"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mother Nature Is Just So Freakin' Cool!!!!! ... and kinda scary

This came across my news feed today

And it made me think - how is it possible that we as mere human beings think that we can control Mother Nature! There is lots of talk about climate change and global warming. I am a believer that we as humans have polluted our world, we have destroyed species that we will never get back, we have erased rain forests, and habitats. How could we think that there would not be consequences for this?

I also, however, believe that there is a great deal that we don't know about nature. And I wonder, are some of the climate changes just part of nature's cycle. When we went to the Field Museum in Chicago last year I remember being a little baffled when I learned of all the extinctions the earth has had. It wasn't something I remembered learning previously. Earth has had at least five mass extinctions that we know of. All of which occurred with absolutely no human intervention! It was about adaptation - survival of the fittest - the ability to adapt to changing environments.

I searched the internet for quite some time to find a list of all extinct animals and it was harder than I thought. I searched briefly through academic journals, reputable web pages, some not so reputable web pages and I found lists of extinct mammles, lists of extinct plants, lists of extinct birds, and so on, but no long list of all the species we have lost on this planet since the last major extinction in the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction. Apparently the Red List from the IUCN is where people get the information for all the other lists - but it isn't common folk user friendly. So why am I ranting about the inability to sit lazily on my couch and find the information I seek using very little effort - because how are people going to care about the fact that we are losing biodiversity, that we as humans are responsible for species extinction if people like me, who are really interested, can't find the information. So, below are some interesting articles I found on animal extinction while I was searching. From the information I manged to accumulate in the endless line of tabs I currently have open there is anywhere from 50 millions species living on the planet to we have absolutely no idea how many species are on the planet. Another estimate I found is that 99% of all species to have ever existed are now extinct - it doesn't say if they are including the species that existed prior to the 5 mass extinctions, but I am assuming it does (I am still not sure if I believe this one). According to the Center for Biological Diversity, dozens of species (many we don't even know about yet) are going extinct daily and we are in the middle of an extinction crisis.

Quagga, Baiji River Dolphin & Caribbean Monk Seal - all extinct

This leads to the very scary idea of a sixth extinction. Of course it is important to note that this won't happen (if the scientists are accurate) for a few more centuries - good news for us, bad news for our great-great-great-great grandchildren. This for some reason does not make me feel better. 

100 Most Threatened Species - contributing to the Sixth Extinction
Species Extinction Happening 1,000 Faster Because of Humans? 

Another interesting aspect to this whole species extinction event theory is the idea that we can manipulate Mother Nature just a little bit more by bringing extinct animals back through de-extinction! The best headline I found on this one was from the New York Times: The Mammoth Cometh - Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening - and it's going to be very, very cool! Unless it ends up being very, very bad! And that is science today in a nutshell! There are species I believe Mother Nature intended to be extinct - the ones destroyed in the first five mass extinctions for instance - the ones that happened prior to human intervention. But the species that we destroyed by polluting the world and stealing their habitat perhaps if we could fix that it would be a pretty cool thing.

So we can continue to watch our weather get a little more intense every year and debate whether it is due to global warming, or climate change, or pollution, or the natural progression of nature. But what is happening will happen - how fast, and how horrible will be up to us. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

#Yesallwomen vs. #notallmen

Today California University began mourning for the loss of their friends, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers at the hand of yet another individual that pulled the wool over the authorities eyes - an individual who should never had access to a gun, and should have been getting professional help instead of being called "perfectly polite and calm."

And as has been the case in these all too common experiences, we will now play the blame game, we will blame the police, we will blame Congress, we will blame the pro-gun lobbyists, we will blame California University, we will blame the parents. But we will not blame ourselves, the global us .... humanity. Our willingness to use violence as a remedy for all that ails us.

I have had my rants about gun violence before, I have issues with stand your ground laws because it makes those states a shoot-em-up town of vigilante justice. I believe that there should be background checks for all gun sales and I believe everyone who owns a gun should have to get a license and it should be renewed regularly. But this blog is not the place for that.

An interesting thing has occurred in this case, women have found a voice. #YesAllWomen has gone viral. A way, a place for women to talk about the violence, shame, fear and unfairness they live with everyday. And men just don't get it. In a conversation with a man I generally respect I became accutely aware of just how much men don't get it. When feminism and the quest for equality is reduced to women just being on the most recent bandwagon it is clear that men just don't understand or just don't want to understand.

The response that I got was how unfair the world is to men, with some valid points I will admit. It is unfair that women can lie to police about domestic violence and get a man arrested no questions asked, it is unfair that women still have the advantage in family court when there is a good man trying to get custody of his children in a divorce - these things are unfair because there are good men in the world who get screwed in the system. But for every man that gets wrongly accused of a domestic, there are many women who are beaten in their own home. For every good man wanting to be a part of their children's lives there is a man using the children as a weapon. It is unfair that society has to error on the side of caution so that things like like the Jared Remy case don't happen on a regular basis, so that another woman won't be murdered in front of her child.

Having said that #YesAllWomen should not have to come with a qualifier #NotAllMen, because it is not about men. #YesAllWomen is about giving women a place to voice the concerns and frustrations they live with. Every woman I have ever met has a story of either sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, being passed over for a promotion, having the idea that they suggested rejected & then having the same idea presented by a man accepted, cat calls on the street, being called a bitch because you have authority, or get paid less for doing the exact same job, the lists goes on and on. Men do not have their gender defined as something weak ("You throw like a girl"), or too emotional, or have their value determined by how feminine they dress. Men don't have to worry if they are caught in a dark parking lot, or make sure their breasts are inaccessible to random gropers on the train. It is just not a reality that men have to deal with. And women the right to talk about those issues and concerns without making the conversation about men, when you do that you are lessening the woman's experience, telling them is isn't really that bad, telling them their story doesn't really matter .... that of course is part of the historical problem that women face because we are seen as lesser. 

But this is not a social phenomenon about us vs them, or man hating, or self-loathing. Obviously not all men treat women this way, if they did women would never be able to leave the house. And obviously there are situations where women are unfair to men, even cruel and vindictive.  But ALL WOMEN have experienced some form of gender bias or abuse in their lives - ALL WOMEN. 

As I began this blog I read that my hero Maya Angelou had died. She is my role model, the woman who gave me a voice. Who told me that no matter how bad things got as long as I had a voice to fight the injustice I would be ok. I thought, what a shame she isn't seeing this - finally women getting together and creating a voice, not a bandwagon, to talk to each other about what it means to be a woman in this world. Young girls today need more role models like Maya who celebrated diversity and perseverance and acceptance and life. I have talked of my love of Maya before several times, but today I will leave you with one of my favorites and one of her most famous poems that I go back to from time to time, when I am feeling boxed in because of my gender, when I think I can't do what I need to do to better my life, when I need the inspiration to just be me ... a phenomenal woman.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Family Friday ..... well kind of ....

Things have gotten pretty crazy around my house. With the semester over I thought I would have some more time at home to hang out and chill. But not so much. I forgot about the one season of the year that stresses me out more than winter .... graduation season! 

It has been an array of evening events for the past several weeks, along with events to tantalize the new students we expect in September, student award ceremonies, new student networking, online orientations, all culminating this Sunday with a graduation I must arrive at somewhere around 7:30 am and summer session teaching starting on Monday. In between all of this I have started an internship as a clinical mental health counselor. So, on top of the orientations I have been conducting, there are orientations I am attending. 

Some days I feel like I am in the middle of a tornado, or the eye of a hurricane watching everything whirl around me, balancing oh so carefully so I don't fall in. Of course these are the moments that you need to make sure those around you don't fall in either. The husband, the kids, the parents. I have to admit, I have let a little bit of that go recently. At moments like this you run the risk of taking the people you love for granted, assuming they will always be there. But in the past year several things have happened that make me very conscious of this, a friend's suicide, a family members illness and the way in which she has dealt with it, the separation of a friend's marriage;  and I remind myself regularly to take stock of my life and my world, the people I have to be thankful for and try to, in a small way, let them know, that I know, I couldn't do this without them. 

May is Lupus awareness month. And each year I think to myself that I am going to do something profound to bring awareness and compassion to people with autoimmune disease and chronic (chronic what? stress, pain, exhaustion, frustration, misunderstanding, all of the above). It hasn't happened yet primarily because it coincides with graduation season I have not come up with or executed any grand plan. 

The good news is that I feel healthier than I have in a long time. I think this has more to do with keeping my mind busy, not having time to focus on the fact that I don't feel good as opposed to actually being healthier. The problem of course with feeling healthier and not actually being healthier is that you push yourself beyond what you're physically capable of and you crash - generally on a day you have something you are really looking forward to do. When your body tries to beep in and you ignore the call, eventually it will come to your door and knock until you answer. I am not always good at answering the call. 

For Mother's Day my seven-year-old wrote a poem and it included "mom's favorite thing to do." He answered, sit on the couch. This bothered me profoundly, that this is the way he sees me. I know that in time he will remember all the things we do together (I see that now with his older brother), he will understand why I rest when I can. But for that moment, it hurt (as parenting often does) and created another touch point for me to take stock and prioritize. 

The summer is coming and I tried to come up with a list of places we would go, or things we would do, and I got overwhelmed and tired just thinking about it. And then I found this  - anyone with 2nd grade kids may find this interesting. The Magic Tree House Journal is something you can fill out with your child all year. They have winter, spring, summer, fall scavenger hunts, and questions about what animals you can find in your yard, etc. It is like being on a Jack & Annie adventure. This is a priority over the next year. So next mother's day perhaps this will be on the list of mom's favorite things to do. 

In the meantime, I must get ready for my internship orientation, followed by an event tonight. Tomorrow consists of a family birthday party and errands, Sunday morning is graduation, then soccer, then visiting a car dealership with my older son who wants to buy his own car. Every minute carefully planned and penciled in my calendar. I will let you know how the execution goes! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day .....

I always thought Mother's Day was a made up Hallmark holiday. It bothered me that we needed a card company to tell people they should appreciate their mother. But I learned something new this year while listening to the radio on the way to work. The Public Radio station I was listening to was doing a fundraiser where you could purchase flowers for mom through the station. In their spiel trying to get you to purchase said flowers, they started talking about how mother's day was invented during the civil war as a way to calm the mothers who had sons fighting. I was intrigued.

And I discovered that Mother's day is not about celebrating being a mother, or thanking our mothers at all. It was a feminist cry for action to end war, sexism and abuse. I had no idea:

A Mother’s Day Proclamation 
Julia Ward Howe, 1870 

Arise then...women of this day! 
Arise, all women who have hearts! 
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! 
Say firmly: 
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, 
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, 
For caresses and applause. 
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn 
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. 
We, the women of one country, 
Will be too tender of those of another country 
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs." 

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with 
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! 
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." 
Blood does not wipe our dishonor, 
Nor violence indicate possession. 
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil 
At the summons of war, 
Let women now leave all that may be left of home 
For a great and earnest day of counsel. 
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. 
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means 
Whereby the great human family can live in peace... 
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, 
But of God - 
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask 
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality, 
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient 
And the earliest period consistent with its objects, 
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, 
The amicable settlement of international questions, 
The great and general interests of peace.

It was not until 1914 that the official holiday of Mother's Day was proclaimed to be held on the second Sunday in May yearly. Between 1914 and 20014 it has become a 20-billion-dollar a year industry in the United States. I am quite sure this is not what the founding mothers had in mind.

This mother's day especially we should be heeding the original cry of Mother's Day. As soldiers come home battered and bruised, physically and emotionally, under appreciated and under served as they step foot back on American soil, we should stand together. While the world searches for the girls in Nigeria,, girls who did not ask to be part of this war on western education, and their mother's cry for their return, mothers should rally behind #BringBackOurGirls and get those girls home safe. While there are children who go to bed hungry in a country of plenty - we as mother's should do something motherly on this day each year, take a stand. 

Instead, mother's day is about gifts. I don't know about anyone else's house, but in our house most of my gifts are handmade. Which is the way I like it. The first thing I got this year was a beautiful, warm sunny day (which after the never ending winter was a gift indeed), then I got to sleep late. I got an anklet made out of those elastic things by the seven-year-old and a table for the backyard handmade by my husband out of reclaimed pallet wood so it is the perfect height for my backyard chair, the 20 year-old surprised me with beautiful orange roses. I got to see the little one play an exceptional soccer game and got to have lunch with my mom and my boys. Overall it was a good day. But much like Valentine's Day, I have a hard time with people telling me they love and appreciate me, just because the calendar tells them to do so. I like the idea of Mother's Day being more about rallying around issues of kindness and fairness and peace, universal issues for Mother Earth and humanity. 

Then there is always the reminder on Mother's Day that there are children who may not want to honor their mothers, really because they don't deserve to be honored. What does the overload of joy being spouted on Facebook do for these poor children? There are women who for whatever reason don't have children, how do we honor their contributions to humanity? How do women who really want children and can't have them deal with a day like today? Or people who no longer have their mother to hug or have brunch with deal with aisles of Hallmark cards every time they walk into a store? 

I didn't mean for this blog to be a downer on Mother's Day. I would like to see things go this way .... honor and thank your mom on a random day of the year when they aren't expecting it, and make your card. Then on Mother's Day, let's celebrate Mother Earth and our place on this planet. We can spread the word of humanity and peace, love and respect, for everyone. Just a thought.