, equal civil rights, freedom from violence, and justice equality (see my previous post on cross-party issues here) are issues that impact us all.  Talk to your Republican friends and get them involved.  Talk to your Democratic friends and work together with them locally.

The most important thing that we can remember going forward is that
Real Feminism Excludes NOBODY.
The only way that we are going to make real progress is if we all work together.  And my ALL I mean not only across political lines, but also across national boarders.  Women's issues are global.  The United States is the ONLY Industrialized country that doesn't require some amount of paid maternity leave.  The United States has failed to make the top 10 and top 20 list for Most Gender-Equal Countries.  Women in the U.S. workforce do not make up an equal number of Executive Positions.  Women in the U.S. do not hold equal numbers of representative positions (we rank 72nd internationally in terms of political equality for women).  The United States is ranked 64th globally on Women's Healthcare issues.    These issues are all addressable if we work together.  It's time to do as President Trump said and PUT AMERICANS FIRST and strive to attain that First Place status not only in Women's Rights but in Economics, Education, Environment, and so many more issues that are at the heart of the American Dream.  

What ways will you continue to fight for equality in the coming months?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts below.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Right Wing, Left Wing: Learning to Get Along

During my Spring "Step Back" to reassess my political views and really rethink the way I approach political issues in my parenting I attended a meeting with my local MOPS group (Mother's of Preschoolers) which is a non-denominational Christian group that aims towards creating community for mothers of young children.  Our guest speaker (the Pastor at a local church) spoke about something I think truly applies to our current political atmosphere and it provided a refreshing thought that I wanted to share with you readers.  Regardless of your religious affiliations, I believe that this is universal advice that can transcend our barriers and really lead to the "new beginning" that we need this Spring.  To paraphrase, Ephesians 4 talks about unity and the interconnection and dependency between us.  It says:

I'm not typically the kind who run to the bible for advice in everything I do.  I find it helpful in teaching general lessons and giving genuine advice.  Like a well seasoned therapist or counselor.  It can help guide you to doing what you already feel in your heart is right.  It can allow you to see something in a new light that perhaps had disillusioned you before.  The bible can offer a lot, but I find that too much of the bible can be a bad thing *bare with me for a moment on this*.  Living too strictly to what is written in a book that was written over the course of thousands of years and by too many authors and translators to count is dangerous because it can lead to inflexibility.  This inflexibility can lead to justifying extremism in religious thought and doctrine.  I think we all can agree that extremism is a bad thing.  But the Bible if we can keep it's teachings within context and can not adhere too adamantly to the exact language of the text.  Instead we must extrapolate meaning and take the advice at its surface.

We must utilize the advice, understanding the context in which it is given.  Ephesians specifically was written by Paul (or a directly follower of Paul, there is some theological debate about the exact author) as a letter to "Saints" (or devote followers) in Ephesus (a Greek city) that focuses on calling for unity and reconciliation of the church ("church" meaning the actual people of the Christian faith, not a physical building).  It was letter meant to bring the people of the church together in unity to live and work together cooperatively and in their commonly shared love for their creator.  Understanding this context allows us to extrapolate a meaning for our current situation.  Just as the letter of Ephesians calls for unity

I think many of you might be able to see where I'm going with this.  The first part offers us a reminder: we are one people who's diversity makes us rich.  Just as the people of Ephesus needed to come together in unity through their love of God, we the people of The United States need to comet together in unity through our love of our country.  Just as Paul highlighted how the diversity and individual talents of the people of Ephesus can together to make "one body" that supports and builds itself up, Americans need to recognize and support how our uniquely rich diversity make us one nation, growing and working together towards our common good.  Just as Paul directs the Ephesians to "bear with each other" and keep the "bond of peace", we too must bear with each other (even though we don't agree) and work to keep a peaceful bond between us.  WE HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER IN PEACE FOR OUR COMMON GOAL (that goal being mutual prosperity for all people in our country, or what some call The American Dream).

Ephesians 4 goes on to say, 

This particular part of the chapter offers great advice for our currently political atmosphere and can also give us some idea as to how to deal with politics as parents.  The "how to" of the chapter.  Paul tells the Ephesians to speak to each other truthfully, not to speak in anger and allow the devil to get a "foothold".  We need to have honest conversations with each other without the danger allowing hate or fear to take hold.  Paul says to build each other up, get rid of bitterness, slander, anger.  WE NEED TO DO THIS TOO.  We need to find ways to look past the sourness of the election, stop using the resentment that the election created to bring each other down in violent speech and defamation, and find ways instead to bring each other up, find ways to benefit each other instead.  We need to forgive each other.

Unity, respectfulness, peacefulness, coming together to work for a common goal.  These are the values that American's hold in the highest regard.  As parents we work to teach our children these virtues.  I was reminded by an experience I had back in early January that touched me deeply.  I was visited by two Jehovah's Witnesses.  They are nice ladies who visit me every few months to give me a flier and a "food for thought" verse.  I thought that the verse they offered was perfect for our current political atmosphere, Colossians 3 12-14, which says:
BAM. That is what it's all about y'all. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all LOVE. I don't think anyone can offer better advice than that.  We teach our children to share, we tell them to "get along", we tell them "use your nice words", and we direct them to behave in ways that respect others.  We need to take a page from our own parenting and ourselves become the learners. 

Do you have any other advice for learning to get along?  Do you have another religious text that provides similar advice?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.  And while your here, take a few moments to visit a few of the other blog posts and share your email with us (top right corner of this page) to receive future posts from this blog.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

First Day of Spring: What Spring Can Teach Us

Spring is all about new growth.  It's like mother nature gets to start all over each March and grow into a newly flourishing lush carpet of green.  If you can look past the sniffling noses and puffy eyes caused by what I fondly refer to as "the yellow fog" of pollen that seems to take every surface for a good month each Spring then you can appreciate the beauty of this season.

I can always tell when Spring is coming
because the buds on my bushes start to bloom.

It's not my favorite season (I'm partial to Autumn because of the crisp cool nights spent in front of a fire pit roasting s'mores, the cool taste of those uniquely Harvest beers that come out every year, and the roar of a College Football stadium as my favorite team takes the field), but it's definitely the season that brings me a renewed since of optimism after the cold harshness of winter.  Of course, I live at the beach, so winter isn't as harsh as it used to be when I lived further North, but none-the-less Spring brings a since of "new beginnings" that only the first few warm days of the year, the beginning pink buds on trees, and the overnight emergence of cherry blossoms and daffodils can bring.

I see this season as the BEST opportunity to teach my children about the planet.  Sure, we get to spend a great deal of time outside in the Summer, and often we have wonderful weather well into November and early December this far South, but Spring is the perfect time to show a child the process of growth that nature goes through.

My favorite thing to do in the Spring is start our seeds.  We spend days picking out a variety of seeds for vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other plants that we want to grow ourselves.  Then we start each seed in a little pot and watch as the "magic" of new life begins in each little starter pot.  Children think it's a truly wonderful process.  They carefully prep the soil, gently place the seed inside, diligently water the seed, and very patiently wait for their "baby" to arrive.

My two youngest planting Green Beans, Peas, and Yellow Wax Beans in our raised planter beds last Spring.

I wish that we could translate this process on the rest of our lives.  Particularly our Political lives.  Wouldn't it be interesting if we could all rest for 3 months; no decisions being made, no legislation to support or fight, no drama from the latest scandal, no having to march or call or write your representative a million times... What if we could all just STOP for a few months and catch our bearings?  Then we could come back every Spring, starting new with a renewed enthusiasm and vigor.  Starting all over with an invigorated interest.  WE could be like those flowers emerging from the ground, ready to face the world again.  Would be all be more objective after resting for a while?  Would we all be able to see the problems of our world through new eyes if we could just take a break and start over?
This year's starter pots with all of our plants beginning to grow
(2 types of tomtoes, variety of peppers, green beans, peans, wax beans, basil).
We put them all in a kiddy swimming pool so that we could bring them back inside
 if the weather turned cold again (which is did!)

This is what I am going to do this Spring:  I am going to take a step back from all of the political drama.  I am going to step back, re-evaluate what each issue means to me, and then step back forward with a renewed since of purpose.  A renewed since of value to the system and a reinvigorated passion for working towards our future, not only as Americans, but our future as part of the world.

 What do you think about taking a little break?  I'm not talking about weeks, months, or even a full season.  I'm talking about a day or two.  Just to rethink what political issues are the most important.  Just to rethink how we can integrate our political lives with our parenting lives.  Just to give us a few days to reassess our role as parents and political activist.  To reevaluate how to tackle these issues the best we can. What do you say?  Let's start new in a few days.  Let's let Spring invigorate us.

Here are 3 ways that you can take a step back:
1. Stay off of Social Media.  Yeah, this is a hard one.  But seriously, take a few days and just enjoy life without the constant reminder about what's going on in the world outside your little life.
2. Smell the roses.  Cliche? Yes, but really, do it.  Take a few minutes each day to breathe in the smell.  Listen to the silence (or in my case the screaming of two brothers playing Avengers).  Really pay attention.
3. Drink some Coffee.  No, No, don't down your coffee as fast as you can in an effort to get as much caffeine as possible in as little time as possible.  Sit down and really enjoy the coffee.

If you want to join the break and start brand new this Spring, comment below.  Also, sign up for our email (link in top right corner) to get updates and new posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gun Rights: Where's The Middle Ground?

I grew up in a house without guns.  Our toys didn't have guns.  We didn't pretend to have guns.  My parents didn't own any guns.  We never really talked about guns.  It was normal to us to have a gun-free home.  Something to understand about my family is that my parents were leftover from a a generation of peace, love, and all things understanding.  They ran a daycare and worked with small children all day everyday, so our environment growing up was very much child-friendly-all-the-time.  We didn't hunt.  No one was a Police Officer.  No one was in the Military.  We lived in a small college town with low crime and a very close-knit community.  There was just no need for guns.

I was a student at Virginia Tech when the Massacre happened.  That day is cemented in my mind.  The faces.  The stories.  The lives.  I wont ever forget that day.  But in the aftermath of that day I came to recognize the needs for gun safety, education, and restrictions.  I went from having no experience with guns to very suddenly being utterly terrified of them.  They had been used by someone to kill people I love and destroy the families of people I love in a very brutal and violent way.

The six years I have spent with my husband and his family has changed that terror into an appreciation and respect for guns.  I knew my husband was a country boy.  He was born and raised in the middle of a very rural county.  He hunted.  His grandfather, father, and brother are all military or former military servicemen.  They also have all spent time as first responders.  He owned guns. They all owned guns.  They used them to hunt and to protect.  All of these things I understood, but I didn't have a real grasp on what that meant until years down the road.  There is something about their knowledge, their understanding of the magnitude of power in a gun, my husband's patience explaining to me why guns are important to him, and their confidence in the necessity of guns that make me not scared anymore.

I never thought I'd feel comfortable having a gun near me.  My husband doesn't carry and I always considered people who carried a gun with them all the time to be "over the top".  And I've met very few people who could change my mind on that fact.  But, with the shootings in Charleston, Orlando, San Bernardino, and the countless other crazy and seemingly random shootings in recent years I have come to realize that I feel safer near certain people who I know are carrying.  My father-in-law carries a gun everywhere, all the time.  I find I feel safer with him.  It no longer makes me uncomfortable.  I know that he is the kind of man who would jump in to protect his family or stop someone who needs to be stopped because they pose an imminent danger.  His military and first responder training help make him the kind of person that I'm ok with carrying a gun.

My sons going on a "mock" hunting trip with my husband.
Learning how to be quiet, watch for signs of animals, and be conscious nature observers.
**They've got sticks, not guns** 

Guns are part of our lives.   I don't shoot them, hold them, or use them, but they are part of our home.  We have deer on our wall.  Deer that fed our family, deer that have significant meaning to my husband, his father, and our sons.  Deer that represent a lifestyle that we are a part of.

But I am plagued by the idea that SOME PEOPLE just SHOULDN'T HAVE GUNS.  Yes, it's our second amendment right to own, carry, and use guns.  That's one of the foundations for our nation.  One of the freedoms that's afforded to us in the Constitution.  It's part of our Bill of Rights.  But at what point should that right be taken away?  Surely, some people should not have access to guns.  The homicidal, the suicidal... just to mention a few.

But how can we draw that line without restricting our Constitutional Gun Rights for all of those who can and do act responsibly with their guns?   What regulations and restrictions can be placed on gun owners and potential gun owners that will ONLY affect those that shouldn't have guns in the first place?  Even more critical: How can we define who CAN and who CAN'T have guns?  We have taken rights away before (individuals convicted of a felony are ineligible to vote while incarcerated, on parole, or on probation) so there is precedent, but where exactly is the LINE on Gun Rights? What's the middle ground?  If you have thoughts or opinions on this topic, or have specific questions about this topic that you'd like me to research and create a post about, please share your RESPECTFUL comments or suggestions below.  

Gun Legislation and Rights will be the topics of many of my posts in the coming weeks as we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre.  Please share your email in the top right to stay updated on future posts (they will be delivered directly to your inbox the morning after they post).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: Romantic Movies Influence on our Daughters

I'm envious of my daughter tonight.  She is spending the night at a friend's house so that they can go and see the premier showing of Beauty and the Beast tonight.  I'm literally green with envy.

See, as a parent, I wouldn't normally allow my children to spend a school night over at a friends house.  It's just one of our (probably too many) rules that keeps things simpler.  But, the grading period is almost over and my terribly smart little over-achiever has straight A's and her friend's mom is making a whole big thing out of the adventure (taking her friend's younger sister and one of her friends and making a whole "girls night" thing of it).  And, being from the generation that went to see EVERY Harry Potter Movie at midnight on opening night (yes, I was one of THOSE), and knowing what the impact those opening nights had on me, I thought "what the heck" and told her she could go. I figured it would be a good experience and maybe something that she could look back on as a cherished memory.

But it worries me too.  Not the staying up late and going to school the next morning part.  Not the fact that she'll be under another parent's supervision or that she might use the opportunity to rebel (she is 13 after-all), but to be honest the actual movie itself worries me.

I grew up watching Beauty and the Beast.  It's a classic story that, along with many other chic-flick movies, impacted my life.  The story of a woman (a book worm, lost in her own imagination... which was also how I classified myself and how I classify my teenager who can devour a 400 page Science Fiction Fantasy book in one sitting) who falls in love with the "bad boy" (in this case a beast with a terrible temper) and through her love and patience changes him (literally and figuratively) into a goody-too-shoes handsome price (and all the mushy-gushy lovey-lovey stuff that comes with it).  It's inspiring!  The idea that we can take the roughest-edged boy and turn him into a picture-perfect man.
But is that REALLY a reality? Is that really teaching us something that is useful?  Is it setting an attainable example for our lives?

Have you ever seen that movie "He's Just Not That Into You"? The star-studded cast that shows us that real life situations are in fact much less complicated that we all build them up to be in our minds.  That's one of the few movies that changed the way I think about relationships because of this one quote "We are all programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a total jerk that means he likes you"  and we are told about those stories where a girl dated a total jerk but somehow miraculously after all this pain and anguish he "changed" and they lived happily ever after.  And we all take that to be totally true and possible for each jerk that we meet.  In fact, we are so programmed to believe this story that some of us actually seek out the jerks so that we can give the guy our miraculous fairy tale cure for his jerkiness.  

And it's not just movies.  It's TV Shows (think Vampire Diaries Steven and Damon and their perpetual drama or if you want to go further back Gilmore Girls and the ever rebellious but excessively gorgeous Jess and Rory's continual efforts to reform him) and books (think The Mortal Instruments and the ever insurgent Jace or even the unattainable Edward from Twilight).  

Well it's just NOT OK!  It is NOT OK to teach our daughters that they need to be treated like dirt in order to be treated well.  It's NOT OK to teach them that they can reform a jerk to make him into a prince.  It is NOT OK to show them that they can throw all their love into a guy who isn't worth their time, attention, or effort.  These stories are NOT REAL and they warp and twist our opinions about what love should be.  What kind of an almost-impossible-to-mimic example are they setting?

But none-the-less, we watch them.  We oogle at the love story.  We admire how she could turn his heart around.  We get wrapped up in the story of the good girl who turns the bad boy good.  We allow our daughters to watch these unattainable love stories and let them dream that one day they will find their Happily Ever After story fairy tale ending too.  

So what are we supposed to do?  Not watch TV, movies or read?! Certainly not! Boycott Disney and all the other companies that create these stories?  Banish the thought!!  These stories are socially and culturally significant!  They provide entertainment, create a since of excitement, get us all together and interested in the sames things, provide family time, and especially in the case of movies like Beauty and the Beast give us incredible and iconic musical experiences!  So what should we do?

If your like me and you don't WANT to avoid these kinds of stories there are a few things we can do as parents to make sure that these fictions don't warp our daughter's views of love:

1.  Be in a healthy relationship yourself.  The first and most important example you can set for your daughter is to be in a healthy relationship yourself.  Make sure that your daughter sees the reality of your marriage.  The ups and the downs.  Don't allow an illusion of a "perfect" marriage make her think that there are no rough spots.  That's just not real.  Are you a single or dating mother? Take care to not expose your daughter to the guys you date until you know they are a "keeper".  I was a single parent once and it was a constant struggle, but it's possible to keep your child separate from your dating until your in a serious and committed relationship.  
2.  Expose her to other love stories.  Make sure that your daughter sees a diverse range of love stories in their books, tv, and movie choices.  Even those sappy-lack-of-excitement plots can show your daughter a more realistic version of love.
3.  Talk about it.  That's right, something as simple as talking about the stories and discussing the reality or lack-of-reality will help our daughters not fall victim to the imitation.  
4.  Expose her to other REAL couples.  Make sure that the people's houses she visit have a healthy relationship (at least on the surface that she will see).  Meet her friends parents and decide whether they represent a relationship that you would like her to see.  
5.  Point out things you want her to notice.  "Isn't it nice how he holds the door open for her?" or "Did you see that cute couple and how they smiled at each other?"  Yes, these things seem superficial and they cannot truely be a judgement on a real relationship, but those tiny details are ones that she will notice when she is in her own relationships IF she knows what to look for.
6.  Relax.  She'll probably have a bad guy relationship or two.  The best thing you can do is take a deep breathe and trust that you have taught her well enough to recognize a bad relationship when she's in one.
7.  Be Involved.  Meet her friends.  Meet her boy friends.  Spend time with the group she hangs out with.  Invite them to your house.  Take them places as a group.  You can use your knowledge of her social circle to draw her attention to healthy relationships and unhealthy situations.  Knowledge is power.  
8.  Intervene when necessary.  Think your daughter is in a bad relationship?  Does he make her do things that she doesn't want or talk badly to her or act as if she isn't there?  Intervene.  Really.  She'll hate you for a while, she might even rebel against you.  But it's worth it in the end to save her from a bad guy.  
9.  Pay Attention.  Sometimes things look "normal" on the outside but are saturated with turmoil behind closed doors.  You may not be able to see a bad guy, but there will be subtle clues.  Trust your instincts and notice any changes in your daughter's behavior, attitude, or school work.  
10.  Pray.  I like to reserve my prayers for truly important things.  I don't pray for world peace or answers to my daily questions or any of those typical things.  But I do pray for my children's happiness. 

Do you have any other suggestions?  What ways to do you help your children see truthful realities in a world of fictional fantasy?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.

The Parenting and Politics Conundrum

I consider myself a Conservative Liberal.  Is that even possible?  I'm a complete contradiction when it comes to political views.  When I take those online "what side of the aisle are you on?" quizzes online the whole think goes wonky and it can't figure me out.

I've struggled with this as a parent.  How do explain democratic duty to your children?  I've always tried to emphasize that our democracy (and specifically voting) was one of the ways (marching, writing to representatives, staying updated on the issues, etc being the other ways) that we make our voices and opinions heard.  I've explained to my children that people vote for 1 of 3 reasons:

1- They vote based on an issue(s) they are passionate about.  *This is what I tend do.  I follow a series of issues that I am passionate about and I pick the candidate that best aligns with my views whether they are Republican, Democrat, or Independent*
2- They vote based on a Party. *yes, believe it or not, some people vote for a specific Party every single election regardless of the issues*
3- They vote AGAINST something (or sometimes, like in the latest election, against someone)

But what happens when it's more complicated?  That's when it becomes a conundrum.  Parenting is often a conundrum.  It's confusing.  It's frustrating.  It's often very difficult to understand and navigate.  Politics are much the same.  I never REALLY know what's going on, no matter how hard I try to stay updated and follow "what's going on" I still feel somewhat lost navigating the bureaucracy of the entire system.  

How do we marry parenting and politics?  If both are such a confusing web of intricate complexities, how can be make those webs interweave and for a cohesive example for our children?  It's difficult.  A recent study (American Sociological Association) says that teenagers are no longer simply following their parents' political views, but instead over half are blatantly rejecting their parents' political views (if they even know what those beliefs are in the first place).  This means that transmission of political beliefs is not automatic!  We can no longer just assume that our children are going to absorb our political beliefs via osmosis.  

I think that conservatives and liberals alike can agree that we each want out children to "vote like we do".  We all want our children to believe the same things we believe, and act on those beliefs the same way we do.  But HOW do we accomplish this?! 

I think that even though the question itself is fairly complex, and heaven knows the topics are equally (if not more so) complex, the answer is relatively easy.  Here are 10 things you can teach your children about Politics that will help guide them to their own political beliefs (which will hopefully mimic your own):

1. Take them with you.  They need to see you participating in the process.  Children who have never seen nor been involved with the process are less likely to participate themselves.  THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.  They need to come with you.  They need to see that you are involved.  They need to feel comfortable with the process.  They need to be part of it too.
2. Show them that our system requires your continual interaction.  Not only do you need to take them with you to vote, march, petition, etc... but you need to show them the fruits of your labor!  They need to see the results of the vote.  They need to see you follow through after the march.  They need to see you send the petition.  Democracy isn't a one-step-process.  You can't just vote and then forget about it for 4 years. It's a continual interaction.  
3. Teach them about the Constitution.  Yes, our kids all have to learn about the Bill of Rights, Revolutionary War, and the history of our individual states at some point in grade school.  THAT IS NOT ENOUGH.  They need to see how those rights given to each of us in the Constitution relate to their actual life.  I mean, the document was written in 1788... It needs some current context to relate to or your kids are going to leave it in the 230-years-ago-past. 
4. Teach it once.  Teach it twice.  TEACH IT OVER AND OVER.  Ever learn something and then forget it a month later?  Yep, that's what will happen to that Government class they take in High School.  In one and out the other.  Let's face it, kids (especially teens) tend to tune things out after a while.  I'm not suggesting that you pound politics into them, but bringing issues up in conversation consistently is a good way to re-introduce topics in a way that will help your children remember significance. 
5.  Have them think it through themselves.  This is one of my favorite ways to bring my teenager into politics.  It's a really simple "hey, did you hear about the new immigration executive order? what did you think of that?" then you can follow up their thoughts with guiding ideas "well how do you think it impacts your friends?" or even a "so, there's this women's march this weekend... what do you think about going?"  Let them lead the discussion!  Let them draw their own conclusions. 
6.  Show them that other people's opinions are valid.  There is no one right way.  Half our country can't be "wrong" and the other half "right".  Misguided maybe, but not out-right "wrong".  We live in a very conservative area (and I tend to lean more liberal on many social issues), so this is an easy lesson to teach my children.  Only 1 out of 3 people voted the way I did here, so often the opposing opinion is what my teen sees in school.  Even my Kindergartener has seen the differences in what he hears at home and what he hears at school from his friends.  The most important thing I can do about this is teach them that while we disagree, it doesn't make their friends (and sometimes teachers) wrong.

7. Find out what they know and build off of it.  My Kindergartner learned about Presidents the entire week after Presidents Day.  I asked him what he learned and he told me very simply about the wigs that old presidents wore, but how they don't anymore, and he told me that President's have dogs. That was it.  That's what he walked away with after a week of learning about Presidents.  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he learned much much more, but that's what he was interested in, so that's what he remembered.  So, I had to do some probing and I had to help him expand on those two things.  He found it troubling that our current president doesn't have a dog.  He said "maybe he doesn't like dogs, how could anyone not like dogs?!" So we got on Google and looked at various dogs that various presidents had owned.  It was fun for both of us and got him interested in his own way.  In this way, politics should stay age and developmentally appropriate.  My 5 year old will not understand (nor be interested in) the same issues as my 13 year old. 
8. Share YOUR opinions on issues.  Notice how I put this close to the end?  After most of the other methods of involving your children in politics?  That's because its important for them to hear you express yourself and your opinions, but it IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.  Share your opinions well, share them when it fits into discussion, but always make sure your child sees you accept their opinions if they differ from your own.
9. Find the Positive.  It's incredibly easy to focus on the negatives right now.  Find ways to highlight progress.  Find ways to illustrate the forward momentum.  Not every political issue goes "our way" and while it's important for your children to see you passionate about these issues it's equally as important for them to see you accept the outcome and continue forward in a positive manner.
10. Be LOCAL. It's often easy to focus on the big-ticket races and the major issues, but your local issues are often more personally impacting.  Go to local Town Council meetings.  Be part of your HOA Board of Directors.  Follow the School Board discussions.  Pay attention to local ordinances and policies.  Visit the local government offices and show your child that there is much more to the structure of our government than simply the elected officials.  We have an entire network of people who work for the government who often go unnoticed. 

The main thing: be involved, show your involvement, and get your kids involved.  Consider also making sure that you remain respectful (Political Correctness IS Respectful) in your voice, language, and actions.  Parenting and Politics might be a conundrum, but hopefully using these 10 methods of integrating politics into your parenting it can make navigating this web of issues easier to deal with and allow you to feel more capable in guiding your child's political beliefs.  

Have another suggestion?  Have a good example of when you've used one of these methods?  Please share you RESPECTFUL comments below. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Day Without Women: International Women's Day Reflection

I'm not a fan of protesting. Although there have been moments in history when it's been effective, in general it's not proactive, but more reactive and therefore has a more negative connotation than other forms of political activism. 

I prefer to do proactive things like marches and rallies (which I recognize can often turn into protests, but it really is dependent on the crowd at hand) because they are more about gathering FOR something instead of gathering AGAINST something. And of course I prefer positive action (writing letters, signing petitions, calling representatives, joining lobbying groups, etc). Doing positive impact things are typically much more effective than protesting things.

I looked at the Women's March as a Pro-Women Event.  It was not advertised as an Anti-Trump event and I did not participate as a way to go against our president or his administration.  I participated as a way of gathering with my fellow women and speaking FOR the issues that I feel passionate about: Equal Wages, Access to Women's Healthcare, Freedom from Violence, Civil Rights Equality, and Justice Equality.  Those are the very same issues I supported in today's International Women's Day.  They are the reason I wore Red to show support.  The reason I emailed, called, and sent letters to my representatives.  And they are the reason I had a long conversation with my children about Women's Equality.  

Protesting is dangerous.  Not only physically (because it often leads to rioting) but emotionally.  It can lead to a false sense of accomplishment.  It can lead to people feeling like they have completed their part of the "fight" and allow people to become less active.  But we cannot let this happen.  

Just as the Women's March energized the base of our movement into action, the Day Without Women should also energize us and push us into action.  Proactive action.  We need to use this energy to pour ourselves into the issues we care most about.  

Here are 5 ways that we can continue to stay active in Women's Rights issues and help to influence policy:

1. Write, Call and Email your Representatives REGULARLY.   That's right, just calling once and hitting "send" on an email isn't enough.  Our Representatives often "forget" the issues that we are passionate about.  Their duty is to represent their constituency and in order to do that they need our constant communication.

2.  Join a local Activists Group. There are whole teams of people who get together to work for certain causes.  Join one of these!  Go to meetings, help them petition, go with them an physically meet with our Representatives.

3. Talk to people.  It's as easy as that.  Talk to people about the issues you care about.  Find people with common interests.  Witness.  Some people may not want to be a part of the movement with you, but you might be surprised how many people do.  Continue to talk to your children about the issues.

4. Maintain your awareness.  Keep yourself up to date on what legislation is being worked on and voted on.  Follow local Facebook groups and stay aware of what's going on.  

5.  Don't Allow yourself to feel like your job is DONE.  It's not and it wont be for a while.  So stay vigilant. 

Do you have any other suggestions for how people can remain involved? please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and comments below. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Day Without Women

In case you haven't heard, International Women's Day is tomorrow, March 8th.  But this March 8th will be different than previous ones.  This March 8th Women across the country (and presumably the world) will participate in A Day Without Women, a spin off of A Day Without Immigrants (see my Reaction to this here) and a continuation of the record breaking Women's March that occurred on January 21st, 2017.   

In theory it's a great idea, if we could ALL participate, but in practice there are a number of issues with this Day Without Women:

1. Not ALL Women can participate. Again, the same women are being excluded.  This is a good portion of women and without them our impact is greatly diminished.

2. It's just NOT POSSIBLE.  That's right, I said it.  It's just not possible to have a Day Without Women.  76% of public school teachers are women.  If they protested what would happen at school?  Would their classrooms just go unwatched?  No, probably not.  Chances are female substitute teachers would be called or female administrators (almost 50% of school administrations are female) would take control of classrooms.  93% of nurses are women.  Would our hospitals and doctors offices just be closed for the day with no nurses?  No, probably not.

3. It's a CONTRADICTION.  Yes, its 100% a contradiction.  The protest is meant to highlight women's impact on economics, but yet the protest is asking women to put their economic vitality at risk by refusing to go to work.  I live in South Carolina, a state with At Will employment regulations.  That means that you can be hired and fired AT WILL and you don't necessarily need a reason.  Many employers also have rules about "no shows" and simply wont approve time off on March 8th.  Are these women supposed to allow themselves to get fired in order to participate?  Are they being asked to sacrifice their jobs (and their own economic vitality) for the greater good?  This is ridiculous.

4.  Who is this REALLY going to hurt?  The organizers suggest that we protest all women's work the day of the protest and take the day off of work.  But who is this really going to hurt?  If nurses don't show up it will hurt the patients.  If teachers don't show up it's going to hurt the students.  But what if I don't show up at work and what if I don't do any "women's work"?  I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 kids.  I drive them to school, I play with my preschooler, I make their lunches, feed them breakfast, drive them to soccer practice, and take care of any other needs they have.  I also clean up the house, get the groceries, and do all those random little things that a household needs to run.  If I refuse to do any of those things the only person I am going to impact is my husband.  No, it wont impact my kids because they'll still get taken care of.  My husband will take care of them, and I'm sure he would be happy to do it if I wanted to participate in the protest.  But what would the point of that really be?  It would only put more pressure on my husband, a man who already supports Women's Rights and who recognizes our struggle.  Why would I want to put more pressure and undue pain on a supporter?! It just doesn't make since for me to protest.  My husband knows what I do everyday and he supports me, respects me, and does everything in his power to empower me.  He doesn't need the protest to feel my "economic power".

So, this leaves me with this: WHAT CAN I DO TO PARTICIPATE?!  I support Women's Rights.  I want to participate in some way!  So I've made this list of 10 things I am going to do to participate and a few things you all might consider too:

1. Don't go to the grocery store.  It's easy as that.  I will do my shopping on another day.  Easy.
2. Don't shop.  Female consumerism is pretty high.  I think I can avoid Target for the day.
3. Support Women Owned Places.  If I do have to go out and spend money, I will choose a place that is owned by a woman.  I'm sure a simple google search will give me loads of options if need be.
4. Talk to my Children.  I'm going to use the day to discuss women's issues with my children.  I'm going to tell them what the day is about and I'm going to makes sure they recognize it's importance.
5. Share stories of important women throughout history with my children.  It IS International Women's Day, so this makes perfect since.
6. Thank my husband and other male Women's Rights supporters.  We need to maintain the connections we have with our allies and make sure that they know their impact on our movement.
7. Email, Call, and Send letters to my representatives.  I've got a long list of all my representatives and they will each get a letter, email, and phone call highlighting my opinions about the importance of women's rights. 
8. I will get together with my girl friends.  That's right, I'm going to celebrate being a woman by getting together with other women I respect and admire.  
9. I'm going to tell other women in my life how much they mean to me.  The teacher who runs the pick-up-line at school: she'll hear how much I appreciate her.  The lady who monitors the gas station I visit: she'll hear how much I appreciate her.  My children's female teachers: they will hear how much we appreciate them.
10. I will read the articles, watch the news reports, and keep myself informed about the protest elsewhere.  Knowledge is power and I want to be part of the larger picture.  Staying informed is the best way to do that. 

BONUS: Wear Red to show your participating (although, if your not going anywhere to buy anything and your not going to work, then who is really going to see the red??)

How do you plan to participate in the Day Without Women?  What will you do to involve your children?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Women's March Reflection

As International Women's Day approaches, and I reflect on how or if I will participate in the Day Without Women protest on March 8th, I realize that I need to reflect further on the Women's March in order to fully grasp the impact of Women's History Month and what it means to me as a woman and as a parent.

I want to come right out and say it: I participated in the Women's March.  My children and I, along with a close friend, drove 2 hours to participate in a "sister" march in a city close to home (D.C. is roughly 11 hours away, so we opted for a closer option).  It was a glorious event.  It was peaceful.  It was inspiring.  And it greatly impacted my children, especially my 13 year old daughter.

Explaining why I marched was simple: I marched because I believe women are equal.  I marched because I believe that women coming together to support each other is important.  I marched because I want women to have equal pay, access to affordable healthcare (as I believe everyone should have), fair treatment, and all the same rights a man has.  I also marched because I believe in equality.  Equality of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and beliefs.  

Explaining why I brought my children was also simple: I wanted them to witness.  I wanted them to see women coming together in support of each other.  I wanted them to see the power behind standing together.  I wanted them to feel empowered themselves.

The controversy over the Women's March troubles me.  I didn't like that the Women's March was an exclusive event. But the Women's march was about more than "pussy" hats (goodness gracious I HATE that "p" word), anger over the Trump Era, and making a statement on the first full day of Trump's presidency.  It was about Unity of women.  Unity towards a purpose: Equality.  The one issue that I had with the Women's March was that it was exclusionary of certain women.  I recognize that within the Women's Rights movement there is a disconnect between Pro-Choice (typically a liberal view) and Pro-life (typically a conservative view) women and that's what excluded many women, But I think that there are 5 common issues that we can all agree on, and they are the CORE of Women's Rights.  Those 5 things should have bound us together as women regardless of our support or non support of Trump.  These issues should have kept us fighting as one instead of fueling our separation.

Here are the 5 issues I think we can all agree on as Women: 

1. We ALL believe that we should have access to WOMEN'S HEALTHCARE.  This means that we want Women's health issues to be covered by insurance and accessible to all women.  Do we think that all these services be free (ie, paid for by the government or insurance)? No, although that would be nice and some in our movement do want this, we just want these things to be covered by our insurance and be offered to women who can't afford these services as part of their healthcare too.  This includes: access to birth control, access to pap-smears and exams, access to care when needed, maternity coverage (this is HUGE because before the Affordable Care Act mandated this coverage many MANY women didn't have ANY coverage during pregnancy), etc.

2. We ALL believe we should have EQUAL PAY.  It's sad that our mothers and grandmothers fought for this and we are still fighting today.  It's unreal that women on average make 20% less than men do in the same position.  Come on, equal pay just makes since.

3. We ALL believe that as U.S. Citizens we should have EQUAL CIVIL RIGHTS.  This means that we should all be free from discrimination (yes, it's still true that women often get overlooked for a job that they are qualified for because there is a male candidate that also qualifies), free from religious persecution (soooooo important with all the the immigration targeting of Muslim women and lately the targeting of Jewish religious communities)... Basically, we should have all the Civil Rights afforded to us in the Bill of Rights and Constitution.  It's ridiculous that we STILL have to fight for these things in the 21st century. 

4. We believe that our lives should be FREE FROM VIOLENCE.  This is the biggest issue for me.  We should be free to live our lives without the fear of domestic violence.  1 in 10 women experience domestic violence during their lives.  That means 10% of women are beaten or abused by their spouse or parent at some point in their lives.  We should be free to live our lives without the fear that we will be sexually assaulted.  The idea that "Boys will be Boys" is some kind of justification for the sexual abuse of women is infuriating. 

5. We believe that we deserve JUSTICE EQUALITY.   This  means that when abuses of women happen we believe that we should have the right to see our attackers receive punishment that equals that of their crime.  Often, abusive husbands, boyfriends, or father's don't face the life long consequences of their actions the same way that their victims do.  The Brock Turner case clearly shows that there is an injustice here.  It hit a little too close for all of us.  

Yes, there are other issues at stake here too.  LGBTQ issues are involved (with people on both "sides" of the debate), Immigration issues are involved (again with people on both "sides" of the debate), Environmental issues are involved (again, both "sides"), and of course Reproductive Rights are involved.  But I think we should all come together to fight for these 5 fundamental Women's Rights issues because solidarity and unity of purpose is critical for us to achieve our goals.  

The Day Without Women is about these same 5 issues, but with a slightly different twist: instead of marching FOR women's issues, the Day Without Women is a protest meant to highlight the economic impact of women.  The whole premise is that women have a GIANT impact on our economy and if our nation feels this impact then our government will be more likely to respond to our "demands".  

Did you participate in the Women's March? How did your children participate? What did you march for?  How did you feel about the exclusion of some women from the March?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Women's History Month: Lessons to Teach Our Sons

March is Women's History Month.  The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia celebrate this month which highlights the contributions of women throughout history.  Each year follows a specific theme about Women (Wikipedia gives a great list of past year's themes) and 2017 has been dubbed Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.

This theme honors women who have challenged the role of women in business and paid labor.  An interesting component of this theme is the highlighting of the fact that while women have always worked, their work has been undervalued and under paid.  A topic which has also been highlighted by the recent Women's March and women's activists.

I saw an article yesterday about the 2017 contract renewal for the cast of the popular TV comedy Big Bang Theory.  I love the Big Bang Theory, partly because I love the quirky characters (whom I can related to personally given my own nerdness) but also because the cultural impact of the show's themes.  A recent article out of the UK actually suggested that enrollment in college Physics programs has increased 10% since the premier of the show.  With the rise of popular books becoming cult followings (like Harry Potter fans, Hunger Games die-hards, Lord of the Rings and all the subsequent spin offs, and a re-invigoration of the Star Wars franchise) the age of the geek has been fueled by TV shows like The Big Bang Theory.

Not only does the show highlight women in scientific fields (thereby giving our young generation current scientific women to look up to) but it highlights that the new "cool" of popular culture is actually being a smart, educated, geek!  This is GREAT!  Girls are encouraged by new cult followings to read more, be involved in science more, and are embracing a part of themselves that movies like Mean Girls and Clueless tried to stifle in my generation.  This is a trend we need to embrace and encourage.  Individuality and self expression of interests is pivotal for young women to find their niche and excel in it!  I only wish that watching Star Trek and wearing those silly 1980's wolf shirts had made me "cool" in high school!

The stars of Big Bang have done something that I believe will start a trend and make a huge political "Pro Women" statement.  A show that started out featuring 4 seemingly ignorant all-be-it well educated men, has blossomed into a show featuring 4 men and 3 strong, smart, and witty women.  But the actors pay scales do not reflect their now mostly-equal screen time.  In their new 2017 contracts, Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Johnny Galecki (Leonard), Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Kunal Nayyar (Raj) and Simon Helberg (Howard) have all agreed to take pay cuts (they each make roughly 1 million per episode) so that fellow stars Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) who now only make roughly $200K per episode can get a raise (see FOX News or The Huffington Post for details).  

While clearly Bailik and Rauch have been in fewer episodes (around 160 each) and the other stars have been on the show since the beginning (roughly 230 episodes each) the pay disparity is striking and disproportionate.  Sure, Kaley (the lead female role of Penny, a sometimes ditzy previous actress/waitress with a slew of boyfriends in the early episodes) makes as much as her male counterparts, but it wasn't her role that brought the show into the lime-light for women's activists.  It was the role of Bailik and Rauch (a neuroscientist and microbiologist, respectively) that issued this show into the era of intelligent and well educated "nerd" women.  It was arguably these two characters that expanded the shows base to include geeky women who could relate to their quirky charm and ambition.  Certainly, these women deserve a pay equal to their influence on the show!  And thankfully their male co-stars are standing up to make that happen.

This brings up the point of this post: its going to take more than strong women to fight for equality (especially in terms of equal pay), it is going to take men and boys standing up beside us and demanding that we be seen as equals.  As a parent to a girl, it has been second nature for me to show her how to be a strong woman; how to be an independent, intelligent, and brave women.   I lead by example and I expose her to other women who can be her inspirations.  I take her to events for women and involve her in women-centered politics.  She's never been afraid to stand up for herself, her friends, or her beliefs.  She is a Feminist that I am truly proud of and respect. 

But this issue cannot stop with parents teaching our daughters how to be Feminists.  We HAVE to teach our sons to be Feminists too!  In fact, they may need MORE help becoming women-empowering men than our daughters.  We have to teach them how NOT to become part of the problem.  We have to teach them to respect strong empowered women and see them as equals.  Yes, we still need to lead by example and have our husbands lead by example too.  
But here are 5 more ways we can teach this to our sons: 

My son's birthday cake featured pink frosting
and pink shimmery chocolate balls
1.  Teach them that Gender isn't Monochromatic.  This is actually simpler than it sounds.  We all know that boys like the color blue and girls like pink or that boys like trucks and bugs while girls like barbies and painting their nails, right??  NO! WRONG!  There is no clear dichotomy between likes and dislikes of boys and girls.  My 3 year old son's favorite color is purple, my 5 year old son likes camo (no seriously, that's what he says his favorite "color" is), and my daughter adores lime green.  There is nothing wrong with these differences and it's totally natural for them to have preferences that don't meld with stereotypical gender roles.  When my daughter was young she adored Pirates.  Think: dirty grungy Pirates of the Caribbean with rotting teeth and grimy clothes.  She even had a Pirate 4th birthday party.  My son, who loves all things dirty, violent, and loud wanted a pink birthday cake for his 5th birthday.  My other son spends hours lovingly caring for baby dolls in a pink crib.  He will adoringly feed them, change them, and spend time reading books to them.  Girls like superheros, boys like to cook, girls like the color blue, and boys like playing with baby dolls.  Its natural to be a spectrum, our gender can't be black and white.

2. Encourage them to have a variety of Friends.  Friends of different genders, friends with different likes, friends who come from different socio-economic back grounds, friends who show him the wide spectrum of life.

3. Let them see your Feminism.  Yes, I took my sons with me to the Women's March with me.  It was important for them to see the strong moms, sisters, wives, friends, other men, and other boys working together towards a common goal.  It was important for them to witness first hand the solidarity of people who believe the same thing.  It was important for them to feel the empowerment in the air and to want to be part of it.
My two boys at our local Women's March.
It was a rainy day, but we all had a blast standing up for women!

4. Teach him about Consent.  This might seem extreme to teach a young boy, because let's face it sex isn't on a 4 year old's mind.  But the reality is that children are taught from a young age to force physical contact or allow physical contact whether they want it or not.  This is not ok.  A 3 year old who doesn't want a hug shouldn't be forced to hug, the same as a young woman who doesn't want to have sex shouldn't have to have sex.  Teach your sons not only to ask first, but teach them to respect the answer they are given.  Also teach them that they should be asked and respected too.

5. Use Pop Culture to teach lessons about life.  Yeah, I don't like this one (mostly because I have a hard time myself keeping up with pop culture), but they can relate to pop culture so it's a useful tool.  When you hear songs on the radio, use them as an example.  Talk to them about what they hear and why it is or isn't ok.  Find for them pop culture icons that they can look up to who exhibit Feminist qualities.  But mostly, be a part of their pop culture world so that you know who their influences are and so that you can help shape those influences.

My youngest son meeting his idol: Elsa.
Because who doesn't love a powerful woman who can
shoot ice out of her hands?!

Is my daughter a Feminist? Absolutely yes.  Will my sons be Feminists?  I certainly hope so.  While I hope that wage disparities no longer exist 10 years from now when my sons get their first jobs, I'd like to picture my sons (in all their nerdy glory) right there with Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki,, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg demanding that their female counterparts get equal pay.

What are some ways you teach your son(s) to be Feminists?  Like what your reading here?  Check out my post on March 8th for a reflection on International Women's Day and the Day without Women.  Your RESPECTFUL comments are appreciated below.