Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#WomensLives: Our Stories Matter, Too.

I'm going to give you some statistics. Real, actual statistics and not ones that I made up in my head in order to prove a point and make myself sound smart. Right now, in 2015, only 24% of news stories are about women and only six percent are about gender equality. It's not because there aren't stories about women or gender equality to report-it just doesn't happen. This doesn't set well with me for so, so many reasons. 

I live in a state where taking away women's rights almost seems like a hobby to our lawmakers. You know, like their days consist of asking themselves, "Do I play golf today or try to pass legislation that doesn't provide money for cervical and breast cancer screenings for low income women to organizations that also perform abortions?" Stuff like this should be one of the lead stories on, at the very least, our local news because it's kind of a big deal. Yeah, I just got breaking news alerts letting me know what colleges two local high school football players committed to. I had to hunt down the story about the legislation to make sure I got the facts completely right. I can't even make that up. 

As the mother of a daughter, I also want her to know she matters. I want her to hear the stories about things happening to girls and women in the world and understand they are just as important as what college two high school seniors plan to play football for in the fall. I want her to read stories about women and be inspired to kick ass. Heck, I would love for her to be a story (Unless it involves a butcher knife and a car chase. Then I want it to stay in the closet with the rest of our family skeletons.) and inspire other girls around the world. 

I could go into all the reasons why the 24% statistic bothered me as a former single mother, survivor of domestic violence, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, and all the other roles I've played as a woman. but I won't. Instead, I'll tell you about a cool initiative I'm lucky enough to get to be a part of for the next few months that looks to change that statistic.

#womenslives

SheKnows Media (Blogher's parent company) is partnering with Public Radio International's (PRI) Across Women's Lives beat to use our voices to help raise awareness about coverage of important women's issues and to make a difference in the world. Through the end of the year, I'll be sharing amazing stories about #womenslives (using this hashtag) that will inform, inspire and hopefully start a conversation about the issues women face around the world. Some of the stories will be written by me and some of them will be written by partners in the project. Most of these stories will be shared on Facebook and Twitter (once I figure out how the hell to use it). If you don't already follow me, you can click on the links in the upper left hand corner of my page and solve that little problem right now. 


So, in addition to hearing more about the antics that are my life in 2015, you're going to get to hear about stuff that matters. Stuff that can change lives. Stuff that can change the world. 

You're welcome.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My daughter also kills off people. I'm oddly proud.

Today, I received news I never, ever thought I'd ever hear in my whole entire life-Harper Lee is releasing another book and it's going to be a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, told from grown-up Scout's point of view, even though she wrote it before TKAM. 

It's seriously exciting and, since Grace was home feeling a little under the weather today (we both are because allergies are evil), she got to hear my nasaly, cough-riddled exclamation of excitement. The following is a re-enactment of our conversation:

CTM: Harper Lee is releasing another book!!

Grace: She's still alive? 

CTM: What do you mean, "She's still alive?" She's like 88, so the clock's ticking, but she's totally still alive.

Grace: Are you sure?

CTM: I am reading it on the internet right now. Yes, I'm sure. How could you not know this?

Grace: Really, mom? You and Rosa kill off people all the time, so you don't get to judge.

She has a point


She gets her brains, beauty and randomly killing off people
from me. Photo Source: Creatively Chic Photography (as it
says on the picture). 

I'd actually just sent Rosa a text about an hour prior to our conversation letting her know Fidel Castro isn't dead and his brother isn't running the country, even though there may be sixteen 6th graders I once had in class who think otherwise. She felt he should be dead (not for political reasons but because he's 127 and it seemed like maybe he was dead).

So, people who are currently alive include Harper Lee and Fidel Castro. 

And Jim Nabors. (Not relavant to the post. It's just one that keeps on shocking me.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Things you never expect to hear your large, tattooed, Hispanic husband to say...

Disney is getting their first Latina princess soon. Her name is Elena from Avonlea (that may be spelled wrong). That may not be right, since that's where Anne of Green Gables lived, but I'm too lazy to google her actual location. The following is a re-enactment of a conversation in our home regarding the new princess: 

Me (with disdain): I wonder if this princess is going to need some man to make her happy, like all the others.

NJ: I'm glad Once Upon a Time isn't like that. Tinkerbell is evil and shit. 


He's hardcore, like Tinkerbell and
shit.
After a moment of stunned silence, Grace was like, "I was just about to talk about the five-year-old girl I nanny, but never mind."

He just told me Frankenstein is even on Once Upon a Time

Like that makes him watching and liking that show somehow okay.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Further evidence I really need a job

Grace is at school, but I just texted her anyway. Why, you may ask? Because I discovered an innovative way for her to pay for her college education. The following is our text exchange:


Just for the record, NJ isn't really an alcoholic who doesn't enjoy working. That's a joke that, well, actually only Grace and I find hilarious. Strangely enough, NJ doesn't laugh when we say we're going to put that in the "special circumstances we should know about" section of scholarship applications. He's not a team player, obviously. 

Grace isn't excited about this new money making venture yet, but I feel like she'll come around. 

Or not. 

I should probably get back to the job hunt...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just because it's a choice, doesn't mean it's a good choice

As the 84th Texas Legislature gets busy doing it's legislative thang, education has come to the forefront as one of the top issues they have to address. For Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, school choice is his main priority. Patrick's hope for school choice is to set up a voucher(ish) system, where parents can use taxpayer money to take their kids out of underperforming school districts and put them in private or parochial schools. 

In theory, it sounds like an awesome plan. I mean, seriously, your kid deserves a great education and if your local school district can't do it, then you should have an another viable option. A private school where they can get more one-on-one attention due to smaller class sizes, have teachers who have more flexibility and creativity when it comes to lesson planning and teaching methods and, in some instances, where your kid can work at their own pace and possibly graduate early sounds like exactly what kids in this situation need. But have you looked at the price tag on a private school lately? It's close to the same price as a semester of college, so it's not exactly like the average Joe can afford one of those bad boys. But, a voucher would take some of the funding away from the underperforming school and provide a scholarship of sorts would give your kid the chance to get the fancy, schmancy private school education they deserve. Heck yeah! Sign me up for some of that!


The part of me that loves a good acrostic poem couldn't
resist this little picture. Does this even count as an acrostic?
Photo Source: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com

When it comes to educating our kids, we should have a choice in how they get that education, whether it be in the neighborhood public school, a charter school, a private school, or sitting at your kitchen table because, as Whitney Houston once said, the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way (that may have also been in the Bible). I 1000% agree with having a choice in education. 

A quality choice. 

On paper, the voucher idea seems amazingly fantastic. But the reality? Eh, not so much. The taxpayer money that would be taken out of the (already sadly underfunded) public school system would be put into schools that have no accountability to Texas taxpayers nor do the private schools have to reach the same standards as public schools. In a nutshell, these private schools receiving taxpayer dollars would basically have no oversight. 

We already have a bunch of publicly funded schools in Texas that have been allowed to operate with basically no oversight from the state-charter schools-and that hasn't worked out great for a lot students. As a matter of fact, fewer charter schools reach the minimum state standards than public schools and charter schools in North Texas did exceptionally bad last school year. Because these charter schools don't answer to the taxpayers who help fund them or face the same regulations from the state that school districts do, issues of nepotism, cronyism and misuse of funds run rampant, which doesn't help quell the performance issues (Would it kill you people to throw a few parents on the school board? It seems kind of wrong that your BFF since second grade and preacher have the majority of the say in your yearly salary. By sort of, I mean a lot.) Deion Sander's Prime Prep Academies are an excellent example of a charter school gone totally wrong.

In all fairness, Senate Bill 2 did make is easier for the state to close schools that don't meet educational or financial standards for three consecutive years. But, the charter schools I worked for just got around this by transferring the students from a campus about to close due to low attendance to the campus of the school that was supposed to close due to low performance, thereby combining the two campuses. So, instead of the low performing school closing, per Senate Bill 2, the campus actually gained students and the charter school is saving money by no longer having to operate the campus with attendance issues (even if on paper it looks like the one campus closed). That doesn't sound like much oversight to me. That kind of sounds like a win for the school to me. Or a system that is broken, but doesn't have to be.

We have a system that, with a some extra oversight, could be an option for students when their school district isn't meeting their needs and could provide a free, quality choice for students' education. Instead, the state wants to throw more money at another system that is going to face the same issues charter schools are facing, but with even less power to shut them down.

Why not make charter schools the super awesome choice they were supposed to be? Use all that voucher-promoting energy (and money) to require charter schools to hire certified teachers, to require people who seek charters in the state to actually have a background in education (and a degree they didn't buy on the internet), to put rules in place that actually do close low-performing schools and use high achieving schools as the models for all the others. Use that money to ensure taxpayers have a say in who sits on the school boards in these charter schools so there is some oversight in how they spend the money supposed to be used to educate our kids, and to ensure that the school's curriculum actually meets the state standards and not the personal beliefs of the people running the school. Instead of creating a whole new system for school choice, just fix the choice system already in place. (The duh is implied.)

The 84th Texas Legislature has a choice when it comes to school choice. Hopefully the choice they make will be one that actually helps our kids and not  one that is going to create bigger problems when, what we so desperately need, is a really big solution.