Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Non Profit Idea

What would it look like to have a non-profit that pays a parent to stay home and take care of their kids? So often the choice to stay home and raise your kids is not an option because it's not a monetarily paying job, so many parents that would like to make that choice can't and some parents that make the choice struggle financially. Not all parents want to stay home with their kids, and child care is an excellent option for these families, but for the parents that want to stay home, it's a harder choice, because of the money.

If we took the money out of it, might it actually become a real choice for some people? Would paying parents give the job more credibility? Would it stop people from thinking that staying at home, though nice, is not a "real" job?

Now here's where it gets murky, in this same idea I think that if you're going to pay someone to do the job, then you have to have job expectations and evaluations. To get paid by the non-profit you have to agree to certain terms of the job like volunteering at the children's schools and in the community, beyond just the work of the house and children. The job would require doing the job, not getting paid to sit in the house and just be there with the kids. So that's the murky part, how do you decide the requirements of the job? I have a pretty clear picture of what it means to do the job, but there are a lot of ways to do this job, so the description and requirements would have to be broad but somehow specific.

Paying a parent to stay home and take care of the kids and requiring community involvement would be a huge plus for everyone. Just a thought...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pushing buttons...

Yes, I am opinionated, but never is this more apparent than when you push my buttons, and there are a few of them. Sometimes they take me by surprise, I won't even have known it was a button, but some are a bit more clear to me. I had one of those buttons pushed over the weekend and boy is it still sitting with me today.

We were having breakfast with a friend visiting from out of town and his girlfriend, whom we were just meeting for the first time. She's a teacher and my husband asked, "How are the parents in your school district?" She responded quickly, "A pain in the a*%. They need to get jobs." Well, there it was, the "button." I did have a response for her on this, but I really kept it pretty tame compared to how I was really feeling about this very offensive comment, because we'd just met. I did tell her that I thought that was unfair and that these parents are advocating for their kids and that's their job. Here's what I really want to say to all you teachers out there that think that these parents need to "get a job:"

First of all, they have a job, and that job is to take care of and get the best for their children. And though they may not always be right, and they can be a "pain in the a*%" they are, at least 85% of them, doing it out of love and passion for that job. As with all things, it's not a perfect system and not all people do their job well, and often times emotions can get the better of us, but when you think of it from the perspective that they know that child well and understand that child perhaps a little better than you do, listen. All your book learning does not show you what parents SEE on a daily basis. Most of these parents that take the time to come and talk to you and be a pain in your a*% also take the time to help their kids with homework and work with them on school work. They have a unique perspective that you cannot possibly have with 25 to 30 other kids in your class, or more. Our job, as parents, is to advocate for our kids because we know them best and because you can't, because you have so many other students to help and work with.

Parents are hard to deal with, I get that. I have had my fair share of dealing with parents in running Girl Scout and Camp Fire troops, and it is a primary reason why I really don't think I can go into teaching school age kids, because dealing with the parents can be so hard. You have to have a tough skin and know that it isn't personal and not dismiss it either; it's a tough balance. I take everything far too personally, so I just can't stand up to the scrutiny, but teachers need to... they have to. I'm not saying parents should be mean to the teachers, but the teachers should not dismiss parents outright and they should figure out a way to work with them and not immediately assume they are just a pain in the "a*%."

I have to advocate for my child every year because I know that she has a learning disability, but because it's not diagnosable, because visual processing disorders can only be identified but never diagnosed, which is so important in this world of public schools. My daughter has to work very hard at school, and she has to strategize and work out the best way to do things for her needs. She was taught some of these strategies at school and some at home with me. It is to her credit that she is figuring out how to apply these strategies and works so hard to achieve, because school is not "built" for her success, but her competitive spirit helps her be as successful as she can be. The teachers just think that things have "worked themselves out" that she's just fine now because she is passing the necessary tests to show that she is now a "successful" student. When I tell them that this is all very hard for her and that she is to credit for all her hard work, they say, "Yes, it must be hard to shake the stigma of things being 'hard.'" Huh? I have never once in her life told her that things were hard for her or that reading was hard. I know that it's hard for her because I hear her read and she struggles! Still... to this day. That does not mean she is not being a successful reader, she is, but it's never going to be easy. She will always have to overcome this challenge, and this makes her a better person and student. But don't tell me, don't condescend to me that I somehow got it into her head that this was hard for her, and now that it's not she has to shake that some how! It's so frustrating.

So, I have a little insight into the other side of things. The perspective of the parent that knows things but is not listened to because teachers have gone to school for these things and I am "just a parent."

But back to the point... these women and men that have chosen for their job to raise their kids... they don't need to "get a job" so that you won't be bothered by them, you, teachers, need to do yours, and that includes dealing with and listening to parents. Which is just another reason why teaching is the hardest job and deserves summers off ;-)

Prejudice, Discrimination... Hate

My husband's grandmother was a wonderful woman. She was opinionated, I loved that, full of love smart and a great cook. She was the oldest child in her family and spent much of her childhood taking care of her siblings. As a wife she took care of her husband and children and as a grandmother she took care of her grandchildren. She cared for and loved people.

When she and her husband retired in Florida she had her purse stolen many times. And every time someone stole her purse it was a young, black boy; every time. Over the years this experience lead to a prejudice toward black boys that could not be shaken. If you talked to her and didn't know her or her experience with the purses being stolen, you would have called her a racist. Even knowing her experience you might likely call her that because you might tell her that she should not be against all black boys/men because of her experience with a few. And you really would be right about this.

So, why then is it okay that our country is against all Muslims because of the actions of a few? I was reading in the paper how we still aren't over 9/11. Of course we're not... we're still not over Pearl Harbor either... when your country is attacked you don't "get over it." But the story was about a billboard that had a picture of an American Soldier with a woman, presumed to be his wife or lover, and is Muslim. New York refused to put up the billboard because New Yorkers "just aren't ready yet." Huh? I understand that we are still mourning the losses and suffer from this tragedy that struck our entire country, but this loving photo of a man and a woman together on a billboard is not offensive. It's not.

Thankfully we did not repeat history and put all the Muslims in America in internment camps, which is what we did with all the Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Although, arguably, we did do a little bit of that and perhaps a little bit worse when we started rounding up "potential" terrorists and throwing them in Guantanamo, all of whom happen to be Muslim or "look" Muslim; and even worse than that, torturing them.

You can't put a face on the enemy. Just as my husband's grandmother was wrong to prejudice herself against all black boys/men because 6 or 10 stole her purse over the years, so is it wrong for us to make enemies out of every Muslim. Muslims are not the enemy because a certain group of extremists that happen to call themselves Muslim are killers. True Muslims will tell you that these extremists aren't even Muslims, just as Christians would tell you that extreme Christians that murder in the name of Christ are not true Christians. I might go on to argue that those who cannot forgive are not true Christians either.

Nelson Mandela died last week. Do not allow his memory to be lost. He suffered unlawful imprisonment for 27 years, was released and forgave those that imprisoned him and worked many years to live with them... his enemy, in peace.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jon Stewart and Danny Westneat keep me sane...

People are fighting each other in every state over good deals at the Black Friday Sales that really happened on Thursday. Corporate America smiles as it looks on at the crazy throngs of people scooping up their deals and offers of more stuff at low low prices. Not only have people lost complete sight of the holiday with the very word "Thank" in it's name, they forget what it is that keeps those prices low low low. Corporations move their businesses from country to country to exploit one population after another paying them lower and lower wages so that people in developed countries can buy cheap stuff. It's a vicious cycle, people aren't paid well enough for what they do, so they need things to cost less but they cost less because we pay people less to make them. But we fall for it every time and not only do we keep going out and buying the stuff, we beat up our fellow man/woman to do it.

Christmas has lost some meaning for me over the years because I have lost touch with religion, but I do enjoy giving. I love buying gifts for the people I love and seeing or hearing their pleased voices on Christmas morning. What I do not like about Christmas is shopping and it's just gotten worse over the years. More people used to complain about the commercialization of Christmas but now it's touted as "True American" though only by the folks at Fox News and that craziest of people given a microphone, Sarah Palin. Of course they think it's fabulous because it is Capitalism at it's best (or worst depending on your perspective) and they just LOVE capitalism, because they are all hugely benefiting from it, screw all those that aren't or don't. And then, just as they finish telling you how great it is to shop and enjoy the commercialization of Christmas they have the nerve to tell you that it's the non-Christians that are ruining Christmas because we won't say "Merry Christmas" and we've asked that companies stop saying it, because it assumes that we all celebrate it. I suppose if you are just going to throw Christ out of Christmas and call it what it is, an American Holiday with roots of pagan rituals from the Solstice celebrations embodied in our myth, Santa Claus, then I guess we could just all say Merry Christmas to everyone. But not everyone partakes even in the pagan, American ritual of Christmas. So, what is it that Christians are so upset about? Would they like it if we said Happy Ramadan to them? No, I suspect they would correct us and say they do not celebrate that holiday (they might even say it less politely than that).

And so, as you can see from this rant, I get a bit crazy sometimes with frustration. I lack understanding for those who lack understanding for anyone or anything that does not share their exact experience. I see that they are fearful, but their lack of empathy and quickness to judgment leaves me cold and passionate to help them see better, to understand better, to wake up and realize not everyone is them. This is when I need a little Jon and Danny. They keep me sane.

Jon Stewart helps to reveal the hypocrisy of the Fox News and elite, including the politicians and the other news organizations from all sides of the aisle. His team develops an amazing array of comedy that shows the hypocrisy of the common people and all their beautiful glory. I am able to laugh when I see myself in his portrayals and I am able to see that I'm not crazy when I get frustrated by others. It's real, and it's not funny, but sometimes all you can do is laugh.

Danny Westneat is a local columnist for the Seattle Times whom I read diligently every Sunday and Wednesday. He tackles more local craziness, giving insight and clarity to issues, and even some humor at times. He lays it out and often expresses so perfectly just exactly how I feel about something and I am so grateful for that. I am so glad someone is out there saying these things.

I listen, I read, I laugh, I feel better... sanity.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kids and Computers

Are you like most adults that believe that kids can do anything on computers? I hear from so many parents that when ever they have a problem with their computer or device they ask their kids and they "fix" it for them. I will admit that my kids, growing up with this technology, have an advantage, a comfort that many adults don't have, but I think we are doing them a dis-service to assume they know what they are doing. They don't know, they're just not afraid to try. They aren't teaching our kids how to use the computers in school, but they are using computers in school. I think the teachers don't know how to use them and they believe, like so many adults that the kids know what they are doing. We are putting our kids at a disadvantage with this kind of development.

When I started teaching computers in 1997 most of the work I got was in companies that were upgrading to Windows 95 from Windows 3.1 as well as Office 95. These were big changes for businesses with the more graphic Windows Operating System and the introduction of Outlook. Companies invested in teaching people how to use the software then because they knew that most people were new to it, and the adjustment from the typewriter to the computer, from mailings to email, from daily planners to virtual calendars was going to be huge. They were right to train their work force and created a more efficient group because of it. Now, it is assumed you know what you are doing, it is assumed you can "figure it out." Technology is moving at a rapid pace and the changes are hard to fully absorb into our work day. This rapid pace added with no training is making for a less efficient and effective work force than ever before.

When people would take my classes they nearly always were shocked by what they didn't know. I was sometimes amazed myself when I would assume a certain level of knowledge and then find someone in the class that didn't know anything about that. I would assume most people knew what a cursor was or Undo, but people didn't/don't. And this is true for the kids, too.

The speed of the development of technology and software infiltrates our way of being. We no longer try to create something long lasting, we just try to make it print either on paper or into a PDF. We don't utilize our internet software well, we just try to get where we're going in the moment. Microsoft Word is a very powerful program. People find it "buggy" and even frustrating, and there were times when I would agree with people, but now I realize, more often than not, it's the user that doesn't know what they're doing that is causing the frustrations, not the program. There are so many fantastic tools that you can use to make your life easier over the long haul, Styles, Themes, AutoText, Bookmarks, Setting Tabs properly, using Tables correctly... so much more. But people don't bother to learn these tools, they just fight with the program until they can get it the way they want it to look. But the next time they want to use that document for something? Forget it, you can't, because everything will go "wacky" on them and they'll blame it on the program. Excel and PowerPoint are the same.

And we're not teaching our kids how to use the programs either. We're just hoping they'll keep up and that their work will "print" okay. Some things I use to do for companies were probably more in the way of art and might no longer be useful, but the tools I can use and teach people how to use are still valuable, they might take a little more time on the front end, but in the long run you will save time and energy because you won't be frustrated and it will "work."

I wish we'd teach or kids that... but instead we keep racing along.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Woman's Conversation

I was walking the other day with a friend and we began having a conversation about "What's next..." The conversation was about what do we, as mothers do as our children are still growing up but are very independent. My question is where am I going in my career outside of motherhood and hers was what can I do now to feel useful to the world? Tired of these questions? Are you playing your tiny violins? Maybe, but they are real and torturous questions that many women struggle with as their children get older. My friend said this was THE conversation that she's having repeatedly with all her friends. And no one has an answer, its just something many of us, women, struggle with at a certain age or, more accurately, when our children are of a certain age. What now?

Having children was a goal. I love having children. I have loved and continue to love raising them. It is the hardest job you'll ever love. But I always knew that my job, as a parent, was to create independent beings who can go off on their own and build their own lives. The very job is to put yourself out of a job. Yes, I hope the relationship with my children will continue my entire life, and I will never stop worrying about them or wanting to give them advice or guidance, but eventually those will be things we will have to nurture together and they will have to request not just listen to when I deem it appropriate. Eventually I am going to have to trust that we did a good job and that whatever happens from a certain point is theirs to create, no longer mine or my husbands (their dad).

So, I went into motherhood with my eyes open, knowing the job at hand, and committed to not losing my SELF in it. Yes, there would be sacrifice. Yes, there would be choices to commit to the family and not to the career, but I wanted to make sure that I didn't get lost in the thick of it, that my hopes and dreams were still in there somewhere. What I didn't know, or didn't realize, however, was that the world is really not built to have you come in and out of work. It's not built to nurture the family for all of our talk about family values. What I was naïve and blind to was the power of the bottom line and the corporate, capitalist culture of our country. Nor did I fully understand how, though the work that I am doing as a mother is valued, it is not valued as a "work" skill.

When I was in my 20's I was willing to do lots of different types of jobs. I knew that I did not possess the skills needed for higher end jobs and would have to prove myself there. By my 30's there were definitely jobs I did not want anymore, that I knew I'd become better skilled and would never be happy doing those jobs. But by then I had children and the focus was moved to these tiny little lives in my care and the family surrounding it, that I really no longer cared about the job, it was secondary. This doesn't mean that I did not commit to the work that I did over the years, or that I was unreliable or a bad employee, it just meant that I didn't want to bring the job home with me too much and I wanted it to work for me and my family, not my family working around it. So, I stopped any kind of ambition for moving up in any kind of job because I just wanted it to hold steady... maintain.

Over those years I did not stop gaining experience, however. Over those years as a parent I became more civically involved, learning about schools and education, community parks and projects, and of course just the time and calendar management skills alone are a powerful tool for any successful employee. As an involved parent I was going to community meetings, managing teams, leading troops, all teaching me skills about communication, government, working with diverse people and so much more. It never occurred to me, and here is where I am so naïve, that these skills would be so outright dismissed when I went to look "up" in some kind of career. You, inevitably, have some more time on your hands as your children get older, because they are more independent. It was time for me to try to advance in my career and try to expand my working hours. Crazy me, I started aiming up from where I'd left 13 years ago.

A friend of mine said, when I was saying that I couldn't even seem to get interviews for these jobs I was looking at, that perhaps I was trying to get jobs too "high up" that I needed to be trying to get in the door. I thought she was crazy. I was indignant. I thought, "I haven't been working all these years to start over again in the jobs I was doing in my 20's." Because I see what I've been doing as work, even though most of it has been non-paying. What I didn't realize was that society does not. Society does NOT see what I've been doing as work and therefore I am left to start again.

Some of it is the balance that we are always talking about and striving for, work/home life balance. Now that I've had children and they are not yet adults I know that my commitment is still to finishing that job. My job as a parent is not over, and so perhaps society not only does not see my skill set but they also clearly see my distraction. And that leads to the more difficult question, "will women ever be treated equally in the work force as long as women are the primary care givers? the ones that stay home with the children when they are sick? the ones that are called when they get sick at school?" For me, it's harder than that. It's too easy to blame it on society... because I want to be the one that stays home with the kids when they are sick and the one that wants to be called when they get sick. I want to be the one that is helping them with their homework and that goes to their games.

I don't have an answer, I just know that right now I feel stuck. I feel certain that there is a job out there for me and that being a parent is still the number one job in my life. Which leaves me still... wondering... what's next?