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Kelley

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September 8th, 2011

Female CEOs

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It seems that I have of late succumbed to the temptation to share my thoughts via the short statuses of Facebook rather than carefully composed and proofread paragraphs. This must change.

In other news, I have spent at least part of the afternoon thinking about careers and gender. When I was in high school there was one brilliant gal by the name of Anthea who occasionally mentioned this or that about women in business and how that it would be cool to have a woman as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I wasn't really thinking about that at the time, not because I wasn't thinking about having a career, but because I wasn't familiar with gender as a limiting factor.

I know, I know, I went to elementary school in the 1980s - surely I had heard of the glass ceiling and chauvinism and girls trailing boys in math and science - and I probably had. But I think I didn't frame those things in terms of things that had anything to do with me. My sense of self was pretty strong, and I think I sort of had this feeling that I could do anything I wanted, and gender limitations wouldn't apply.

For a few weeks at around age four I apparently told everyone I wanted to be a fighter tester pilot when I grew up. My dad had put this idea into my head - not as something he thought I would actually be great at, I don't think, but as a means to pay for college, namely, via military service. I suspect that he somehow knew that women were not allowed to serve in such a fashion at the time, but I think the possibility of a limitation being placed on me due to my gender didn't occur to him, either.

That's a pretty remarkable viewpoint for him to have had as somebody born in the 1950s and raised in a conservative nuclear family headed by a WWII Navy veteran and a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom. I don't know how it is that he came upon those particular beliefs. I know for sure that they didn't come from his father, because when I was in college his father said something to me about how it's a good idea for women to study teaching or nursing because they always need teachers and nurses wherever a woman's husband happens to get a job. Maybe he had come upon those ideas in college, or during the several years when he and my mom were married prior to my birth, or maybe he had met me, and concluded "Yep, no limitations for this one." Whatever it is, I'm grateful.

So when I think about gender and careers, the two subjects are completely separate for me. I saw the movie Baby Boom, where the yuppie protagonist was forced to leave her swank corporate life to live in the country and manufacture organic baby food after inheriting a child, and I also saw Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show making partner in her law firm while raising five kids with Cliff. I saw my dad's friend the ceramics engineer raising her son by herself, and I saw my mom's unemployed friend raising three kids with the help of public aid.

I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all assumption for gender or careers in my head. I think, as with lots of things, people make their own choices and have their own ambitions. There are surely societal limitations placed on individuals, but I don't experience them in any sort of real way, and my friends who sort of work here and there teaching fitness classes and editing, or waiting tables and acting, have made life choices just as valid as mine. So have the ones of any gender that have opted to either give up or temporarily suspend their careers while they raise children.

I sing with Amasong: Champaign-Urbana's Premiere Lesbian & Feminist Chorus. Not that I hope we forget our past, but I hope that if I do ever have a kid, there might be a moment where they ask me what a feminist is, and then I hope they look at me incredulously when I tell them. I hope the world progresses such that my kids will be unable to comprehend that there have been times, places, and people through whom the choices of women have been limited. Thanks be to God and to my dad, that mine haven't been.

January 6th, 2011

...ab initio...

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Thus begins the year of the moment. A friend introduced me to the notion of boiling down one's resolutions for the new year into a solitary word or phrase, and I realized that my goal of not having any resolutions, and instead paying attention to what my body needed from moment to moment could be boiled down into "moments," except that I object to expressing it in plural because theoretically I should only be paying attention to one at a time. Thus, the year of the moment.

So far, it has gone very well. This morning I called and got an eye appointment for my annual checkup scheduled for tomorrow morning. I also did 20 minutes of yoga, ate breakfast, and read around 30 pages, all before 8:30, which I'm sure qualifies as a minor miracle. This time last year I was just starting to crash, with five days of swine flu starting January 8th constituting the last straw that broke me. There were no more productive mornings for at least six months.

But... that's not all. I've read around 250 pages, taken down the tree, rearranged and cleaned the entire house up (it is spotless save two glasses next to the sink, a dish soaking in the sink, yesterday's clothing on the bedroom floor, and an afghan strewn on the basement sofa), organized the linen closet, done 80 minutes of yoga total, ran 3x800m treadmill intervals (not much but a start), done 63 pushups, 48 situps, and countless hip flexor exercises to balance my defective gluteus minimus, eaten well, paid off all our consumer debt, written bass, mandolin & piano parts for recording one of my compositions, finished a huge project at work, and sneered at nicotine withdrawal. And we're only six days in, chums.

It seems like my momentary impulses are really not that bad. At any given time, it seems like my desires mostly reflect things my body actually needs - who'd've expected that? And just a bit ago I felt like writing, so I started this entry. This may turn out to be a very interesting year.

December 28th, 2010

I read this apparently hard to find funny comic called A Softer World. It's crass, and selfish, and horrible, and I think I like that it is so cut-yourself-on-the-pointedness. The most recent one though, wasn't all that crass or horrible, and it was actually exactly what I was thinking about writing about.

You can read it here. The mouse-over says (like xkcd it always has one) "What interests us most is finding out what we are like," a statement which isn't as dumb as it sounds. It's true - we are a rather selfish species, and we spend vast amounts of time thinking about ourselves. In fact, the whole annual resolution thing is usually a byproduct of thinking centered on ourselves - we have been thinking about this or that for quite some time, usually, and then finally resolve to do or cease to do x,y,z as of some definitive date (which should really be the solstice, or Christmas at the latest, but those pesky Romans...).

But why not resolve to each day resolve to live a better life? Why not spend your time working on the math of why we do the things we do instead of the math of how much force must be applied at what angle to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps?

In some circles a "quiet time" is sort of the gold standard for spending time with God. Most focus on having a set plan on what is done during said time, and importance is laid on the consistency of those minutes' makeup, the repeated doing of said same thing during said same interval each day. But I remember a guy named Jim, a small group pastor, mentioning that he doesn't actually decide what to do with that time until that day, and then he does whatever he feels like doing - maybe some Bible reading one day, journaling another, praying the Psalms another, etc. At least, that's how he approached it then.

I've been pondering this for a while now, and it makes all the sense in the world for me. Our lives change regularly based on this or that new crisis, this or that virus that taxes our immunities, this or that slice of pizza that gave us crazy dreams, this or that vitamin deficiency that makes us want to eat out-of-season vegetables. The weather, our appetites, ladies' hormones, the health of our loved ones, the days of the week, all change on different schedules. Applying a one-day-fits-all sort of standard to our lives might work for some, but for many, it leads to despair when we realize we really cannot consistently clean ALL the things.

So this year I think I'm going to do my best to quit the quixotism. I've had at least fifteen years of attempting the specific annually and performing poorly; I think I'm ready to admit my shortcomings enough to attempt the broad: Better life, according to whatever sum the confluence of current complexities dictate, as integrated over perhaps daily time t.

Ideas visiting vaguely:

Quitting my job to just make art. (See "Here's A Box" lyrics here.)
Riding my bicycle far away by myself (perhaps to visit family in Indiana?).
Shipping a bike to my uncle's in Cali and spending like, February, there.
Recording or writing nearly every day. (See Making Light for details.)
Swimming for cheap on Thursday mornings.
Actually using my gym membership sometimes. Including the sauna.
Gardening in small doses.
Getting new roller-blades.
Eating what I feel like when I feel like - there is an appropriate number of calories to consume for every activity level, even the sedentary - surely this math is not too hard.
Walking or riding to work (weather, such an unmitigable variable).

Vaguely. Broadly. Generically. Uncertainly. Variably. Yea, variably.

October 28th, 2010

September 16th, that's six weeks ago, Bill Clinton appeared on the Daily Show (coincidentally, the same night that Jon Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity). I personally think he hit a home run - he spent extra time after the show explaining important economic concepts to the audience. You can see his show appearance here and here and the extended interviews here and here.

Last night Barack Obama appeared. You can see his Daily Show appearance here.

Now, I am really glad President Obama appeared; he said some really good stuff. But I don't think he did as great a job as Clinton did, and I think that's in part because of their difference in speaking tactics. Obama gets up there and he says "Here's what we've been thinking about, here's what we've done, here's what we still want to do," but the "we" to whom he's referring is his administration. Clinton gets up there and he says "Here's what we've been thinking about, here's what we've done, here's what we still want to do," but when he says it, you get a sense that the "we" to whom he is referring is inclusive of you.

It's a trick of the rhetoric he's performing, but it makes a big difference. I'm a West Wing Democrat, who learned all my Republican assumptions were wrong while listening to President Bartlett. Which basically means that I still don't get it, and I need simple explanations filling out the holes in my knowledge. Clinton comes off as if I'm in the club, like I already agree with him but I might need more information, and it's true, I do. I listen to Clinton and I get excited about spreading the message.

I'm not saying Clinton was a saint, and I certainly don't intend to imply that Obama's not as smart or something; I'm just reporting my observations. Obama's appearance made me glad he was speaking up and correcting some misconceptions, but his tone was apologetic, and it's a little hard for me to get fired up about an apology.

Even so, go vote on Tuesday if you can.

October 18th, 2010

Some facts about domestic violence:

If a husband tries to close a wife's head in a car door, that's domestic violence.
If he sits on her and pins her down and screams inches from her face, that's domestic violence.
If he knocks her onto a bed and puts his fingers around her throat trying to strangle her, that's domestic violence.
If he throws an animal (say, a cat) at her, that's domestic violence.
If he tries to pull a toothbrush violently out of her mouth, that's domestic violence.

Do I have to go on?

It doesn't matter if the fellow in question is shorter than or weighs less than the wife. It doesn't matter if he is a Christian and is contrite and apologizes and says he wants to quit doing things like that. It doesn't matter if he really does want to quit doing things like that. It doesn't matter if he tells his parents or pastor or counselor (or all three) and asks them to keep him accountable for his behavior. It doesn't matter if he prays about it and asks people to pray for him about it. It doesn't matter if you know him and like him. It doesn't matter if he is really stressed out.

It doesn't matter if the two of them are leaders in their church. It doesn't matter if the wife in question is strong and smart and verbal and capable. It doesn't matter if she doesn't want to call the police or see her husband arrested. It doesn't matter if she doesn't want to ruin his reputation by telling the whole public the full extent of what is going on. It doesn't matter if she doesn't exhibit any kind of "battered wife syndrome" or you can't see any signs of abuse. It doesn't matter if she still likes him and speaks well of him. There is no excuse for the above behaviors and the person guilty of them is guilty of domestic violence.

I make all these statements because I just had a conversation with a close friend who, despite knowing the fact that all of the above applied to my situation, somehow still thought that my situation was different.

Whether by "different" she meant that it wasn't domestic violence, or that it was somehow excusable (horrifying possibility), I don't know, but what I do know is that she somehow thought that the "different" status of my situation somehow let the pastors and mentors and church leaders we told about the ongoing situation, over the three years it was happening, "off the hook" on needing to follow the classic textbook on responding (step one of which I now know is always to separate them and get the abused out of danger).

The heck? Go re-read the "It doesn't matter..." paragraphs up there.

And dear God, do I have to itemize and publicize the full extent of the situation to get people I know and trust to believe me when I say it was domestic abuse if they happen to know the person in question? Why do some people have a "different" category into which they can put the above, but 100% of the atheist people I know lack one? Heck, the liberal Christian denominations lack "different" categories as well.

I don't know the answer to that question, but I do have a clue. Atheists and liberal Christian denominations are likely to be realists about the problem of divorce. They know that in a domestic violence situation, the odds of the abuser getting better are low to begin with, lower as time lapses, lower after anger management counseling failed, lower still after the abuser refuses to return to counseling after counseling fails, lower still after the abuser acts with aggression in front of witnesses. They also know that the longer a victim of abuse stays in a violent household, the likelihood of a repaired relationship drops, the odds become lower still if the abuser has embarrassed the abused by doing something in public, and they bottom out if the abused was so stressed out by the situation that they develop crippling auto-immune disease at even the thought of going back to the abused. In situations like that, atheists and liberal Christians are OK with contemplating divorce.

Other Christians are not. Which is a problem. If someone's sick, they are quick to say that someone should pray and go to a doctor but realistic that cancer can kill anyway. Are they also quick to say that someone should pray and go to a counselor but realistic that domestic violence can kill anyway? No, they wouldn't say that, but their refusal to consider that sometimes divorce is the right option is very similar.

The atheist and liberal Christian viewpoints do diverge. Most atheists would allege that divorce is the best option for all such cases and that counseling for the abuser can happen after that, but that the abused and the abuser can't get back together because the pattern is unlikely to be broken (and statistically, they are right). I suspect many liberal Christians would think though that making an honest attempt to make things work post-counseling for both abuser and abused is justified.

But that's where they likely leave it. Their conservative Christian counterparts somehow think that chance after chance should be given, all the while the odds get grimmer. A pastor who I didn't even know that well emailed me after the separation encouraging me to go back to my ex-husband because "bitterness rots your bones." Did she not think well enough of me to trust I had already given multiple chances? Did she assume that had multiple chances happened she'd have heard through the gossip mill and thus they couldn't have? I suspect it is that she thought that for Christians, divorce isn't an option ever.

And I'm sad about this. I will probably be writing about this all my life; every time a conservative Christian hears I got divorced they will think poorly of me if I tell them it was my choice. A few will change their minds if I explain things further, but not many. For some my situation will forever be deemed "different."

I hope I don't care someday. I hope that someday my ex-husband can rest assured that I won't have any more knee-jerk reactions which result in my dragging his reputation through the mud again as I explain things to people who really ought to know better. And I hope that someday conservative Christians get off their collective high horses and figure out that just as the Kingdom of God sometimes doesn't break through and heal a brain tumor, it sometimes is best to act prudently and quit blindly assuming it will break through in a marriage. Neither situation says anything at all about God's desire to heal - it just recognizes that just as it's foolish to tell someone they didn't get healed because they didn't have enough faith, it's dumb to tell someone to fly against common sense and hope that "faith" will save them from domestic homicide.

There is no "different."

September 10th, 2010

Really?

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It is (as usual) a crappy time to be a Christian. I don't mean that things are particularly worse today than they were yesterday, or the month or year before, but that the constant struggle that seems to be business as usual is making me alternately want to pick up my pen to write or take off my glasses to cry. Writing seems to have won, for the moment.

A group of friends of mine have had a rather jarring near-schism. I say "near" because I have hope that there is yet some remedy which may be found to alleviate the wound, but I realize with bleakness that I sound fairly specious. Let us just say that it involved some money which is seemingly missing, and a particular person who is allegedly the source of the problem - members of the group have even gone so far as to file a police report; at least one arrest has been made.

While I have been a victim of many crimes I have only filed a police report twice, both times in college, one involving a stolen (and used) ATM card, and another involving a stolen backpack (which held all the library books I needed to finish a paper). In those cases, I did not suspect a culprit, and the filings were done at the behest of third parties (my bank, and my professor, respectively). In cases where I had suspicions about a specific individual I have refrained from taking legal action.

My question is this: Do we, as Christians, have an obligation to explore remedies other than police action for wrongs committed against us? (And of course, the sideline question lurks: Do we lack a right to seek a remedy?)

My answer has long been yes, but I recognize it's complicated. Paul says that all governments that exist do so because God has allowed them and exhorts Christians to obey the law, but he himself never quit preaching the Gospel even when it was prohibited (a choice which landed him in jail repeatedly). Ancient Israelites wanted a king to be their ruler instead of having God as their ruler so they got Saul and then David, but while God was ruler they still went to judges for justice. And Jesus, of course, said to turn the other cheek.

I've been in various positions of ministry where I've discovered that people under me have broken the law, and thankfully, I've never had a situation where I had an affirmative answer to the question of whether my reporting something could prevent future harm (for then, all bets are off). But as for myself, I have always valued compassion over justice, and have no desire for someone to be behind bars as repayment for something they did to me, and I don't want their money either. My world doesn't work that way. Vengeance is the Lord's.

And so regarding the current situation with my friends: It's just money. It's not even that much money. Couldn't you have passed a hat to see if you could scare up that amount in the name of compassion rather than filing a police report? Let me go get my checkbook.

Sadly, my incredulity smacks of the hypocritical. Jesse is of course still Mr. Amazing to me, and I am ridiculously enamored with him, but he works all the time, he only eats at home on weekends, and when he comes home from work he vegetates in front of the computer or television and doesn't remember to help out with any of the housework even when he's said that he's going to do so. We've had a bunch of blowouts about that, where I get frustrated because he doesn't follow through with things he said he'd do, or isn't home when he says he will be, and I feel overwhelmed and unappreciated.

But here's the kicker: They're just chores.

June 30th, 2010

Jesse's fallen in love with Glee, and so on our way to and from my Uncle Tom's in Indiana last weekend (his band Knee Deep In The Weeds was headlining the Avon Rib Fest) we listened to the soundtrack. I have to admit it's pretty good, but the crowning moment for me is when the show star, Matthew Morrison sings a duet of Dream On (yes, *that* Dream On) with Neil Patrick Harris (yes, *that* Neil Patrick Harris) and they both hit that ridiculous A flat.

And so I've had Aerosmith running through my head a bit, and some part of me thinks about that song and about how much easier it probably would have been for both MM and NPH to have bailed on that note and let some instrument play out the craziness on their behalf, but neither of them did, and I suspect that might even be part of the point of the song. The song is a bit about how time slips away from you and the next thing you know you're a lot older and not too much smarter or stronger or fitter. That's what happens to me, in any case.

My dad has long said that a person who is firmly grounded in reality will end up unhappy and depressed occasionally because they realistically assess the extent to which their lives do not line up with the dreams that they have for themselves. They might be doing fine on someone else's scales, but on their own scales, the status quo just isn't awesome enough. Their scales are less societal and more ancient. I know mine are: Nil satis nisi optimuum.

I think I've been in a slump for a bit. It's likely hypothyroidism based, my meds are probably not giving me as much help as I need, and my doctor wants to wait a little longer to reassess since he thinks my Vitamin D levels have something to do with it - my follow-up appointment isn't until late September. But I can't wait until September. It's June, almost July, and I don't have three months to sit around while the cycling season slips away from me and I gain weight and continue to sleep until 9-10 in the morning and then spend the next 8 hours bleary-eyed wondering when I get to go back to bed.

Some people might think I'm doing OK, hanging in here, making it to work every day, getting a decent amount of work done, doing a little yoga most mornings, keeping my house clean and my teeth brushed, but I feel like I'm collapsing, and I know Jesse's gotta be feeling it too. I'm relying on him way too much, hardly going anywhere or doing anything without him, and while to the outside observer I might look OK (yesterday I cleaned the kitchen and mowed the yard), to him I'm worried that I look like a big fat lump of pathetic (perhaps in part because I feel like such a lump).

And I think the strain is causing us to fight some. To quote the Counting Crows, "In a house where regret is a carousel ride: we are spinning and spinning and spinning."

But now I need the carousel to stop. I need the rest of the song. The part where there's a girl in a basement coming out of her shell. I need to get up in the mornings and get some fresh air and exercise and ride my bike regardless of rain. To be sure, I'll be OK. "You got to lose to know how to win." I just wish I was better already.

March 31st, 2010

Action Girls Kick

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I don't watch many movies. I know this because when Jesse and Erik and Mike and their wives and other assorted friends get together for trivia I might as well not be on anyone's team for that segment. But I've come to realize through perusing Netflix that at some point in my life I must have been better informed, for I have added a host of "must-see" movies to Jesse's queue.

Recently we streamed a ridiculous but somehow wonderful computer hacker flick starring Robert Redford which makes the "Unix" scene in Jurassic Park and the entirety of Swordfish look technologically accurate. My favorite scene from Sneakers, entitled "How to Defeat an Electronic Keypad," can be viewed here.

Despite being ridiculously out of touch regarding movies of late, I do know enough to know that the kicking in of doors and even kicking in general is a common element everywhere, from spy-flicks to crime-TV. My friend Laila and I might have accidentally scared some poor woman in a movie-theater restroom when she walked in on us practicing our kicking after watching Charlie's Angels.

One of my favorite memories of my little sister is when she was around three, jumping and practicing kicking on her full bed. I had gotten her some flare-legged jeans and she called these "action pants." Her mother was unsure of where she could possibly have learned this terminology, so I asked her, and all she would say was that "Action Girls kick." Apparently, flare-legged pants help them do this, even moreso if they are sparkly in some fashion.

I guess I should confess here to all of you (in case it wasn't already apparent), that I am an action girl. The night before last Jesse and I were up late picking up the house and I went out to throw something in the recycling bin while he was on the deck smoking. Sadly, it never occurred to me that he might have just pulled the door mostly closed and left the doorknob locked, that is, until the moment I heard it click into place behind me.

It was midnight, none of the doors were unlocked, and Jesse had just recently gone through the whole house locking windows after he'd noticed a few were unlocked. Fortunately, Jesse had his cell phone with him. Unfortunately, he was in his socks, and I was in a t-shirt, and it was chilly. He looked up the numbers of a few locksmiths and tried calling their afterhours numbers but never got an answer from anyone.

Eventually, he sort of half-heartedly threw his shoulder into the door into the garage. It didn't go anywhere, although to his credit it probably would have at least shuddered if he'd been wearing shoes that let him get a proper running start. But in watching him do this I realized that it was just a door. If tiny Stana Katic as Kate Beckett on ABC's Castle could plausibly kick in doors, surely I could.

So with Jesse's permission I gave it a fairly solid but probably not full-out front kick just beside the doorknob. It did not open.

"Kick it again," he said. "The doorframe moved."

I did, and it swung open into the garage.

Oh how Jesse laughed at me. He even took a picture of the splintered doorframe and has threatened to upload it to Facebook. Some of the hardware on the frame went flying off but the door actually still closes and locks, albeit not well. Jesse said I'll have to help him fix it and I'm strangely OK with that, although not necessarily the part where he calls his dad for help and tells him how this happened. I think I've formulated a good three-word defense, however.

"Action girls kick."

March 5th, 2010

(no subject)

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So, um… I’m in a new band. Hug the Con Man formed the week before Thanksgiving, and right now everything is pretty rough and tumble, but we decided to go out on a limb and send a submission to 88.7: The Wave for their Earth Day Battle of the Bands contest to be held April 24. They suggested making a myspace page and sending the link, so we did it.

The recordings are really rough; I think I sound terrible (everyone assures me otherwise but I’m really pretty convinced I need voice lessons now that I’ve gotten to hear myself on tape), but they’re what we’ve got. The site is http://www.myspace.com/hugtheconman.

Myspace is kind of like facebook in that you friend people that you know/like. We have virtually no friends right now, and seemingly nobody I know has a myspace account (or “has myspace” as the kids say). This means we have no real way of getting any friends except via spamming pretty much everyone we know in every which way, which is what I’m doing here.

Hopefully you can forgive me my shameless plug. Maybe you’ll like the music though if you like rock – you can listen to the tracks regardless of whether you have a myspace account. And maybe, if we’re really lucky, 88.7 decision-makers will like it too, and we’ll get to play an Earth Day show for our first concert. (How cool is that?)

Anyway, that is all. Please return to your regularly awesome days.
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