Monday, October 30, 2006

The Rally. Be there or be forced to carry ALL pregnancies to term.

How else can I put it? We've got a long war ahead of us, and the upcoming vote is just one battle in that war. We need to mobilize the pro-choice community again, just as we did last spring (before, er, certain groups decided to take a, well, anti-activist stance). Whether or not the ban passes, we've got a huge number of South Dakotans in this state who support women's rights to make their own decisions about abortion.


If the ban passes, it will immediately be challenged in court. This is a given.

If the ban fails, it will immediately be followed by a ban that allows limited exceptions (perhaps for rape and incest and not for health, or for health but not rape/incest, or even for all three). And this ban, most likely, will pass.

So we have our work cut out for us. We need, not just to get out the vote in the days ahead, but also to excite our base and get them ready to move. We need to be very visible in the days ahead and in the weeks and months ahead, so that the majority of our movement, people who are on our mailing lists but don't ever come out in public because they're afraid of the fallout among their friendships and professional relationships - not to mention property damage and personal safety - see us and take heart, and perhaps are motivated to get involved.

And, too, we need to change the discussion in South Dakota. This vote is not about whether abortion is right or wrong. It's about whether or not this ban is too extreme. That's the reason for all of the lies in the VoteYes ads and campaign literature - because they know the ban is too extreme, they know people balk at "no exceptions," and so they're creating all kinds of doubts in people's minds about whether there are, indeed, any exceptions. But we need to change the debate. We need to hear women's stories!! We need to hear personal stories about the things that go wrong in pregnancy and the reasons why the law should be compassionate. And we need to talk about the legal implications of giving the state jurisdiction over a woman's body. What's next? Will we mandate blood donation? Will we mandate organ donation? How will we be able to make medical decisions for ourselves if we give the state license to step in?

But first, we need a rally to remind South Dakota that pro-choice is a serious voice. So come. Bring a friend. Help us make history.

Rally to Repeal the Ban
Wednesday, November 1st; 12:00 noon -- 1:00pm
400 block of S. Phillips Avenue (Federal Courthouse )in Sioux Falls


Corner of 9th and St. Joseph in Rapid City

Be there or...well, you know.

[For my out-of-state readers: I promise I will have something NOT about abortion soon. Thanks for your indulgence. Now, send a check or a postcard of support to one of the organizations on my sidebar. Thanks!]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On Signs

There's been a lot of brouhaha lately over sign vandalism, specifically vandalism of "Yes on 6" (pro-abortion ban) signs.

For example:

[Note: They took the picture down, I think. Here's a link that will work - and the blogger is similarly suspicious of the veracity of the VoteYes claims of vandalism: robbinsdale radical: Self-abuse?]

For weeks, I confess, I have been wanting to photograph this particular church's sign and put it up here for you. I've watched the sentiments on the sign escalate over the past weeks. For a while, it read something like, "Gay Marriage, Abortion, What Would Jesus Do?" But very quickly that changed to a more specific, "Vote to End Abortion" (again, an approximation), and from there, "It's Time to Stop Killing Babies." The sign was stuck on that message for some time, until the sign vandalism provided an opportunity to change the message.

But here's the thing. I don't believe that anyone really vandalized the signs. I think the VoteYes campaign did it themselves.

For one thing, no one who has had any dealings with them puts it past them. They've lied about exceptions in the ban, stating that women could terminate their pregnancies in cases of rape and incest. They've lied about EC, stating that women can use it for up to 14 days (it's actually only 72 hours) after unprotected sex. They routinely lie about the studies they cite to "prove" that abortion hurts women. And they've invited extreme groups with violent ties to come to South Dakota. And if you read their blog, you'll see that they are interested in manipulating the news to suit their purpose. For example, here's a short bit from a review of the pro-choice play, "Words of Choice":

"7: What I Said
A woman's testimony to Congress about the partial birth abortion ban (2003) finely illustrates the eugenic streak in pro-abortion thought. Faced with several genetic defects, it's painted as a mercy killing. Interestingly enough, she claims that the doctor told her that delivery would be too dangerous. The application of scissors, I suppose, greatly reduced the risk to the woman's health. The impression you're left with is that unless a person is "perfect," it is not fit to live."

...except that, in this case, the baby's defects were incompatible with life, as the piece made quite clear. (She said that: "incompatible with life.") What that means is that the baby, once born, would not survive. And it doesn't mean that it wouldn't survive into toddlerhood. It means that it would die within hours or days. And often, in pain. What mother would want that? But her very words are twisted by this blogger to serve his own argument, to make her say what she is not saying and to make invisible that this is exactly the kind of suffering that South Dakota women face under this rigid abortion ban.

For another thing, I just think it's too convenient. Sign vandalism has been going on all fall. Where was VoteYes when Democratic candidates' signs were being vandalized and torn down, or when Democratic candidates' houses were being egged? (I mean that seriously - where were you, VoteYes? Do you have an alibi?)

And look at the language on the sign - that says it all. This is nothing more than a photo op. A person who truly believes that something hurtful was done to them might simply write, "we forgive." Pointing out that the person/people responsible should be dealt with violently (why do these groups always come back to violence?) makes the assertion of forgiveness ring hollow.

Finally - I know that pro-choice activists are too busy getting out the vote to waste their time vandalizing signs. But I could totally see VoteYes doing it to try to make the pro-choice groups look bad.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Big One

This is it, folks:

Rally to Repeal the Abortion Ban

Wednesday, November 1st; 12:00 noon -- 1:00pm

400 block of S. Phillips Avenue
at the Federal Courthouse in Sioux Falls

- and -

Corner of 9th and St. Joseph in Rapid City

(And after the rally, USF is hosting an abortion forum at 7pm. I don't have the location for you, but there will be a panel from VoteYes and also one from
Healthy Families.)

And I'll see you all TOMORROW. Bring your cameras, bring your buttons, bring your friends!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

So I almost went Unruh today...


(Yes, this is again turning into The Blog of Abortion. I promise to include something heartwarming or funny just as soon as something heartwarming or funny happens.)

I thought about calling in crazy this morning. I just couldn't get on top of my anger. I dropped off my son at daycare, turning around to notice the ugly abortion truck driving by, the one my son had just missed seeing. (I'll never understand the logic by which teaching children and young adults about reproductive health and functions is immoral and unnecessary, but exposing them to what they will see as unspeakable violence is a required part of their social education.)

I had visions of myself plowing into the friendly neighborhood abortion truck. I imagined the headlines: "Local Woman Goes Berserk; Threatens Truck Driver with Coat Hanger."

I drove to work, still seething about all the lies and the lies and the lies.

And then an acquaintance happened by, someone who reads this blog and knows that I am struggling with not going over to the Robert Regier (our homegrown version of James Dobson) side, the one that believes that people who don't agree with it are evil.

This acquaintance is someone I think very highly of. She's talented, funny, and smart - yes. But mostly I respect her for recognizing the complexity of life and for not thinking she has all the answers. She listens. She is interested in learning for the sake of learning. She isn't afraid to hear new ideas that might challenge the ones she already has.

And she said, "if you ever want to talk with a pro-lifer, if you ever want to vent your anger, you can talk to me."

But the thing is, I would never get angry at her. Partly this is because she is not one of the people who is agitating for the ban to pass. But mostly because I cannot imagine having a conversation with her about a serious issue that was not grounded in mutual respect and sincere search for truth.

And I think the fact that she would offer herself as target practice, basically, having read my blog and knowing that I am, as Anne Lamott would say, "not remotely well enough" to be trusted with a firearm, tells you a lot about the kind of person she is.

I told you today that you restored my faith in humanity. You really did. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Friday: Day of Pro-Choice Action in Sioux Falls

Come join the SD blogging community in a pro-choice action!

We're meeting this Friday, 4pm, at the SD Healthy Families HQ (109 N. Main) in Sioux Falls. Bring signs! Bring stuff to make signs! Bring cameras! Bring friends!

Remember the rally last March? Let's do it again!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Struck Dumb

(This was written Friday.)

I got a copy of the VoteYes postcard this morning, the one I posted about yesterday. When I showed it to a friend of mine, her eyes immediately welled up and she said, "So. They're just lying, then."

It's hard to explain this sense of betrayal, particularly when it involves the opposing side of a political fight. But still, you hope that the other side will show some integrity, that the battle will be, if not civil, then at least based on the truth as each side tells it.

But what's worse today is that I'm beginning to realize, in small glimpses, that there really is very little justice.

I called the Attorney General's office this morning. I was connected to a lawyer. I read her the postcard, specifically the language "women have the option of terminating pregnancies." I even pointed out that in the next paragraph, the postcard explains that women can take EC to "prevent conception." And I said that for VoteYes to say that the ban allowed women to terminate pregnancies was a blatant misrepresentation of the ban.

But the lawyer I spoke with told me, "that's a matter of opinion."

And I said, "but their use of the language, their statement about terminating a pregnancy followed by the paragraph about preventing conception makes clear that these two are not the same. If you are preventing conception, then you cannot possibly be simultaneously terminating a pregnancy. They are talking about two different things here, and one of them is flat out wrong."

And she said, "it's a matter of freedom of speech."

And I said, "but it's a class 2 misdemeanor to publish false or erroneous information on a law during an election, according to South Dakota Codified Law 12-13-16."

And she said, "I think that's a matter of interpretation."

Next, I called the Secretary of State's office and spoke with Kea Warne, the Election Supervisor. I read her the language of the postcard and said I was concerned because the information was false and I was sure it was illegal.

She said, "yes, that's a class 2 misdemeanor."* But, she said, her office couldn't investigate it, and I should call the Attorney General's office or local law enforcement.

So I called the State's Attorney's office. I again read the postcard and a portion of the law. I said explained that "terminating pregnancy" was clearly not allowed in the ban.

Dave Nelson said, "eye of the beholder."

So I said, "do you mean that people have different beliefs about whether or not EC is an abortifacient?" [EXPLANATION: In about 5% of cases, it is estimated, EC prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. Since the moment of implantation is the moment that, according to science, pregnancy begins, EC thus prevents pregnancy. Most of the time, however, EC prevents the egg and sperm from coming together by toughening the walls of the egg so that it can't be penetrated, by making cervical mucous "hostile" so as not to allow sperm to reach the egg, or by preventing ovulation altogether.]

He said, "yes."

And I said, "but when they say 'terminating pregnancy,' it's pretty clear that what they mean is abortion. To most people, "terminating pregnancy" means abortion. And further, the ban explicitly states that no women can have abortions unless they are at risk of death. So their statement is false, and willfully so."

And he said, "I am reluctant to bring the force of the State of South Dakota to bear in a public debate. That's a very serious thing. I am confident that the other side will be able to get their message out."

So I asked, "has there ever been a case in which this law, which criminalizes lying about a proposed amendment or question or law that is referred to voters, has been applied?"

And he said, "not as far as I'm aware."

So we have a law that forbids this behavior, yet we don't enforce it because it might jeopardize public debate. And, in truth, I can see his point: State intervention in this kind of issue could set a dangerous precedent.

But doesn't it also set a dangerous precedent to allow people to purposely misrepresent their own legislation in order to mislead voters into voting their way?

As I was told more than once today, I can always write a letter to the editor.


*I don't know if Warne was agreeing that the postcard was in violation of the law or if she was simply stating that, if it were in violation of the law, it would be a class 2 misdemeanor. In any case, at least she was familiar with the law - unlike the lawyer in the Attorney General's office.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Poogled! And other new uses for the English language.

Poogled: a cuter form of "punked." It originated about 14 years ago, when I pointed out a poodle to my sweetie, and he said, "poogle?," and I immediately played along, insisting that, yes, it was a poogle, which was, I declared, a strange breed of poodle mixed with beagle. Ever since, when we fool each other, we've been poogled.

Since everyone is making up definitions around here to suit their politics, I figured I'd offer a few of my own. I thought it might be fun to come up with a whole slew of fun vocab words at the expense of some of our worst citizens. So, here's what I've got so far. Please add more!!!

Hunt: an intentional deception. As in, "I can't believe you just pulled a Hunt on me like that!"

Unruh: unstable mental health. similar to "postal." As in, "I was standing in line behind her and she went all Unruh, so I got the hell out of there!"

ChantalKrebs (said fast, like one word): last year. As in, "I was going to buy one, but then I decided that it was too ChantalKrebs." [Note: She owns a shoe store. You know I had to go after her sense of style, right?]

And let's not forget that in South Dakota, "terminating a pregnancy" means "taking a birth control pill." "Banning abortion" means "not banning abortion." "No exceptions" means "some exceptions." And "that makes Baby Jesus cry" means "I have conversations with my houseplants."

(I know, I know. I'm getting out of hand. I just couldn't help that last one. I mean, I know for a fact that Jesus is a grown man.)

Your turn!! Post 'em if you got 'em!

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's not that I don't *appreciate* breast cancer-related accessories and gift items...'s just that I continue to feel that somehow, somewhere, they've taken a wrong turn and veered off sharply into either weirdness or bad taste, or both (with the possible exception of the water bottles, because as we all know, breast cancer is really a fitness event).

The duckies, I think, are my favorites.

And if you think the above is a bit bizarre, check out Barbara Ehrenreich's piece on the pink fluffiness of breast cancer culture.

[NOTE: I actually have more to say about abortion - gasp! who'da thunk? - and my interesting experience trying to report VoteYes's class 2 misdemeanor, but I'm currently strategizing how I should best go public with that information. More to come.]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moment of Zen

Cat on a cold car windshield.


Sitting in the observation area while my little guy was in class, I noticed the woman next to me filling out "Vote Yes for Life" postcards to send to folks she wanted to encourage to vote in favor of the abortion ban. I thought about my post on anger, and resolved not to get angry. It worked, actually. We chatted a bit; she watched my stuff when I went to the bathroom. I kept waiting for her to offer me a postcard so that I could very pleasantly tell her I was batting for the other team, as it were, and test out the boundaries of my resolve (and hers), but she never did.

And now I really wish she had.

Because this is incredible. If you're having trouble reading the fine print, this Vote Yes for Life postcard reads, "under this law, women have the option of terminating pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest."

Since emergency contraception does not affect pregnancies - regardless of what one's beliefs are about emergency contraception, it is not considered to be an abortifacient by the medical community - I can only conclude that 1) they are playing fast and loose with this information, since their definition of "pregnancy" differs from the medical definition, or 2) they are blatantly lying. Either way, I'm pretty sure this is illegal.

As soon as I verify the postcard, my next call will be to the state Attorney General.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


My effing computer just ate the post I've been working on for the last hour.

So, instead of trying to recreate my wit, I'm simply going to link you to a few timely pieces. (And then I'm going to throw my effing computer out the motherfreakin' window.)

First: this story in today's news underscores the way in which legislation designed to "protect" marriage (read: withhold the legal protections, rights, and privileges attached to marriage for an elite group of heterosexuals so that, I'm becoming convinced, they can feel that their relationships are more worthy) hurts real families. Whose business is it, or should it be, to whom one's pension goes?

Second: Here's a bit of an answer to that question. The religious right believes, in spite of statements to the contrary by the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, that gay people can, with enough prayer, change their sexual orientation. Witness our own Rob Regier, South Dakota Family Policy Council director: "Homosexuality is not a civil right. It's a behavior that people can and have changed," he says. "We can't grant special legal protections based on people's sexual behaviors."

Third: Here are some of the "changed" people to whom Regier may have been referring:
Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper;
John Paulk;
Michael Johnston;
and Shawn O'Donnell.

Fourth: If you are now saying to yourself, "But, Plainsfeminist, what about all of those 'ex-gays' I've seen interviewed on Oprah and elsewhere, the ones who are now married with all of those children? They certainly seem happy." Well, sure, reader. There are lots and lots of people who have experienced emotional and erotic attraction and love for people of their same gender as well as for people of a different gender. There's a name for them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I can't remember names. This is kind of a new problem for me. It used to be that I'd get anxious about forgetting someone's name in situations where I'd have to introduce that person to someone else. Sometimes, in those cases, I would have a brain fart for about 8 seconds, long enough to make it clear to anyone listening that I was struggling with the person's name. Even though I would not really forget, I would nevertheless be sure that I had, and so I would stumble around, turn red, falter, and otherwise act like an idiot.

After becoming a teacher and needing to learn between 30 and 100 names each semester, I've found that the problem has worsened. I am excellent at remembering all of my students' names in the classroom setting. Over the years, in fact, I've gotten to a point where I sometimes have them all down by the end of the second class of the semester. I rock at learning names, but I suck at remembering them.

Once the semester is over, I tend to quickly, almost instantaneously, forget my students' names unless I am in continued contact with them. Over time, I also forget which class they took with me. This isn't too bad. It's even understandable, I think. Students know that I have many different faces in my classes over the years, and they don't seem to get too annoyed that I forget their names (though, to be honest, I don't usually 'fess up to this).

But what's really bad is that this memory loss has started to happen outside the classroom. There are people I've met in various contexts - activist work, daycare, coffee shops, etc. - whose names I can't remember when I meet them outside of those contexts, particularly if I haven't seen them in a while. Worse, I often don't even recognize them. Still worse is that they often recognize me AND remember my name. They also remember where I work, that I have a son, and other details of my life, and they usually ask me about all of this while I am still trying to figure out who this person is and how s/he seems to know so much about me.

There is one woman whose daughter and my son used to go to daycare together. She and I chatted occasionally and found we had similar interests. But I was almost never at the daycare at the same time that she was, and so I saw her infrequently. Then, after we switched to a different daycare, I didn't see her for several months. Finally, I ran into her one day. We hung out for a bit, and talked for a while, and she, of course, remembered my name while I had forgotten hers. I asked her name, and she told me. A couple of weeks went by, and I saw her again, and again, I had forgotten her name. This wasn't good, but I asked again, and she was a little annoyed, but she told me.

A couple of months went by before I saw her again, and again, go figure, I'd forgotten her name. I didn't ask this time, but I did start scouting around and asking other people from the daycare if they knew her name (no one did). Finally, after running into her a few more times, I again asked her name. This time, I knew that I had really ticked her off, and she told me, but it was clear to me that I'd better not ask again. I made a mental note of her name. I repeated it over and over again. It wasn't even close to any of the names I had been guessing.

I haven't seen her in months.

And I've forgotten her name.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This seems to be taking things a little too far...

I know that the stores are anxious to turn every holiday into a consumer event.

But I was not prepared for this:

I mean, ok, I can understand the flowers. But the cupcakes? I can't decide if this is bad taste or just weird:

But here's the one that really made me scratch my head:

And here I thought it was only the red ones that were dangerous.

Amendment C's "Unintended" Consequences Not So Unintended?

This came to me via an email from a local activist, but it comes originally from Todd Epp's site and from South Dakotans Against Discrimination's (SDAD) site.:

As SDAD has pointed out in previous releases and in presentations, other states have experienced "unintended" consequences after passage of these amendments. What the Fair Wisconsin report documents is that often times the groups that support the amendments and say they only wish to "protect" traditional marriage then work to put these "unintended" consequences into law and action.

For example:

Before: CCV (Citizens for Community Values) Leader Said Amendment Was Not Intended To Impact Domestic Violence Laws: CCV Leader Phil Burress sad the proposed amendment was not intended to change the state's domestic violence law. (Associated Press, 2/3/05)

After: CCV Filed "Friend of the the Court" Brief In Support Of Man Accused Of Assaulting His Girlfriend: In 2006, CCV filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Ohio Supreme Court in support of a man accused of assaulting his girlfriend. The man was being prosecuted under Ohio's domestic violence law. CCV argues that the amendment means courts cannot treat unmarried couples as if they are in a marriage-like relationship, even for the purposes of domestic violence protections. Amendment author David Langdon co-wrote the CCV brief. (People for the American Way, 8/29/0, CCV amicus brief.)
The report cites a number of additional examples.

Amendment C supporters in South Dakota have made similar claims that "all" the measure would do is bolster the state's current ban on same-sex marriages and support "traditional" marriage.

There's always a larger agenda, it seems.

By the way, if you live in South Dakota and want to vote in the upcoming election, the deadline to register is Monday, October 23. Click here for information about how to do it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Plain Truth about Anger

I'm tired. Over the last few days and weeks, as the abortion wars have heated up here, I've felt angrier than I've felt in a long time. I've snapped at my child and partner out of frustration at the state of the world and this state. I've felt hopelessness at the prospect of continuing this battle that never seems to end. I've gotten to a point where I cannot see the humanity in the opposition, and that is never a good place to be. It is how war is justified.

But I can't not be angry, either. There are people who are deliberately misleading the public in order to sway voters. After making numerous statements about the crafting of the abortion ban and the purposefulness with which they allowed no exceptions, spokespeople for the ban are now arguing that there are exceptions and that those who say otherwise are lying. They are also touting EC after doing everything possible to make it nearly impossible to get - and they are telling the public that it can be taken up to two weeks after intercourse, when it is only effective up to 72 hours after intercourse. I am angry because these statements and actions place women at risk.

I need to believe that they are doing all of this out of the mistaken belief that the ends justify the means. I have to believe this because to believe otherwise, I have to see them as evil. And once I do that, I've slipped over into a mindset that does not allow me to see people as fully human, in all the complexity that being human means. Many times, I've ended up on that side, along with some of my political allies.

On that side also are those who believe that Planned Parenthood is a monster, a heartless corporate monster that only wants to line its pockets. But I know the real people who work there - I was one of them. They are my friends. And I can tell you that they are not evil, nor are they lining their pockets. They are people who, much like those who believe that banning abortion will result in saving lives, are trying to create a better world.

For this moment, I have to leave aside all of the arguments about abortion and related issues. I have to focus on one thing: the overwhelming hate that threatens to fill my heart when I allow myself to become drawn into the battle. When I come up against the kind of hate and violence I spoke of the other day, I react in kind. And I'll let you in on a secret: it's not such a mystery to me how that group of people who call themselves "pro-life" could react as they did last weekend. I know what that rage, that frustration, feels like. I remember, years ago, a woman chanting to herself as she left a flyer of fetus pictures on my windshield. I snatched it up and went up to her, intending to simply hand it to her and say, "I'm not interested. Please don't leave your propaganda on my car." I intended to say this in a civil and kind manner. But when I reached her, my hands began to shake, my heartbeat accelerated, and suddenly I was red-faced and shouting, forcing the suddenly-crumpled flyer into her closed arms while she continued chanting about killing babies. I backed away, still shaking, suddenly near tears. My anger had overwhelmed me.

Eight years ago this month, a doctor in my city was murdered in his own home. Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed by James Kopp in act of Christian extremist terrorism. I remember the feeling that persisted in the city over the next months. We were afraid to gather in protest, but we did it anyway. When Operation Save America declared war on Buffalo, we were there to keep the clinics open. When their supporters phoned in death threats to the area's gay bars, we were there to watch for suspicious behavior and to call 911. When I walked down the street toward the protest and a woman who prided herself on her Christian ethics screamed - without provocation - "you fucking slut!" at me; when the protesters who streamed into Western New York from Kentucky and Tennessee set up their loudspeakers and informed us smugly that, "since we didn't see you in church last Sunday, we're going to bring church to you"; when an 8-year-old child's parents sent him across enemy lines to approach me and ask me why I wanted to kill babies; when all of this happened, I hated. The battle lines had been drawn, and they stood on one side, while we stood on the other. They were not my neighbors. They were my enemies, coming in from foreign places to do us harm.

In South Dakota, my neighbors and I are often very different, yet we know each other in contexts of our similar lives. I talk to the people I meet in line at the coffee shop or the ones I sit next to at the playground. We talk about the coffee, the kids, the weather - we find our common ground. We rarely talk about our political differences. Political differences, after all, have little to do with such real-life interactions. And so this is how it is that my son's adopted grandmother and I have diametrically opposed politics. This is why it is that I don't discuss homosexuality with the women I know from childbirth class - strong feminists, but also committed conservative Christians, so that the very language we use makes it hard to talk about these issues. We try, patiently, to find the things we have in common, and we forge these bonds across our differences.

As I drove home from work two days ago, I passed several "Vote Yes for Life" signs showing each resident's support of the abortion ban. Suddenly, these people were no longer people in my mind. They were not the women I meet in the grocery store, the acquaintances I run into at the gym. I envisioned them all as cloned Leslee Unruhs (a local anti-choice activist whose humanity I am having particular trouble remembering). They were not my neighbors. They were the enemy.

When we look at each other and see the enemy,

And so when I forget that the people I write about, wrong as they might be, furious as they make me, are flawed and human, just as I am, then I have failed. To be clear: I haven't failed the pro-choice movement, or any other political movement, because political movements depend in large part on rhetoric and a constant, unquestioning focus on the goal of the movement. Hate is sometimes a by-product of political movements, not because movements urge us to hate but because they urge us to see things in black and white, as dichotomies, and our tiny minds cannot allow us to simultaneously have intense feelings about an issue, have this polarity, and see people on the other side as just like us.

So I have failed myself and I have failed my God. I haven't been the person I want to be. And you can see this in my writings about abortion. I don't know how to be rightfully, even righteously, angry and yet not hate.

It is too hard, we think, to try to get along and work together. And it really is - it's too hard. But if we don't do it, then there really is no hope.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Comments and Scavenger Hunt

Hey - as long as you're here, leave a comment. Please. It would make me very happy. I know you're reading the thing...let's see some comment action!

And while I'm at it, let me just add that, to either my chagrin or delight - or maybe a little of both - a consistent study of search terms that lead to my blog finds that most people who find me via a search are looking for:

- breastfed+baby+poop

- Robert Smith's photo

- eating+during+class

- why+moms+leave

- rude+people

- Kathy+Griffin

- bad+neighbors+smoke

I gotta love the fact that I come up in a search for breastfed baby poop!

Beyond Marriage

First, I just want to say that it is snowing - teensy, tiny little flakes that you would almost miss if you didn't look closely. And when I looked out my window and saw this, I felt my heart leap with joy. Really. I don't want to see it on the ground yet, but falling gently through the air is really nice.

It's also really nice to feel my heart leap with joy. I haven't felt very joyful lately. I don't like what my anger does to me, and I've felt a lot of anger in recent days and weeks. You've probably noticed an angry edge in my posts about abortion. Know that I'm working on a post about what this "us-them" polarization does to us and about what I see as my personal failures in writing about the abortion wars. It's exhausting even to write, but it will be up soon, I hope.

Second, Jon Hoadley of South Dakotans Against Discrimination posted this in the comments of my post on the Argus Leader and Amendment C:
"In addition to not doing their homework, they repeatedly denied requests for representatives from South Dakotans Against Discrimination to meet with the editoral board.

Feel free to write letters to the editors about all of this!"

Indeed. Click here to write one now!

And third - I want to give voice to an idea that has gotten erased in all of the furor to save "traditional" marriage. Yes, same-sex couples deserve the same legal rights that different-sex couples (who may or may not be heterosexual, by the way) get through marriage. But, why should we attach these rights to marriage at all? Why not simply ensure that everyone, regardless of marital status or blood relationship, have health insurance? The ability to visit a loved one in the hospital? And so on?

I think we need to get the government out of the business of determining that families are the unit by which we should measure rights, and that some families are more deserving than others. This is not just a battle for another day: we know that if Amendment C is passed, the next step will be to chip away at health insurance, custody, and any other legal rights or benefits that unmarried couples of any gender currently have. So we have to fight Amendment C, but beyond that, we have to put the pressure on our elected officials to introduce and pass legislation that does not punish anyone for not being married.

This may be the "threat to marriage" that we keep hearing about. The fear is that without these legal benefits, people won't get married. And it's true: some might not. I can think of two marriages I know that are only marriages because one partner needed health insurance (in one case) and because another partner wanted to stay in the U.S. and not be separated from her then-boyfriend (in the other case). But what's also true is that people who get married out of a strong feeling of commitment and love and not, for example, out of the need for health insurance, are more likely to have a happy, lasting, committed marriage.

I also know of several different-sex marriages in which one or both members of the couple are gay or lesbian, have love relationships with other people, are very good friends with their spouses, and live in a marriage for financial reasons. "Gay marriage" happens all the time, folks!

Anyway, for more on severing legal rights and privileges from the marriage contract, click here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From the Trenches, Part III

So, I haven't told you about my Cool Boss (CB) yet.

CB, like AD, was one of the most interesting people I've met (only this time, in a good way). What I remember most clearly about her is that CB was 1) smart, 2) able to get along with everyone, even people who irritated the crap out of her, 3) wicked funny, 4) pretty darn cool, and 5) full of incredible stories.

If anyone is to be credited for keeping the company going, it is CB and the board, who managed to keep the money coming in despite all the craziness. It was not uncommon to get things like an eviction notice, or a final warning that the power would be turned off, or that sort of thing, on a weekly basis. The former business manager had, apparently, stuffed all of the bills she couldn't pay way far back under her desk and told no one, so CB was constantly finding out about new debt (and from very grumpy people, as you can imagine). Yet she was always professional and calm, and I enjoyed working with her more than I have any other boss. We became friends, and that is not something that is always easy for an employee and a boss to do.

As a boss, she was easy to work for. She made clear to me what she wanted me to do, and she never played power games. She got her own coffee. In fact, when she went up the street to the incredible bakery to get coffee, she'd often ask if I wanted to come along. We went shopping on our lunch hour. When she left early, she encouraged me to do the same. And she never made me stay late just because she had to.

CB gave me opportunities to be creative, and she encouraged me to take on new responsibilities. She made sure that I got to attend board meetings and treated me like a professional. After a while, I began to feel more confident in my abilities, and by the time I left Loony Rep, I was ready for another job in fundraising. I owe this confidence and boost in self-esteem to CB. We've lost touch, but I've never forgotten what she did for me.

I would like to share some of her incredible stories, but as many of them concern political figures and/or government security, I'm kind of afraid to. Let's just say that she knew some extremely interesting people, and that, should she ever write a book, I'll be first in line to buy it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

...and yet another reason NOT to read the ArgusLeader

I totally missed this last week as I'm no longer getting my news from the local paper. Really, I'm so annoyed at the paper already that I could just spit - and so are a lot of folks around here, including journalists. I have had to deal with worse local papers, it's true (I've also had better ones). But now I'm really mad:

Vote for Amendment C, Initiated Measure 2
PUBLISHED: October 3, 2006
Vote "yes" on Constitutional Amendment C, the marriage amendment.

Two arguments most often are cited as reasons for opposing this:

We already have a law defining marriage as between a man and woman, so we don't need an amendment. But this amendment would protect that law from court challenges. It also would protect South Dakota from being forced to recognize marriages approved elsewhere.

It would ban legal recognition of relationships (outside of marriage) between men and women. That, already, is an iffy proposition in South Dakota, because we don't recognize common-law marriage. There would be no impact.

In fact, there would be little impact on anyone, while protecting our law and the beliefs of most South Dakotans.

What's frustrating is that, once again (all together now) we expect our newspaper reporters and editors to DO THEIR HOMEWORK. The reason Amendment C is a bad idea is because it is paving the way to allow legal discrimination against anyone who is not legally married.

And for the ArgusLeader to omit this information in its endorsement, to fail to rebut this argument, is inexcusable.

Here is one piece of information the ArgusLeader leaves out; click for a link to the whole paper and a more complete argument against Amendment C:

• Ohio appellate court has found that the Ohio gay marriage amendment, that is similar to South Dakota's gay marriage amendment, was unconstitutional as applied to nonmarried heterosexual couples. Under the rulings, non-married Ohio heterosexual couples now have fewer protections under Ohio's domestic violence laws.

• Put another way, the Ohio appellate court has found that some provisions of its state's domestic abuse law provide rights that are "quasi-marital" in status, and thus, non-married heterosexual couples cannot use them.

• This remarkable and disturbing "The Ohio Experience" has allowed abusers to have charges dismissed against them or only have lesser charges brought against them.


• South Dakota's pending Amendment C and the Ohio gay marriage amendment share similar language, as do their domestic violence statutes.

• It is possible that a South Dakota judge may be forced to make similar findings under Amendment C if voters pass it this fall.

Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in!

The crazy theater people will have to wait for a bit.

While doing a lit drop this weekend against the abortion ban, one of our groups was accosted and intimidated by a raging group of...well, it's hard to know what to call them, as their behavior is increasingly at odds with the goals of those who respect life. I don't know if they actually threatened physical harm, but their behavior was threatening enough that the group got back in their car. When they tried to remove themselves from the situation, a mob member threw her bicycle down in front of the car so that they couldn't leave, and then continued to yell and make threatening gestures.

Such behavior, though not yet violent, shows a frightening lack of control and an intentional escalation toward violence. A group is frightened enough of your mob to try to leave the scene, and you prevent them from leaving??? What comes next? What is the goal of the woman who puts an obstacle in their path of escape? What would she have said after they broke the car windows and beat the passengers? "They have it coming because they don't respect life?" Did those mob members go home, shaking, at what their behavior might have led to?

And it gets worse - much worse. As usual, Coat Hangers at Dawn has the story. Regardless of your position on abortion, please follow her links and read this. Read it all. And ask yourself, if you call yourself pro-life, if you think Jesus would have tried to murder this woman for wanting to use birth control, or if he would have called her a whore and a slut for having sex with her boyfriend.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

From the Trenches: Crazy Theater People (Part II)

Continuing my thread of Bad Bosses:

I have several juicy stories about AD, who is really one of the most interesting (not in a good way) people I’ve ever met. He is the kind of person about whom everyone has a story. His stupidity was legendary, but it wasn’t that he was dumb, exactly, in the way that Bush is dumb. It was more that he was so extraordinarily self-involved that the rest of the world disappeared for him. I think he thought that, as an artistic, creative person, the normal laws of civilization just didn’t apply. It’s easy to think this if you buck the norm. I have felt this way, myself, at times, particularly in high school and college when I was listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure on college radio (BEFORE they went Top-40, people, which made me a bit of a freak) and in my first job or two when I was still idealistic enough to stand up to injustice without regard for the ramifications of doing so (I still stand up to injustice, only now I’ve learned to pick my battles and to resist strategically).

But for AD, the whole world beyond himself was blurry. AD didn’t feel that he had to obey any conventions to treat people well, and he followed the stereotype of being prone to moods and of thinking that everything was about him. To make matters worse, Loony Rep was his baby, which he had created with co-Artistic Director (CO). So when Loony Rep was going down the tubes, financially, it of course had nothing to do, in AD’s mind, with his own bad planning and decision-making, but rather it was all about the board not giving him the support to which he was entitled.

And also, he smoked a lot of weed, which, while certainly one of the tamest illegal drugs out there, will make you stupid if you abuse it.

CO, by the way, had a bit of a drinking problem. And when I say “a bit of a drinking problem,” I mean that when I met him, some years after he’d been clean, he resembled Keith Richards. (I am not kidding.) AD and CO had been the best of friends when they started the company, but CO’s drinking was a problem. So were the company's finances, and when the board was ready to boot both AD and CO, AD managed to sell his friend down the river and save his own job. While this is not a nice thing to do to a friend, particularly when one’s own stupidity is also to blame for the deterioration of the company, it is somewhat understandable given the problem. AD felt so guilty about this that he could not bring himself to handle this difficult termination the way that most companies handle difficult terminations: taking the person’s keys and having security escort them out. I think he deserves some credit for this. But he should have changed the locks. CO came back one night and destroyed many of the archived company files.

A few years later, AD had CO re-hired in an effort to pacify the board (who were again getting ready to drop the axe due to AD’s terrible financial decisions). CO was to handle the business end of things. If memory serves, CO later had AD forced to resign. AD should have seen this coming.

AD had a weird, incestuous sort of “thing” with Ponytail (Pony)(named for obvious reasons). I don’t remember her actual job, perhaps she was his personal assistant, but she used to babysit for him and also help build and strike sets, etc. Supposedly, they had a kind of fatherly-daughterly relationship, or maybe it was uncley-neicey. At any rate, they were like family. Only...there was something else. They always denied that they were having a relationship, but we never believed it. Finally, one of my co-workers had a conversation with her that proved our suspicions to be true. He shared it with us. He told it something like this:
“So apparently Pony and AD were talking about masturbation. And she was telling me about this, and she told me that she had said to him, ‘AD, I’ve never done this before.’”
(Pony didn’t get it, but we did.)

One time AD went skiing and came back with a couple of broken ribs and a tale of how he had been schussing down the slopes and hit a tree, or fallen ass over teakettle, or something that involved athleticism on his part (which was hard to believe, as he had no muscle tone whatsoever). It turned out later that he had injured himself by walking into the open car door before he’d ever set foot on the slopes.

My favorite AD moment, though, was when he’d returned after a long trip to work with a theater in Eastern Europe. He was little-boy-excited to tell us about his trip. And then he told us about this one amazing thing that had happened on their travels. To get to where they were going, they had to cross the Ural Mountains. This was amazing, AD said, because they had no idea there would be a mountain range right there. It was a complete surprise for them to be flying over and looking out of the windows and suddenly seeing mountains beneath them. He was floored by this discovery of a whole mountain range that, as he said, “You can’t find on any map!”

Let me tell you, work was never boring.

To Be Continued.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

From the Trenches: Crazy Theater People (Part I)

I'm picking up a thread I began several months ago, here and here. You might want to go back and read these bad boss stories first, but you don't need to have read them to read this one.

I need to say, first, that this is going to need more time than one entry will allow. There is just too much to say about my time at Loony Rep.

All right - so let's back up. When we left our heroine - me - I was 24 and had just been forced to quit a job and move back home with my parents. This was about two and a half years after my graduation from college, so it wasn't exactly the choice I would have made had I not needed someplace to stay rent-free. My then-fiance had moved out of our apartment the month prior in order to start grad school nine hours away, so I had no roommate and no job prospects.

(I really should blog sometime about living with my parents - and my angry brother - again. But, as much as I love them and as well as we get along now, I'm not entirely sure I can do that without having an aneurysm.)

I started temping. I found a decent, several-week-long appointment at Science College, working in the Physics Department as a secretary of some sort. I went from designing, writing and managing large direct mail projects to light word processing, filing, answering the phone, and making coffee in one of those ginormous metal thingies that no one ever cleaned (I finally did because it was disgusting and smelled awful). The job was ok. Mostly, what I liked about it was that I didn't really have any important responsibilities. My experience in fundraising had been so devastating to my self-esteem and confidence that I had become extremely anxious about taking on any large responsibilities, so answering the phone was just about right for me. Though even my ability to do that was tested: one weird little man, a physicist, made a big show of pointing out to me that I had transposed two numbers in a phone message, causing him to dial the wrong number. He *lectured* me on being more careful, then waddled away in a fog of self-importance and assholishness. I was pretty sure that he had dialed the number incorrectly all by himself - if he even did dial it, and not just fabricate the whole thing in order have an excuse to put me down - because the other secretaries told me that he made sure to abuse the employees every now and then.

And, for real, if I was transposing numbers on a regular basis, I could see speaking to me about it, but to say something after just one time? He's lucky - you should never piss off the person who makes the coffee, is all I can say. Especially as we had to fill the huge metal canisters in the women's bathroom.

Meanwhile, I was looking for more permanent work. I did get a couple of interviews in alumni relations and college admissions-type positions, but the colleges kept hiring their own alumni for such jobs. A small, local repertory company - Loony Rep - was looking for someone to do pretty much what I had done at my old job from hell, and out of desperation, I applied. It was a part-time position, so I was fairly confident that I wouldn't be asked to take on more than I could handle. Otherwise, I don't know that I would have had the guts to even send the application letter. Have I mentioned that my forced exit from fundraising had really destroyed me?

I have to first say something about my interview. The only thing I remember, other than having a vague idea of what I was wearing (navy pumps, cute navy patterned skirt, lavendar shell, navy "designer" blazer), was my meeting with the Artistic Director. I have worked in theaters before, and my impression of Artistic Directors and actors is that they are frequently very annoying people. Tech and design people are, in contrast, often wonderful, friendly people - eccentric and difficult, yes, but generally kind souls who are very talented and who, bless their hearts, really believe in the adage, "the show must go on," and would never think of accidentally mislaying an annoying prima donna's prop or not noticing a missing button on a costume. Actors and directors, however, have - to put it mildly - an inflated sense of their own worth. If you meet them at a vulnerable moment, at a time when they need you, and if you can help, they will love you tons, BFF, and all the rest of it. If, however, you don't, oh, I don't know, DRESS THEM quickly enough - yes, this really happened, though thankfully it wasn't my job - they are horrible, horrible people to be around and they will abuse you to the full extent of their capabilities.

If you have an ego of your own, you will not enjoy working with actors or directors. But you will have a great time hanging out with the crew.

So anyway, I had an "interview" with the Artistic Director (AD). AD was a guy who was used to "carrying on" with his ingenues. Perhaps for this reason, his Crazy Wife (CW) insisted on being cast in his productions as the ingenue, even though she was about forty and looked it. My meeting with AD went like this:

"Plainsfeminist, this is AD. AD, Plainsfeminist is our candidate for the Development position."

Me: "Hello, AD. It's very nice to meet you."

AD: "Helloooo." (Looking me up and down.)
"You're definitely a verrrry attractive candidate for this position. Very. Attractive."

Just in case you were wondering, I should mention at this point that AD, while not physically repugnant, managed nonetheless to give off skeevy vibes. He sort of had the manner of a man who spent large portions of his day hanging out at strip clubs. I remember his handshake being limp, clammy, and flabby, though I suspect that this is an embellishment that my subconscious added to this memory after I got to know him. So my immediate reaction to our meeting was an internal, "ugh."

But I got the job.

To Be Continued.

(NOTE: Some of you have noticed that I never did follow through on my promise to write about my reunion. Well, my "real" reunion is coming up in a couple of months, so I think I'll wait for that, when I'm sure to have more material. Otherwise, you'd just be reading about how everyone looked great and we had a lot of fun.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

A "Total Drek" Moment

Listen up, all you students, because this is important. This is one of those things that, if you find yourself described below, isn't even on your radar yet, but it's something that matters far more than you think.

Teachers, you know those conferences with students who never put their backpacks down or take off their coats? The 20-minute, scheduled meetings that end up lasting all of two minutes because the students literally have their bodies in the doorway and are moving away while you are speaking to them? The ones in which the student just nods and says, "un-huh" or "yup" to everything you say, but never asks any questions or even looks at the paper?

We've all had them. And Drek says it better than I ever could.

Eat the Rich

I've been having a great time blog-hopping lately, following links from some of my favorite blogs and landing in the middle of great - and very funny - writing. A lot of these bloggers write about work, which I can't do in quite the same way, as I would get dooced in a heartbeat (and, also, I don't want to violate student confidentiality - so I guess I'm bound both by fear and by ethics). I'll be adding some of these links to my sidebar, so stay tuned.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours at Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. At first, I was really enjoying myself, laughing at the stupidity and egocentrism of the very rich. But then...something changed. Somewhere along the way, the tales of silly rich folks gave way to something darker, something so ugly, so wretched, that after I left my desk and went out into the beautiful fall sunshine, the stench of something rotting stayed with me. And I couldn't laugh anymore:

Last night Samantha came driving up to the gatehouse in her Denali, with her hysterical 9 year old daughter Hailie. The incident report says that Samantha stopped the SUV and that she and the child were arguing inside of it. Samantha dragged Hailie out of the car by her arm and brought her into the gatehouse where the confused Security Officers inquired as to the problem. Samantha informed them that her daughter had smacked her in the arm and that she was fed up with being a mother and that she "was not going to take this anymore."...the daughter was too much for her to handle and that she didnt want her anymore. Samantha then proceeded to storm out and peal away in her SUV, leaving an utterly distraught Hailie sobbing... Luckily, the female guards in the gatehouse are fierce mama bear types... Hailie explained to the officers that her mother was going crazy again and that she hadnt really smacked her, but instead tried to take a bottle of Vicodin away from her. Her mother then exploded in a fit of rage and threatened to give the child away. When Hailie had called her bluff, Samantha took her daughter and left her at the gatehouse.

The guards called Samantha on her cell phone, but she wouldnt pick up. Thinking she was playing a trick on Hailie, they drove her back home, but found the house dark, vacant and thoroughly locked up.

And there are more like these.

What's got me depressed is that people like this...I'm pretty sure they can abuse their children by not loving them, by not spending time with them, by being so self-involved (obviously, the woman above has a drug problem, but you know what I mean) that the kids have nowhere to turn. It reminds me of The Nanny Diaries, which, writing aside, introduced me to people like this to whom their children were status symbols and accessories.

I'm pretty sure that people like this can do these things to their children and get away with it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Or, "punchbug," for short. Some of you know may the game as "slugbug, no slugs back," but I grew up in upstate New York, where it was not only "punchbuggy," but it was also frequently played with wood-paneled station wagons instead of with VW Bugs.

I'm teaching my son to play. We're using Beetles, and I've explained that it really should be "punchbeetle," but we're sticking with "punchbug" because I'm the mommy and it's my game and that's how I played it when I was a kid. The rule my son has insisted on, sort of de facto, is that if I see one, I am to notify him so that he can call the "punchbug." If I should call it first, I have to share. I am, under no circumstances, to claim the Bug for myself. This may seem a bit unfair; however, it's only been since yesterday that he can reliably call "punchbug!" on Beetles. Prior to yesterday, he was calling "punchbug!" on every shiny, sort of rounded-edgy car that went by. (Today he was catching them left and right, and every time I said, "that's not a punchbug," it turned out I was looking at the wrong car. He didn't call a single one wrong today.)

But he told me yesterday that he's not allowed to say "punchbug" at school. Since there is no actual punching associated with our punchbugging, I don't know why that would be (if indeed he's telling the truth - his tales are not always, er, accurate). He told me 1) he's not allowed to say "punch" (and I really hope this isn't true, because WTF?!), and 2) his teacher told him it's not a Bug, it's a Beetle (and again, a big WTF?! from me at his teacher telling him he can't use a time-honored phrase because it's incorrect).

But I managed not to say, "that's the most inane thing I ever heard of," and instead suggested that maybe "punchbug" could just be our game to play at home.

I certainly hope this policy will apply to "Smear the Queer," a big playground favorite when I was little.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I love my short, gay coffee!*

I've been reading a lot about coffee, lately, thanks to Barista Brat's blog. The other day, I read so many of her blog posts that I had to run out and a get a tall, nonfat, decaf latte (no joke!).

So today I decided to do a little poking around and make sure that I understood all of her coffee drink references. I ended up on wikipedia, where I found this entered under "Starbucks":

Starbucks has also been accused of "product sabotage" by hiding its "short cappuccino" from its public menu. Short cappuccino is smaller (8 ounces), cheaper than their smallest size on the menu, the "tall". The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall (1 oz.), which, according to several media accounts, leads to a bolder and better coffee taste.[25] [26] However, it should be noted that a Grande Cappuccino will have the same taste as a short cappuccino because it has the same ratio of espresso to steamed milk and foam. A short having one shot of espresso (1 oz.) is eight ounces in size, meaning 7 oz. of milk and foam. A grande cappuccino having two shots of espresso (2 oz) is sixteen ounces in size meaning 14 oz. of milk and foam, which has the same 1:7 ratio of espresso to milk and foam that a short cappuccino has, and is equally as homosexual.

I have three comments.

First - that last sentence has me rolling. Click to get it.

Second - I'm shocked, shocked, I say, that there is a "short" option. I have on many occasions wished that I could get an 8oz. coffee drink, which is really all the coffee one needs in one sitting. (And why isn't there a "short" everything else???) This leads me to comment #3:

When I ask you for a "small," and you, the barista, know that there is actually a "short" back there and that it is, in fact, your "small" drink - why the hell do you keep giving me a "tall"?!

I take back my apology!

*Who can tell me which movie I adapted this quote from?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

To the person driving in front of me tonight...

...the one in the white car with the "abortion stops a beating heart" bumper sticker. Maybe you should worry a little less about abortion stopping beating hearts and worry a little more about your driving stopping beating hearts. We, your fellow drivers, did not appreciate your weaving back and forth across the road during rush hour. (It did not make us think well of your cause, either.) PICK A LANE.

Skim milk, buttermilk, and milkmen.

NOW I understand.

For the last few years, I've been really confused about why, when I ask for skim milk at a coffee bar or order a skim latte, I will sometimes get blank stares in return. When this exchange involved a Starbucks and the barista would simply repeat back to me my order with the term "nonfat" instead of skim," I just assumed that it was the same passive-aggressive tendency that makes them repeat "tall" when I (very passive-aggressively myself) order a "small." But no!


To wit:
"sometimes people ask for skim or skinny lattes and i have to explain to the newbies that skim/skinny means nonfat."

And to all the Starbucks baristas I've ever met: I'm sorry I keep insisting on ordering "smalls" instead of "talls." I just really, really don't like the Starbucks branding. And also, if I ask for a "tall," I feel like I'm participating in duping myself into thinking that I'm somehow getting more coffee than I really am. But I do realize that this sort of thing must get annoying for you.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The learning curve

OK, first, I can't write about politics today. I've had it. Over the last couple of weeks I have become such an angry, depressed person, and while I realized that, given the state of the nation, this is actually quite a rational response, I also know that I can't live like this for an extended period of time without bursting something. So I'm taking a break, breathing deeply, smelling the flowers, and in a minute, I'll be sitting on the porch with a pop and a book.

So what I want to tell you is that I love my students. They did something today that blew me away. It didn't really happen *today* - it's just that I noticed it today. Here's the deal:

Last night I was up until 1am grading papers. I don't like grading on the best of days, and grading late on a Sunday night is about as depressing as it gets, but somehow I fell into a groove and it wasn't too bad. But the papers themselves needed a lot of work, and so it was not a fun experience, because writing "C" and "D" is never a fun experience. I remember getting some of those, and it isn't fun on that end, either. I always worry about how students will take it, and I don't want to discourage them, especially when so many have struggled so hard with their writing already. So I was a little concerned about what the class' reaction would be.

I handed back the papers this morning, and then I met with several students to talk about the next essay they're working on. And I saw VASTLY improved writing this time around. They are starting to get it, they told me. They see how this drafting and revising thing could be useful for their writing.

And the kicker:
I met with two people today whose papers were barely passing. And they were enthusiastic about the next paper - they were looking ahead and thinking about what they were learning about writing.

I never expected that. Hunting me down, yelling at me, crying in my office - yes. Taking criticism so beautifully - no.

And the best part is, I know that the next papers will be better. They're starting to get it!