Thursday, May 20, 2010

and you know what else is hard?

being a dude.

i'm beginning to see that. this whole manhood business is a trip and a burden.

(i know! i know! but better late than never.)

this is hard

For some reason, I haven't been able to sleep for the last few days.  Last night, after a nice date night with M-, the inconsiderate DamnKids next door kept me awake from 2.30 am to 3.30. Even after I called the cops on them, I tossed and turned, trying every trick I knew to lull myself into sleep.

Some of it was work stuff, I know.  Projects are starting to build up and while I may not be thinking about them consciously, it's running in the background. Like a .exe file on my hard drive somewhere sucking up disk space.

But what's the rest? Discontent with my blogging practice? (Blogging is starting to feel like spinning my wheels, not like real writing anymore.)
The eventual burnout from dealing with the state budget crap all year and having the end of session one week away?  (I don't even care how it turns out, anymore.  I just want it to be done. Janky budget or responsible budget, I don't care. Just end, already.)

Could it be M-?

As predicted, he read Screed while I was away (he had some free time on his hands) and ... I don't know how to read his reaction to it. (Also, notice that I'm not stopping writing about our relationship.)

Last night, in a light tone, he'd said, 'I'm sorry I didn't graduate college.'
But I don't know how to read that.  Truthfully, I know I've settled that with myself. That was MY issue and I've looked at it and called myself out for being so entitled. And then friends thought that he'd had a strange reaction when he found out LTF/B- had gone to Stanford but I wasn't there so I'm forced to take their interpretation with a grain of salt.

(Besides, Stanford or no, LTF/B- was a frakking nutbag. Also - inconsiderate, selfish, freakish, drug-addled, neurotic, depressive and occasionally impotent frustrating. By my assessment, M- wins on all points of comparison.)

I had been clipping dead daisy heads when this came up so I put down the scissors.
'M-, that used to be an issue when we first met, but it's not anymore. I love who you are.'

He shrugged. 'Well, I know that I still need to prove myself.'
'To whom?'
'To you.  I want to be able -- I'm just tired of not being where I want to be.'

I said, 'You know why I love you? I know that you're the type of man who has integrity and you'll be the man who takes care of his business  - and his family. You don't have to prove anything to me.'

'I just wish I had more money. I'm tired of working so hard and not having anything to show for it.'

And so we talked about that for a little while - about ambition, starting over at our age, about dreams that our parents had and that we doubt we'll have a chance to live. And about money. And living paycheck to paycheck. It was kind of a heavy conversation. No wonder we killed more than several bottles of Woodchuck.

In the past, a conversation like this would have made me skittish. My brain would have raced ahead, anticipating all sorts of trouble. But now I want to pay very close attention to how we both navigate peeling away our respective layers; what lies beneath won't always be attractive and we'll have to decide if we love the fantasy of love or if it's really about who this other person is in their bones.

I can already tell this 2nd year is going to be different than the first. The newness is still there, but now the edges of real life are starting to seep through. I'm beginning to see that being with someone really is a choice. It shouldn't be passive or accidental.  It shouldn't just happen, like turning a corner in an unfamiliar place, finding you like the neighborhood and just deciding to hang out there a while. It's an act of will. 

Did I just stumble into a profundity?

Monday, May 17, 2010


"the police threw a “flash bang” through the front window. it blinded everyone inside; it lit aiyana on fire.

the news reported a tussle with the grandmother, during which the firearm discharged. everyone in the family says there was no tussle, that the grandmother was throwing herself over the baby when aiyana was shot in the head.

what do you call the blinded, terrified groping of a grandmother who knows her grandchildren are in the room, blasted from safety and sleep into chaos and danger, whose granddaughter is on fire? how do you comfort a man like aiyana’s father, which was forced to lie face down in his daughter’s blood by the same police officers who killed her?

the police shot and killed aiyana. they shot her in the forehead. her family saw her brain on the couch. by accident, perhaps. which doesn’t even matter to a 7-year-old. you don’t get let off any hooks for your intentions in this case, officer." (source)

I want all of us to think about how often these 'accidents' happen.
I want all of us to think about where these 'accidents' happen.

Because they aren't happening in New Trier.
They aren't happening in Westwood.

Then I want you to think about those to whom these 'accidents' occur.

And that's all I want you to do.  Think.
No talk. No discussion.

Because I am too goddamn angry to say another word about this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

father's day is gonna be goooood

So my father calls me at work (as is his wont.)

He tells me his plumber has written an interesting book...about penis size.

'Wait. Are you kidding? THAT'S his book?' I say.
Yes, my dad says. That's the book.

But when the plumber left an advance copy for my dad, he inscribed it with:
"To the prettiest man I know - Plumber (smiley face)"

'I'm confused,' my dad says. 'What does this mean?'

I'm laughing so hard I can barely say 'Man crush!'

'But he has a woman!'

I laughed harder. I can't stop laughing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coloring the Abortion Debate

Coming soon, my thoughts on being pro repro justice, being vetted for a board seat for a local abortion fund, how perceived allies react to women of color advocating for reproductive justice and how this intersects with my identity as a woman of color (of faith, even.)

But for now, just read this: The Indypendent » Coloring the Abortion Debate

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Um, yeah.
Don't get in my shit today.

Really. Don't.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

policy camp, day 2: when you know you're not a leader, but a close 2nd

It's not that much of a loss, really. I've always known that being a number 1 makes the goosebumps rise, and not in that good way. This is not to say that I am crushed or abashed. It's a confirmation. And it's not to say that I am the one who follows.  The pleasant surprise in this whole day was that it confirmed that I am...uncomfortably neutral about control.

The day started with our policy elevator speeches; I was paired with the NJ Supreme Court law clerk who frankly said, "I don't think these work. But go ahead." And I laughed.  Then she laughed. I got what she was saying.  When she said it in the larger group though, you could feel the room pull away from her.  But she stood up there and just shrugged. 'I've worked on staffs, she said. And these are nice, but they don't remember these. You have to build the relationship and negotiate.'

It was a pragmatic view of the political process and the room full of advocates didn't really shine to that. For most of us, we like to think that if only folks knew the extent of the issue, that's all it takes.  But it doesn't.  It takes politics.  And I admired her guts for saying that, for injecting an element of real politik into the morning.  It was a lesson for me: 
Don't get so caught up in your issue that you forget you operate in a very real world where having the facts and telling the story isn't enough. 
Being the smartest girl in the room is not enough.
Being the smartest girl who knows the right people sometimes is.

I hope I stay in touch with her after this; in a few years, this woman will either be a very good, and very connected, lobbyist or a very good, and very connected, state senator, congressman or judge for New Jersey.

How was my elevator speech? Ah, it was serviceable; it won't set the world on fire but no one called it crazy.

And that's another thing; it is so incredibly nurturing here! I imagined a policy shark tank, a boot camp of sorts.  But while the group discussions get heated, and positions are strenuously defended, there is always consensus to make us whole again.

Consensus. A word that used to make me itch in impatience.  But now I see the use for it.  In our session about Effective Teams, we had to agree on what helps or blocks teams; we couldn't take a simple vote and any disagreements had to be resolved through consensus. I found that I'm mostly ok with switching my vote. Oh, I'm wed to my position but often I will see the value of another person's view and give way.  But only if their view is valuable and they made a good case for it - or if there was a greater good that could benefit and didn't depend on my position.

What was also surprising was figuring out what each of us valued in our teams. Half of us wanted everyone to contribute; the other half, only if the contribution was value-added. Most felt that conflict was a block to progress, but ok if framed as debate; most required structure and felt that personal feeling talk could be a slippery slope for losing focus. Above all, we felt it was important, no matter individual positions, for the team to enjoy working with one another. 

Of course, when we compared our findings with actual research about effective teams, we discovered that some of what we preferred wasn't supported. Fascinating. Who knew conflict was a boon? Who knew that assuming equal competency levels was a block? (Lesson: always identify your weakest link and allocate resources appropriately!) It definitely made me stop and evaluate my current team and how I work in it.

Which brings me to the FIRO-B test.  We all submitted an assessment before we arrived and received the results. Wow.  It measured on Inclusivity, Control and Openness, on a 54-point range. (You can look up the FIRO-B to see how it works.)  Spookily accurate.

I had an overall score of 14 - out of 54!! My Inclusion score was low: I prefer being alone vs. interacting with others.  My Control score was also low; I like little structure, don't care about controlling others and don't give a shit about you trying to control me, because you won't.  (I paraphrase.) And my Openness score was medium; I prefer some but not a lot of warmth and closeness in 1-1 relationships.  Again, spookily accurate.

In other words, I'll be part of your team but I'm the loner who'll go along as long as I agree with the direction; but as soon as my and the group's interests diverge, I will bounce. Interesting, isn't it? (Perhaps I should warn M-.)

I don't think I was the only one struck with their results. Perhaps it was seeing ourselves rendered in print that made us all head for the bar immediately after the session.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

So I'm at the Mt. Washington Conf Center in Baltimore, on the Johns Hopkins campus.  We are enjoying wonderful weather - warm, dry, with a hint of rain that's coming on Friday.  Rolling hills and bright green woodland surround the center.  High on a hill, we are comfortably isolated from the bustle of Baltimore.

Since I've arrived, and since so much of this week will be about leadership, I've been asking myself if there's a model of female leadership.  Do we tend to make women's leadership a binary opposite from male leadership?  Is there a particularly 'feminine' style of leadership that can be identified? 

So far, the so-called softer skills or qualities (i.e., relationship building, nurturing, etc.) aren't as valuable to most of us as strategy, savviness and having a vision. Interesting. During our discussion of why no one picked 'honesty' as a quality we all value in our leaders we arrived at the conclusion that, in our line of work, honesty isn't practical. Yes, we value integrity but honesty, less so.  After all, the point is to get to the YES.

So far, the group I am most aligned with are the women who self-identify themselves as doers: assertive, quick to act, in control, digs into challenges, bottom-line thinkers and not feelings based; we bonded over the fact that we all had  little patience for process and what we perceived as dithering, temerity or talking too much.  In this group, I think the judicial law clerk is the most intimidating; there's an assessing look in her eye that made me bristle at first but that's just her way.

(We were also the first team to finish the activity and waited impatiently while the Visionaries, Analysts and Nurturers took their time. No judgment! Just sayin'.)

I expected to feel old here but someone said that 40 is the new whatever; there are some women here who are beginning anew.  What I love most is that we are all passionate about issues affecting women. We are in orgs that do domestic violence work, education, economic empowerment, tax policy, early child care, reproductive justice, healthcare, AIDS work.  About half are mothers; about half are women of color. And two are men!  But what connects us? A passion for women's lives.

Ok, I have some policy homework to do. Catch y'all later.