Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dear Trump Supporters: There is No Timeline for Bringing a Sexual Assault to Light

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the victim-shaming started vis a vis Donald Trump's latest debacle (why don't we call it "Pussygate").

I've spent the last week in a state of shock as I heard Trump boast gleefully about his inappropriate behavior with women. I've been distracted, I've been having panic attacks and nightmares, and it's only getting worse.

My feelings are at a fever pitch today as I've read about women coming forward to allege that Trump's "locker room talk" went way beyond words, that he actually did many of the things he boasted of to Billy Bush according to numerous women, including former People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff. 

And these women are being crucified by Trump supporters, who are making comments about the convenience of the timing, that they are shooting for optimal financial opportunity and publicity, and even one of my Facebook friends writing, "I have a hard time believing women who jump on the bandwagon 15-30 years later." 

I do not talk about the night I was raped. I have written about it here on this blog, where I have a degree of anonymity and privacy, but I still cannot talk about it.

I do not know my rapist's last name. I do not know where he lives. I do not want to know. I have been fortunate, if you want to call it that, to fall into what could best be classified as "date rape by an acquaintance", which means I've never had to see the monster again.

If the man that raped me--Tom--suddenly started running for public office, if his face was all over the news, if he was spreading hatred, I'm still not sure I would have the courage to come forward publicly. Why would I? The statute of limitations on that crime has run out, and any physical evidence is old and probably useless. 

The vast majority of women (and men) who suffer sexual assault are not going to want to make it a public thing. Those that have the strength to do so immediately, you have my utmost respect, by the way. It eats me up sometimes to think that Tom has probably done what he did to me again because I didn't go to the police (or my mother or a rape crisis center) right away when physical evidence existed, and I could have stopped it by reporting it. I didn't have the strength, though, and I hate myself for that. 

Here's what happens in the aftermath of a sexual assault.   

You have to deal with the physical first. My rape was extremely violent, and there are physical ramifications that still exist today. If you're smart, you get tested for STDs ASAP (I was sort of smart...I did get tested, but I did not share my reasons for wanting this testing done with my doctor). 

After that, you try to find your life again. This can take a long time. Sometimes I think I'm still working on it, nearly twenty years later. You crave normalcy and try to avoid at all costs anything that will bring back the rape in your mind.

By the time you get to the point where you're "okay", you do not want to go back down that rabbit hole. Why would you?

And so you live your life. You slowly learn to live and love and trust again. You do the best you can. Some days are better than others, and blah blah blah.

I wrote that I would probably not have the courage to bring Tom's name forward even if he became a public figure, and I meant it. 

There would, however, be one exception: if Tom was caught on a hot mic joking about raping stupid college girls that didn't know enough not to put down their drinks, particularly if he was running for President of the United States, I would come forward. I would share my story, no matter what people might say about me. 

There is no timeline for bringing a sexual assault to light, and I'd wager a guess that about 85% go unreported. However, we all have a line. That would be mine, and if Tom crossed it, if he lied about who he was and what he did to me that long ago night and how he basically ruined my life, I would still feel a moral obligation to speak up, to not let the sleazeball get away with it anymore.

I suspect Natasha Stoynoff knows that line well. 

Although she no longer works for People, the magazine ran her story. In fact, People might well have been the only major publication that would run it as they were no doubt able to match up her story with a timeline of their own. Was Stoynoff a family friend of the Trumps until that day? Did her professional relationship with them change afterwards? Do the details in her story jibe with what the magazine knows?

Well, a magazine that reports on celebrities believed in Natasha Stoynoff enough to run the story, risk alienating Trump as well as other stars, and issue a statement explaining why they ran it. That would really be going out on a limb for a publication company that depends on maintaining good relations with the people they want to interview and report on.

So to all of you muttering about convenient timing and payouts, please just stop. 

Living with the aftermath of a sexual assault is something no amount of money can assuage, and there is no convenient timing, only the right timing for you in your own personal situation.

That Donald Trump brought about this reaction in so many women speaks to how horrible their experiences must have been, how frightened and damaged they were, and how truly deplorable a human being he is.

He brought about the timing--and the collapse of his house of cards--all on his own.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Trends on Facebook Today, and Why I'm Scared for America

I confess, I have an unhealthy addiction to Facebook.

I like to know what's going on in the lives of my family and friends, obviously. I'm an introvert--increasingly so all the time, it seems--so Facebook is something of a lifeline for me in terms of maintaining relationships that are difficult to hold onto otherwise. I like to stay on top of current events. I enjoy clever memes. And, yeah, I gravitate toward spoilers and theories about The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. And quizzes about '90s music, iconic movies, and Stephen King books, which I usually ace. Go, me.

Usually, there is a pleasant balance of personal, educational, and entertainment offerings on Facebook to keep me going back.

Today, was different. Where were the pics of cute kids wearing "3 months" stickers? The memes about dogs and thunder? Even Donald freaking Trump?

I guess the first thing is that there are many cancer scares going on in my circles. Tumors removed. Cells regrowing. Radiation therapy. Some of my peeps are sharing positive news, but in general the Big C is beating down many that I love. It's pretty depressing, yet I love that they have the courage to share their journeys when many don't. On any other day, it would make me pensive and thoughtful and probably increase my chats with God (yes, we have a relationship).

Today, though...

And the son of one of my sister's old friends was in a very bad car accident. A bright, handsome, kind-hearted boy who volunteered his time and openly loved his momma and baby sister now lays in a hospital bed with swelling in his brain, a brand new tracheostomy after removing the breathing tube didn't go well, and the real possibility of a permanent shunt. The boy is still unconscious, but it seems likely that there will be some degree of permanent damage. A lot? A little? Only God knows, and only time will tell. He is strong, and he's a fighter, but the hopeful tones of the daily updates have darkened a bit. I chat with God about Tyler, too.

Today, though...

People are angry about the shootings of African-American men Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hands of police officers.  People are angry that a militant named Micah Johnson went to a peaceful demonstration against officer-involved shootings (and both Sterling and particularly Castile were pretty obviously victims of heavy-handed police officers, yet the demonstration was by all accounts peaceful until Johnson destroyed it) and killed five Dallas police officers. People are angry that President Obama is doing nothing, yet Obama characterized the Dallas shootings as "vicious" and "despicable" (further, he has tried desperately and taken much heat for trying to keep assault rifles out of the hands of people like Micah Johnson, but that's an inconvenient truth that nobody really wants to talk about). People are angry that "Black Lives Matter" has become "a thing". People are angry that "Black Lives Matter" has had to become "a thing". People are angry because they are incapable of seeing how you can be both appalled at the brutal murders of two men by police officers abusing their power yet hold police officers as an entity in the highest regard.

People are angry because they are scared. Philando Castile was trying to comply with an officer's request to get his ID after informing the officer that he had a license to carry and was armed when he was shot. In front of his girlfriend. And her four-year-old daughter. We want to tell ourselves that this doesn't happen in our country. It did, though...Castile's girlfriend had the presence of mind to videotape it.

And Sterling? A homeless man was harassing him for money. Threats were made. Police were called. Two officers had him on the ground. He had no gun in his hand (one of the officers took it out of the pocket of his pants). He was shot in the back multiple times. And what are people talking about? That he had a criminal record. Why? Because they are scared and shocked that this happened, and even though his prior criminal activities have nothing to do with this situation, it seems to make people feel better about his death to imply that he brought it upon himself, at least a little, through past bad acts.

I could never be a police officer, and I respect those that are tremendously. However, police officers that do go too far, that act without thinking, that kill before understanding the situation when there IS no pressing emergency requiring multiple bullet wounds in the back or shooting off the arm of a compliant cafeteria worker in front of a young is a problem, and the dawning awkward reality that this is happening increasingly to African-Americans cannot be ignored.

All lives matter, and we need to make sure to focus on our black brothers as well as our blue brothers in the aftermath of this latest ugly chapter. All colors, all races, all people need to step up to the table and say, "What can my part be to solve this problem?"

Make no mistake. It IS a problem, and it's not going away. Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter, let's try to solve it together.

Any ideas?

Friday, May 6, 2016

As I Rebrand this Blog into What I Hope Will be a "Think Tank" (with Guest Posts Galore) , Here are 10 Things That I'm Thinking About Right Now

1. Although I love to learn, always have, always will, I was not a traditionally good student. I have ADHD and two learning disabilities, so the way I learn was not always conducive to how my teachers wanted me to learn. It was quite a slog, let me tell you.

2. I am an iPhone girl, although I tried desperately not to be. I tried desperately to be pro-Android, but the iPhone is just far superior.

3. I have lost myself in the past two years. I am trying desperately to find myself again. Results are mixed so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

4. William Shakespeare got human nature before anyone else, in my humble opinion.

5. I have learned more from my students than they will ever learn from me.

6. My favorite foods are cheeseburgers, lobsters, potatoes, cannolis, and maple sugar candy.

7. I am what they call "working poor". I work three jobs but can't afford medication, new socks, clothes, and often gas to get to work. If you read what I write and feel compelled to donate via the button on the right, I would be deeply appreciative. I would love to have more time to write...

8. My four children are my entire world.

9. I have been irreparably damaged. I have told some of those stories. I hope to live long enough to tell all of them.

10.  I believe that you can be in love with more than one person at a time. This is a terrible tragedy. 

Thanks for reading this to the end. It is my hope to explore many rich and thought-provoking topics on this blog moving forward. Please email me any and all suggestions you might have for me to tackle here or hit me up on Facebook.

Let's make The Philosophy of KLo great :-)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Day--Share a Story!

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day.

As most of you know, I am a teacher (from a long family history of teachers). For the rest of this week, I am going to write posts about teachers that have impacted my life.

For today, though, I wanted to extended an invitation to you, my readers, to share stories about teachers that have made an impact on you. Those stories mean more than you will ever know to those of us that are (or have been) in the trenches).

Share stories in the comments. Share stories on Facebook. Send me an e-mail and I'll add them to this post.

Oh, and here is the official proclamation from President Obama:

Our country's story, written over more than two centuries, is one of challenges, chances, and progress. As our Nation has advanced on our journey toward ensuring rights and opportunities are extended fully and equally to all people, America's teachers -- from the front lines of our civil rights movement to the front lines of our education system -- have helped steer our country's course. They witness the incredible potential of our youth, and they know firsthand the impact of a caring leader at the front of the classroom. 
As our national narrative has progressed, we have become a more equal society, cleared paths to opportunity, and affirmed the extraordinary potential of all our people -- regardless of their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their religion, or the zip code they were born into. But there is still work to be done. If our country's story is going to reflect the diversity we draw strength from, it needs to be written by people that represent the wide range of backgrounds and origins that comprise our national mosaic, and as the next generation rises and prepares to shape that narrative, our teachers will be with them every step of the way -- imparting critical knowledge and opening their minds to the possibilities tomorrow holds. In working to ensure all our daughters and sons have the chance to add their voice and perspective to America's story, our teachers help shape a Nation that better reflects the values we were founded upon. 
When I took office, I did so with a bold vision to foster innovation and drive change within our education system, and to expand educational opportunities and outcomes for all America's learners. Central to that goal is our work to build and strengthen the teaching profession so our teachers are enabled and equipped to inspire rising generations. I have worked hard throughout my Presidency to make sure my Administration does its part to support our educators and our education system, but the incredible progress our country has seen -- from achieving record high graduation rates to holding more students to high standards that prepare them for success in college and future careers -- is thanks to the dedicated teachers, families, and school leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of our young people. 
Just as we know a student's circumstances do not dictate his or her potential, we know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success. That is why my Administration has been committed to better recruiting, preparing, retraining, and rewarding America's teachers. Following the worst economic crisis our country has seen since the Great Depression, my Administration supported significant investments in education through the Recovery Act to keep more than 300,000 educators in the classroom. We have invested more than $2.7 billion through competitive grants to better recruit, train, support, and reward talented teachers and educators, and we have worked to make sure teachers have a strong voice and a seat at the table in the policymaking process. At the urging of the Department of Education, all fifty States are advancing teacher equity plans to ensure that districts can support and retain educators in schools that need them most. In my State of the Union address in 2011, I announced a national goal to prepare 100,000 public school STEM teachers by 2021 to help ensure more of our young innovators can seize the opportunities of tomorrow -- and I am proud that we are on track to meet that goal. 
I recently signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which ensures students are held to high standards that will better prepare them for college and careers. And because cookie-cutter solutions are not always effective considering the diversity of our communities and of the students in our classrooms, ESSA reflects my Administration's approach to education reform by empowering States and local decision makers, who know what their students need best, to shape their own progress with accountability. ESSA also aligns with the Testing Action Plan I announced last fall to help reduce the burden of standardized testing so educators can spend less time testing and more time teaching. This law will also allow more States and districts to support teachers and expand access to computer science, a critical skill our students need in the innovation economy. 
Our future is written in schools across our country. It is likely that the first person who will go to Mars is in a classroom today. Our students are our future teachers, scientists, politicians, public servants, and parents -- a generation that will steer the course we will take as a people and make possible things we have not even imagined yet. We look to the women and men standing in front of classrooms in all corners of our country -- from cities to reservations to rural towns -- to vest America's daughters and sons with the hard skills they will need to put their dreams within reach and to inspire them to dream even bigger. On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress. 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 3, 2016, as National Teacher Appreciation Day and May 1 through May 7, 2016, as National Teacher Appreciation Week. I call upon students, parents, and all Americans to recognize the hard work and dedication of our Nation's teachers and to observe this day and this week by supporting teachers through appropriate activities, events, and programs. 
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why People are Getting Angry About Tom Brady's "Deflategate" for the Wrong Reasons

In the name of full disclosure, I live in New Hampshire and am a fan of the New England Patriots in general and of Tom Brady in particular. I think Brady is a tremendous player, has done some outstanding philanthropic work, and I am truly a part of Patriot Nation.

That being said, I can't help but be a bit disturbed by the direction society (and I'm sorry, New England, but this is mostly you) is going with their reaction to this.

From Russell Street Report, which gives a pretty good bulleted list of the findings of the Wells Report, and makes clear that "the standard of proof required to find that a violation of the competitive rules has occurred".

In other words, the Patriots knowingly cheated. I don't want it to be true as a Patriots fan, but I have a hard time looking away from a preponderance of evidence. Read the report if you haven't ... the Wells Report is dry, but the bullets from Russell Street are pretty easy to follow. It outlines the evidence.

Which does exist. (Sorry, but it does)

Football is a game. It's a game well loved in America, and I've certainly done my share of drinking beer and eating pizza while watching men in uniform dance around the line of scrimmage.

When something happens during a game to directly impact the integrity of the game, there needs to be a game-level consequence. Unnecessary roughness. Holding. Encroachment. False start. All are dealt with during the game.

Deflating footballs was a different level of offense ... and so it had to be dealt with at a higher level.

However, it was still an offense about a game.

Deflategate is, when you take the air out of everyone's arguments (heh), a rich and powerful football team trying to cheat and win a big game. They got caught. They got punished.

Along comes this meme. though, and others like it, and I get upset. Appalled. Shocked. Unable to understand why people are unable to see what they are saying ...

I think the person who made this meme (and those who are posting out, many of whom are my friends on Facebook) has this mindset:
"These terrible men did awful things and the major sports leagues don't say anything. Tom Brady has knowledge of deflated footballs and he gets suspended for four games. How unfair is that????"

While Brady looks pretty silly standing in that company over air pressure, the fact is that his is the only offense that was in direct violation of the game of football. He is the only one of the six men on the meme that cheated at his given sport, was caught breaking the sport's specific rules, and has to pay the consequences.

If you want to have a beef with anybody, take it up with the national sports leagues. They allow violent athletes to act a certain way off the field or out of the ring but rarely hold them accountable for this terrible behavior as long as they hold it together while on the team's turf.

I want to make it very clear that I am not making apologies for the men in this meme.

Ben Roethlisberger is accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. Ray Lewis was charged with two counts of murder. Boxer Floyd Mayweather used the mother of his children as a punching bag. Ray Rice knocked his former fiancee (now wife) unconscious in an elevator. Adrian Peterson beat his son with a tree branch.

These are not nice people. No, these are horrible people, and I can say as a woman once married to a man who abused both myself and my children as well as a rape survivor that I would never be an apologist for this sort of behavior. It is never okay to do the things that Peterson, Rice, Mayweather, Lewis, Roethlisberger, or Peyton Manning (just because he kept it under the radar does not mean it didn't happen!) did.    

Their bad actions do not make "Deflategate" less legitimate, however.

The NFL isn't wrong to punish the New England Patriots for the air pressure debacle that has become known as Deflateglate. This was a football game issue, and it is being sanctioned as such. We may not like it, but it is fair.

What they, and many other national and international sports teams ARE wrong about, however, are that no set sanctions exist for deplorable behavior such as those monsters in the meme posted above.

This opens up a can of worms where people will start screaming about what exactly constitutes "unacceptable behavior" (a DUI? shoplifting? marrying a cousin? using the wrong bathroom in North Carolina?) and we'll have the whole political correct screaming fit because it's impossible to have respectful discourse anymore, but it seems to me that something has to be done.

This bad behavior has been allowed to continue because these athletes are so very talented and it's off the field, so the contractual language is fuzzy.

Yeah, friends and neighbors ... Deflateglate's a smokescreen for a bigger issue that nobody wants to talk about.

Let's please have that conversation...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Angst I Felt at the Prospect of Having an Average Child ... and Will She Ever Forgive Me for (Even for the Short-Term) Believing That About Her?

There was no question leading up to the days before her birth last June that my fourth daughter, Clara Hope, had some large shoes to fill. I think most babies coming into the world with older siblings do to a degree, but poor Clara has the gift (or curse) of truly incredible sisters.

Although her next oldest sister, Gabrielle, had by far the worst birth story, Clara's pregnancy was the most difficult (when they tell you that childbirth gets more difficult when you approach forty, they're not lying). I was uncomfortable all the time, my feet swelled, my blood pressure fluctuated, I had unspeakable migraines, I had weird bouts of confusion and pain that were ultimately tied to potassium and other vitamin deficiencies, and so on. Because of the drama of Gabrielle's birth, there was no question that Clara was going to be a C-section delivery, then we found out she was breech, so this opened up a whole new can of worms.

Anyway, her C-section was scheduled for a Friday morning, but my water broke Wednesday afternoon and she was born that evening.

The day after she was born, we were informed that Clara had failed her newborn hearing screening. They'd need to repeat it the day we were discharged. When they repeated the hearing test, she still failed. They set up an appointment for several months in advance and let us bring her home.

Once home, Clara decided that she did not like to nurse. Ironically, I've never been one of those vehement "breast feed or die" women, but at the same time, I've had incredibly good luck with my first three daughters and they breast fed almost to a year old. I didn't know how upsetting it would be for me that Clara wouldn't nurse, but it was terrible!

And then I got to feel like a selfish jerk for the first of many times, because here I was having a pity party about my baby not wanting to nurse and she was literally wasting away. She was at the doctor's every day for a week while we tried to figure out how to handle it (in case you're wondering, I became slave to the breast pump and we supplemented it with formula ... it was a very long summer).

We worked very hard to get her weight up, and things seemed to be going well, and then out of the blue, Clara stopped breathing one night. I was out with my oldest daughter celebrating her 21st birthday, and when I got home the baby was coughing and coughing, which she'd evidently been doing all night, then suddenly she stopped and couldn't breathe. It was a nightmare I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. They kept her in the hospital under observation for two days, and it was unspeakable. She was such a trooper, but the rest of us were collective messes.

The big stuff settled down after that; well, as much as possible with four children, a dog, a cat, and all adults working full-time jobs. I took Clara to her three-hour hearing screening, and she passed it with flying colors. Life is good.

And yet, I have this problem ...

Clara's sister Gabrielle is sixteen months older than she is. What that means, of course, is that it's impossible not to do a bit of comparing, no matter how hard you try to avoid it (and Gabby's so young still that it's hard to avoid).

Gabrielle walked early. She talked early. She is, at the age of two, the most naturally funny human being I've ever met. Her speech was slightly delayed by a year's worth of ear infections, but once she got tubes put in her vocabulary has taken off like a rocket. As a very young baby, her receptive language was unbelievable, and that has continued.

When she was a year old, Gabby said Mama, Dada, Ari (her sister), Mimi (grandmother), Howard (the dog), kitty, cheese, cracker, more, all done, and so on.

Clara says Dada. Possibly Mama. There are rumors that she said water once, but no witnesses.

When Gabby was Clara's age, she was building block towers that meet milestones set for three-year-olds. Clara bangs two blocks together on a good day.

I see what I'm typing, and I hate it. Gabby's my favorite child and is going to be an engineer, and Clara is going to be a bank teller, right? No, that's not it at all.

I have two other daughters, one an exceptional musician and linguist (I could brag for hours but I won't) and one a competitive gymnast (same). These two girls are superstars.

If our beliefs about Clara are tied to her crawling well over a full month after Gabrielle did, what is going to happen when you add in phrases like "Fulbright Scholar" and "elite gymnast"?

And so for awhile, we believed that Clara was just going to be an average child. In a family of academics, this is something that I think Jeff and I struggled with silently and separately ... what if Clara wasn't as smart as the others?

We've gotten to know Miss Clara Hope pretty well by now, though, as I'm sure you can imagine. I look into her eyes, see the sparkle, and wonder how I could ever have doubted that her mind is just as brilliant (and likely just as diabolical, at times) as every one of her sisters'.

My mother kept saying to me that, even if she wasn't smart, she wouldn't be loved any less, and this was always, always the truth.

Now we know that she is smart--too smart, not to beat a dead horse ... she sits at her day care and steals pacifiers from the other babies, laughs, then gives them back; she locates every possible piece of detritus on the floor (it doesn't matter if the floor was just vacuumed) and gets it into her mouth; she waves bye-bye and claps her hands when you say, "Yay, Clara!" and loves playing in her toy kitchen with her sisters.

It took us awhile to realize that Clara is a child that will never do something until she decides that she wants to do it. Not walk, not talk, not crawl (although she started doing that this week), nothing. It occurs to me that we do at times treat Gabby like a trick pony--"You have to see Gabby count to ten ... her Hulk impression ... her rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You' ... how she hits the high note in 'Let it Go' ... her block towers."

Nope, Clara saw that writing on the wall and decided to pull this average thing. Too bad we're on to her ... although I think it's been a tremendous learning experience for all of us.

I loved Clara Hope when she was inside me, I loved her the second she was born, and I've loved her every minute since then. I would not love her any less if she was not exceptional like her sisters because I love her for her, which is of course how I got to see that she was never "average" at all, even after I'd resigned myself to it.

I don't know why the idea of an average child was hard for me, but Clara helped me come to terms with it, just before she looked at me again with that sparkle in her eye so much like Gabby's and said, "Mama."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

When Did Respectful Discourse Become a Thing of the Past?

Fact: I used to love writing pieces that generated discussion.

I didn't care if people agreed with me or not. In fact, I kind of liked it when they argued with me, and we could have a generally respectful conversation about the issues at hand.

I am a very well-educated woman. I am also extremely well-read, and not just on one side of an issue (I tend to get historical or cultural obsessions; for example, I'm pretty sure I've read every book ever written about the Kennedy assassination with every possible bias--don't try to sell your "Oswald acted alone" bullshit to me--and I don't think there's a person born later than me that knows more about the Manson family than I do). I am something of an introvert (in other words, I do a lot of listening).

I do form opinions. I was raised in my formative years by an attorney and a nurse and later by a contract specialist. It was possible--not frequent but possible--for opinions to change in my family.

More important than the changing of opinions, though, were the discussions that happened, and I owe my parents and stepparents deeply for giving us the great gift of open mindedness.

My siblings and I accepted same-sex relationships because we were extremely close to family and adult friends that were gay. We were never exposed to anything but natural and appropriate love from these people. When we heard our friends making fun of homosexuals or were exposed to politicians go on and on about the dangers of exposing innocent children to these terrible people, we were flummoxed.

I can't believe that it's 2016 and people still want to beat down some of my family members because they were born with an attraction to the same sex. I think it's ludicrous. I spent weeks living with lesbian couples during school vacations, and it did no harm to me. I was never touched inappropriately, exposed to bizarre rites, or even privy to any porn. I would even go so far to say that it might even have been more normal than my living situation at the time.

It used to be that someone would say, "I am morally opposed to homosexuality," and I would ask, "Why?" and even though I didn't agree with what the person said, I could see where he or she was coming from. I could respect that. He or she could respect me.

I have friends that own guns and keep them in their house. I do not. They make their choice, and I respect that. I am not trying to take away their second amendment right. They are not trying to force gun ownership down my throat. We can discuss this. We can agree to disagree.

Why--and how--has this changed?

I use the anti-vaccination movement as an example.

A British quack named Andrew Wakefield faked a study claiming that there was a link between pediatric vaccinations and childhood autism. It has been widely debunked. For some reason, people don't want to debate this, which is really a non-issue (The CDC website states unequivocally, "Vaccines do  not cause autism.").

No, they want to fight about it. They want to put up Aidan Quinn and Jenny McCarthy as poster children for the "my kid got autism from a vaccination" movement. They have no idea how dangerous this is. (**Note--I am a teacher, and autism is a mighty challenge, although I see in both my professional and personal life parents that raise magical autistic children that they view as the gifts they are).

And when I say fight, I mean FIGHT.

You could show them statistics proving otherwise until you are blue in the face, and they will just stick to their pathetic, holier than thou, "You don't know what you're talking about."


I used to enjoy debating politics, but it's ugly now. People see only in black and white. I'm noticing it more now because I'm not really thrilled about any of the American candidates, I suspect, but people are just vehemently opposed to civil discussion.


I thought I married men that cared about what I had to say, that thought I was interesting, that wanted to talk to me and hear my thoughts and share their thoughts so lots of mind augmenting could go on. I was wrong on both counts (but at least one never hit me or drove drunk with  my children in the car), so  I thought for awhile that it was just me.

The more I watch the news, though, the more I look at my Facebook feed, the more I listen to conversations around me, the more frightened I am as I realize that there are precious few conversations characterized with respectful discourse going on anymore.

I don't have to agree with you, you don't have to agree with me ... but I need to be able to see where you are coming from on some level. That seems to happen less and less likely these days.

Or is it just me?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Children's Hobbies: Contemplating When Passion Might Not be Possible

My sixth-grader, Ari, is a competitive gymnast. She grew up with a musical prodigy for an older sister, but Ari never really had a burning passion for anything.

When she started asking for gymnastics lessons, we signed her up. Ari has always been a free spirit, just sort of floating through life with a smile on her face and sharing her beautiful heart with the masses.

Weeks after her first gymnastics lesson, Ari was moved into the advanced beginner class. A week after that, she broke the growth plate in her foot hopping on the colored tiles at Hannaford and was out of commission. We sort of figured that would be it, that her unreliable attention span would flit onto something else, but we were mistaken.

When Ari was able to return to gymnastics, she was put on the pre-team class. Then she had to have her tonsils and adenoids out, which meant being out of gymnastics for several months.

Despite the setbacks, she quickly became an accomplished gymnast with a sweet and natural form. She competes well (she qualified for the state championship at her second meet of the year), and the discipline she puts into gymnastics has given her an impressive work ethic. Without gymnastics, she would not be a straight-A student or endlessly patient with her younger sisters or understanding about certain financial sacrifices we've all had to make.

Gymnastics has made my sweet, dippy, empathetic, kind, funny, sassy girl into a truly amazing young woman.

At a mid-November meet, Ari tore her Achilles' tendon during warmups. She competed anyway, choosing not to tell either her coach or her family that she was in serious pain. She won first all-around, but it came at a cost--no gymnastics until her injury healed.

This week, almost two months (and lots of doctor visits and physical therapy), she has returned to her gym. She is still going easy, but I haven't seen her smiling like this in months.

                                                     Ari goofing around on the tumble track.
                                              First back walkover on the high beam since the injury.

What scares me is what will happen if there is another injury, one that is not as possible to recover from. What would that do to this little girl, to whom being a gymnast has become so much of her identity?

She has two hour classes with her competition team three days a week and goes to open gym on the weekends she does not have competitions. She spends countless hours in the basement practicing on her panel mat and the balance beam her aunt acquired for her in a sketchy CraigsList deal.

Ironically, physical therapy to rehab her ankle and strengthening exercises helped take up some of the time while she recovered, but what if there was an injury that did not allow this?

Gymnastics is a physically grueling activity, and my Ari is tiny and breakable. With this recent injury, I find myself wondering if I should try to downplay the sport's status as the center of my daughter's universe.

I want Ari to see herself as more than a gymnast, talented as she may be. I want her to be able to say, "I am a smart, beautiful, kind, funny, thoughtful young lady".  That she focuses her energy on moving onto the next level of gymnastics instead of loving the zillions of other amazing things about herself hurts me a little.

I love the happiness that Ari has found through gymnastics and the self-confidence and direction it has given a girl who was once kind of a drifter. I love watching her compete, and, yes, I like it when she places.

Sometimes I just wish she'd discover a safer passion.

I never had to worry about Emily breaking her neck on sheet music or falling off of her piano or dropping her bassoon on her head.

What gymnastics has given to Ari is priceless. I just fear that it is temporary, and the cost of that on my little girl would be even higher.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Nightmares, my 20-Year-Old-Rape, and Bill Clinton

In January of 1998, I was raped at a Maine ski resort at a friend's condo where a small party was going on following  a bit of barhopping. The story isn't particularly original (it's here if you're interested in reading it), and it's certainly not why I'm writing about this long-ago event at this late date.

I should mention that I've written about the repercussions before as well, here and here, but that's also not what has me in a a bad place right now.

No, it's like it's coming back, and I am just a hot mess.

I had the rape nightmare last night...and the night before. Not a random mosaic of images obviously symbolizing the rape in some way that I'm hopefully smart enough to figure out, not an "anxiety attack", but what was essentially a reenactment.

I've been a disaster for days.

You'd think that after all these years, I would stop doing this to myself, that my brain would just say, "Geez, Katie, it's been almost twenty years, let it go already!"

Yeah, not so easy...

It usually happens a lot in January, because that's when the event itself happened, but it has not ever been quite like this.

It took me a bit to figure out why I'm going through this, why I am again ripped apart by the smart, sassy, feisty little girl who died in January of 1998 to be replaced by the woman typing this. 

Me, brother Mike, sister Meghan 

In the old neighborhood (I'm on the right, holding a play I'd written for the neighbor kids to perform, I think)

With another childhood friend.

A woman who put on a lot of weight, because I was pretty the night I was raped and I do not want to be pretty anymore.

A woman who struggles with virtually every relationship, from family to friendships and everywhere in between, because she trusts nobody.

A woman who cowers with fear at bullies, injustice, and those who habitually do the wrong thing.

A woman who almost lost her passion for her profession because of the pain she lived with, pain she lives with to this day.

A woman who apologizes all the time, to the point where it's annoying and she knows it is, but she can't help it.

It took me years to share that this had happened to me, years. I'd buried it down deep, and while it shaped the adult I ultimately became, I do not think I experienced direct emotional pain on a regular basis. And once I shared, of course, everyone said, "Get help."

So I tried to get help, from a variety of sources using a variety of techniques. I think about the rape and my rapist more since trying to "get help" then I ever did before, largely because I had a huge flashback brought about by the bloody trauma of my daughter Gabrielle's birth that led to what was eventually diagnosed as PTSD and Postpartum Depression.

The last treatment I tried involved the therapist forcing me to relive every detail. Remember and retell and relive every single freaking detail. Blood sticky on my legs. Having my face forced into a pillow, smelling laundry detergent and tasting cotton. The pain getting ever worse. Blood, everywhere. The laughter of my rapist, which echos in my nightmares. He thought it was funny.

After that, I figured I'd just deal on my own, and I've been doing okay.

Until this year.

I couldn't figure out what had changed, why the rape has been on my mind constantly, marring any happiness I should be enjoying.

And then it hit me ...

The so-called "liberal media" has gone crazy posting pieces implying that Bill Clinton is guilty of sexual assaults (which I read to be "rapes") in order to knock down Hillary Clinton's chances of breaking the glass elevator and becoming the first female president.

It was the terminology "sexual assault", not "sexual inappropriateness" that got me going, I think.

Women had affairs with Bill Clinton, and they were paid handsomely in cash or favors to keep quiet about it (I've had bosses imply that my future with a company would improve with sexual favors). Women were sexually harassed by Bill Clinton at the workplace (I have been sexually harassed at the workplace, more than once).

Those women, women who were certainly victims but took bribes to keep quiet about it, don't know anything about being sodomized and screaming and unable to keep your mouth open because it is literally cracking at the edges, about being gagged with their own bloody panties, about having pieces bitten out of their skin. They don't know what it is like to have these images flash every time a man kisses you, even if it is a man you know and trust. They don't know what it is to scream for help knowing that everyone upstairs is passed out and the music is too loud.

And yet they are putting themselves out there as victims for political gain.

I would not ever intentionally cheapen the sexual assault of another human being, but it seems that this is being done to me ... and I can't possibly be the only one.

So I guess I can blame Bill Clinton for my nightmares, a sleazeball who was a sexual predator but by most accounts lacks the violent, sadistic streak that killed the finest parts of me on a cold winter night.

Or, I could politely ask the right-wing, anti-Hillary people to just shut up about it. My wounds are salty enough, and every time I read about Bill's dalliances and sexual misappropriations, they burn more and more.

Most recent pics: still shooting for unpretty...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

On The Oregon Militia Stand-off, Guns, and Terrorism

Although the big media outlets have been slow to pick up on it, you've probably heard about the current situation going on in Oregon right now. The bottom line is, a militia group has taken over a federal government building and are refusing to leave. (While they are not calling themselves a militia group, it fits the parameters)

Their ostensible reason for their actions is that father and son Dwight and Steve Hammond have been ordered back to court tomorrow (Monday, 1/4) to serve out the remainder of their sentence. The Hammonds were jailed on arson charges following them allegedly burning many acres of land to cover up evidence of deer poaching (The Hammonds, of course, are offering a different explanation for the fires, but they were tried in a court of law by a jury of their peers, as is their constitutional right).

It's important to note that both Hammonds have made very clear that they have not asked for not do not wish any sort of "help" or "publicity" from this group, led by the well-known Bundy group (father Cliven and son Ammon, not Ted). Noteworthy is that the so-called Bundy group has received accolades from candidates ranging from Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee. Other Republican candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have spoken out against this dangerous group.

Perhaps most frighteningly, the Bundy group and their terrorist militia are also refusing to give terms for what they want, for what would make them leave, which makes the whole thing even stranger.

                                                  Cliven Bundy

When asked what it would take for the protesters to leave, Bundy did not offer specifics. He said he and those with him are prepared to stay put for days or weeks.
"We feel that we will occupy this as long as necessary," he said.
"We are using the wildlife refuge as a place for individuals across the United States to come and assist in helping the people of Harney County claim back their lands and resources," he said.
"The people will need to be able to use the land and resources without fear as free men and women. We know it will take some time."

Oh, and then there's the fact, also reported by CNN, that "After the march Saturday, the armed protesters broke into the refuge's unoccupied building and refused to leave. Officials have said there are no government employees in the building."

It is my understanding that, with that action, these people crossed the "T-Line" and are now officially terrorists. Merriam-Webster defines a terrorist as, "The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal." Neighbors have spoken out about being frightened, and obviously these yahoos have a political goal.

They are terrorists.

This country is in a uproar right now, with hysteria about Syrian refugees and violence against African-Americans leading to cries of "Terrorism". 

And yet ... nobody wants to call this impending mess in Oregon, this collection of white right-wingers toting automatic weapons as they take over a federal building, terrorists. 

I think it comes down to two things, really ...
1. We all have that crazy uncle that you never know how far he is willing to go. I see a crazy relative in the face of these guys ... makes it a bit less scary.
2. There are many people, a silent militia of frighteningly large numbers, with a gun collection that claims to keep it "just in case it's ever needed".

So, yeah, perhaps it really is as simple as guns, that this is going to be the second amendment showdown that these people have long been spoiling for. 

I have never shot a gun in my life. I'm pretty sure I've never even held one. I'm a little bit fuzzy on the actual process of firing a gun, and honestly I don't even know whether you load bullets or clips or what.

My dad owned guns when I was growing up, but I didn't realize it at the time because he kept them hidden. I'm sure many of the houses I went to as a kid also had guns, but it never really came up in conversation.

Simply put, guns were never really part of my life beyond books, movies, and the city of Dover's police department.

Why they are suddenly such a hot button issue blows my mind, and I'm trying to figure out if my lack of personal experience with guns makes me a voice of reason or a clueless dolt. Please let me know in the comments ...

I have no problem with owning guns for hunting. While I would never be able to hunt myself, I understand that there are people that rely on the food they hunt. Go, hunters!

Okay, onto the next thing: home protection.

If you want to have a gun to feel safe at home, more power to you. Make sure you are trained in how to use it and make sure you're never going to be hyped up enough to accidentally shoot your husband when he comes in through the back door or something.

I also strongly believe that these guns (intended for home protection) should be locked, always. I'm a mother and a teacher, and the idea of guns running amok makes my blood run cold. (I'm going to pretend not to mention that the odds are that you would struggle, during a home invasion by a stranger, to get your hands on your own secured gun).

The other contingency of gunowners, and by far the largest, are those that have many guns, at least some of them automatic weapons. Their argument for this level of stockpile is that they are preparing to protect their property should anyone try to take it away. 

These, my friends, have the mindset that they are essentially part of a militia, and the Bundy group fits into this category like a glove.

So the people in Oregon (I read comments following an article earlier today, and one line resonated with me: "If the right-wing is going to invite these yahoos to their parties, they cannot be shocked when they want to dance.") are perhaps unknowingly setting up quite the interesting situation in our country. I pray it's not another Waco or Ruby Ridge, but with the current political situation, it could be something equally disastrous.

Take Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, for example. If he speaks out in support of this latest action, he is ultimately condoning the fact that militia movements are going to be America's new domestic terrorism. If he speaks out against the Oregon nuts, he will potentially lose a huge percentage of his supporters. As of this writing, Trump has (wisely, in my humble opinion) said nothing about the takeover of a federal building in Oregon. 

While some people are confident that these are people that will give up and go home if ignored long enough, I'm truly frightened. These gun-waving white men scare me more than Syrian refugees, more than the recent spike in African-American violence. 

There are these underground militias everywhere, in all fifty states if I had to guess. Will this nonsense from the Bundy group (who are brave enough to express outrage in the names of people who asked him to keep his outrage to himself, brave enough to take over an unoccupied government building) lead to militia outings all over America ... and a further split over how the approach is different when the "terrorists" have white skin.

What are your thoughts on this debacle?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Exploring the Concept of "Smart" in 2016

Just to get this out there, I come from an educated family.

The question was never, "Are you going to college?" but "Where are you going to college?"  My sister has a PhD in Microbiology. My mother is a nurse practitioner. My father is a lawyer. As merely a teacher, I'm in fact under-educated for my family.

I'm sure you've all heard of "book smart" versus "street smart" ... virtually everyone in my family falls in the "book smart" category, high on analyzing Shakespeare but low on common sense.

I used to buy into that line, that you were either smart at learning or smart at learning how to do stuff. Instead, I've come to believe, both as a teacher and as a person, that we all have a combination of these basic intelligence slants, some higher than others but some combination thereof.

Much of my changed thinking on the nature of intelligence is based on someone near and dear to my heart, a friendship that goes back to high school.

Let me introduce you to "Will" (obviously not his real name), an ironworker and a musician. Will graduated from high school in 1995 and has had almost exclusively labor-intensive jobs since then. (He took one college course along the way and, of course, earned an A.)

Will is gifted at working with machines and metals, often coming up with innovative solutions to problems that seem insurmountable. He does this at work all the time, and he does it in other facets of his life as well. He has done lots of work on various cars I own over the years, sometimes a simple brake job, sometimes greater challenges (one of my headlights did not work on low beam; it was not the bulb, and the mechanic couldn't figure out the problem. I kept getting pulled over for having a headlight out, but I'd take it to the mechanic and it would suddenly be working. In desperation, I called Will; he simply cross-wired the low beams and the high beams, and everything worked just fine).

I said to him just yesterday, "One of these days, something is going to come up that you will not be able to fix."

He shrugged (he's kind of cocky about his skills) and mentioned a couple of failures he's had.

Will is often on fire (literally) at his job, so he is usually dressed in dirty jeans with burns in them and t-shirts stained with steel dust. His hands are permanently discolored despite the fact that he washes them regularly. He is tall and big, wears glasses, and the overall effect upon first glance is, "Laborer. Good at his job. Not smart enough for anything more, but he looks like he works hard."

But I have known this man since we were fourteen-year-old kids. I know that he took college-prep classes and got As and Bs with pretty much no effort, that he is a bookworm that can understand and discuss literature that I studied in college (I was an English major, too), that he reads informational magazines, that he watches the History Channel, Discovery, Nat Geo, and so on obsessively.

While Will never went to college (for financial reasons, not because he didn't get a much higher SAT score the one time he took it than I did in my five attempts), I would argue that he is educated because he takes the time to educate himself--through books, through documentaries, through conversations with experts.

And then, of course, there's Will's other passion--music. He has been playing with live bands, guitar and bass guitar, since we were in high school. Music is an art, but it is one that requires strict discipline and regular daily practice. He is a gifted musician, can tune a guitar in minutes (and tell if it's out of tune in a nanosecond or two), and is able to think on his feet quickly enough to stay in synch with other band members.

When ice fishing or boating or hiking or fixing cars or replacing drywall or rebuilding a garage, Will keeps us a running commentary on what is happening or why. He's taught me, among other things, that you can see where stripers are running by watching the seabirds flocking; that setting up a tent requires a lot of concentration (but not a manual); that you need to hold a nail gun flat and squeeze the trigger quickly; that you should be absolutely sure that you got the right oil filter before asking someone to change the oil on your car; that you should take the cover off the brake fluid reservoir when doing brakes; that getting your mom's Jeep stuck in a mudhole isn't totally insurmountable (but it will not be clean); that there is one person in the world that I have never beaten at chess (Will, of course); that meals should always begin with onions, mushrooms, and garlic and almost always include beer; that Lord of the Flies was a depressing book because the boat that came and stopped the massacre of Ralph just in time was itself on its way to massacre human beings; and about a million other things over the years.

Both in terms of learning (book smart) and in terms of learning by doing things (street smart), Will is the smartest person I know.

If you met Will, though, I doubt that you'd share my opinion on that. He often looks like a big dumb dirty ironworker (and will, in fact, often say, "What do I know? I'm just a stupid ironworker". The idea that he could be not just street-smart but book-smart might appear ludicrous. I stand by what I said, though.

Will might be the only person I know that is incredibly "smart" both innately and by education, but I have recently started to notice the different combinations that make up people I know.

My father, a lawyer, has always enjoyed building stuff. He used to be terrible at it, but he has improved greatly over the years. Carpentry is a learned skill for my father, not an innate one, but he is good at it.

A family member was recently hanging a TV and needed some help. I am married to a highly educated man with some innate intelligence, and he went and mounted the TV for my family member. I could not have done that as I have no knowledge whatsoever of wall studs and such, yet I have a beautiful college transcript (both undergrad and graduate) that contains more As than other letters.

In 2016, "smart" means something different different than it has traditionally. I am convinced that we have to focus not on book smart vs. street smart but on knowing and understanding the checks and balances necessary to maximize our own innate potential with education.

What are your thoughts?

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...