Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Woman's Choice

Right now, in my great state, a female senator is holding a filibuster to prevent a a vote of the state senate to pass even more stringent legislation on abortion. I watched for several hours today - it was fascinating.

For the bulk of what I viewed, the senator read letters from various constituents from across the state, expressing their support for the bill, often in spite of their personal or religious feelings on the matter. It was interesting to hear their stories, their rationale, their struggle.

Much like many of the women (and a few men) who wrote letters, I am middle-class. I have good insurance so I've been able to get and maintain birth control for the bulk of my adult years. There was a time when I was in college, however, that I was not insured and I used the nearby Planned Parenthood to ensure my feminine health and safety. That same Planned Parenthood provided thousands upon thousands of condoms to our dorms to ensure that students always had a way to practice safe sex if they chose to engage in sexual activity. At that time, I was still "pure" but still saw the behaviors - and thus the need - for the condoms to be available to my residents. Like most people, prevention is key. Prevention wholly keeps the current filibuster much less serious.

And before I forget, support for Planned Parenthood - the very institution that taught me to care for my body as a young woman - was slashed in the last legislative session.

Prevention is an issue unto itself. Prevention starts with education. My mom chose to educate me with books and a good follow-up conversation. I distinctly remember Preparing for Adolescence, by Dr. James Dobson, which on the top of page 87 (or thereabouts), the actual act of intercourse is described in one paragraph: in missionary. When you make sex that bland, it's no wonder I held out. Nevertheless, I was able to discuss the topic with my mom. When I had pink eye in high school and went to the doctor, she took that opportunity to ask if I needed to be on birth control while waiting for the doc to enter the room. It was a definite "no."

But my relative suburban utopia would look a lot different in college. I had neighbors in the dorm who were on food stamps and already had kids. We all took Dr. Johnson's (shit you not) Human Sexuality class. He was both funny and serious, open and honest, and adamant that student never, ever feel awkward about such a sensitive topic. 3 frat boys were separated after the first class meeting for laughing and making rather distateful comments during the introductory video.

All of that to say that I had avenues for education and access. I worry about what kids learn. As much as I would love to believe that everyone will hold out until they're married and with their forever partner - that's where my Christian heart exists - the reality that I see EVERY day walking the halls of my college are young women, pregnant to the teeth, without much money, no support from the father, and her trying despite against all the odds that she is going to make a better life for herself. Does the cycle continue? Will she be able to get the knowledge, the education, the resources to prevent pregnancy for her offspring? Or will she not make it, and spin the cycle again, only to see her children walk in her footsteps - pregnant too early and without knowledge or resources?

And speaking of those in poverty, while the bill doesn't make abortion illegal, it narrows the locations where legal abortions can take place - to 5 locations. I live in a rather large state, and that effectively leaves the entire western half of our state with upwards of an 8-hour drive to receive an abortion. Furthermore, if a doctor manages to upgrade the clinic, they must have hospital admitting priviliges within 30 miles... in this state, you might not pass another tree in 30 miles! While I don't have proof, I believe that half of the state is more impoverished and is less likely to engage in or have access to birth control.

Because the bill reduces the time for an abortion to be legally conducted, women who encounter difficult pregnancies after the initial 20 weeks (of conception, not 20 weeks after missed period... effectively reducing the window by up to 7 critical weeks) would not be able to save themselves if their lives were in jeopardy. While I am Christian, it was interesting to hear the perspective of a Jewish person who described that, in his faith, the woman's body taking precedent over that of the fetus.

But the bigger picture is this: In a lop-sided congress where party lines are clearly drawn and strictly adhered to, and where men still rule with an wooden gavel, I'm appalled by the notion that legislators would know what's better for me more than my doctor, my partner, my family or myself. Aren't there more stately matters that need tending to? If this bill is passed, what's the next thing to go?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In like a lion....

So May was supposed to be effing epic. Don't get me wrong: it's been pretty amazing. My big, sweet man has come home (hooray!!!) but with any change comes the adaptation. I had forgotten those little things: stubbing my toes on size 16 men's shoes on a midnight jaunt to the restroom, the unexplained increase in yapping Blue emits just because her papa wants to sit down in the recliner, the TV volume turned past 75 (on a 10 point scale). So the adaptation is coming along well enough. Now if we can just keep the house cleaner...

My bestie came to town, too! It was a great visit. It's hard to cram ALL the things you want to do within the span of just a few days, and trying to get schedules to jive for all involved can be a challenge. I think we did okay. In hindsight, tho, I can't say we got in a lot of 1:1 time. I'm a little bummed about that, but I think we pretty much still talked and covered all of the topics we would have anyway - and that's the important part. Still... when you have a rather large group of friends that once all hung out together, there will always be change - it's inevitable. And it's not always bad, but sometimes you still gotta take a little time to mourn the loss of the closeness that might have once existed, and realize that just because that intense closeness isn't there anymore, it's not any one person's fault - nor does that mean you should never talk or see each other again. Just reasons, seasons and lifetimes, so to speak. Life changes affect the way we experience everything. It's crazy. And I am blessed to have had all of the friendships I've had with those women through all of the good and bad times. My life has forever been shaped, molded, and improved for days upon years because of them. And I'm glad for the friendships that continue on with the strength that they've always had. Again, still different, but with that connectedness that hasn't faded.

And the ONE thing that I still need to happen is to close on my house. I'm frustrated beyond measure at the ineptitude of Wells Fargo underwriters to get their proverbial shit together so we can close this deal. It should have closed last Friday, but that didn't happen. Now it's looking like it won't happen tomorrow, either. I love that house - I just need for someone else to love it now. I want to let go of it and all of the history it represents. I am tired of the responsibility, I'm finished ending up on the losing end of the mortgage, and I am simply OVER it. And there's nothing I can do about it except exercise a little effing patience. And encourage everyone to step away from big banks on principle! LOL... I can't wait to kiss my big bank goodbye when this deal is done!

The one great thing that has happened over this month is getting a student some much-needed support and resources that hopefully will change her life forever and for the better. That's the awesome stuff.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Festivus in May!

Any Seinfeld fan will remember Festivus - an alternative to Christmas with all of its gift-giving and consumerism. My favorite part is the Airing of Grievances. While I would absolutely hate it in practice, in theory it's freakin' awesome!

So I'm going to bring a little anonymous Festivus to my blog today...

We end each spring semester with a cookout for the employees at our campus. It's a pretty awesome event and I am (mostly) happy to play hostess and help with the serving line. But there are always a couple of things that chap my ass each year:

  1. Since you're on your 2nd or 3rd round at the food, perhaps you could relieve one of the folks who has been serving food for the last hour and a half.
  2. No, you cannot get your bun grilled. Just on principle. Glad you're a part of the team, though!
  3. We're really not all that into grilling to your specification. We're going medium well to well done. You'll like it. Promise!
  4. Oh, you're the group that never helps out with anything on campus and you're the first in line? WELCOME!
  5. Yes, you really are limited to one burger and hot dog. There are 150 people behind you who might like a little something to eat.
And then there are the folks who consistently don't pull their weight. I can totally get having a off-day, but I'm talking about having an off-year. Or worse, an off-career. So it's your responsibility to plan an event. You host a planning meeting, take notes - or at least write a bunch of shit down. Yet t-minus 4 business days before the event you haven't: ordered food, ordered linens, created programs, checked on headcount, checked on the availability of door prizes, thought about decorations... and then you're going to spend the whole EFFING day of the event talking about how you think you forgot something? And then lament on the poor turnout the following day, and then not share the credit to the folks (not me - other awesome people) who made sure your event wasn't a total flop because they took care of ALL of the above-mentioned tasks?! Please. Don't talk to me. Don't look in my direction. Don't speak another word. For at least a week. Because I am likely to point out the 4,234 ways your incompetence is pissing me off. And while I'm no parent and don't claim to know anything about parenting, I'm willing to bet that saying "No" to your kid just ONCE might be a healthy thing.

On the whole, though, I work with amazing people. Most of them are amazing, dedicated folks, and even the one person I totally can't stand is an awesome instructor. She's just a dreadful colleague. They all have hearts for seeing their students take on challenges and succeed. They all want to learn to do their jobs in different, better ways. They want personal as well as academic successes for their students. And I LOVE that. Even if they want toasted buns.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crazy good time - and good timing!

I've been living with my big sweet man in his house for a little over 3 years. I tried to sell my house shortly after moving in with him. It got plenty of views, but nobody liked it enough to put in an offer. In between, it's been rented and I've been fortunate to have good enough tenants to take care of it. That said, I still lost money on the deal and always worried about what could or would go wrong. So I have spent the last 1-2 months wearing out my property manager/realtor that I wanted to get my house on the market, now that the economy seems to be recovering.

The house was set to list yesterday. My realtor got a jump on the process and listed it a couple of days early - on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, I get a text message from her telling me to check my email because there are some documents to complete. I didn't really read the text message. I went back to my office, printed off the documents and tried to figure out who this person was on my paperwork... then I realized that it was a contract to buy my house. I went back and read the text message and literally freaked out. I had an offer on my house for the asking price before I even realized it had hit the market! How awesome is that?!?! I'm STILL reeling from the opportunity to be relieved of that house.

Today was inspection - I am dreading reading about what needs to happen to the house- is it possible that it could be just fine? I'm hoping for minimal/no repairs.

When I was working in the yard at home today, where I live now, I was thinking about what my house meant to me. When I grew up, we lived in a trailer park. It was nice for what it was, and our mobile home was nice - for what it was. But I always had a fear for inviting friends over because I didn't want them to judge me on where I came from - I wanted them to base their judgment on me alone. And for the most part, I was able to avoid much harassment. But I always felt inferior. Purchasing my house - the one I want to get out of so badly now - was my dream come true. It was the ONE thing I wanted more than anything else. It wasn't the fanciest house, but it was just right for me. And the greatest, best thing was that it helped me finally get over my insecurities about where I came from. It was proof to me that I had arrived.

Now, I hope that that little house can make another family's dream come true. I hope it brings joy to them, that it protects them and gives them a place to grow tons and tons of memories. I hope that it helps them realize their worth and their potential, too. A home can do that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Frustrations and Perspective

In my younger days I was married. He was a good person, but ultimately was unable to handle the day-to-day challenges that come with the expected functionings of adulthood. During that time, I managed to increasingly cope by shopping, hanging with friends and "getting a lil' drink on." It was my way of coping with an unhappy situation, and I definitely didn't cope the right way. Over a series of several years and with interest how it is on credit cards, I find myself years later still trying to climb out of the hole I/we dug all of those years ago. It sucks.

On the one hand, I know I could probably give up, file for bankruptcy - or at least loan consolidation. But I've worked my ass off to ensure my credit stays in respectable shape, even if I don't have any credit left to give. And besides, I knew, sorta, what I was doing when I did it, and now I'm paying the consequences for it. I've earned it. I get it. But a little break sure would be nice.

The most frustrating part now is that I have a rather big "X" factor I'm having to contend with. I don't know the length to which I will be needed to help, and I don't know how much to expect to need to deal with it. And then my "Y" factor is having my house go on the market this weekend. I'm cautiously optimistic it'll move quickly, which will really, really help the financial situation. Houses in my neighborhood have been flying off the market, so here's hoping mine will take off quickly as well. I only need to make a few minor fixes that I know of, so that's comforting. The "Z" factor is my car. My little Hoppity just crossed 200K, and is showing it! I'd like her to make it another year, but the reality is that the fixes she's going to be needing in the future aren't cheap ones. And who wants to constantly worry about whether the car is going to keep going or not?

At the end of the day, I'm wondering what to do for a steady side gig. I've got enough skills and talent to be useful for something, I just don't know what that is. And let's face it: who really wants to work more? Not this chick, but I think I want to have a secure financial future more than just having one job.

All that said, and given the tone of my April posts (hello, Debbie Downer!), there are two awesome things to April: bluebonnets (and Texas wild flowers in general) and the weather. It's been gorgeous these last few days, and I've been fortunate enough to take advantage of the glory. We have a crazy cold front coming in tonight, but it'll be a faded memory by Thursday. And this weekend is my first bike rally for the year. Just doing the short ride so we can get back to the festival for BEER!!

And because the good always outweighs the bad, I have had an awesome few days, catching up with old friends and hanging with some newer ones, too. I got to visit with my #1 blog supporter, whom I haven't seen in about 4 years. That was awesome. Given the fucked up male role models in my life (promise, I'm not saying that lightly), he has been a good one - even if he didn't come along until my mid-20s. And today was for catching up with an old co-worker-cum-friend who moved away, but is wholly responsible for the big guy and I getting together. She will always have a special place in my heart for pushing me to meet him.

Sometimes I need to remember these things because money and car parts will always come and go.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thinking of West

The last time the Big Guy and I headed down to Austin together, we made a 3-hour drive last 8 hours. Part of the reason for the long, long detour was because we went into West. Most folks that drive the stretch between DFW and Austin know of the Czech community and the fabulous kolaches (and for me, the lemon pound cake) at the Czech Stop. On this particular drive, however, we decided to go "into town" because we had heard there was a good burger.

So after a little detective work, we found Nors Hamburgers and Sausage. The place is gorgeous - in an old storefront building with soaring cielings, wood floors and sturdy stony walls. And the folks inside Nors were so friendly and kind. After talking with our sweet waitress, owner and barkeep, we were directed to the Village Bakery around the corner. Again, we met another wonderfully kind, interesting woman. We talked to her for another 30 minutes, and were told to head further away from the main stretch into a little town called Tours. We followed her sage advice, but that's not the point I'm driving at.

Since that trip, we have talked about how that was the best trip we had ever taken to Austin, and the thing that made it awesome was the kind, interesting, home-town-proud the folks in West are. Even though our interaction with these faces was brief, they left a lasting impression. I couldn't tell you any of their names, but I can tell you what we talked about. And I can tell you how awesome their food was.

My heart aches for the community. West is such an amazing town full of wonderful, interesting people with a neat, distinctive heritage. My mind is in West today. My prayers go up to them. May they be blessed with comfort, love, support and peace.

NBCDFW.com lists the following ways to help:

provide temporary shelter: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iUgQQikLFjziB3QzAhaVV-lnlqdllzUO4uhd24ryttg/viewform?pli=1

Donate at Point West Bank: 200 West Oak St., West, TX 76691

Donate blood: Carter Blood Care will host an event tonight at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April - the month where people go batshit crazy

When I first started working in higher ed, it was during the time of people going "postal" - letter carriers and the like had a way of shooting up their offices. I thought my choice in employment would be utterly free of such travesty, projecting my experience on the entire college-going population "How could anything ever go wrong? It's such a happy time!" Sure was nice to be naive.

For as long as I've worked in higher ed - 15 years, nearly to the day - I've noticed that students seem a little more squirrelly and crazy. Long before Columbine and Virginia Tech students seem just a little more on edge. They twitch a little more. Heck, I do too. For me, my focus is gone. Projects that normally come easily become painstakingly difficult. And I tend to suffer fools just a little less patiently. And I can't attribute it to the end of the semester, either. Working in a for-profit college where April fell in the first half of a trimester, students were just a little wonky. Working at a college with a traditional agrarian calendar enhances it a little.

Fast forward a few years, and it's hard not to notice the April pattern. It's like one long, not-so-funny April Fool's joke. And it's ex-hausting. Waco. Oklahoma City. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Lone Star (x2). Another in Virginia. Boston... All presumably the work of one or two madmen, carried out on their own, without the help of thousands of followers to do the dirty work. And it's frightening to think how those few handful of men have shaped how we think and act on a larger scale - at least for those of us in education.

The hardest one for me to wrap my brain around was Virginia Tech, I distinctly remember sitting in he parking lot at lunch time at a relatively new job. I hadn't made a lot of friends yet, and so the radio was my usual dining companion. I remember being SO distraught that I just couldn't really function for the rest of the day. So now I try to manage the input.

I always try to think of where I'd go and what I'd do if there was an active shooter on campus. In the places I frequent most, I have an exit strategy or a hide strategy. Given the cavernous nature of some parts of our building, running like hell works best. In other parts, there are places in the building few know exist. And I'm liking the odds for those locations.

But it can't just be about me. That's the tricky part. Our building is literally crazy. I've surprised some people when I've told them how many sets of stairs we have - they only see the main one but we have two more that are nestled away. Good thing we haven't had a fire. And today, as one of our sister campuses in the district went on lock-down, I was troubled to learn that many of our faculty didn't know how to lock their classrooms. On the positive side, at least we were able to have these discussions ahead of time, to play out the scenario should something really happen. But I'm left to wonder how many other folks simply haven't considered the simplest steps of safety. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of our students. Bless them - earbuds crammed in, volume cranked to 11, looking down at their screens... a bullet could blaze their tower and they'd never notice. We've got to make sure they're safe too. No time for "What?" Just DO IT!!!!!

In a lot of the higher ed articles I'm reading lately, they're relying on college counselors to help identify and guide these students before they pull the trigger or a knife. It's going to take a lot more than just funding for more counselors. It's going to take consistency of instruction from faculty - our adjunct faculty are awesome and do a great job, but they aren't tied into the campus like full-time faculty are to know what services are available. Further, if students ended up having to take full-time faculty more frequently then those faculty would be more likely to talk to each other and relate concerns about students, simply because they're paid to be on campus, be on committees and know each other. But I'll leave it to Dean Dad over at Inside Higher Ed to talk about the merits of full-time faculty and cohesive campus cultures.

I often give our emergency management guys a hard time. Just last week one of them was giving me hell for going out to lunch when there was nickel-sized hail about 10 miles away. I don't envy their jobs - most of us blow off emergency management until something hits close to home. But I'm certainly glad we have some men who truly give a damn. They see danger where I see inconvenience. They see need for action where I see a quirky personality.

So with today's episode in our district, I can't think of any way they could have handled the situation better. There was an armed man on or near the campus. They locked the campus down to ensure students were safe. While surrounding police departments were not able to find the man but determined he was not close to the campus, they released all students for the remainder of the day. It's not ideal to lose that kind of class time, but it ensures safety for our students.

So here's to the unsung emergency management folks. They don't get the praise or glory that police officers and firefighters get, but they help to make sure that those police officers and fire fighters know what to do, how to do it and when.

April, I won't be sad to see you go.