A blog for my writerly ramblings, my rambly writings, and all things in between.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why This President is Different

I get very agitated when I see people- especially Republicans- saying, "Okay, so you're 'scared' about Donald Trump's presidency. How do you think I felt the whole eight years Obama was in office?"

Let's get one thing straight: this is different. You might have been worried, concerned, maybe even anxious, but don't tell me you were scared.

You want to stop reading now, and I get it. But please don't. Please read this, and please prove me wrong. Please give me some actual evidence that what I'm saying here isn't true. Because, in all honesty, I wish it weren't.

Every single other recent president, including Obama, had some sort of government experience, whether as a senator, lawyer, governor, or in military.

Donald Trump does not.

Every single other recent president was considered to be a fairly likable person, calm under pressure, diplomatic and careful in their dealings.

Donald Trump is not.

Every single other recent president has openly released their tax returns for public review prior to taking office, demonstrating their transparency to the American people.

Donald Trump has not.

Every single other recent president took the time to review potential national security threats with daily intelligence briefings.

Donald Trump has not.

Every single other recent president has drawn clear boundaries between his business dealings and his presidency.

Donald Trump has not.

Every single other recent president was one I would have happily welcomed into my home for dinner, would have been glad to work with professionally, and, in most cases, would have even invited to join me at a church gathering, no matter their political party.

Donald Trump I would not.

This is not about politics. This is about the person, the individual who is representing our country. Up until this point, all U.S. presidents have behaved professionally and courteously, even to their enemies. And every single thing I've mentioned here has just been assumed to be part of the job, and for good reason- they are all very, very important parts to being President of the United States.

But not to Donald Trump.

And that, more than any political agenda, scares me to death.

I did not vote for Obama, but I was not devastated when he took office, because despite his political views, he seemed to be a decent guy. I knew that policies and programs might change, and I prepared myself for that, but I did believe he understood the office well enough to represent all Americans, not just those who voted for him. I knew he would take counsel from intelligent advisors, and again, while he did several things that do not sit well with me, I do believe it was his intent to better our country, and I respect him for doing his job honorably and professionally.

I wish I could say the same will be true for Donald Trump. But if past and current behavior is any predictor of future behavior, (and in my experience it is) I can't.

This is not about people not "getting their way." This is a genuine concern about the fact that our nation will be run by a man who is known to be impulsive and explosive, who has no government experience, who intentionally hides pertinent information from the American people, who refuses security briefings, who is blurring the lines between his profits and his presidency, and whom I would not even feel comfortable meeting, much less working with on anything.

So yes, I am scared.

This is different. This is different, and if you can't see it, then you are intentionally turning a blind eye, and that might scare me even more than Donald Trump as president. Because if anything is going to keep our nation safe, it's having citizens who demand professionalism, accountability, and respect from their president. Unfortunately, right now I'm not seeing that.

I don't expect Donald Trump to agree with me on everything. But at the very least I do expect him to listen- to me and to others who might disagree with him- and I do expect him to respect his office and this country.

I can only hope you would expect the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why I Can't Stand Commercials With LGBTQ Characters


It happens pretty much every other day now it seems: a company puts out a commercial in which there are two dads, or two moms, and then somebody gets offended and complains, and then half the planet loses their minds going up in arms in defense of this company, and it's a social media frenzy, and so on and so forth.

It's all done in the name of acceptance and equality, but there's one problem with that:

It has nothing to do with acceptance and equality.

It has to do with money.

And if you're one of those people who will get all up in arms in defense of these companies "promoting equality and acceptance" then you, my friend, have just been played.

Here's the deal. Do you know how many people in America identify as gay or lesbian?

3.8%.

If you're a big, moneymaking corporation, does it make sense for you to gear all of your advertising dollars toward 3.8% of your consumer pool? To spend the millions that it costs for a 30-second time slot in a commercial break to make sure that 3.8% of your customers feel comfortable shopping at your store?

This is not a hard question. The answer is no. It makes no business sense at all.

Unless...

Unless that 3.8% is getting a lot of controversial attention. Unless that 3.8% has a big fan club. When that happens, it makes a lot of sense to gear an ad toward that group, because it means that ad is going to become a flag that will be raised on the moral battleground. And that means people are going to start waving that flag by sharing that ad on social media! And talking about it, and talking about your business and, if you handle it correctly (which you are obviously planning on doing, because you're not stupid- it's all part of the marketing plan) and you reply to the "haters" with some sort of fantastic "drop the mic" response, then your company comes out as the hero and everyone loves you and comes and shops at your store!

Oh, and you just got a ton of free publicity thanks to all those LGBTQ supporters and that handy little "share" button.

Seriously. Anyone who thinks a big company puts an ad featuring two moms out there and that the company expects it to be received just like any other ad is simply naive. These companies aren't "brave." They aren't doing this to promote equality and acceptance. They're doing it to drive sales! They know exactly what will happen when that ad hits the airwaves- and not only that, but they're banking on it! 

So this holiday season, if you want to promote acceptance and equality for your LGBTQ friends, then stop sharing these ads and the stories about who said what about them and how the company handled the haters. Instead, then invite your gay friends to dinner. Treat them like the nice people they are. But please, please don't get sucked into a corporate marketing scheme that uses them as bait to make their business more money. 

Because, hopefully, you're smarter than that.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let's Pretend



Okay, so it's the night before Election Day. The country is divided. Few people actually like their options, but they claim there are no other options.

I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness saying, "What about Evan McMullin? He's the conservative we've all been looking for- one who is actually honest and honorable and humble and respectful, who will represent our country with dignity and integrity. What about him?"

"No!" everyone yells. "No! There's no way he's gonna win! We have to pick someone who at least has a chance. If he had a chance then maybe, but he doesn't."

 Okay. Let's pretend.

Let's pretend that suddenly, a new poll emerges that shows Evan McMullin making a massive surge in popularity. Suddenly, people ARE voting for him, suddenly he's actually a real threat to Trump and Clinton. What then? Would you change your mind then, once you saw he actually had a chance?

If you say "Yes, if I saw that he had a chance, then I would," then I need you to recognize something:

You have just told me that you are the kind of person who can't make a good decision unless you see others doing it first. You are a follower. You are a sheep. You want to do the right thing, but you don't- not unless others are doing it too. You wait until you see what everyone else is doing and then you act.

You are the one who waits for someone else to raise their hand and say, "Um, excuse me, I don't think this is right." Then you look around and wait to see what everyone else does. Then, if you can rest assured you will be nicely hidden among the masses, only then, do you raise your hand and add your voice to theirs.

That might be a hard truth for you to hear, but it's the truth.

In this pretend poll-flipping scenario, Evan McMullin is still Evan McMullin. Donald Trump is still Donald Trump. The only thing that has changed is what everybody else is doing. 

Do you really want to be that person who only acts after they wait to see what everybody else is doing? Because right now, if everyone who says they would vote for Evan McMullin if he only had a chance to win would actually vote for Evan McMullin, you know what? He might actually have a chance to win, or at least throw a big enough wrench in the system to make a significant statement to the nation about what we as Americans expect from our leaders.

But they won't vote for him. Because they're scared. Because they're looking around at everyone else and seeing which way the crowd is going and quietly sliding in amongst the masses where it's safe and comfortable. They won't move away from the crowd unless someone else- a LOT of someone elses- do it first. And that's just sad.

If this is you, and you are just going along with the crowd, I urge you to think about who you are and who you want to be.

I can tell you that I won't be that person waiting for everyone else to make my choice for me. I will stand with Evan McMullin, even if it means I'm standing alone. I refuse to hide in the crowd and wait to be told what to do.

I hope you'll do the same.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Don't Stand In Line.

With the total train wreck that this presidential election has been, I can at least say that it has taught me something about myself, something that I don't think I really knew in a concrete way before. And that is this:

I don't stand in line.

Something that drives me crazy about politics is the number of people who blindly follow. They swallow whatever narrative their party is giving them, or whatever narrative the media is giving them, and they just obediently follow along, trumpeting the merits of their candidate and vehemently denouncing the other. If you were to ask these people why they were doing what they're doing, why their candidate is good and the other is bad, I can guarantee you that only a small percentage would be able to do anything more than parrot whatever it is they've heard people say on TV or social media. The majority flood social media and their friends' (and enemies') ears with emotionally-charged rhetoric that they cannot back up with facts:

"Hillary is a criminal!"

"Trump is sexist!"

"If I vote for anyone else it's a total waste! The bad party will win!"

And if you dare to question them, if you dare to ask them to back up their statements with something so outrageous as facts and reason, you will be kicked to the curb and labeled an enemy.

A friend posted this in response to something I wrote on Facebook, and it is so appropriate to how I feel:



I don't stand in line.

Recently, I saw a video of an experiment that was performed to see how people behave under peer pressure. Watch it below.




When I watched this video, I tried to put myself in that position and I asked myself, "Would I do the same? Would I just go along with everyone else?" My honest answer was a resounding no. And not just because I don't want to be labeled as a "sheep". It's because I am well aware that there are pointless things that go on around us every day and one of my personal principles is to not get sucked into those pointless things. I want to be in control of myself and what I do, not hand over my will to someone else to decide for me.

If I were in the situation in the video, I would be the one asking, "Why are we standing up?" And if no one had a good answer, I would ask the receptionist. And if she didn't have a good answer, I would be perfectly happy being the only one sitting down, knowing that everyone else was making a fool out of themselves. I would have no qualms with being stared at, or even harassed, because I would know that I could defend my position and they could not defend theirs.

Just to give another example, I was recently at a Back-to-School night for my middle-schooler. We were following our children's schedule between classes, and at one point we ended up outside the gym. I had been talking to another mom when I noticed we seemed to be in a line of people waiting to get into the gym, which was our children's next class. I peered up ahead, wondering what the hold-up was. I couldn't see anything, so I said to my friend, "Wait here, I'm going to check and see if this is actually a line or not."

I stepped out of line and walked up to the front where I saw indeed, there was no reason for the line, and so I went back and got my friend and we walked around the rest of the people and headed inside the gym.

I don't stand in line- literally.

One more example: my husband and I decided a few years ago that we didn't want to spend 30 years paying off our mortgage. We knew how much interest we would be paying on it and it simply didn't make sense for us to pay for our home twice if we didn't have to. So we cut back our expenses and started throwing money at it. Which means that usually we are driving the oldest car in the parking lot (but we own it outright) our clothes are all secondhand (and cost a tenth of what they'd cost new) and we don't eat out. Pretty much ever. When we've shared our pay-off-the-mortgage plan with others their response has been, "But you get a huge tax break with a mortgage!"

Er...so you're telling me that I should hand over $100 in interest to the mortgage company so the government can give me $20 back? When I could be keeping all $100?

This is the narrative they've been fed by the mortgage companies and the government, so this is what they parrot. Which is fine. They are welcome to stand in a 30-year-long line handing over thousands of dollars, smiling about how much they're saving. I'm 34, and in less than a year I'll be walking over to the bank to deposit my thousands of dollars into my own account.

I don't stand in line.

I will not make blanket statements about a political candidate without being able to back them up with fact, as near as I can get it. I need to know for myself.

I will not vote in the same way as people who are culturally and spiritually and intellectually similar to me just because they say I should. I need to know for myself.

I will not blindly follow a media-written narrative about a "crisis" that our country is facing without checking the statistics to see whether or not it actually is a real problem, no matter how many people are holding protests in the streets and no matter how much airtime the media devotes to it. I need to know for myself.

We are such a media-driven society, and it's become such a part of our daily lives, I don't think many of us stop to think about how much it influences us, how much power the media has in deciding what to make us care about.

To be honest, though, I am horribly saddened and disappointed in the vast hordes of people I see standing in line as I'm figuratively walking past it. Because you know what happens when you stand in line?

You are stuck.

You must wait for someone else to move before you do.

You hand over your control to some unknown entity, someone who does not care about you, someone who has an agenda that has nothing to do with you and your values, morals, and ideas, and everything to do with theirs.

Why? Why is so much of America still standing in line?

I am not writing this post to say, "Hey, look at me! I'm better than everyone else!" I'm not. There is a ton that I don't know, but I'm willing to learn. But if you want me to take you seriously, to understand your beliefs and to respect your position, then you have to earn it. You have to be able to give me facts. And if you don't have facts, if you're just going with your gut, then that's fine. I can respect that, as long as you're honest about it. But don't act like you know what you're talking about when you don't. Because that I can't respect.

America, please. It's time to get out of line.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whose Problem Is It Really?

We’ve all seen the ranting posts on facebook- things like:

“Certain people just need to keep their noses out of other people’s business!”

“If people say they’re going to do something, they need to step up and do it and stop hiding behind stupid excuses.”

“I can NOT handle this crap anymore! I am not your verbal punching bag!"

What do these kinds of posts have in common?

Typically the author knows the accused will not see it (or if they do, it is vague enough to allow for deniability) and they take pleasure in venting to the world in a way that does not rock the boat with the accused, but may elicit sympathy from others.

Why is this a concern?

1. This does not solve the problem. So often, people get angry about others’ behavior, but rather than actually talk to them about the way their behavior is negatively affecting them, they choose to rant and rave about it to everyone EXCEPT the person causing the frustration. How is this person supposed to know that you’re upset? (Hint: subtle, nonverbal cues like aloofness or sarcasm do not count.) How is this person supposed to fix the problem if they don’t even know that there is a problem? (Despite your narcissistic beliefs, they are probably not out to get you. Just sayin’.)

2. You teach people how to treat you. Any time you have an issue with someone but you choose to grumble about it to others while keeping the perpetrator in the dark, you are teaching them that their behavior is okay. Because as far as they know what they’re doing isn’t affecting you at all. And then, when the same behavior continues from them, you are surprised and angry and the rants intensify.

Really? And this makes sense because...?

3. The ones causing your wrath are not the ones experiencing it. You save that for the people you actually like. You feel comfortable with the ones you love the most. You know you can rant and rave and they’ll still love you. You can be vulnerable with them, so you take advantage of it, and they get to hear all about how ticked off you are as you make snide comments at texts coming on your phone, or go off about how dumb your boss is.

Newsflash: This is not fun for them. And it’s not fair to them either.

Here’s the long and the short of it: Because you are afraid to be vulnerable, you let people get away with treating you like crud, then you abuse the ones who love you the most (and would never treat you like crud) by treating them like crud because of the person who did it to you. The more you get treated like crud, the more you spew the effects of it all over the special people in your life, while continuing to let the original crud-creator go on his or her happy-go-lucky way.

In the words of Dr. Phil: So, how’s that working for ya?

Chances are, IT DOESN’T.

So what do you do?

1. Pick your battles. Ask yourself, is this worth fighting for? Can I brush this off, or am I willing to do what it takes to stand up for myself? Often at this juncture, you may realize that, for the sake of your sanity and your love of those around you, you can simply let it go. But if not...

2. Be honest. Boil down the problem: why is it a problem? Is it a matter of respect? Is it possible the person simply doesn’t realize what they’re doing? Is someone taking advantage of you? Get down to the heart of the problem and really think it through. You need to have confidence that you have a case before you go any further.

3. Make a plan. Personally, if I have a big issue with someone that I know needs attention but I’m afraid I’ll screw it up if I try to talk to them, I will put it in writing. That gives me time to organize, to edit, and to decide if it’s really something I can take ownership of. Also, most people are happy to accept a well-written letter, as most people like to avoid confrontation. (Sometimes I write the letter, realize I’m being an idiot, then crumple it up and throw it away and move on with my life.)

4. Just do it and leave your loved ones out of it (mostly). Now it’s time to confront the offending party. You can do this in person, on the phone, or in writing.

To prepare, you can ask someone close to you if they would mind hearing your thoughts on the matter. But- THIS IS NOT A GRIPE SESSION. This is a practice to see how your concerns might be received by the offending party, and your loved one will probably be happy to help you out. Then just do it. Send the letter, arrange the meeting, make the call: whatever you have to do to start communicating like a grown-up.

**Emotional Troll Disclaimer** There are some people in this world who, for whatever reason, feel it is their purpose in life to make others’ lives miserable with the things they say and do. I like to call these people Emotional Trolls. I would like to think that some of them are just oblivious. And that maybe some of them have deeper issues that have nothing at all to do with the people they hurt. Others could be vengeful for whatever reason. But no matter why they act the way they do, they exist, and usually- here is the important part- they do not change. They will continue to trample you under their angry feet for as long as you let them.

If these trolls are people that you don’t know (many of them lurk online and leave nasty comments and snarky reviews) then simply ignore them. If, however, they are people in your life (*cough*extendedfamilymembers*cough*) your best bet is to simply love them from afar. Accept that they are who they are, and avoid them if you can, but if not, just try to roll with the punches. Don’t let them be the ones causing you to grumble at the ones who are actually good to you. Remember that their behavior has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and their own issues. Be thankful that you and the ones you hold dear would never treat people that way.

You can do it. You can ditch the cryptic Facebook posts and gripe sessions and start being a grown-up. I know you can.

:-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Words on Robin Williams

Since Mr. Williams’ passing yesterday, I have heard the whole gamut:

“He committed suicide. It was his own choice.”

“He had depression- he couldn’t help himself. Now he’s at peace."

“What did he have to be miserable about? He was rich and everybody loved him!”

“Why is everyone talking about Robin Williams? Don’t they know there are innocent children being murdered all over the world? Why isn’t anyone talking about them?”

Here is what I know for sure:

- We all fight our own battles, which are as varied and individual as we are. If being rich and loved fixed all human problems, then the world would have far fewer problems.

- Only God knows what’s in our hearts and in our minds. It is not up to us to judge one another, just to love one another.

- Mental illness is real, and its effects are difficult to comprehend or to measure. It is not fully understood by even the medical community, and so the best the rest of us can do is to recognize that it exists and to love those who might suffer from it, and help them as much as we can.

- Many people knew of Mr. Williams and thought highly of him because of his work. It is natural for them to be sad that he is gone, and to discuss that loss with others and remember the positive things he did through his work. Because of his widespread fame, this means he will be spoken of quite a bit, and other stories- important and worthy though they might be of our attention- will be put aside for awhile.

- I thought Robin Williams was a brilliant performer. His improv skills were second to none, and his dramatic acting was certainly notable as well. I am sad that I will not get to enjoy more of his remarkable work.

- I wish him nothing but good. I know that what happens to his soul is up to God, and I am glad that I do not have to judge him or his works. I know that God will be fair and merciful.

- There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, most of it unfair and unjustified, its victims innocent. This breaks my heart, but I know that I cannot be all things to all people. I will focus on doing my best in my own little corner of the world where I feel God has placed me with the work He wants me to do, and I believe that is what Robin Williams did, in his own way, and what we should all strive to do.





Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why You Don’t *Get* Common Core Math


I have been seeing this image of this math problem supposedly comparing the “old fashion[ed] way" to the "new [common core] way" of teaching, and people around the net are shaking their heads at the absurdity of it. 

I agree.

THIS problem looks absurd when comparing two different math strategies, and the way the method is laid out in this photo is also significantly exaggerated (which I'll get into later). But the people mocking this new math strategy (and the person who created this image) clearly do not understand either the method or the reasoning behind it. They say things like, "China is laughing at us right now." Yes, China is laughing at us right now. Because they can't believe it has taken us so long to teach math in this way and they really can't believe that educated grown-ups can't even grasp it, and instead are having hissy fits over it because they don't understand it.

Let me explain. First, mocking a problem like this one as an example of this math strategy would be like harassing a 4-year-old for counting on her fingers when you ask her what 2 + 2 equals. When kids are young, they are still trying to understand numbers as representations of other things- like fingers- and they have to take it one step at a time. So, they begin with counting on their fingers. This particular problem, with its long, drawn-out, rounding up and down answer, is the common core version of counting on fingers: it’s the next step in understanding how numbers relate.

 You might have also noticed, if you have kids in public schools, the use in recent years of math tools like number lines and hundreds charts. At first I didn't understand these, but once I did, it made a great deal of sense to me. These tools teach kids to understand numbers as a sequential buildup organized in sections of 10. They understand numbers spatially, not just in the abstract.

One of the issues I have with this particular example problem is that the frustrated student or parent decided to exaggerate the method by rounding to 5, rather than 10. Personally, I have never seen that done, and it looks to me just like the author's way of trying to make it look even more ridiculous. Either that, or they REALLY didn't get how to do it (and no wonder they were frustrated). 

Let's go back to that problem: 32-12. A grownup who has been doing math for years can clearly see that, since both numbers end in two and 3-1 equals 2, then the answer is 20. Easy, right? Big fat duh. Very uncomplicated. 

Let's say, however, that you, the grownup, are given a slightly harder problem, like 326- 78. A little bit harder to do in your head, right? 

Now let's take the common-core-educated student who will be using the rounding up and down strategies. If given this harder problem he will not ask for a piece of paper and start borrowing and carrying. He will say:

"Well, 78 rounded up is 80- just had to add 2. 

If you round that up to 100 you'll have 20 left. 

20 plus 2 is 22. 

326 rounded to the nearest hundred leaves 26. 

300- 100 equals 200. 

26 plus 22 equals 48. 

So the answer is 248.” 

Of course, he probably won't need to say all that. By the time he gets that far, it will be second nature and he will be able to do it very quickly in his head without even thinking about each step. 

How has he gotten to that answer? Using the exact strategy being mocked all over the web. He has used number lines and hundreds charts- he knows numbers are not just abstract digits with rules to be followed that only make sense if you have a piece of paper and pencil. He can see how the numbers relate in his head, and he has been doing this ever since he was learning to solve problems like 32-12, so he can easily manipulate large numbers without writing a single thing. He has spent time knowing what plus what equals 10, and he understands how blocks of 10 stack up to build bigger numbers. He has practiced rounding up and down, understanding how adding differences leads to the right answer.

It's not rocket science, people. It's basic math.

I would also like to point out that, at least in my kids' school, this is not the only method that is taught. Kids are also taught borrowing and carrying, and they are encouraged to use whatever method is more comfortable for them. There are many kids whose analytical minds thrive with the shortcuts that borrowing and carrying provide. But, thanks to this mathematical foundation, they also understand exactly why they cross out that 2 and make it a 1, and why that 1 gets tacked on next to the 6 to make 16. And the kids who are not mathematically-minded, whose minds work better with pictures and space, they finally have a method that embraces their way of seeing the world and gives them an effective strategy to solve difficult problems in a linear way. 

The great thing is that the beauty of this method goes beyond basic subtraction. By learning to separate numbers into their individual parts and whittle each part down to its simplest form, it becomes a stepping stone to higher math, allowing them to not only understand how to get to the right answer, but understand why it is the right answer. 

So please, please stop complaining, people. Before you mock something, take the time to truly understand it and the reasoning behind it. It might not be as bad as you think.