Monday, February 28, 2011

Choice Matters

(Feminazi: Because wanting to be treated like a human being is just like invading Poland!)

I attended the rally in support of Planned Parenthood on Saturday. It was exciting and empowering! I believe that all women need to have the power to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives, and having choices is a vital part of that power.

This comment on Jezebel's article about it perfectly captures everything I think about this issue and people who disagree or are anti-choice:

I'd be more than happy to help prevent abortions; it's the main reason I support Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood helps prevent abortions.

There are so many birth control methods available: the pill, DMPA, condoms, etc. All of these are ways to save the lives and quality of life for woman and girls around the world. By helping woman control family size, they also save the lives and quality of life of children around the world. Parents are better able to devote more time and resources to the children they have and raise the next generation in healthier and happier environments.

We need better sex-health education in the States. Yes, abstinence is one way to prevents pregnancies and STDs (To those who say it's the only method that's 100% effective, I think there's one
notable exception.), but we need to discuss and explain the options available and then MAKE SURE THOSE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE.

If we're going to be serious about preventing abortions, then we need to be serious about birth control. If you don't like the idea of an IUD because it prevents a fertilized egg from finding purchase, then you can use a condom and there's no fertilization. Why not prevent the egg from even being released, as with many hormonal methods?

Heck, if you're really serious about preventing abortions, why not look at the reasons a pregnancy isn't wanted?

How about the health issues? Provide care for the mother when she needs it. You want a healthy baby? Prenatal care is vital and
Planned Parenthood provides it.

Once the baby is born, how is the mother supposed to care for it? Programs like
WIC handle some of that. If we're going to be serious about being pro-life, then let's take care of that life!

Is it a financial problem? Can the woman not afford to have the child? How much work will she miss while pregnant? Does her employer offer maternity leave or is she facing job-loss for that baby? If she loses her job, HOW IS SHE SUPPOSED TO CARE FOR THE CHILD?

No one joyfully has an abortion. It's a horrible, invasive, painful, traumatic, messy, embarrassing, heart-wrenching, and unnecessary thing. It's not a casual decision.

Unless everyone has access to safe and affordable birth control, unless everyone has access to prenatal care, unless everyone has pro-natal job protection, unless everyone has the financial stability to have and care for a child, unless everyone can guarantee health care for all children, unless all rapists wear condoms, unless there's no such thing as a "complication", unless the mother's life is never at risk, unless insurance will cover 100% of a birth, unless we can find homes for every child in the adoption system, unless there's a real effort to educate people, unless ALL OF THAT is true...

...Then we just aren't serious about preventing abortions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Personal Goals #14, 15, 16, 17, Couple goals #5, 7

14: Exercise at least once a week. (stickers)

Success! For eight weeks! And really that was a continuation from December. Overall last fall I did a pretty good job of going once a week too (though there were several times when I got too busy or sick or hurt-y though).
Speaking of hurt-y, my knees are once again acting up. A few weeks ago they started aching a lot again, out of the blue. A little over a week ago, they started just plain hurting, pretty bad. This week I wasn't sure if I would be able to do much or if I should. But I ended up doing 20 minutes on the elliptical after all. (With some definite hurt/ache after I got home.)

15: Blog once a week. ("B")

I haven't necessarily had much to say, or anything at all (photo post), but I've been trying to stay in the habit of posting regardless. I actually have several things I've been wanting to post for awhile, I just haven't gotten around to it. Someday I might! :)

16. Post on photo blog more than once a month. ("P")

Last week I shot my first maternity session, which was fun! I just posted a 'sneak peek' shot and will do more next week. Another goal which I apparently forgot to write down was to do a photoshoot once a month. I was unable to do one in January because of the weather. There are three people I've been in contact with, trying to arrange shoots. Without a studio though, I'm at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I am SO THRILLED that the weather is definitely getting milder. I can't wait to see signs of spring, and get out there and shoot!

17. Return Netflix after three weeks no matter what.
Started out with a fail on this one, as I had the same three movies for most of January. But this month I've been better. I just have to be honest with myself about what I will actually watch--those Serious Dramas and/or Thrillers are just going to sit there, so I may as well not even pretend, and just leave them out of my queue to begin with. If it's a movie that I'd wanted to see in theaters, or a silly rom-com that I would have been embarrassed to see in the theaters, then that's what I'll actually watch. :)

5. Try one new restaurant a month.


In January we tried an Italian place in our neighborhood. It had tasty food and this very yummy chocolate cake.
In February we tried a diner, also in our neighborhood. (One always needs to know good diners!) This one was only ok.

7. Live entertainment/culture activity every two months.

On Valentine's Day weekend, we did a Watson Adventure scavenger hunt, about chocolate in Soho. We saw some new places (including the real, original Ray's Pizza) and learned some interesting things about NYC. We had to buy treats at a certain number of places along the way; We only had a few bits of things on the way, and ended completely stuffed. This is what we took home:

On Valentine's Day proper, we saw a show at Upright Citizen's Brigade. Next month, we have tickets to Pete Yorn concert, and a Mike Birbiglia comedy show. We're also hoping to see another Baby Wants Candy show (improvised musical! those people are brilliant!) soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy :)

Did you have a nice Valentine's Day? At the very least I hope you enjoyed an extra snack of candy and/or chocolate!

We decided to see a show at Upright Citizens Brigade and then had a quiet dinner at our favorite Brooklyn burger joint (they have the best curly fries!).

The day after Valentine's Day...

was our six month wedding anniversary!

To celebrate, as you can see, I put my wedding dress on again for a few photos. That was fun. :) I think normal life has too little time in fancy dress! We went out to dinner again, to a local diner we hadn't been to before.

Also, on that day, I got an email from for the occasion. Apparently they have an agenda, or they want us to have one, as the subject read: "Pregnant? New Parent? Trying to Conceive?" Sheesh, subtle much?! No, we are none of the above, but good to know that they're looking out for us, I guess. :)

Our first six months of married life have been pretty quiet, since I didn't have a job for three months and we stayed home at Christmas. But in two months we'll be going on our honeymoon, to the Greek islands! We're hoping for some kind of domestic trip this summer too, either somewhere in the West or taking a road trip down the East Coast. Regardless, I'm confident that there are many adventures yet to come, because I get to spend more time with the best husband ever!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


So the budget needs some major help. Yes, I understand. Some things will need to be cut or pared down. Definitely.

However! We, and by we I mean our representatives in Congress, who are supposed to represent the PEOPLE, not the industries and interests, need to think very carefully about how to pare down the budget, because of the way it affects our people.

I see on facebook that people are signing a petition to save PBS and NPR. And you know, I like those programs. They're educational and interesting.

The House Republicans want to eliminate those, but they also want to cut AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps isn't as trendy or as well-known as NPR or PBS. But AmeriCorps is a (huge) family of programs that make people's lives better. AmeriCorps quite literally makes the country better, on an individual and an institutional level.

I've talked about AmeriCorps here before, so I hope I don't have to preach to you about how it affected me. Suffice it to say that without AmeriCorps, I wouldn't be here today, in New York, after directly affecting at least 500 children, as well as volunteering in cities around the country.

Here's a great article whose title really sums up the issue: Show Me a Program that Does as Much as AmeriCorps. You should read the entire thing, but I want to highlight the last few paragraphs, because he's just perfectly captured the key point:

As one of the oldest threads in our national fabric, service shouldn’t be partisan issue, especially in a recession. The loss of AmeriCorps would do the most harm to vulnerable families and communities already struggling to weather the recession.

AmeriCorps instills the ethic of service in members, places them in community organizations that are desperate for resources, and charges them with tasks that provide critical resources and support to struggling Americans.

Just over a year ago, Congress voted to expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 members, based on the program’s overwhelmingly positive impact in helping build a stronger America. Since then, our economy has suffered, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and the poverty rate is growing dangerously. This is a moment when we should be looking to grow AmeriCorps to help keep the nation strong.

Last week I finally emailed my Representative (for the first time ever!) in support of keeping AmeriCorps. I believe that the House has already debated the budget, but I'm not sure if they've voted yet.

Are you a person? Do you support other people having the best life they can? AmeriCorps helps.

Please, please share the power of AmeriCorps with your friends and family. Please contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to keep AmeriCorps running and making America a better place for all of her citizens.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

teaching teachers and schools

I saw some interesting links on GothamSchool's round-up, and I have some thoughts to share...

First, the former First W Lady is starting a school initiative! It's targeting middle school, because "research has shown that ...6th through 8th a crucial time in determining future success" as well as high school success/dropouts.

So this program wants to improve middle school classrooms: "The program focuses on 11 elements for success, including school leadership, reading interventions, effective teachers, dropout prevention and school, student, family and community support."

I think this is great. Middle school has long been the redheaded, defiant stepchild of the school system. (There are some AMAZING teachers accomplishing AMAZING things with twelve and thirteen year olds year after year--I say give them Wall Street-level bonuses! They EARN IT.) It's where kids start to question academics and self-worth more in terms of social level. It's where many kids experience some nasty bullying. So the more programs on helping kids do better at a difficult age and be in a position to achieve more later in the life, the better.

But reading this article felt like deja vu to me. Is this really news, that middle school is where things fall apart?

And then I remembered. That's what charter schools are. This entire article is saying exactly what charter schools want to do and what they're for.

I think this is completely hilarious. Is George W Bush and his institute still so blind to the world that he's twenty years behind in education news? Tee hee.

But sure, really, the point is, more focus on helping kids = good news!


Also, someone wants to grade the schools who make teachers! I say full steam ahead! My teacher ed experience was underwhelming to say the least. In my elementary ed program, I had a fantastic literacy teacher, a completely useless social studies teacher, and pretty good math and science teachers. But we had ZERO class about discipline or management. We had to take a child development course, which interestingly enough, completely nullifies the idea of standard achievement on tests on children below 13, as according to some development theories, kids don't develop those kinds of skills until that age. Anyway.

On a basic level, I think it's pretty silly that education programs don't think they should get graded. After all, students get grades, schools themselves get grades, and we've all heard that now teachers get grades! Hell, even restaurants get graded!

"They [education programs] are faulted by a recent wave of education advocates as emphasizing education theory over hands-on classroom training, and as graduating teachers with weak academic skills."

If we do want to produce intelligent, thoughtful citizens through schools, it stands to reason that education programs are supposed to put the right kind of teachers in place to achieve that. I have worked with many intelligent, driven, and determined teachers who are doing the right things and getting good results. However, I've also worked with teachers who can't spell very well on their posted charts [and let me be clear--if you're not the best speller, fine! But take your time and carefully prepare anything written for your students to see! Shouldn't they learn by example in the right way?], or who focus on coloring instead of learning (there was a science teacher like that in my high school! I was really glad that I'd taken that class at another school and that I'd actually learned stuff instead of just coloring things.), or who generally don't seem as, well, smart.

Teaching is HARD, and you have to know a LOT of things about many different subjects, not to mention actually being able to control your class well enough to teach them those things that you know.

Throw your stupid theory out the window. Theories don't teach kids, especially not in New York City. Why on earth is there not a multi-course discipline/management curriculum? Or is there? If so, please enlighten me and let me know if it's effective.

Now, is it an ed program's job to give someone a complete education? No, the teacher has to bring something to the table. But there needs to be some accountability, some competition or selectivity.

"To arrive at its ratings, for example, the group has requested detailed information about courses, textbooks and admissions selectivity."

That sounds like a good start.

"An alliance of organizations representing education schools said in a statement at the time that grading them based on textbooks and course descriptions was like 'evaluating the quality of restaurants by only requesting that menus be mailed to the evaluator — without sampling the food or visiting the site.'"

Oh snap! Good rebuttal!

Surely there must be more to it, though? The group's founder "said that short of sitting in on a college’s classes for a year, her evaluation methods are sound." This article doesn't elaborate on what those methods might be.

Another opponent "said the ratings were focusing on superficial “inputs” rather than “outcomes,” like how well teacher graduates perform in the classroom." Hmm, interesting! How does one test an education program? How do you 'evaluate' teachers on a broad scale and then link it back to their graduate programs?

I don't know. I'm not sure if there really is a way to do that. I still don't believe that there's any concrete way to evaluate teachers at all, actually. There's so much give and take beyond just academics in the classroom. But that's a whole different can of worms and we won't get into that here. :)

Monday, February 07, 2011

A children's literature legend

Brian Jacques (sounds like Jakes) passed away this weekend.

I never read the Redwall series, but I knew about it, saw other kids reading it here and there.

I had the fortune of seeing him speak at the NCTE Conference that I volunteered at a few years ago. He was really funny and charming. Later, I bought a few of the (many) Redwall books, which he signed.

The signed copy of Redwall was in my classroom library last year and of course, one of my lowest readers took it home and never brought it back. Alas.

But I also bought a copy of the graphic novel version. And then I bought two more, because the boys in my class were almost fighting over whose turn it was to read it! By the end of the year I'm pretty sure at least one copy had disappeared altogether.

So if you are a teacher of reluctant boy readers, do yourself and them a favor and get that graphic novel and get them hooked!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Couple Goal #9

(I made a lot of goals for myself, but also convinced husband that we should have some goals to work on together.)

Goal #9--Clean every two weeks

We're not slobs, but things like vacuuming tend to fall by the wayside. And cleaning every week, while surely sanitary and ideal, just would not happen. So, as a compromise, I decided on two weeks. (And he agreed.)

So far we've been successful! It's been three times, though we had to push one back when I was out of town. We split the chores and got them done fairly easily.

As I'm sure I've said before, having a goal to be accountable for is a great motivator for me. Especially this early in the year--copping out on something basic like cleaning would be silly!

I even put it in my desk calendar so I know it's coming, and that helps too, because I/we know to plan for that time. And really, especially when we're both doing the chores at the same time, it's not a lot of time.

All of this cuts down on the whining (internal or out loud) and it's really nice to see clean spaces more often! for that small pile of clothes I've been meaning to put away....

Saturday, February 05, 2011

a little faith restored

So it's been kind of a busy week and I've been really tired. Wouldn't it fit, then, that instead of going to bed at a decent hour on Friday night, I would stay up late, randomly having decided to trawl goodreads on my iphone until 2am? Yes.

(Psst--did you know their updated app lets you scan barcodes to add books automatically? So cool!!)

I like to review things that I've read and written about (though it's nowhere near complete; I have just over 200 books on goodreads, but I've been keeping a books-read list since AmeriCorps (2002) and am up to 645) and see what others have to say about books I really enjoyed or really hated (The Book Thief--STUPID BOOK).

Last night while browsing around I saw a mention of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I read it a couple summers ago while we were upstate on a brief vacation. I'd heard about it and seen a lot of buzz around it, and I had dutifully ordered a copy (through Scholastic book orders! love!) for my classroom, but I am kind of contrary when it comes to popular/buzz-y books. So it was kind of a, "oh fine, I guess I'll read it..." thing.

But oh man. The hype was well-deserved. And this book deserves even more--it's one of the best YA books I've *ever* read. I laughed, I cried, I pondered privilege. It was SO GOOD. Can't even tell you. GO READ IT. You don't have to be into YA, either--it's a good freaking book no matter the intended audience.

Anyway. So I was scrolling through the reviews on goodreads, and just about all the reviews said wonderful things too. Then I saw one with only three stars (as opposed to the 4/5 stars for all the other reviews) and read it. This woman was like, well, this book was okay, but there was an inappropriate joke! and mention of the narrator "pleasuring himself"! And I don't want my child reading about those things--some things just shouldn't be in books! That's why I like Stephanie Meyer, she's so tasteful about things like this. Oh, and there are some senseless deaths--there was no purpose for them!

My head spun a bit from the total idiot-ness, and I began scrolling through the (many, many) comments. I was really afraid of more conservativeness and people writing things like, 'yeah! it's so inappropriate! teenagers and children shouldn't be exposed to this in so-called literature! no good!' etc etc

But! I think except for one, all the other comments were like, '' One wrote, "if that's what you're taking away from this book, you've missed the point entirely." And many others talked about how teenagers are exposed to so many awful, violent things out in the world every single day. And that if you're espousing effing TWILIGHT as good literature, well, holy cow....NO. Not to mention that the 'senseless deaths' in the books really happened, because the book is based on Alexie's actual childhood. And the inappropriate joke actually does the opposite, and lets the reader see how wrong it is.

I have to give respect to the original poster--she remained very polite in her responses to the comments, and she stuck to her point that while she wouldn't let her teenager read it, she would never tell anyone else what to read or not read.

Many of the commenters were also polite, except for a couple that must have been students, due to the references about "we" and the ATROCIOUS spelling/grammar/writing. They were pretty nasty. "Your wrong!"

In one response, someone actually said that Stephanie Meyer was a better writer than Sherman Alexie! My eyes bugged at that one. Thankfully, a commenter later called out that ridiculousness. Jesus!

Overall though, I was relieved that so many people refuted the OP's lack of understanding what makes this such a powerful book.

I know this is kind of rambly, but it made me feel better that there aren't just a bunch of idiots out there. And also I wanted to tell you to please go read this book if you haven't already!