On Saturday, some friends and I decided to make a trip into the city.
It was no ordinary outing, and it was no ordinary day.
We were going to Washington, D.C. to join the Women’s March on Washington and express our concerns about newly inaugurated President Trump.
I’m tired of people telling me that I might as well be wishing the pilot of the plane I’m on to fail. I’ve tried to explain that the pilot doesn’t even understand the control panel, that the ride is already quite bumpy, and that he’s threatening to throw some people off without a parachute. We need to find a way to steady the plane and correct the flight pattern. But that message seems to fall on deaf ears.
I’m saddened by people who belittled the march or claim that our country already ensures we have equal rights. This march wasn’t about what some of us already have. It was about what so many individuals are at risk of losing. This was not a march about traditional women’s rights or even reproductive rights (although some people chose to advocate for these issues.) It was a march about human rights for all people – people of different skin colors, people of different sexual orientations, people of different religions, and people of different countries of origin.
Most of all, I’m frustrated with people who claimed the marchers were out of line and disrespectful to the office of the President. First, the Constitution gives us the right to protest – it is vital to a healthy democracy. Secondly, the new President ran a campaign based on disrespect and hate. I cannot respect an individual who has belittled women, put white supremacists and racists in positions of power, selected a vice president who threatens the rights of the LGBTQ community, called Mexicans rapists, mocked a disabled reporter, spoke of grabbing a woman’s genitals, and called those who disagreed with him “enemies.”
And so, my friends and I put on our pussy hats, and we marched.
There is so much I can say about the experience. I could describe the signs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes that lined the streets where we walked from RFK Stadium to the U.S. Capitol. I could describe how march participants were constantly thanking the police assigned to keep everyone safe. And I could describe how everyone was supportive, polite and loving to each other.
But there’s an old saying that pictures speak louder than words. And so, I share a few of the photos my friends and I took during the march and hope they not only show why we marched. It will show that this was not a self-serving protest proclaiming concerns about how polices will affect our bank accounts. It was about tolerance, acceptance and support for individuals and groups who are at risk of losing their dreams.
There are two national headlines gnawing at my brain right now.
The first is about the murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge.
The second is about WV State Delegate Michael Folk tweeting that Hillary Clinton should be hung on the National Mall.
Both are senseless acts of violence.
An expression of hate is the ammunition that fuels physical assaults and attacks. It turns the words and actions of someone who looks, thinks, acts, or believes differently into a significant threat to individuals who have been programmed to protect their own closed-minded fortresses of right, wrong, and justice.
Making a statement that any person deserves to be hurt at the hands of another does absolutely nothing to improve anyone’s circumstances. Yet this type of brutality is quickly becoming the norm in the United States.
As a country, we are sinking fast in the rising waters of spiteful words, and no one throwing us a life jacket.
Only we can get ourselves out of this mess, which means we have to hold the haters accountable.
I’m not encouraging censorship. Freedom of speech is a core value, and our nation can only improve when we listen to ideas and thoughts that are different from our own. But freedom of speech must be treated with the same respect that we give to anything that is fragile and prone to break when it is mishandled.
And, as a country, we are being anything but gentle with each other.
Having a right to say what you want and not being held accountable for your words are two entirely different issues.
When I was a child, I lived with the taste of soap in my mouth because I was constantly saying things that provoked my parents. There was no law against the words I used or the tone with which they were said. But my words were disrespectful and inappropriate, and I paid the price by becoming a connoisseur of a wide variety of soap brands.
The soap in the mouth punishment isn’t feasible with politicians, community leaders or others who choose to continue to pollute political events and social media with their hateful and violent words.
But the rest of us can ensure that there are consequences.
We can choose not to vote for them.
We can unfollow them on social media.
We can call other leaders and lawmakers and express our concerns.
We can write letters to the editor.
We can even write blogs about them.
Collectively, when each one of us speaks up, our voices are bound to drown out the nasty ones.
Last week, WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.00 an hour in 2015 and to $8.75 in 2016.
Opponents of the new law have had multiple complaints:
Teenagers working part-time jobs will be making more money than they really need;
The amount employers will be forced to pay for overtime will increase significantly;
When minimum wage increases, everyone else’s income is worth a little less.
I’m not an economist nor am I a labor expert, so I really can’t disagree with any of these statements.
What I can do is provide a little bit of perspective.
Currently, a full-time minimum-wage employee making $7.25 earns $15,080 annually.
The poverty threshold in the United States for a single person is $11,670 annually. According to that, a person making minimum wage is rolling in the dough since he/she makes $3,410, or nearly 23%, above poverty guidelines. Never mind that this threshold is so low that most social service agencies use guidelines such as 138% or 150% of the poverty level to determine eligibility for services and emergency assistance.
Who couldn’t afford housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, medical bills and clothing with all that extra money? Granted, if there are two people in the household, the poverty guidelines increase to $15,730 a year. That means both people would have to work to keep the family above the poverty line, and one would only have to work part time at minimum wage to do so. Of course, if that household is comprised of one adult and one child, living above the poverty line becomes a bit more tricky.
In my job, I encounter people trying to navigate that tricky situation every day when they are seeking help keeping the electricity on or paying their rent.
But here’s something you may not realize: you probably encounter them every day too.
They are the people providing services for you behind cash registers and brooms. They are the people caring for your children and you parents. And they are the people who are working long hours for the lowest legal pay and are still often called lazy when they can’t pay their bills.
During the recent debate over the minimum wage in West Virginia, I was reading arguments for and against the increase, and one exchange struck me more than any other.
An individual in favor of the increase stated that he was working two jobs to support his family and that the increase would help.
In response, someone else stated that this person wouldn’t have to work two jobs if he had gotten an education.
As a very educated person, I can personally attest to the fact that an education is not a ticket to a good salary. But even if I hadn’t had to personally struggle with low-paying jobs, I’ve still had many advantages.
I was blessed with a childhood during which my parents cared about my brain development and supported me in school. I was blessed by people who encouraged me when I pursued a higher education. And I’ve been blessed with circumstances that didn’t require me to support others when I was getting that education.
Not everyone has the opportunity or the aptitude to get an education. And even if they did, there would never be enough decent-paying jobs to support everyone who meets the educational requirements.
Besides, many of us depend on people who are willing to work for minimum wage to do the tasks that make our lives easier.
Instead of condemning them, we should thank them.
And a slight increase in their pay is just a start.
The past few days have been very tough for a lot of people I care about in Charleston, WV. They can’t drink the water coming out of their faucets. Nor can they use it to brush their teeth, cook , take showers, wash dishes or do laundry. And it’s not just private homes that are affected.
Hospitals don’t have the water they need. Restaurants and schools are closed. A state of emergency has been declared.
The massive ban on water covers nine counties and is the result of a chemical leak into the Elk River.
When I lived in Charleston, my kitchen window overlooked the Elk, and I used to walk my dogs on a trail very near the plant where the chemical leaked. Needless to say, my husband and I have been following the story closely. That hasn’t been difficult as it has made national headlines, newscasts and websites.
Which, is why, when my brother called on Saturday from his home in Northern Pennsylvania, I told him I hadn’t talked to our parents but I wasn’t worried since they don’t live in one of the affected areas and they have well water.
My brother had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. My brother, who has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, doesn’t buy into media hype. Instead he chooses to ignore it and is much more interested in talking about his daughter or other interests.
His phone call reminded me of something important.
In this time when we are constantly inundated with bad news, we always have the right to tune it out and simply enjoy life.
Realizing that always makes me smile.
Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy
Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work Day 187: Funny Phone Calls Day 186: Healthy Lungs Day 185: Reality Checks Day 184: Coincidence Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories Day 180: A soak in a bathtub Day 179: Optimism Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
In second grade, I was told I should never brag, and I took that admonishment to heart.
I have no recollection why I was boasting, but I do remember Carla Shown looked at me with disdain and said, “No one likes people who brag.”
Her words have stayed with me, but there are times when we have to balance the lessons we learned in our childhood with our experience as adults.
Now is one of those times, and I am going to brag a bit.
I am a product of Head Start.
I feel an obligation to brag, because the voices of low-income children aren’t being heard above the clamor about Syria.
Head Start provides early childhood education, health and nutrition services as well as parent support for low-income children and their families. The services are designed to foster stable family relationships and address early childhood developmental needs.
Research tells us that children who have been through Head Start and Early Head Start are healthier, more academically accomplished, more likely to be employed, commit fewer crimes and contribute more to society.
Common sense tells us that the future of our country hinges on our children, and we should invest in our future.
Unfortunately, common sense often doesn’t prevail on Capitol Hill, and, as a result of sequestration, Head Start has eliminated services for more than 57,000 children this school year. The program is facing even more cuts in the future.
We are going backwards.
Head Start began in 1965, and, because of where I lived, I was enrolled in the program in the early 1970’s. I still have the report cards that documented my progress at mastering a list of tasks and skills and the photos from graduation ceremonies.
At first glance, the photos of my Head Start graduation don’t tell much of a story. There is no indication that the chubby little girl in the red dress would grow up to be the outspoken person I have become. Nor does it indicate that the little boy in the striped pants would someday graduate from Dartmouth.
But it does show what hope looks like, and if we don’t do something to meet the needs of our children now, we will be seeing fewer and fewer of such photos in the future.
Last night, I enjoyed the most beautiful and perfect rainbow I have ever seen.
It arrived exactly on the anniversary of last year’s June 29 derecho, the scariest storm I’ve ever experienced.
Ironically, the events of both evenings were similar.
Last year, I was supervising my daughter and her best friend as they swam. Last night, I was at a pool party where my daughter and her best friend were once again swimming. And, last night, just like the year before, a sudden and unexpected storm blew in.
Unlike last year’s storm, which brought fallen trees, downed power lines and electrical outages, last night’s storm brought the perfect rainbow, and for a few minutes, a double rainbow.
It also brought a reminder.
Sometimes, the only thing we get from weathering life’s storms is the strength we find in our struggles. But sometimes we get a brief glimpse at all the beauty and hope that the world offers.
Standing in awe of nature last night, I was also reminded that in addition to symbolizing promise, the rainbow also symbolizes diversity and inclusiveness.
Not only did the rainbow shine bright on the anniversary of the derecho, it also served as the ending punctuation mark on a historical week.
On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court delivered a victory for gay rights. It ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and effectively allowed same-sex marriages in California.
The fight for equality may not be over, but those decisions, like the rainbows, hold promise.
Thinking of that, a song from my childhood has been stuck in my head all day. Unlike some songs, which can be rather annoying, “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie is simply making me smile.
The Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that every wish would be heard
and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it’s done so far.
What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
All of us under its spell. We know that it’s probably magic.
Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending a community meeting hosted by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Since there was little doubt that our soon-to-retire senator was going to vote for VAWA, the event was really an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence.
Invited guests included survivors, social workers and advocates who work tirelessly to address the issue. A local police officer was the only man selected as a designated speaker for the round table discussion, but he received a great deal of Rockefeller’s attention.
While domestic violence survivors told heart-breaking stories, many of Rockefeller’s questions were directed to the police officer. The Senator seemed absolutely fascinated by the officer’s description of our local police department’s ride-along program, which provides an opportunity for community members to literally ride along with police officers during any shift. Those who participate have the opportunity to really understand what police face and learn about some of the biggest issues facing our community.
At the time, Rockefeller’s intense interest in the program seemed a little off topic. But in retrospect, I think the Senator was demonstrating what true wisdom is.
In a world where people are intentionally inflicting harm on others, where relationships are often about power struggles rather than support and where individuals are suffering on a daily basis, true wisdom is knowing that doing the right thing requires more than simply responding to the needs of others. Maybe because I’ve recently been watching too many people who think doing the right thing means doing things their way without considering all that others have or could contribute, Rockefeller’s reminder has stuck with me:
Doing the right thing means ensuring resources and services are available for those in need, but is also means focusing on what is positive and good.
Doing the right thing means reinforcing and promoting positive and healthy relationships among people and organizations.
And doing the right thing means really listening to others and acknowledging the power of what they are saying and all they are contributing.
That’s the wisdom Senator Rockefeller brought to the table. Unfortunately, he won’t be at the table much longer. Last month, he announced he will not be seeking a sixth term as U.S. Senator after his current term ends in 2014. West Virginia lost Senator Robert Byrd in 2010, and now we are losing Senator Jay Rockefeller. Regardless of political affiliation, all West Virginians should recognize the implications.
The cynical among us might say that caring about the poor was easy for Rockefeller, who was born into one of the richest families in America and never had to worry about money.
But I disagree.
Instead of choosing to live a life devoted to money rather than meaning, he chose to work on behalf of people who live in one of the poorest states in the nation. And even though I live closer to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York City than I do to our state capitol, I still care about what happens to this state.
And I’m hoping whoever steps into his position is someone who understands the importance of asking a local city police officer to explain a simple program that involves reaching out to others to develop stronger partnerships and healthy relationships.
That’s wisdom and a reminder about how we should all live our lives.
Thank you for your service and your wisdom, Senator Rockefeller.
But I didn’t and I probably never will, so my friends and family are forced to deal with my habitual need to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. About anything and everything.
My husband and kids call me “The Interrogator.”
I’d like to think that means they consider me a superhero who unveils misdeeds, liars and unacceptable behavior by eventually asking so many questions the truth is revealed.
Unfortunately, they aren’t paying me a compliment and instead are simply letting me know they find my all questions annoying. I’ve also been told that people who ask a lot of questions are subconsciously trying to take control of a situation.
There’s probably some truth to that, but I’d rather be annoying than to sit back and just allow people and organizations to get away with actions that affect and sometimes hurt others.
I also like to think that, as an inquisitor, I’m in good company.
This week, at her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned bank regulators about why they hadn’t prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis. Her question seemed simple enough, “Tell me,” she requested “about the last few times you’ve taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street to trial. Anybody?”
Instead of simply responding “never,” the regulators tried to explain why there was no need to prosecute.
As with anything political, there are those who agree with Senator Warren and those who don’t.
But her actions, to me, were bigger than pointing out the double standard for big corporations versus average citizens or about ensuring that bank executives don’t continue to pass the repercussions of their behaviors onto the general public. Her actions were about her willingness to ask the tough questions and to not back down. Her actions were about repeating the same question over and over again until someone is forced to answer. And, to be honest, her actions were about validating my own behavior.
I’m not even close to being in Elizabeth Warren’s league much the less in the Justice League, but I do believe heroes have to ask the hard questions. If they don’t, silence persists, and nothing ever changes.
So even though my family insists on calling me “The Interrogator” to try to shut me up, it’s not working. Instead, I’m thinking of getting one of those t-shirts with a big question mark on the front. It may not be the fashion statement superheroes make when wearing their capes, but it just might be a start.
Because if no one questions the status quo, then nothing ever changes or improves. So, far all the
Last year, a fourth grade teacher at my daughter’s intermediate school was arrested for soliciting a 13 year-old girl (or so he thought) online.
Also last year, a teacher at my son’s middle school was arrested for child abuse and identity theft. Two weeks ago, she pleaded guilty to the identify theft, but she is still awaiting trial on 11 counts of child abuse.
Other than the fact that both were teachers in Berkeley County Schools and neither is gay, I don’t think the two have much in common. Yet, they were both engaged in immoral activity because their behavior was harmful. They used their power to hurt, control or take advantage of others, which I think most people would agree is anything but moral. The definition isn’t that fuzzy, at least I’ve never thought it was.
Unfortunately, some people are trying to redefine the meaning in order to fit their own narrow and bigoted views.
This week, the Boy Scouts postponed a decision to “sort of” lift its ban on anyone who is openly gay. I say “sort of” because the potential policy change would simply allow local organizations make their own decisions.
I was reading about the situation in the New York Times. While the content of the article bothered me, I was even more disturbed by the accompanying photo, which showed scouts and their parents holding signs that proclaimed “Keep Scouts Moral and Straight.”There was so much wrong with that photo, and I felt sorry for the young boys who are obviously being taught that discrimination is appropriate.
My kids are taught that discrimination is immoral:
Moral people don’t exclude but instead include.
Moral people don’t make broad judgments but instead ensure that every individual is given respect.
And moral people don’t define others by who they choose to love but rather by how they treat others.
Just as important, national organizations that demonstrate moral leadership don’t waffle on potentially controversial issues and, instead of taking a stand, cower by relinquishing their decision-making authority to locals.
Even more importantly, they don’t bow to bigots who make unsubstantiated and untrue generalizations about any group of people. Yet, the decision to delay a decision on the ban on gays came after rallies like the one at the Boy Scout headquarters in Irvine, Texas where protesters claimed that prohibiting gay membership equates to protecting their children.
After the incidents last year at my children’s schools, no one rallied with signs asking the school system to protect my children.
But maybe that’s because there’s no organized effort to rally against straight people who commit immoral acts. But maybe there should be. After all, I’m pretty sure statistics would show that’s where the real “danger’ lies.