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Ballot Initiatives

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was the first President to propose and use ballot initiatives while WE the people are voting for our elected officials? And next week, for the first time since the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, CT between the ages of 6 and 7, the state of Washington will have 2 questions on the ballot about guns.

Initiative 594 would require all firearm sales, including those at gun shows and conducted online, to be predicated on a background check of the buyer. Initiative 591, however, would disallow background checks for gun purchases unless explicitly required by the federal government. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/16/us-usa-firearm-measures-idUSBREA3F1XL20140416

62% of voters in that state favor expanding background checks according to polls, but since they can vote on both questions it may be confusing. Will Washington be the fifth state to close the gun show loophole, along with New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Delaware? Considering the most recent school shooting in Marysville, it is a timely question.

When we were young, we had fire drills in school. An alarm would go off and everybody had to proceed calmly towards the door, file into the hallway one by one in a straight line and convene outside in the parking lot. Teachers counted heads to make sure everyone was present and accounted for. They tell me we had atomic bomb drills too, hiding under our desks, but I don’t remember those. I do remember filing upstairs at Sacred Heart School for our first dose of a newfangled Polio vaccine

But today teachers and students are practicing what to do should a person with a gun walk through their front doors. It’s conveniently called a “Lockdown Drill.” Think about that for a second, our children are taking time out of their day to play hide and seek in a pretend scenario with a crazed maniac.

In this Washington Post article a teacher talks about having to keep her 4 and 5 year old students hidden and quiet in a classroom closet for 13 minutes!  13 minutes…”16 tiny bodies sitting crisscross applesauce, hands in laps, plus two adults…Instead of controlling guns and inconveniencing those who would use them, we are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rehearsing-for-death-a-pre-k-teacher-on-the-trouble-with-lockdown-drills/2014/10/28/4ab456ea-5eb2-11e4-9f3a-7e28799e0549_story.html

She has a point, a very valid point. Instead of rehearsing for death WE the people should start screaming. I was sickened to learn that three states have ballot initiatives to try and curtail a woman’s ability to choose to have a child. TRAP laws and Personhood amendments galore, our glorious, religious right/wing/nuts would love to have government by and for WE the people control our sexual and reproductive health. But, hey keep your hands off our guns! They would rather have our teachers and children terrorized in school – and believe you me, WE are more likely to be gunned down outside a school in this country –  than propose universal background checks for gun owners. How sick and sad is that.

A ratio of 3 to 1, three states against choice to one that is trying to tackle gun violence. After Newtown, President Obama said “Shame on us,” if this tragedy doesn’t result in new gun laws. Shame on us indeed.

I teach in a country awash in weaponry. Maybe that moment I stood alone in my classroom was when I was closest to the truth. In 13 minutes, according to my gruesome and involuntary mental calculus, a single gunman with his effortlessly obtained XM15-E2S rifle and 26 rounds in each of two additional magazines could potentially kill 78 of us.    Proponents Of Increased Gun Control Laws Demonstrate In Washington

Still…

The lack of quality, affordable day care is arguably the most significant barrier to full equality for women in the workplace. It makes it more likely that children born in poverty will remain there. That’s why other developed countries made child care a collective responsibility long ago.

Here’s my question, If you were to place a monetary value on child care workers what would it be? We all know how important those first few years are to a child’s developing brain, and yet in this country, child care is anything but valued. Parents must navigate a piecemeal patchwork of semi-regulated private home care and institutional day care franchises or religious, sometimes co-operative pre-schools that in the end may or may not meet their needs. Poor, single-parent, and middle class working parents are hit hardest, because one parent’s salary may all but pay for child care, which means for many couples one will opt to stay home, not to work while their children are young…

You’ll notice I didn’t say the “Mother,” even though the latest US Census Bureau actually counts the Father as a “Child Care Provider” when he stays at home, but if it’s the Mom at home, well, not so much! http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/the-census-bureau-counts-fathers-as-child-care/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Presumably it’s our function right, to stay barefoot and pregnant at home raising the kiddos? And this is exactly the problem with our Democracy – we educate our girls, we passed Title IX, we expect women to contribute to the GNP, and yet we still manage to count them as the “designated” parent. It’s easier that way, then we as a country feel no obligation to provide child care!

I used to hate it when people said the Dad was “babysitting,” early feminists had to readjust their language to reflect the changing culture giving women sovereignty over their lives. After all, is the Mom babysitting when she cares for her progeny? No, we are parenting, co-parenting hopefully. Sure nursing Moms have a bit of a heavier load to begin with, but even with modern Dads picking up more of the slack at home, when both parents want of have to work, their options are dismal.

American day care performs abysmally. A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard. Depending on the state, some providers may need only minimal or no training in safety, health, or child development. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care

And what do we pay these child care workers? Less than $20,000 a year, about the same as a parking lot attendant. Yes, someone who sits in a booth all day watching a small screen and making change is valued about the same in,this,country as someone responsible for our young child’s growth and development. And there are no national qualifications for child care workers, it is a state by state business where a GED will get you in the door.

In every other developed country, in the Big 8, working women and child care are valued. In France for example, the state subsidizes child care. Babies and toddlers can go to a “Creche” that is run by the public health system, while preschoolers can go to the “Ecole Maternelle,” with teachers who are paid the same as the public school teachers because it is part of the public education system. Is it any surprise that 80% of women return to work in France, while here it is around 60%? Even if one parent stays at home, or hires nannies, France gives these parents generous tax breaks.

In Denmark, most men take a three month paternity leave, and no parent pays more than 25% for child care. I know. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/18/britain-learn-denmark-childcare-model

And guess where our government does set standards on child care, the military! “More than 98 percent of military child care centers meet standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, compared with only 10 percent of private-sector day cares.” Interesting, I guess the American dream does exist for some women in uniform, so long as you don’t mind where you’ll be stationed or that you may be called to duty in a war zone.

If we as a nation would like to move more people out of poverty, and benefit from the increased taxes and economic development of more women in the workplace, we will have to make universal Pre-K a reality. It’s that simple.

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School

 

 

 

How to Evade Ebola by Flying Yourself!

A man for all seasons, Bob is also a private pilot. I haven’t flown with him in awhile, for many reasons. But mostly it’s because the weather has to be perfect, and I have to have a destination in mind. Like the Love Bug. You won’t find me flying over to Newport News for lunch. And also there’s this, I just don’t like flying! But yesterday, I squeezed myself into the plane.

Pre-flight Check

Pre-flight Check

Me:  The interior looks great! Ouch, oh yeah I forgot I’ve got to take my earrings off before I put the headset on. Thinking to myself – Let’s see where can I stow them? Can’t reach my bag in the back… wait, I’ll just clip them onto my necklace.

Bob:  What? Here you’ve got to have the mic right up to your mouth, like this, like you’re kissing it

Me:  OK, are we clear? What about those clouds?

Bob:  We’re clear to 9,000 ft. Those clouds are around 5

Me:  Good, so it’s smooth sailing?

And it was pretty smooth, the clouds underneath us looked like marshmallow fluff, until I noticed a little red button light up and Bob started fooling around, quickly, and he’s never quick in the cockpit, with the throttle and the landing gear

Me:  What’s up? (said meekly and like I didn’t know something was wrong). Thinking to myself – we are 9,000 ft in the air and the landing gear isn’t supposed to come down until we descend in another 200 miles or so

Bob:  We’re just going to slow down a little  

Me:  Straining to read the red button on Bob’s panel – WARNING GEAR UNSAFE!   

Warning Light

Warning Light

Bob:  The door’s probably not fully closing (the Piper Arrow has retractable wheels, and the doors to said wheels were just replaced in its annual)

Me:  Thinking to myself – So this is it, we’ll have to fly around the airport to burn off all the fuel and then land on foam, if Charlottesville even has foam to put down on the runway, and we’ll make the local news, there will be fire trucks…

Bob:  We’ve got three green (which means all three wheels have come down) so it’s not a problem.

For an emergency physician/pilot, nothing is a problem. These people are the epitome of cool under pressure. Remember the voice recording of Sully landing in the Hudson? That’s Bob, telling me there’s nothing to worry about.

It wasn’t like flying around the Jersey Shore this time of year, with its kaleidoscope of pink and red cranberry bogs. But it was autumn in the Shenandoah Valley and beautiful just the same. It is also Homecoming weekend for UVA, so yesterday we landed amid the Big Jets with all their private pilots in uniform hanging around talking about who was getting enough sleep.

There wasn’t another plane in the sky all the way from Nashville, but three hours later and finally on the ground – all three green down – our little four-seater Piper was the poor relative to the top 1% of the 1% of alums flying in to see the Hoos play the Heels.

Me:  Perfect landing. Thanks honey, that beats 9 hours in the car!

Bob:  Smiling, thinking to himself – I’m gonna call that mechanic first thing Monday morning.  IMG_1478

 

Too Cheesy?

It’s a last minute trip for Nana! She told me she needs some last only grandchild bonding, with ME!! We have a lot to do to before my baby brother POPS out of Mama’s belly.
First of all I’m moving upstairs into my Big Girl Room. There were worker men up there all week making scary noises. One day I even had to nap in Mama and Dada’s room. Oh and the big news is …I’m moving into a Big Girl Bed!
Don’t tell them, but I have plans. Like if I hear my baby brother cry, or I hear a train in the night, or there’s lightning and thunder, I can just get right out of my tiny Big Girl Bed and climb into Mama and Dada’s huge bed. It will be easey peasey!
Nana said that finding things for my room was like shopping with Mama when she went away to college. So many choices!
This morning we talked to my friend the school crossing guard, Finey. “I know your Daddy’s a doctor,” she said. “I see him get into his car in the morning in his white coat.” So I said “and my Mama’s a doctor too!” Then Finey held up her big STOP sign and helped us cross the street.
Nana told us that all her dreams have come true because we found the best food truck in Nashville today. The Grilled Cheeserie truck was in West End and we were the first in line. I love the tater tots best! But I hate having to sit at the table until everyone finishes their food. You see I eat very fast and have lots of things to do, I take after my PopBob!
PopBob is flying here soon to pick Nana up, but I think they should stay. We still have to pick pumpkins and ride on hay wagons. And go to the Zoo. And bake apple pies. And make Mac and Cheese…

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Five Weeks Found

In Nepal they have stopped searching a famous Himalayan trekking route for the hikers who went missing in a storm. Last week’s tragedy was unprecedented with 38 people dead, and still only 25 have been identified.

In Charlottesville, a city with a vibrant Nepalese refugee community because it is said our Blue Ridge is similar to their mountain home, another search has been called off. A team from Chesterfield County, near Richmond, found the remains of a body on a farm just a few miles from the area where Amanda Harrington was found, near Old Lynchburg Road.

In last night’s news conference, Chief Christopher Longo only said that he notified Hannah’s parents, but that it would be up to the medical examiner to identify the body. Forensic tests will be done and I can’t imagine that those parents will have to view the body, will have to look at her clothing or hold a piece of jewelry. But we all know this is Hannah. People that have signed up to search and deliver food to the volunteers today have been told they will not be needed.

I wonder if they have put a suicide watch on Jesse Matthews?

I wonder if the FBI will begin searching Walnut Creek Park with cadaver-sniffing dogs for the other missing girls?

I wonder if Matthews knew Randy Taylor who was convicted of Alexis Murphy’s death, without finding her body

Or will any other forensic evidence tie him to other unsolved cases? http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/12/us/virginia-murdered-daughter-familiy/index.html

I’ve been thinking about this, IF Matthews had been charged and prosecuted for those two rapes in two separate colleges, years ago, would we even be here? As a society we need to address the failure of our institutions, and our justice system in dealing with college sexual violence. Calling something “date rape” is purely a semantic way of demeaning attacks on young women, placing some blame on the victim because she may have been impaired. Our culture needs to stop ‘slut shaming’ our girls, using terms like “the walk of shame.” We need to empower our girls to use their voices, say their names, and prosecute rapists, even if it gets ugly.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/06/virginia-wesleyan-rape_n_5940404.html

hannah

Hike Cancelled

Today, on this beautiful crisp Fall Sunday, Bob is busy saving lives at his hospital. I think I will go the Mall where Hannah was last seen and find some Buddhist prayer flags for my deck. And I will support the Help Save the Next Girl Campaign in any way I can.  http://www.helpsavethenextgirl.com

 

 

Social Currency?

Bob alerted me to an article in November’s Atlantic magazine, “Remember the sexting scandal in Louisa this Spring?”

In fact, I didn’t, but I was all over our town’s famous crime novelist, John Grisham’s blow-up on Twitter about his interview with a British magazine. The one where he said our prisons are too full (true!) with normal, old, white guys downloading child porn (what?). Then he steps in it further by differentiating between 16 year old girls and 9 year old boys…

But that’s not the hot button issue Bob was talking about. He had listened to an NPR interview http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/15/356393531/why-kids-sext-describes-nude-photos-as-social-currency-among-teens

…on his ride to the hospital yesterday with the author, Hanna Rosin, of the Atlantic piece on teen sexting: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/why-kids-sext/380798/

Now we all know that teenagers do crazy things, and every generation has to prove their worth by totally rebelling against their parents – with their music, with their language, with a scathing look, or the ubiquitous word of dismissal, “Fine!” Sheer insolence has no better bedfellow than a teenage girl. Still, it’s one thing to grow your hair long and straight, shorten your skirts to the mini-mum, and listen to the Rolling Stones. Or as the Flapper did, bind her breasts, cut and bob her hair, and go out the window to dance to the Jimmy Dorsey Band.

“You come from a long line of rebels,” Mother told me more than once. But of course, we didn’t have smart phones.

Louisa is a sleepy country county, between my edge of the Shenandoah and the big city of Richmond, a mere 10 minute drive. Think Friday night lights on football fields, and the occasional DUI. So it was baffling to local law enforcement to find out A) that they were collecting more and more cell phones because each kid knew 5-10 kids with naked pix on their phones, it was non-ending, and B) that the kids didn’t seem to care at. all.

For the most part, the laws do not concern themselves with whether a sext was voluntarily shared between two people who had been dating for a year or was sent under pressure: a sext is a sext. So as it stands now, in most states it is perfectly legal for two 16-year-olds to have sex. But if they take pictures, it’s a matter for the police.

There is no easy takeaway from this article. Girls take great care in posing for their pix, like Kim Kardashian and her selfie book saga. Boys just point and shoot. And there are those who feel pressured by boys to send sexts, and those who are in a relationship and this just seems to be a part of the mating ritual, no.big.deal. For some boys, the number of naked pictures on their phones is akin to “social currency,” like collecting Pokemon cards.

But for some girls, the less confident, more marginalized girls, their pix are shared without their consent and humiliation follows; certainly setting up an Instagram account on the web takes this into felony territory. But even here, law enforcement wanted to know was this just two brothers playing a prank, or did they have a more salacious motive?

When we over-schedule our teens, when their only free time is spent texting their friends in the middle of the night, then we know something is wrong. Romancing in high school, while no longer done at the corner drug store sharing an ice cream soda, should not be done alone, after midnight, with a cell phone. Parents, teach your children well.

Love is Love but sexting is stupid

Love is Love but sexting is stupid

Rain Rain

Rainy day snooze in the aviary

Rainy day snooze in the aviary

I awoke to tiny, click/clack paws-on-wood-floors and thunder. Roaring mountainous thunder and more rain. It’s coming down in buckets, replete with lightening and it seems the cat and dog of the house do not like thunderstorms.

Mornings like these at Camp St Joseph for Girls meant we could sleep late. They were called Rip Van Winkle mornings! No bugle calls or flag raising, just hanging out in the cabin, playing jacks or pulling the covers up to finish a book by flashlight.

I had to stop reading my book, “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman last night. Not because I was too tired and the words were swimming on the page, but because I knew what was coming. And OK, so this book is about Masada, and we all know what was coming 2,000 years ago when the Jewish people held onto this fortress despite a drought and the onslaught of Roman soldiers.

No, Hoffman was about to tell me why the two young grandsons of one of the matriarchs in the book had lost their ability to speak. I already knew, the backstory was perfectly clear. But I just couldn’t let her language of blood lust and revenge be the departure point to my dreams. I needed a restful night. Maybe today I’ll pick up where I left off, if the sun would only show itself.

Last night one of my favorite literary prizes, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, was awarded to Aussie Richard Flanagan for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.”

Named after a famous Japanese book by the haiku poet Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is described by the 2014 judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’. Questioning the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty and shows that perpetrators may be as much victims as those they abuse. Flanagan’s father, who died the day he finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.
– See more at: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/winner-2014-man-booker-prize-fiction#sthash.duwYDC1W.dpuf

Another book about war, another exploration of man’s inhumanity. this time told from the point of view of a male surgeon working within the confines of a Japanese POW camp. How soon I wonder, will someone be telling the story of a disaffected British citizen who travels to Syria only to become the executioner and butcher of Westerners for Youtube? The cost of war is too high. I’m feeling overloaded with hate and vitriol from the news lately. It’s no wonder we Americans are addicted to cat videos.

Leave it to my favorite novelist/book store owner, Ann Patchett,  to recommend books for us on a wide array of subjects; for instance, Buddhism and nihilism? “A Tale for the Time Being is about Buddhism, nihilism, the second World War, bullying, physics, marriage, depression, and expectations — it is constantly pushing past the reader’s expectations.” As the editor of Parnassus’ scrumptious blog, Musing, so aptly put it –  “Is there anything better than finding the perfect book?” And particularly on a rainy hump day. If you happen to be in Nashville, her shop dogs could use a good pet! Happy reading! http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/09/30/notes-from-ann-frogs/

 

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