Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Domestic violence is (mostly) wrong

Disclaimer: It is wrong, ALWAYS, to beat your spouse, significant other, child, pet, etc.

Let me give you some background here. I am 33 and have been in four serious, long-term relationships since I was 18. I also had two serious high school boyfriends. Of the six, one was abusive (not physically, but that's another post), so let's leave him out and just consider the five.

Five very different men, five very different relationships. And in all that time, only once did one of them come anywhere near raising a hand to me. And that's what got me thinking.

The closer we are to people, the more we have the ability to hurt them. And the closer we are to someone, the more we know *exactly* how to push their buttons, to get under their skin. So is it right for me, as a woman, to push a man to the point that he strikes out and then cry "domestic violence?"

Now, please understand, I am exceedingly sympathetic to women who find themselves in relationships with abusive men. I've been there, and I have close friends who have been there. And there some men that I'd like to round up and have a few minutes alone with. But those are not the men I'm talking about. I am talking about a man who cares for his significant other and who, under normal circumstances, would never lay a hand on her (or anyone else).

There are those who would say that the man should walk away. That if he feels close to losing his temper he should remove himself from the situation. And I don't necessarily disagree with that. But I will say that those people have not ever been in an argument with me. I have (I hope) grown over the years, but there was a time that I would not let go of an argument. And God help the guy that tried to walk away from me.

So here's the bottom line: abuse is wrong. But as women, we need to examine the role we play in an abusive relationship.

Things I Know...

When I was 18, I thought I had it all figured out. I guess everyone does, at that age. Now I think that one of the hallmarks of maturity is realizing how little one really knows. There are a few things, though, that I know. Or maybe I should say it this way: there are a few things that I believe to be true (we'll see how I feel when I look back at this in 10 years).

- Random acts of kindness can and do change the world.

- When someone helps you, always pay it forward, even if you've also paid it back.

- Everyone should have to work in either a fast food joint or a grocery store as one of their first jobs. Everyone should also have to work for tips and live on that income for a specified amount of time. Nothing will make you better appreciate the hard and thankless work of others.

- Love is a choice. Commitment is infinitely more important to a marriage than love, or romance, or any of that fairy tale crap. But sometimes people really do live happily ever after.

- People will, for the most part, rise to what is expected of them, so set the bar high.

- No matter how close you are to another person or how honest a relationship you have with them, you can never really know them.

- At the end of my life, I will be asked to account for *my* actions and choices. I don't have to answer for anyone else, and it's pointless to waste my time worrying about everyone else's choices.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"The Road Not Taken"

The poem by Robert Frost touched me from a very young age, seventh grade or so. It is the only poem I have ever committed to memory, and I still say it in my head from time to time, just to be sure it's still there. I have found, over the course of my life, that it continues to be relevant. Each choice, whether big or small, leaves something behind. There is always a road not taken. The road under discussion today is a big one: my college degree.

I have piddled around with college since the summer after high school. I have quit and gone back more times than I can count. I have changed my major at least three times. And I still don't really know what I want to do when I grow up. So I'm going to walk away.

I realize that I could change my mind somewhere in the future, and maybe I will. But what I've decided is this: for now, college is off the table. I know that I *could* do it. That has never been in question. But it would require a great deal of work and preparation. At best I would finish in about three years, but five years is more likely. And I'm not talking about five years of fall/spring classes with summers off; I'm talking five years of head-down, in-the-books studying. And, to be honest, there is a lot I would miss in those five years.

I want very much to travel, and there would be no time or money for that. Realistically, not even for weekend trips within Texas. It would be hard to work and be a student at the same time; I know many people do it successfully, but I just don't have the discipline for it. And if I try to work AND study AND maintain some type of good relationship with my fiance...well...I just don't see how that can work.

I've spent the last 15 years saying I would finish eventually. I'm not going to do that anymore. It just puts pressure on me where there doesn't need to be. The fact is that *if* I eventually finish my degree, I will be doing so for me, not to establish or better my career. The truth is, I don't really WANT a career. I enjoy having a skill set that allows me to work in different fields and learn new things every few years. If I spend the time/effort/money to get a degree, won't I feel forced to work in that field the rest of my life?

So. School is no longer under discussion. And we'll see if this road not taken makes a difference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Can I just say?

I have avoided the train wreck that is "18 Kids and Counting" for a long time. I have so many issues with this family and their belief system that I wouldn't even know where to begin to discuss it. And I've never watched their show, because I knew that the ranting afterward would go on for days. Last night, I got sucked in because the episode was about homeschooling, which I've already discussed here today.

And, true to my expectations, I was ranting before the opening credits were done. Because here's the thing: the Duggars have 18 children, all of them with "J" names (which is on the classiness level, in my opinion, of dressing twins in identical clothing - but that's another rant). Two of their daughters are Johannah and Joy Anna. Now please humor me here, and say each of those names out loud. Imagine calling for each of these girls across the house. And explain to me, PLEASE, how those girls *EVER* know which of them is being summoned.

Really? You ran out of names after 18? I realize that naming 18 children is probably not an easy task, but there were SO few options that you had to basically give two of them the SAME NAME???

I just don't get it.

Homeschool is a bad thing

Ok, so let's get the disclaimer out of the way up front: I am aware that there are specific circumstances under which a particular child may need to be educated at home, and may even benefit from that. I understand that in a given case, homeschool may be a good thing.


These parents who are educating their kids at home because A) they think they can do a better job than a trained, certified teacher or (more likely) B) they have some type of religious disagreement with what is being taught in their local school, are doing a HUGE disservice to their children. And here's why:

1. The teacher knows more than you - Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that we're talking about high-school age kids here. High-school teachers in most districts in Texas have a bachelor's degree and are working on or have finished their master's. And many of these teachers have said degree in the concentration they teach. So, the chemistry teacher has himself studied chemistry at the college level, etc. Now, I know a lot about a lot of things, but I would not claim to be proficient enough in each of the subjects a high-school student needs to learn to effectively teach that material. And I don't think the average parent can do it, either.

2. School is not about religion, Part I - Now, I'll save the rant on separation of church and state for another day. And I will emphasize this point: I am not against parents teaching their children religious beliefs. But I do believe that it is a role for the PARENT, not the school. All that aside, school is about so much more than just classroom learning. It is where we learn social skills, and the most important of these is how to get along with people we don't like. We are, as adults, faced with dealing with (and having to please) people we don't like, every single day. Whether that's your boss, or your in-laws, or the clerk at the 7-11 makes no difference - we all have to exist and work together. And that is a HARD lesson to learn, especially if you don't learn it young. So, you tell me your kid hates his English teacher? I say that's a really good thing, in the grand scheme of things. Because he's gotta deal with her and learn how to get along with her well enough to pass her class. And that, friends, is a lesson that is infinitely more valuable than what the imagery in The Natural really means.

3. School is not about religion, Part II - Here's the other side of this one: school teaches us that other people don't think like we do, and that sometimes people have a VASTLY different take on the world than we do. And guess what? That's a GOOD thing! We grow as people through considering the perspectives of others. Children only know that to which they are exposed. And if you keep them in a homogeneous, one-view-of-the-world kind of atmosphere all the time, they aren't learning about perspective. So, if your family values a certain tenet, teach that to your children at home. But pretending that no one else believes differently is a serious disservice to your child. And again, it's one you may not see until it's too late, until they're out in the world and are stunned by the discovery that not everyone thinks like the limited circle of people to whom they've been exposed.

So you tell me you want to homeschool your child, because you want to teach them your own values, or you want to protect them from the drugs/violence/secular values that are so prevalent in public school? I say, think long and hard about what you're REALLY teaching them before you make that decision.

...I need for people to stop pissing me off!!!

Yeah, I stole that line, but it's true.

So I've resisted this whole blogging phenomenon for years. I've always been a writer, although for the last (many) years I've only "written" in my head. However, lately I have found myself with things to say, and to be quite frank, everyone I talk to IRL is sick to death of me.

So here I am. I don't know exactly how this is going to go. I don't really think I care if anyone even reads it. This is for me.

And here, in no particular order, are a few things I intend to write about.

- Forced frivolity in the workplace
- Small-minded people
- How children and unwed mothers of years past are alike
- Ways this country is broken, and how I could fix it in one day if given the chance
- Why it is better to be a smart girl than a pretty one (although being pretty doesn't hurt)
- Homeschooling and how it is the absolute worst thing you can do for a child
- Stupid people and the ways they are the bane of my existence
- Bad movies (sometimes they're the best kind!)
- Things that changed my life
- The best teachers ever
- Signs of the impending apocalypse
- Why you should have to be licensed before you get pregnant
- Domestic violence (sometimes she really DID have it coming)
- Being an elitist (some people ARE better than others)
- Kids are sponges, and it's not the "big" lessons that matter
- The Civil War was fought over states' rights, NOT slavery (no matter what your 9th grade history teacher said)
- What the 2nd Amendment really says
- Why Prohibition doesn't work and never will
- How my baseball team is better than yours (and stop crying about the need for a salary cap)
- Dogs are better than people and how that relates to euthanasia
- The little things ARE the big things
- Separation of church and state and why it's even more important today
- For the love of God, they're kids! Let them get dirty!
- Why you should support our troops, regardless of how you feel about the war
- Why I read and why I read what I do (and books that have stayed with me)

That is all, for now.