There’s a Problem with Ben Carson…and it’s Not Ben Carson’s Problem

I may be one of the few people in my social circle that likes some of what Ben Carson has to offer. I think everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and while Ben Carson has his share of weaknesses….

All_Gizah_Pyramids.jpg…he also has a lot of strengths. I appreciate that he is openly reflective about his struggles as a young man. He became chief of pediatric neurosurgery  at 33 years old and is a world-renowned, well-published academic surgeon. That is to say, while some of his views may be too extreme to make him a good president, he has gifts and strengths that could certainly be used to benefit the American people. It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t be trying to capitalize on people’s strengths for the benefit of our country. I mean, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His Scholar’s Fund has awarded 6,700 $1000 college scholarships. Surely, this guy’s got some things we could benefit from.

What I am completely, utterly baffled by is why he would agree to be Trump’s HUD secretary. Trump has been horrible to Ben Carson. He questioned Ben Carson’s temperament and fitness during the primaries. He equated Carson’s self-described former”pathological” temper with being a child molester, saying:

That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that … as an example: child molesting. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that.”

So, if you’re Ben Carson, how can you possibly agree to serve as HUD secretary under Trump?  How could you work for someone who implied that you were incurable? And if you’re Trump, and you truly believe that someone has a pathological trait that puts them on the same plane as a child molester, how do you consider hiring that person? And how do you consider hiring them into a position that serves some of our most vulnerable citizens?  If I’m going to make that sort of claim about someone (which I can’t see myself doing), I’m not going to turn around and hire them. What does this tell you about Trump’s sincerity and judgment?

I worry that this appointment says a lot about Trump’s views on race and class in America. See, every time Trump mentions the “inner city” he follows it up with “African American”. While there are certainly intersections of class and race, living in the inner city and being African American are not mutual. It creates a boundary around minority status that is hard to overcome – that the only African American issues are inner city issues. I suspect that African Americans outside of the inner city might have issue with this. It also excludes the experiences and needs of other minority groups, both inside and outside of the inner city.

Given Trump’s rhetoric around poverty and race, I suspect that he lacks any understanding of the nuances of these issues and has not intention of addressing them in any meaningful way. His selection of Ben Carson, putting a black man in charge of housing and urban development, is a hand wavy and trivial gesture that will in no way win over the part of the electorate for whom these are important issues. And that’s a damned shame because I suspect that, given the opportunity, Ben Carson could actually have a lot to offer.

 

 

And Then That Happened…

I have a lot of empathy for students who have major family tragedies. I have colleagues that have joked about how grandmothers tend to die around major exam times, but I’ve also had a few students experience the death of someone close to them over the last year and my heart just aches for them. I lost my own mother as a sophomore in college and it really threw me for a loop.

Mentors aren’t excluded from tragedy and, just as we hopefully show mercy when our students experience tragedy, we often have to look to them for understanding when our own families are touched by death and illness. This last month has been a real doozy (I admit I had to google the spelling of that) for my family. About a month ago (I think), my children lost their great-grandmother. This was Mr. I’s grandmother and my children knew her well. My heart hurt for the loss of this special lady and Mr. I’s loss, and hurt harder for how deeply my children have felt it. It’s not easy to see your children hurt and know that you can’t fix it. Just hug and snuggle them.

Just after that, I tweeted that a member of my family was hospitalized. He’s a type I diabetic and my dad came home and found him unconscious. He spent a week in the ICU, on a ventilator. My heart broke for him, his mother, and my father, and it broke at the thought of having to tell Tiny Diva that he was so sick. Tiny Diva adores him. It broke at the thought that he might not wake back up and she’d have to face that. The anxiety of worrying for him and my own selfish worry ate away at me. Thankfully, he recovered and is doing well.

Last night I came home and spent most of the night away from social media. The lab was on a marathon of abstract submissions, I spent time with the kids, and we watched the debate. Little I fell asleep on the couch and Tiny Diva and I went to bed and snuggled. We woke up and I took the kids to school. Then my dad text me that his partner died last night. So matter of factly. Just that she was dead. I assaulted him with a barrage of texts, trying to figure everything out. He remained matter of fact, in typical dad-like stoicism. He came home from work and found her dead on the floor. And, she was a recovering addict.

Dr. S. is away seeing his kids. Tiny Diva and Little I are with Mr. I tonight, and I’m just here trying to untangle my feelings. Sometimes my dad’s stoicism is more painful than raw emotion. I got a glimmer of what was inside when my mom died, and I know it’s there. Yet, either because he’s so private and has experienced so much tragedy in his own life, or because he feels some sort of duty to not show his emotion, he keeps his emotions very close to his chest.

The result is, not only does he not share, but he also doesn’t invite sharing and I feel so distant from him. I know what I’m feeling, so I can only begin to imagine what he’s feeling. I’ve never lost a significant other. He’s lost two. But, we restrict our interaction to the brief.

“Are you ok, Dad?”
“Yup”

Dr.. S. reminds me via text message that my father is not the only one in our family with an “event horizon.” A radius beyond which emotion and intimate thoughts do not pass.  I’m more like my father than I care to admit, but only because the idea of sharing raw emotion and private information with most people makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s why I’ve always written a blog.

My head is also swimming with thoughts of how to tell my children. Little I is the opposite of my family. He feels everything so deeply and wears his heart on his sleeve. I love that about him. The last time we were at my dad’s house, Tiny Diva and my dad’s partner made oreo cheesecake bites together, painted pictures and watched fireworks. She adored her. I can’t even imagine how words will come out of my mouth.

“Are you ok, Dad?”
“Yeah. I went to the funeral home with her parents. They wanted to make arrangements.”

So, I’m going to watch hunker down, watch Chelsea Handler, and try to let this wash over me. I think I’ll take a day away from the lab and be with family. Get the insides of myself back together.

Addiction is really a hell of a thing. This is an unformed, stream-of-consciousness thought, but I have played it over and over in my head that, as I was watching the debate last night, my dad was finding the woman he loved, dead in their home. One of the candidates blames an entire group of “others” for the crime and drug problems in our country. These things happen in the “inner cities” The thing is, people from a different country aren’t necessarily responsible for the deaths in my family, and they don’t all happen in the inner cities. Addictions like those originate from the tip of a physician’s pen or the easy conversion of over-the-counter medications to an addictive substance.  They touch all kinds of people.

When I had shingles last year, my doctor sent me home with 60 oxycontin. I took 3. My dad’s partner had surgery a couple of weeks ago and got a small nation’s worth of pain meds.

It’s easy to blame people that look different for our country’s addiction problem, but the cause of our pain is so much closer to home – in our careless management of our pain.

Financial Freedom and Stuff That Is Changing My Life…

Now that we are on the other side of our debt free journey, I’m gently tip-toeing into living like a human again. We were so nuts about meeting our timeline goals that, when the light bulbs in our house started burning out, we didn’t replace them. The month I paid off my student loan, we were down to one light bulb. Little I commented that it was like living in medieval times and I tried to find humor in the situation. We went pretty nuts with our intensity to get our finances in order, but I’d like to think that our priorities didn’t get quite this nuts….

I’ve talked about this before, but we followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to get our finances in line. There are seven steps in his plan:

  1. Save an emergency fund of $1000
  2. Pay off all debts (except your house) smallest to largest
  3. Save three to six months of expenses
  4. Start contributing 15% to retirement
  5. Save for kids college
  6. Pay off the house as quickly as possible
  7. Save money

We’re now on steps 4-6, which are done simultaneously, so we can start to breathe a little. Before that, I took a secret pride in being the cheapest bitch alive so that we could get through steps 1-3 as quickly as possible. My favorite phrase anytime Dr. S. suggested spending even a little bit of money was “Kyle! You don’t have any money!” (which is a reference that is absolutely not safe for work or life in any universe). I realize that I was very good at this – being goal oriented. Now that we’re on the other side of the steps that give our family a strong foundation and safety net, it’s harder to set priorities. What’s ok to spend money on? What’s not? Is it ok to spend money on myself again? It was scary to leave my divorce with absolutely nothing (financially), looking at two kids and a student loan. I felt ashamed taking money from my father in order to get settled in our new town. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

But, it eventually became time to stop washing my hair with the equivalent of dish soap and my glasses had gotten so old that the coating was coming off the lenses. I bought new glasses last month and this month I bought a bottle of my favorite shampoo and conditioner. I tweeted about this but, for real, this stuff will change your life. They also sell an Argan oil which has now made it possible for me to get a comb through Tiny Diva’s mop of curly hair..

merida

Last night I had insomnia and was reading the internet when I came across a tweet that said that anyone with a .mil, .gov, or .edu email address is eligible for a free online Washington Post subscription. When I woke up after a 5am cat nap, I couldn’t find the tweet or the link and was convinced I had dreamed it…until I did a smidge of googling and FOUND THE LINK!!!

So, today I am living the dream. I can see, my hair is shiny, and I have all the Washington Post I can read. Life is good…

A Tale of Two Wedding Dresses…

I tweeted a couple of days ago that I have been having the  realization that I’m getting married in the beginning of January and, other than booking the location we’re traveling to, I have done almost nothing else in preparation. My betrothed, Dr. Strange, and I have been very caught up in work-related stuff. But it struck me the other morning that I have to accomplish at least some things this month – namely, buying a dress and getting passports for my children.

Not that I haven’t given any thought to a dress. I know I don’t want to get married in a white wedding dress from a wedding shop and I know that spending a lot of money gives me palpitations. Dr. Strange and I spent the last year getting out of debt and I am still having trouble spending money (this is a topic for another post). I tried early last week to find a dress, but dress options in my little town are severely limited and I mostly just felt dejected after my day of shopping.On top of this, I am supposed to attend a fancy hospital fundraiser this month and I need a second dress for that. That added the pressure of needing two dresses when I couldn’t even find one….

Then this weekend I went south to see Dr. Strange’s children and realized I might have better luck finding a dress in a shopping scene that serves  a million people as opposed to 50,000. Dr. Strange accompanied me to the local mall, where I proceeded to break into a cold sweat. The idea of spending money made my adrenals hurt and I realized a part of me still worries a lot about being as broke as I was after my divorce again. Dress shopping is also just plain hard. There’s no standard women’s sizing. Each designer’s size has different measurements, so it’s always a crap shoot as to whether something will fit off of the rack.

We went from shop to shop and tried to find a needle that would fit my admittedly curvy body in a proverbial haystack of dresses for women shaped like needles. The first shop only had dresses that one might wear to a club. Not to their wedding or a fancy pants, grown up event. The second shop had a matronly selection and a sales lady in bright pink lipstick who followed me around, peppering me with questions and letting me know that everything I picked would “definitely need to be altered.” I tried to try on a single dress, but mostly just tried to escape at the constant knocking on the dressing room door and questions of whether I “really thought that dress would fit over my butt?” At this point, Dr. Strange started to hit a wall and, I’m sure, questioned the wisdom of accompanying me. I had visions of those old, miserable looking men sitting on the mall bench, holding their wives’ pimg_0713urses and dreaming of escape.

The third shop had a much larger selection and, ultimately, was a success. In a true testament to how bananas dress shopping is, I tried on four dressed that fit – one was a size 10, another a 12, another a 16 and another a 20, with the size being determined by how much room was in the bust. The Calvin Klein dress model is a busty lady. I like her.  I walked away with a dress for the fundraiser and two candidates for a wedding dress, but no ultimate decision.

I tried them both on again this afternoon and felt really bullish on one of the dresses. I could see myself wearing it on the beach at sunset. But, Little I and Tiny Diva very strongly insist that the other dress is the winner. Strongly. They hate the one I love. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below.

When I was pregnant with Little I, people would ask if I had chosen a name. I told everyone in the most serious of tones that we were naming him Genghis. I realized that, if you told people the name before the baby was born and they didn’t like it,they were likely to tell you. Then, you could never un-know that they hated your baby’s name. For example, Tiny Diva is named for my grandmother. When I was pregnant, I tried to broach the topic of naming Tiny Diva after her and she confided in me that she always hated her name and had been named after her father’s mistress. Of course, her mother didn’t realize this as they were naming the baby. She learned of it later and hilarity ensued. Someday I’ll tell Tiny Diva that she is named for her great-grandmother, who was named for the stripper her great- great-grandfather catted around with.

With Little I, everyone was puzzled by the name Genghis and, therefore, relieved when I named him something else. If you’ve already named your baby, people are more likely to keep their name opinions to themselves. I’ve now got the equivalent of a baby name wedding dress. I can’t un-know that my kids hate the dress I like, but I can’t change the fact that the other doesn’t thrill me as much. So, I would be glad to hear your opinion, but if you ask me which dress I’m choosing between now and January, the answer is “Genghis.”

76 Cents on the Dollar…

2701a6d0-clinton-4x3I really feel guilty in a major way this election season and think I owe Hillary Clinton an apology. I’ve been a democrat for as long as I can remember, mostly because I find the republican’s social platform to be a deal breaker. Given the opportunity, I might support a more conservative fiscal policy, but I can’t reconcile that with being pro-choice, anti-discrimination, pro-gay marriage, anti-criminalization of petty drug crimes, etc. This election, I’ve been vocally anti-Trump, but was not necessarily pro-Clinton. I’ve found the constant scandal tiresome and talk of her trustworthiness off-putting. She hasn’t been a candidate that has felt warm in the same way Barack Obama does. I’ve felt a lack of enthusiasm over not having a “likeable” candidate.

But then the other day she had a post on Humans of New York that has really left me reeling. She wrote (in long form because it bears repeating)…

I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.

I’m not Barack Obama. I’m not Bill Clinton. Both of them carry themselves with a naturalness that is very appealing to audiences. But I’m married to one and I’ve worked for the other, so I know how hard they work at being natural. It’s not something they just dial in. They work and they practice what they’re going to say. It’s not that they’re trying to be somebody else. But it’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. It’s not bad. It’s just a fact. It’s really quite funny. I’ll go to these events and there will be men speaking before me, and they’ll be pounding the message, and screaming about how we need to win the election. And people will love it. And I want to do the same thing. Because I care about this stuff. But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation. I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a little bit scary to people. And I can’t yell too much. It comes across as ‘too loud’ or ‘too shrill’ or ‘too this’ or ‘too that.’ Which is funny, because I’m always convinced that the people in the front row are loving it.

Every time I’ve read it since, it moves me to tears. What got me in particular was the phrase “If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. ” I’m being reminded especially lately that, in the professional/academic sphere, there’s no play book to do these jobs as a woman. You can behave as your male colleagues do and be seen as hostile and aloof and cold. You can try to be warmer and be seen as the “nice person” that people want to work for because they think you’ll be an easy boss, and then be the bitch when you call them out for not working. Or, in your attempts at being nurturing, have them share more with you than you’re comfortable with.

A couple of months ago I read Henry Cloud’s Boundaries. Like my other personal life guru Dave Ramsey, he’s a great author if you’re prepared that he writes from a Christian perspective. It doesn’t mean you have to be a Christian to find his writing worthwhile, because the advice is still good even if you’re not a bible believer. But, I digress. I realize in reflecting on this book and Hillary’s statement, that women (with race applied as a modifier) are not expected to be allowed to have boundaries in how they are treated. They don’t serve themselves. They serve the common good. They are what society needs them to be – wife, nurturer,  mother, mammy, sex symbol, delicate, the nag, the asexual career woman. Placing boundaries around ourselves and setting expectations for behavior challenges people and that makes them angry. I’ve been feeling that a lot recently.

On the way home tonight, Little I got indignant in the back of the car. His school has a Girls on the Run group and a girls’ choir and he felt excluded that he couldn’t join those groups. I empathized with his desire to participate and feelings of exclusion, until he lamented that he felt discriminated against. Then I lost my mind. I tried to explain the profound place of privilege he enjoys in society. He’ll never earn $0.76 on the dollar at a job, compared to his female colleagues. He’ll never be called shrill or emotional or be told that he’s not nurturing enough. I wanted to Vulcan mind meld with his little brain and show him how hard it is to navigate these spaces. And the women who went before me had it even harder.

I’m so sorry, Hillary.  So, so sorry. I get how much harder it is. You’re a competent, hard working public servant and diplomat and that’s all that should matter.I’m sorry I let myself get distracted and I’m with you.

Mom Chronicles – Volume 1

Little I was telling me about a new adult in his life this morning and mentioned that she had said that her only rule is “Don’t die.” I laughed and replied that those are the kinds of rules someone can have when they don’t have children. I assured him that, once they spent some more time together, she’d start having more rules.

For example, this weekend I found myself decreeing the following new rules around the house…

  • Don’t leave your alcohol unattended around the baby
  • Don’t pee in your own bath (because maybe peeing in someone else’s bath is still an option?)
  • Don’t hit someone bigger than you unless you’re sure you can win.

I also have been reading a lot about the parenting of step-children lately. Not that there’s much parenting I have to do with nearly adult teenagers, but it’s just interesting to me to learn about blended family dynamics. I’ve also gotten a lot of insight into how my own children might interact within a new family dynamic. For example, I have learned that the biological parent should be the major source of guidance and discipline. That’s what led me to say the following:

Yeah, the biological parent is supposed to provide the majority of the guidance. That’s why it’s ok for me to threaten to shoot Little I in the ass with a Nerf gun, but it’s not ok for you to ask him to keep trying on pants you know are too small.

The true art of motherhood is in the rule making.

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Oh, And Welcome to the Blog…

I got a bit ahead of myself last week, posting my views on the University of Chicago, before I had a chance to write an introductory post. That’s pretty par for the course, though. I get fired up about something and I’m off…

I’ve been writing blogs in one variety or another for about 12 years now. I began on MySpace when I was in grad school, moved to LiveJournal, and then BlogSpot, ScienceBlogs, and Wordpress. Why a new blog now?

9eba7592437aaa993ffbf33aa75d14b2I started my BlogSpot blog as a hobby when my husband (at the time) decided to try his hand at writing. I picked my blog name because we had recently been to Egypt and I was intrigued by the mythology we encountered. Small cracks had already begun to form in my now ill-fated marriage and I was inspired by my namesake to double down on my commitment to it. She was the goddess of motherhood and nature, and friend to the downtrodden. When her husband Osiris was murdered by the evil god Set and torn in to pieces, she searched for his pieces and reconstructed him. That really resonated with me and I thought, no matter how many pieces things were torn into, I would always fight to put them back together.

So, when things started to fall apart in a way I couldn’t reconstruct, the whole thing became…unpleasant. A reminder of how I couldn’t figure out how to put everything back together. Over the past couple of years, the name also became more commonly associated with political unpleasantness and I started getting a lot of “correspondence” about events in the world I have nothing to do with.  These two factors made things so un-hilarious, that it took very little recently to make me realize I just wasn’t into my pseudonymous blog anymore.

So, now I’m over here. I’m the same person as I was in many ways, except that (compared to when I started the last enterprise), I’m looking down the barrel of forty instead of thirty, I’m in a new-ish city in a new-ish job, and I’m about to give husband #2 a whirl. He comes with three kids of his own, and mixing that all together is bound to be an adventure. Or, something like that. I just want a happy little lab and a happy little farm house with some happy little chickens. That’s why I’m dreaming of chickens. And maybe a goat. Or, a duck.

I still like shoes, though. Especially these ones.

 

We Got All the Safe Spaces You Need…

UChicago

 

I had intended to write a little welcome post or something on this humble new blog, but then I saw something I wanted to write about. Maybe you’ll get welcomed tomorrow. Or not.

Last night I was putting the kids to bed and intermittently checking Twitter when I saw news of a letter send by University of Chicago Dean of Students Jay Ellison sent to the incoming class of 2020. In the letter, Ellison writes:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Twitter is now, well, a-twitter with folks like fine folks like this who think that the University of Chicago is moving in the right (you know, away from the left) direction:

But, here’s the problem. The letter doesn’t say that students should expect to be uncomfortable in their learning, or to have their current beliefs challenged. It says not to expect “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”. Both of these phrases come from the discourses of historically marginalized groups. “Trigger warning” ha1117-transs gained prevalence in feminist circles, particularly where women discuss issues of sexual assault and warn each other of the graphic details to follow. “Safe space” has also been used in this context, and additionally by members of the LGBTQ community, which has traditionally been the subject of horrendous discrimination based on their sexual preferences and gender identity.

So, imagine you’re a university official and you are under the mistaken impression that all millenials are overly-sensitive, entitled, left-wing whiners and you want to send a message to the imcoming class that they should be prepared to not be coddled. You send them a letter telling them not to expect “triggers warnings” and “safe spaces”. Well, you should be prepared to have this interpreted as being in exceptionally poor taste when your university has an actual problem with rape.

Among other events, in 2014, students of the University of Chicago published a list of students accused of sexually harassing or assaulting their peers. In 2015, a professor at graduation made an innuendo-ed joke that students had been subject to assault during their college careers, stating, “ You’ve been able to rub elbows with some of the greatest minds in the world. And judging by the recent campus climate survey, that’s not the only thing you’ve been rubbing up against”. The following year, a university professor resigned amidst rape allegations and it was later discovered that he had been the subject of sexual harassment probes elsewhere when he was hired by the University of Chicago. In March, the university became subject to a federal probe related to its treatment of victims of sexual violence.

Now, I certainly do not mean to imply that the University of Chicago is the only university with a rape problem. Many of America’s university of plagued with the issues – issues that are coming into the lime light because this generation’s students (for whatever reason) are fired up enough to say something about it.  It’s just that the University of Chicago has opted to send a very clear message, using very specific terminology, that their students need to not be such delicate flowers about it.

 

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