Monday, May 14, 2018

I Have This Friend

I have this friend. In physical appearance she is gorgeous. In conversational engagement she is captivating. In lifestyle she pursues the things she loves with passion.. Any man who meets her is going to be smitten; because in attractiveness she is the total package.  As I first started spending time with her I was taken by her. So, I did what any man enamored of a woman should do; I told her. I laid myself out there and told her all the reasons I was enchanted by her. My friend did not return my romantic intoxications.

I have this friend. I am honored to call a friend. All the reasons I find her amazing do not disappear because she is not attracted in a fairy-tale crush on me.  Most of the qualities that attracted me romantically are the same qualities that attract me to friendships. I want friends who are easy to lose time in conversation with and embrace their life with fervor.  She is both these things.

I have this friend who had a conversation this evening with another guy who found himself infatuated by her many charms. Yet, his response to her rebuffs of his romantic advances was very different than my own. See, like myself, she considered this person a friend as well. They had shared life challenges and she had been there for him when his life situation needed a friend to be there.  

I have this friend who was verbally assaulted, unfriended and blocked by a person she called a friend simply because she said to him, “No, I am not romantically interested.”

Men, this has to stop. We have to do better. How can a woman you considered a friend be discarded so easily simply because they do not return your attractions?  Are we as a gender so focused on our erotic passion that a woman uninterested in romance is discardable.  This is the pinnacle of objectification. 

Men, since you are unable to hear it from the women in your life I am going to repeat it here for you. That woman, your friend, is an entire person. She like you is fully able to possess a range of differing emotions. She, like you, is entitled to the attractions that allure her.  You are not owed her carnal sensuality simply because you express attraction. If all you can see her for is how she responds to your advances than you were never her friend to begin with. 

Men, do you want to be used? Of course the answer to that question is no. So then, why do you feel the women in your life feel any differently? To have a friendship discarded this easily hurts. This kind of capricious response to her honest response proves you were using her for the entirety of the relationship.

Men, I have this friend who I want to trust me. In fact, I have several friends who are women and I want them all to trust me. I want them to trust that our time is safe, our vulnerability is genuine, and our friendship is rooted in the whole of their personhood. However, how can I ask this trust when the bulk of their investments in relationships with men end in this way? 

Women, I am sorry. I am sorry our culture did not teach this lesson to men when they were boys. I am sorry that the repeating actions by a string of men have positioned you to feel unsafe as your default. I am sorry that teaching the emotional responsibility of friendship has been so grossly ignored in our culture.

Men, I need us to wise up, grow up, and do better. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Meeting Someone New aka I Am A Nerd

Today a Facebook friend linked to this article, "13 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married" and I clicked through to read it.  I honestly thought it was a really great list of important ideas to discuss before two people shared vows and joined in a committed partnership intended to be life long. Really, the article has nothing to do with this blog post at all, except it was the catalyst for reminding me that I had compiled a question list myself a few months back.  Although, my list is more about getting to know a person you have newly met and have romantic interest in.

The list started when a woman I had been chatting online with asked me to send her any questions I had about her.  The questions I sent to her were slightly different than these as they were inspired by our conversation up to that point, but those questions I sent her became the skeleton which I would refine into this list.  She never did respond to the questions and that at first got me wondering if the questions we bad, or if the medium was bad.  Obviously, I decided it was the medium and worked hard to refine the questions to where I have them today.

Truth be told, because I am a total nerd, I would use this list with anyone new I met whether there was romantic interest or not.  In my ideal world, meeting someone new I would ask them to a coffee shop and we would go over this list together. The medium of answering these together in a dialog would work much better and not feel like an assignment as I think the original emailed list did when . Going through the entire list together the other party and myself would both have a good idea of whether or not we were going to be compatible.

So here is my nerdy list of "First Date Questions" which can be used for both new friendship or new romantic prospect.

1. What are your favorites of all time and why?
A. Novels
B. Authors
C. Television Show
D. Movies
E. Philosophers
F. Stage Plays
G. Musicals
H. Albums
I. Songs
J. Board Games
K. Card Games
L. Role Playing Games

2. Famous fictional duos, marry one murder the other.
A. Kirk and Spock
B. Batman and Robin
C. Hermoine and Harry
D. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
E. Rachel and Monica
F. Buffy and Angel
G. Ted and Barney
H. Frodo and Sam
I. Arya and Sansa
J. (Bonus since they're real) Lennon and McCartney

3. What is your type on each of these personality scales?
A. Meyers-Brigg
B. Enneagram
C. Jungian Archetypes
D. World's Smallest Political Test
E. Dawkins Test
F. Chakra Center
G: Kinsey Scale
H. Locus of Control
I. Hogwarts House

4. If you were to receive a call tomorrow letting you know a distant relative had set up a $10,000 a month endowment in your honor how would your life change?

5. If you were invited to be the keynote speaker at a TED event what would the title of your talk be, and what thesis would you want to communicate to the audience with your 18 minutes?

6. Do you have one or more artistic outlets? How do you use these outlets to contribute to shaping the world around you? How have these outlets changed over the course of life events?

7.  Looking at your last major romantic relationship; When measured in the narrative arc of your life story would you consider the relationship beneficial or not?

8. What is your relationship with intoxicants? Legal and illegal?

9. What is your relationship with spirituality? How has your spirituality changed you? How has your spirituality changed because of changes to who you were?

10. What is a story that exemplifies the transition that defines who you are now?

I have never actually used this list explicitly and I am intrigued to know what other people would think if they had met someone new and there first time going out socially that person pulled out a list of questions for discussions.  I personally would be intrigued to learn more about the person with the list and to see what the list questions were.  But I am a self confessed socially awkward nerd and geek, so I also acknowledge I am not the best measuring stick.  I can definitely see where another person would find this intimidating or invasive. If you like the list idea and have other questions that would improve it let me know what you are thinking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Reflection On Mental Labor

My friend Scot Moore on his blog 21st Century men started a conversation about “Mental Labor” and the stress its disproportionate distribution on women adds into a marriage. As a divorced man man myself, who was very surprised when my “good marriage” ended this post has really had the wheels churching in my head today as I processed his post and my thoughts resulting from the post.

At that time I honestly thought I was an extremely good husband. I worked a full time job and made a comfortable income. I made sure the kids got to their extra-curricular activities. I did my share of chores. I honestly always thought I was emotionally supportive and loving. I was a good man with a good marriage; if you asked me my wife was doing alright.

This was not her perspective however. In the tense conversations that occour when a relationship is ending I was both called controlling and also accused of ignoring of our family’s needs. Understandably, by a person who feels controlled and ignored, she found the freedom and attention she was desiring in the affections of an old flame. We tried counseling, tried polyamory, tried everything we could to save our “good marriage.” In the end it was too late.

I have spent many hours in self reflection over these three years, looking for that golden arrow that would slice through and explain her, myself, and our breakdown in such a way where I would not repeat the same mistakes. I want to be a good male partner, and that means honest acknowledgement of my failures so that I can be intentional about my actions in future relationships.

There is an oddity in our culture. When you separate from a relationship encouraging friends want to assure you that it is all your partner’s fault. You become surrounded by people, all of whom assure you that you are the victim. I was never one to entertain these platitudes. Yes, my ex played her part in our split, but I also played my part. The principle goal of my self reflection has been on understanding that role I played.

Social scientist talk about the four forms of labor present in a bonded pair relationship. These labors consist of economic, physical, mental, and emotional. Although we were never anything above comfortable middle class I always provide it sufficiently in the economic labor.

Emotional vulnerability was definitely a skill I desperately lacked early in our relationship, it was also something I was progressively working on in the years we were together. Though I struggled to be open about my own emotional needs, I was very responsive to listening and responding to her emotional needs. If I were attempting to be as self actualized as possible about my role in bearing be emotional labor of our relationship I would not paint myself as a shining knight, but I do believe it is fair to say I bore a near equal role in this load.

The physical labor of our relationship was never equal. Do not get me wrong, I did my part when my part came up. I was never the kind of guy who sat on the couch and expected my dinner and beer after work. I helped prepare meals and assisted with other chores when those chores needed my assistance. Laundry, dishes, picking up, dirty diapers, and shopping were rarely ever performed by me while the children were small. Naturally, I could defensively explain that in those years I was working outside the family and my wife was working within the family; therefore the discrepancy in physical labor was to be expected.

That arrangement worked very well for our family until the youngest child was starting school and my ex wife was returning to the workforce. At this same time, she was going back to work out side the family my work situation had changed and I was working from home the majority of the time. Working from home I picked up more of the chore load. and if you had asked me at the time, I would have swore I was performing an equal contribution to the chores.
It is three years later now. I have been the custodial parent since our split. It is only in these couple years as a single custodial parent that I realize what a minimal portion of the household labor I was performing.

Which brings me back to my friend Scot’s blog post this morning on “mental labor.” Perhaps more accurately to the comic by French feminist comic artist Emma. Please, stop reading this post now and return after you have read all the panels of Emma’s comic on mental labor. This comic strip is my Golden arrow. I never in our 16 years together carried any more than the most negligible portion of the mental labor.

I have learned about mental labor in the years since our break up just from the practical results of having to learn to effectively manage a household of children. We have implemented systems together to make sure people have the food and other shopping needs they require. I have learned to recognize what tasks need to be completed and assign them out to the best family member for completion. I laughed out loud at the portion of the comic strip where the female partner started to complete one chore, which led to stumbling across and needing to complete the other fifteen chores: as this is now a regular occurrence in my life.

My complete lack of an acknowledgment of an entire quadrant of household management was the ticking time bomb of our relationship. This ignored quadrant was acceptably balanced when my ex was a stay at home parent and neither of us felt the impending strain of roles which would eventually be our undoing. However after her return to the workforce the strain increased till the bough broke and the unravelling multiplied exponentially.

This week has been an interesting primer for me to be open to hearing this lesson. I have recently finished two novels by Meg Elison which each took place in a dystopian future where a plague had killed well moire than 90% of the world's women. This week, I have been reading Stephen and Owen King’s new book "Sleeping Beauties" which is a fantasy moral story about a world where all the women have fallen asleep. On Monday, when the #metoo hash tag was trending I also read a short story by author Carmen Maria Machado about the unrelenting demands of being a woman in the world. That same day a female friend posted a meme asking men for one tangible step they would take to end rape culture. Tuesday, I read another article about the rising phenomenon of the female midlife crisis. All of this prepared me to see and understand the answer I have been looking for,. Women are feeling scared, broken, and trapped in our culture primarily because men are not bearing their load of the work in changing the world for the better.

I leave this with two concluding thoughts for myself going forward. Thought one, in my possibly future existing pair bonded relationship I will be intentional to take regular inventory to ensure all four quadrants of household maintenance our shared equitably. More currently actionable, is I will work to bear my load of mental labor to seeing the practical work of crushing misogyny and patriarchy.

I recognize that this has been a rambling self reflective post. However, my hope is that it will inspire the same kind of rambling reflective journey in your thoughts as well. My wish for my fellow males is that we will together commit to bearing the economic, emotional, physical, and mental loads of both our relationships and also our society within the spheres of influence that we live within.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Walked In

Last night at 6:18PM I pulled up to UCBC for the Tesseract fundraising event. I was having a full on anxiety attack as I sat in my car. I both love and need to be around people. Put me on a stage and I will talk to 1000s with the authority and confidence of the most seasoned speaker. Sit with me at a table one on one, and when our time together expires we will separate as richer friends. Even so, being placed into a social crowd is my emotional kryptonite. In these kinds of situations, I usually keep to events where I can be hidden by the busyness of running the event. This allows me to feed on the energy of the other attenders without having to face my own social anxieties.
This was not that type of event, and I had absolutely no wall to position between myself and my mess of anxious feelings. I sat in my car deciding, will I go in or will I leave and offer the excuse of something coming up unexpectedly?

At 6:23PM I worked up the composure to face the reservations created by my internal monologue of apprehensions and headed inside. Each step toward the door was an act of decisive self-possession; my mistrust attempting to dissuade my advancement.

I made it through the doors and immediately lost all will to stay. The worrisome view of a table with 8 people already seated engaged in conversation seemed foreboding; the task of approaching and joining them overwhelming. I would have ducked and run, my head down like a criminal guided into the court room, but I had been seen already.

In that minuscule moment I had accepted the embarrassment of telling my therapist that I attempted a purely social event but just could not face the distress of my panic. He would chide me, remind me this kind of event was our exact therapy goal, and we would make a new plan for a future event. The shame of facing him would rush past, awkward but tolerable.

However, that table was full of people I know and work with, and others though I did not know I would also be collaborating with at some future point. I could not escape after being seen; a resolute approach to join the group was my only option.

One hour I resolved to stay; sustain the illusion of self confident social skills, and leave before the dread of my clumsy self doubt overwhelmed. I am a theatre professional, I could handle an hour of play-acting the social maverick.

I did not leave after an hour. Instead despite all the phobic dread I had composed around the event I relaxed and had an amazing time. These table mates were amazing both those who were old friends and the ones who were new. I sat and listened to stories, told stories, and shared time with nothing manifested from my plagued inner monologue. Four hours later when it came time to excuse myself there was no urgency or lingering longing for escape.

Life after a long term relationship can be difficult. Having a partner, a reliable person to retreat to in social situations is an overlooked perk of coupling. I have crafted my social encounters for almost three years now, ensuring every event I attended included a safety net of a person that I felt safe to hide amongst or a supervisory role that I could retreat within. However last night, I surrendered that control and went rogue against my anxieties.

I walked in, joined the crowd, and had the absolute best time.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Everything is Balanced and Serene. Like Chaos Never Happens if it’s Never Seen"

The truth is, it only lasted 10 minutes. The picture will still remain on Instagram and Facebook; popping up through out the day into my friend's and acquaintance's feeds. I will add the "Likes" as the day  progresses. They will be envious of the view, the coffee, and even the outside temperature; each element was carefully framed to invoke jealousy when the algorithm delivers my perfectly couture post. Reality however, is vastly different than the serene illusion presented in my carefully manicured image.  Reality is, the serenity on lasted 10 minutes.

It was only 10 minutes later the tranquility was replaced by entropy .  As I shot the photo there were already small irritations, not worth mentioning. I had become a mosquito smorgasbord, the WiFi signal was weak so Internet speed was terrible, and my neighbors were having a distractingly loud conversation while they too enjoyed the cool morning air.  Yet, those were mere vexes, minor dander which would not ruin my peaceful space.

10 minutes, it only lasted 10 minutes before I bumped the TV tray leg as I was attempting to stand up. Plans were to run inside for just a quick potty break. Two minutes inside and then back to the comfortable cool of my morning work space.  That however, never happened.  My leg whacked against the tray which went flying upward, launching my coffee at a trajectory somehow perfectly aimed to inflict the highest level of splatter across the computer keyboard.  Milliseconds later these new elements of turmoil peaked in their upward ascent and hurled back in a clatter.

Just 10 minutes later, I was now staring at a TV tray in pieces, a venti coffee spilled and splashed across my keyboard, and my computer crashed atop the entire mess.  I stared blankly for several seconds attempting to assess the wreck in front of me. "Fuck!" I screamed; the explicative jarring me into a reactive action.  I grabbed my computer sprinting inside to the kitchen to clean the coffee before it leaked inside between the keyboard keys.

10 minutes of simplicity which will remain enshrined, returning again in the future through "On This Day" notifications.  The chaos, will not return.  The chaos does not exist in the digital breadcrumbs and archives we are leaving behind.  I am not attempting to hide the mess, it is just that when the computer is covered in coffee and more is continuing to pour out there is no time to frame the perfect photo.  There is only response! Action to alleviate the unexpected quagmire. The chaos is not chronicled because the time is consumed by exertion of intervention.

Like my picture perfect morning, I reflect on how much wonder and beauty is underpinned with unseen chaos.  I am in the midst of an Independent theatre festival. Being Monday morning I started my day by perusing through the wonderful photos, rave reviews, and personal memories posted to social media by the attendees and press. It is all the perfect picture of  our Festival. As patrons watched shows, supported artists,  and made memories  I planned, acted, and reacted; once running seven blocks from one venue to another because the show needed to start and no one could make sound from the wireless microphone come out through the speakers.  There is the ever present commotion and disarray.  It is in the social media photo and it is in the Festival. It is in every human event we share.

"Everything is balanced and serene. 
Like chaos never happens if it’s never seen."
-Fun Home the Musical

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Booklist (First Half Of Year)

I know there are many who claim listening to audiobooks does not count as reading.  I personally object, given the fact that I spend a great deal of time commuting between home in the St Louis area and work in the Chicago area this is the only way I get to read quite as many books a year as I do.

I am very ecclectic in my listening, with titles coming from philosophy, politics, economics, science. and fiction.  Although I have enjoyed most everything I have read this year, this favorites list seems to lean heavily toward fiction.

#5 - Sex At Dawn - Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

This title is the only nonfiction to make my favorites list.  Dan Savage is quoted as saying, "Sex At Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948." I really would not disagree with him.  While tasked academically with bringing together evolutionary biology, cultral anthropology, and excelent archeology, the book manages to remain entertaining.  I enjoyed this book so much, I listened to it second time along with my teenager, because I felt that it's message was that important.

#4 - Big Fish - Daniel Wallace

Definitely the oldest title on this list, and in many ways the one I do not how I had never managed to read previously.  I am a huge fan of both Tim Burton's movie adaptation and Andrew Lippa's musical adaptation, and still I had never read this source text for both those amazing works.  I am so glad that is no longer true.  Wallace tells a story that is too much to be believed, with emotion that is too real to not be felt.  I can truly say that this book, the movie, and the musical are all masterpieces.

#3 - Zane and the Huricane - Rodman Philbrick

This is a story of a mixed race middle class yankee who due to an unfortunate set of circumstances finds himself stuck right in the middle of the Huricane Katrina tragedy.  This story is powerfully character driven, and each principal member of it's cast becomes a cause whose sucess you are cheering for.  Although this title, like the one beneath it is sold as young adult fiction, there is no need to be young at all to be affected by the wonderful narrative this author uses to expose the conflict of race and class faced in the aftermath of the tragedy.

#2  - The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier

Unlike every other story on this list The Night Gardener does not have any point to make on social issues.  Instead, this book is just great storytelling at it's best.  I want the author to tell me a bedtime story every night.  In many ways, I would compare the "fright" factor of this book to M Night Shamalyan's "The Lady In The Water."  In this way the story seemed suspensful enough to hold it's youth audience as horror, and yet never crossed a line where that audience would be troubled with resulting nightmares.  

#1 - The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

My only regret with this title is that I did not write a review the day I finsihed reading it.  I can not say enough positive things about this work.  To look at the bibliography of Neil Gaiman's work and believe that any title could be better than The Sandman and Coraline is a tough claim to make. Yet I will unequivocally state, that this is Gaiman's best work.  What I enjoyed most about this book was the writing voice Gaiman chose.  In many ways it felt like I was listening to young adult fiction, and yet this story, and it's moral message is clearly aimed at his adult audience.

Although Ocean at the End of the Lane was not able to dethrone Lois Lowry's "The Giver" from it's number one spot as my all time favorite story. I do feel I can safely say that after finishing "Ocean" Ursula LeGuinn's "The Dispossessed" had to move back to the bronze medal seat of my favorite novels.

I would encourage anyone to read any or all of these great books.  Each were magnificent gifts rom the authors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Word For Baltimore!

When the people of this country share equal access to academic and economic opportunity; then we will sit quietly.

When the people of this great nation share one justice system and that system seeks justice, then we will gather peaceably.

When the people of this country recognize the wounds of systemic disenfranchisement are not mended by apologies and new laws, then we will no longer need to shout the classic anthems of liberation.

But today is not that day and today we scream. 

We cry out for the voiceless ancestors who were beaten till they cried out no more.

We interrupt your comfortable life for those who have been cheated of the chance of justice.

We agitate alongside those generations of agitators who never saw economic and academic parity.

Though my skin is not dark like yours, and I lack the fire of your youth. I stand with you Baltimore! I stand with you Minneapolis! I stand with you Ferguson! I stand with all my brethren of color and I cry out alongside you; "Black Lives Matter," until this anthem can not be ignored any longer.

The Power is the problem! The People must be the answer! 

Disunity is the weapon of our captors, interdependence must become the salve of our liberation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mosaic Rel8 and CJHS - Dialogue is Key

Mosaic has rallied their base and posted a response to my open letter. As you can see, I am accused of lying, which I certainly do not feel I have done.

I have only made claims of what my daughter relayed to me about the class, and the things I have learned from their website and Facebook page about the organization.  I am certainly open to hearing where I lied, and if I have I will certainly apologize. I do not want a religious group proselytizing in our school district, but I do not want to accomplish their removal through any form of deceit or misdirection.  I desire an open honest dialogue.

Mosaic PHC does not want dialogue.  Her mother posted the following comment on the post I displayed above:

My daughter attends the participating school that you reference here and it is a public school. I have taken a screen shot of your post. I find it interesting that you call yourself abstinence education when the school refers to what you do as sex education. Those are two very different types of education. One is science based and one has religious motivation. I have no problem with you teaching abstinence based education to your youth groups, your church rallies... Your private schools... But I do have a problem when you come into a public school with a religious agenda. Right, wrong, or indifferent my husband and I would not be fighting this had the school sent home an opt out letter being honest about what they intended to allow. We would have just opted our daughter out of the program. Other people I know would have taken up the offense while also not letting their child participate. It is humorous to me that you call my husband a liar. We are the ones who feel lied to by the school our daughter attends. They never told us the "sex education" would be abstinence education.

I grew up going to private Christian schools. I had abstinence education foisted upon me. I know what it is you believe & I understand why you do what you do. I could have raised my children in this environment, but I chose & continually choose not to. It is one of the reasons why my husband and I send our children to public schools.

I don't want my children thinking young earth creationism is a valid alternative to evolution nor do I want them to fear sexual relations outside of marriage. I know you disagree with me, but I believe relationships help you on your own road to self discovery. No young adult should have to hurry thru this process and grow up too quickly via marriage which is what abstinence until marriage propagates. I don't want my daughter getting married until she has had all the time in the world to figure out who she is. Telling her she has to wait until marriage to have sex hurries up that process because sex is natural and we all are born with curiosity and curiosity leads us to places where we get to come face to face with who we are & make the decisions we want to make and grow from there.

If my husband and I don't fight this fight my daughter will think we agree with what is being taught because we have sent her to this school... By not fighting we are guilty by association. She may make assumptions about how it is I feel and she may not feel comfortable coming to me with questions about her budding sexuality; she may think that I want her to wait. If she does not come to me, the chances are high that she won't get the information on disease & child prevention that she needs to stay safe and child free. She is also not likely to go to a place that will help her stay protected without my knowledge. My daughter will more than likely end up with the very things you don't want for her, like STD's & unwanted pregnancy.

Your scare tactics don't help prevent the things you strive to eliminate... They just silence the young adult. Young adults are going to do what they are going to do... History proves this. Abstinence education has been taught for no avail. Teens are still getting pregnant & getting STD's. Why not tell people that sex is normal and natural and that we can help you protect yourself when you feel ready? I know your answer... It is against your religion... Which brings me full circle... I don't send my daughter to public school for a religious education... And that, Mosaic, is where you are guilty of being the liars.

You feel you have a mandate from your God to infiltrate places where the constitution has clearly given you no access. What you are doing is an insidious violation of the separation between church and state. I should have to take my child, extracurricularly, to another place to get your type of education... I should get to choose this for my child... But my right to choose it for my child was taken away by you and now I am having to fight to get you out. This is not how this should work. As Christians you would be aghast to find that your children were getting Islamic ideas on marriage forced upon them in their sex Ed classes... Why can't people like you see that you do the same thing that you hate?
I do not feel her mother was rude, or condescending. I feel like her post was an open invitation to dialogue. Mosaic did not feel the same. Her comment was removed, and she was blocked from the site.

Our meeting with the CJHS principal went NOTHING like my wife's attempt to reach out to Mosaic.  Although the meeting did not resolve the issue of this group continuing to have access to preach their message and instill their shame based rhetoric; it did open doors to further discussion with the school.  I do feel very confident, this program will be removed from District 118, and a program which is in compliance with state law will replace it.

This does not mean I am washing my hands and declaring the matter finished.  I am continuing up the administration to lobby for sex education that is in compliance will Illinois law. I now have been provided a copy of the curriculum and I will be reading it, and presenting my thoughts to the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum here in District 118.   I am willing if necessary to face the school board with my concerns, however after the positive meeting this morning, I do not feel that will be necessary.  As has always been my experience with District 118 in the past, the school is open and participatory in this dialogue. the

I do believe dialogue is key for all stake holders.  I want to invite Kathy Sparks, Julie Mayfield, Megan Tinney, and any other stakeholders in Mosaic's mission to an open dialogue.  I would love to have lunch, here in Belleville or over in Granite City; I will even buy.  Although we certainly disagree on methodology and meaning, I believe in dialogue you will see we are ALL interested in the best future for our area's youth.  Access to youth is a great responsibility; If you want to preach your message to my children, I only hope you will be willing to meet with me.  Dialogue is key, and the invitation in in your court.

EDIT 12/15/2014: My daughter's mother and I have separated since this post was written. I have edited my language to reflect that, but left her's in tact as posted to ReL8.  Her mother and I remain close to each other and will continue to be joint allies in the raising of all our children. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Troll Feeding: My response to Abby.

After my previous two posts I had a woman I don't know respond on a Facebook post I had made.  I wanted to take a few moments to quickly respond here.

"I went to mosiac when I found out I was pregnant. They never spoke to me about religion."

I am very glad you found the support you needed at Mosaic PHC, I am quite sure that the world needs organization that offer all kinds of opinions.  I will say though, that you testimony makes them liars to the many 100s of people who support their ministry.  I have spent quite a lot of time on their website and Facebook these past few days and their claim is every woman is "shared the gospel of Christ"  If this did not happen, that means you were used, since the organization is making claims about your experience that are not true.

They spoke about the safest practices. Abstinence. 

Perhaps if you had read my posts you would see that I have no issue with abstinence.  You are correct that unless you're theotokos abstinence works; so long as it is practiced.  The issue is when it is no longer practiced.  See evidence shows that abstinence education programs do not stop teens from having sex, it only leaves them unprepared when the time comes where they do begin sexual activity.

They gave real facts about stds and plan b. How BC hormones can harm you. They are well educated and great educators. 

Sorry, you lost me on the "how birth control is harmful" and great educators.  You're going to have to choose one or the other.  Again, that pesky evidence keeps popping up.  Rumors about the harmful effects of birth control have been debunked repeatedly.  In the medical world lying about a drug causes you to lose your license and livelihood;  generally speaking under that threat people do not hide the real facts.  It does creep in and it is quickly rooted out and repudiated. This is the real facts.

Yes they are faith based. So what! I was offered a Bible when I left.  I'm glad they were there.

I have no issue with Faith based organizations. I am glad you were offered a Bible as you left. I am also glad you found the support you needed in a difficult time.  Different people have different needs, and I am glad you found the place which met your needs.  In political philosophy we call this "free association."  Free association is the right of individuals to form social contracts and the freedom for the individual to secede from those contracts when they no longer seem beneficial to the individual.  I have certain social and religious institutions that I also practice free association with.  So long as the terms of the social contract with a faith based organization is rooted in free association I support that organization.

People need to chill out.

I'm going to skip this one, since in the entire basis of your point is that this organization has the right to it's message, but I do not have the right to respond.  That seems both disingenuous and hypocritical.  I am sure the ability to write such a lengthy response with out actually reading my posts demonstrates you are not the kind of person who fires off disingenuous and hypocritical rants, so we will just pretend it is not there.

 I'm sorry but its ok to talk about condoms and sex but not about abstinence and religion.

Once again, if you had actually read my posts there is NOTHING against abstinence or religion in
either of them.  The problem with programs like this is they violate the "free association" that I wrote about earlier.  When a particular religion is given preference in the secular classroom that violates the free association of religion.  My religious view differ from the instructors. Fortunately there is medically accurate evidence based  material available for the classroom; and everyone is left to teach their values in a free association environment.

Open your eyes people, we need more religion in our world...cuz its blowing up with out it!!!

You feel the world is "blowing up" because it needs more religion.  I think Martin Luther King Jr more accurately surmised the state of the world when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  I think what the world needs is love and justice. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  

I am going to keep demanding for justice.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Belleville District 118 - Masturbation, Morality, Manipulation, & Malfeasance

On Thursday I sent a strongly worded letter to the administration of my daughter's school regarding a
teacher who instructed her class that "masturbation is a form of self harm."  As my daughter and I continued to discuss the program over the following two days I once asked her, "Has Ms. Tinney (the instructor) said anything else that would concern you?"

"She always uses boyfriend or husband. Not once has she said partner or significant other."

This sent the red flags waiving in my head; not that using boyfriend and husband are wrong to use, just the unwavering hetero-normative language confirmed my suspicion that this teacher had an agenda.

Sure enough, with research and dissection my suspicions were confirmed.  The instructors warnings against masturbation had nothing to do with sex education and everything to do with proselytizing a particular pro-life Christian morality to public school students.

 Meet Rel8. "The ReL8 program exists to influence youth as they pursue a lifestyle of saving sex for marriage. " and "Our core values are a set of unchanging beliefs or principles that guide and govern the decisions of ReL8. Uncompromising Integrity - living right at any cost,  Undeniable Relevance - being who we are in today’s world. Unwavering Excellence - nothing less than our best"

Although the Rel8 page was fairly sanitized, further surfing around the organization's support website made it very clear,  "Mosaic PHC is a Christ-centered organization that shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reveals His love through our words and compassionate care."
This group exists to proselytize.  The Rel8 program purpose is to instill their religious morality on adolescents under the guise of sex education.

Please do not mistake what I am saying. I am not opposed the work and ministry of this organization.  Mosaic PHC has every right under the law, and a responsibility under their  faith to provide the ministry and teachings they provide.  I am certain the Rel8 program is a wonderful method to teach adherents, to their faith system, the moral teachings of their understanding of their sacred texts.  Youth programs at church, Bible Studies, youth rallies, and youth camps are ideal settings for the message of the Rel8 program.

I am opposed to evangelism by manipulation.  I am opposed to marketing to schools a sex education class while promoting a mission that is wholly different. If you want to present your core values to students in the public school system then you should promote an opt-in after school program like Child Evangelism Fellowship, Boy Scouts of America, and other similar groups.  I believe the bible mentions lying as part of the ten commandments.

Which brings me to the District 118 school board allowing teaching that is in clear violation of Illinois Public Act 098-0441. Whether this is ignorance or intentional I don't know. However, the malfeasance remains the same; this school board is endorsing the proselytizing of a particular brand of Christianity under the guise of academic instruction and without the informed consent of the student's parents.

Mosaic PHC founder and president in an interview on states, "Condom-centered educators believe promoting birth control and contraceptives addresses all these needs. But schools try to prevent any type of teen risky behavior — drugs, alcohol, smoking. They’re not going to say, “We know you are going to smoke, so here’s a pack.” Sexual activity among teenagers is a risky behavior, but schools take a secondary approach. They say, “We don’t want you to, but if you are, just be safe about it.” Rel8 believes a primary approach is the best whether it’s sex, drugs or alcohol."

To Mosaic, sex is a morally corrupt activity, harmful in the same way drugs, alcohol, and smoking are harmful.  However, I challenge her to present me one peer reviewed study that shows sex damages organs, stunts brain development, or otherwise physically harms it's participants.

Morally speaking she is correct under her religious beliefs, however Illinois state law clarifies
material presented in school sexual education programs must be "Evidence-based and medically accurate." Mosaic fearing this reality writes on their Facebook page that the proselytizing Rel8 program is jeopardized by using science and evidence as the measure for school sexual educational program.

Thankfully, Illinois has laws like this in place, unfortunately The District 118 Board of Education has chosen to ignore both the law and our student's civil rights by allowing Rel8 to continue "ministering" in our schools. Evidence based medically accurate information should not be the standard only because it is the law, but instead our Board of Education should want our children educated not evangelized. I am sorry to learn that the current program ignores the education in favor of the evangelism.

Mosaic PHC must be removed from our schools. Their manipulation and deceit must be called out for what it is. Our classrooms should be places of fact and evidence, not religious beliefs or principles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Open Letter to Belleville District 118 on Sexual Traumatizing of Female Students

I have been silent.  Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that dress codes derived from the sexualitization of young girls result in clinical depression, eating disorders, reduced cognitive function, sexual dysfunction and professional inhibition[i]; I have not said anything.  I have chosen to combat the misinformation being internalized by my daughter, as a result of your dress codes which have no basis in social research, at home.  However, my daughter’s report of what is going on in the health class she has recently began will not allow me to remain silent any longer.

According to my daughter’s retelling of the instructor’s lesson, she told them that "self-pleasure is a form of self harm," and like all other forms of sex it should be avoided.  I was aghast, even first telling her there was no way this was being sanctioned and taught in a 21st century public school classroom. Yes, Kellog, Freud, and others taught this kind of nonsense in the early twentieth century but a hundred years of medical and psychology research has thoroughly debunked and rebutted these unscientific ideas.[ii]

Current research finds that masturbation in adolescent girls is an early indicator of future sexual health.  “One of the best predictors of whether a woman will be able to achieve orgasm in her sexual relations is a history of masturbation in adolescence.”[iii]  This kind of misinformation and stigmatization of natural and beneficial human behavior is counterproductive in society’s goal to create safe healthy sexual beings. As Masters and Johnson wrote “Although masturbation is the safest sex of all, negative feelings that may be associated with it can threaten one’s individual health and well-being.”[iv]

With the preponderance of research supporting the fact that self pleasure increases abstinence levels, improves sexual health, and reduces spread of STIs[v] it is unacceptable you would employ an instructor who would teach these thoroughly debunked and puritanical ideas.

This brings me full circle to my original criticisms of the district’s dress code.[vi] This dress code perpetuates rape culture by sexualizing our daughters and making them responsible for the “distraction” of their male peers. It is not a far stretch from, “It’s your fault he can’t concentrate on his school work;” to “It is your fault he could not control himself and sexually assaulted you.” I wonder about the harmful attitudes being forced on these young women.  Are we teaching these girls to play their sexually inhibited gender role, while teaching the glory of the male conquest in our male health classes? Are the young men also being taught that masturbation is a form of self harm; or is this attitude reserved for castigating our daughters into their proper gender roles?

I am including below a further reading section.  Parts are taken from the previously referenced research and others from additional source material available online.

For the sake of our daughters and their future as the women of our society it is your task to educate them using science, not myths and stigmatizations.   

Thank you,
Kevin J. Bowman and Christi L. Bowman


Dress Coded: An education on Unnecessary Sexualization -

EMAILED 10-23-14 To:
Rock Horrighs - CJHS Principal -
Lacey Schmersahl - CJHS Dean of Students -
Tim Baum - CJHS PE Instructor -
Joan Hasenstab - Raider Way Instructor  -
Wendy Gallaher - Learning Lab Instructor -
Matt Klosterman - District Superintendent -

[v] ibid
[vi] As a side note, it is unacceptable that I as a parent can not find a copy an actual copy of said dress code on the district website. Without a clear and defined document available to me I am left to assume the enforcement is arbitrary and subjective.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

John Green - The Fault In Our Stars

I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green over a week ago now, and I have intentionally postponed posting about it while I continued to process the story.

I would certainly think somewhere between 15 and 19 everyone needs to read this book.  Not only is it beautiful storytelling of the highest order, but it addresses our invincibility myth so powerfully in that these characters have no illusion of being powerful or invulnerable.

Now on to the subject of reading the book in your late thirties, with three children approaching their teen years, is that I still recomend reading it, but am compelled to note that the painfulness of the book amplifies so much greater.  I was left in a deep sense of sadness and emotional connection to not only the two protagonist, but also their parents, and even the antagonist with his own journey leading him to where he was at too.

I knew I was impressed, and I knew I was touched by the profundity of the story, but it took me several days to figure out why.  The story certainly moved on the muscle structure of great characters, but most stories that have risen to the level of fame and appreciation that this one has received have great characters that move the story with power and grace. I must tell you when I finally realized what Green had done, when I determined the connective tissue which brought the novel together every bit of my emotional connection to the story was explained by my logical understanding of the piece.

Carl Jung, as Wikipedia explains it, "rejected the tabula rasa theory of human psychological development, believing instead that evolutionary pressures have individual predestinations manifested in archetypes." Jung's archetypes were not only the connective tissue of the story, the story was as much a parable to express Jung's theory of archetypes as the "Allegory of the Cave" was written to explain Plato's "Theory of Forms."

If you have not yet read the book, stop reading now and get a copy. It is only $7.99 on Amazon Kindle, so get it and read it.  The remaining paragraphs will contain SPOILERS. Please stop reading now if you do not want characters dissected in a story you have not yet read.

 I knew immediately after reading the book that the conversation between Hazel and Augustus at Oranjee was the fulcrum point the novel was balanced on.  As the days passed and my pondering about the book continued, it was here that I first realized where Green was going as I mulled their conversation at Oranjee over in my head.  Up until this point in the story everything between Hazel and Augustus was based on their archetypal roles as anima and animus, or in more common terms the idealized male and female . However, in the conflict and resolution of the evenings conversation the couple attains Jung's syzygy.  This unification begins in the metaphysical discussion on the afterlife and coalesces on the park bench outside Oranjee as they discussed the disintegration and death of Caroline Mathers.

As I thought about how Green transformed the images from "anima/animus" to "syzygy" between Hazel and Augusts, I saw how Jung's archetypes were pervasive throughout the entire story.  I was blown away how the narration of the story had been so often by Hazel as self and about Hazel as shadow.  Hazel the narrator, Jung's "the self" archetype, is strong, self actualized, and at times even dismissive of her cancer. The cancer itself, present in both their bodies was a physical manifestation of a story about the pieces of ourselves Jung refers to as "the shadow." The weakness, chaos, and unknown mystery of the cancer within the bodies of these two protagonist, were so easily emotionally connected to because our own psyche is shadow, it too is weak, chaotic and mysterious to us.

Jung's other images are equally well woven into the story, the conflict between Hazel's mom as caregiver and secret student as Jung's "the Mother."  Hazel's father's working and providing  as Jung's "the father." Isaac's surgery leading to blindness and his learning to experience the world through different senses as Jung's "the persona."  Each of these well crafted archetypes made the story so easy to connect with.

One of my favorite illustrations of Jung's archetypes was his usage of Otto Frank, real life father of Anne Frank, to serve as Jung's "the wise old man." One of the most touching points in the story is in the Anne Frank house tour,
 "I must say," Otto Frank said on the video in his accented English. I was very much surprised by the deep thoughts Anne had"..."and my conclusion is," he said "since I have been in very good terms with Anne, that most parents don't really know their children." 
The quote, the timing within the story, and the tragedy which at this point has only been foreshadowed makes for, especially in retrospect, a perfect characterization of Jung's wise old man.

 Earlier in the post I wrote about my emotional connection and sympathy to VanHouten as antagonist of the story. As I finished reading I was conflicted about how I could feel so much empathy for a character who was clearly the antagonist of the story.  Clearly, one is not supposed to have such tenderness for the bad guy.  Except, VanHouten isn't a bad guy.  Carl Jung writes about another archetype, "the trickster."  VanHouten moves through the story changing forms between heroic author, general asshat, pathetic drunk, and broken father.  The trickster was by Jung's explanation the darkest most extreme pieces of "the shadow" archetype.  Jung writes, "...trickster is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness." As Paul Radin writes in the same volume, "Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself. . . . He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being.”  (source) 

The emotional connection to VanHouten, and proving this is a parable of Jung's archetypes comes in the following paragraph by Jung himself.
The peculiar thing about these dissociations is that the split-off personality is not just a random one, but stands in a complementary or compensatory relationship to the ego-personality. It is a personification of traits of character which are sometimes worse and sometimes better than those the ego-personality possesses. A collective personification like the trickster is the product of an aggregate of individuals and is welcomed by each individual as something known to him, which would not be the case if it were just an individual outgrowth"  (source)
John Green has titled the book, "The Fault in Our Stars." VanHouten in his first emailed response to Augusts takes issue with a William Shakespeare quote,
 "and never was Shakespeare more wrong than we had Cassius note "The fault dear Brutus in not in our stars / but in ourselves" Easy enough to say when you're a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found in our stars."
 This "fault in our stars" is what Jung writes about in all his work on myth and archetypes.  Jung traces our archetypes passed on from earlier generations, and even earlier evolutions that continue to affect us as a species, as societies, as communities, and as individuals.

This story matters because we are part of a tapestry that weaves back millions of years, and will continue on into time forward.  As Green himself stated in the author's note before the story, "...made up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Galbraith Is Magic - The Cuckoo's Calling

In life we find oursleves in the prescence of magic.  As we read we discover this magic too.  As I was travelling to and from Chicago this week I decided to listen to an Audible recommended read.  This is a new author, and am I ever glad the algorithms that be thought I would enjoy this book, because oh boy did I ever.

Cukoo's Calling is just another murder mystery, with just another Columbo hero.  Although the actual story was only average, a good mystery with a good twist ending; there was something in the writing style that made the book special.

Rober Galbraith had a very rare talent.  He writes with cadence.  There is a magic to his style, it is like a well directed play or movie that moves along with a pace that is clearly designed to entertain and evoke a precise emotion at a precise moment.  In many ways I use this word magic precisely be his writing moves with the same sene of direction and levity that I first fell in ove with reading the Harry Potter novels.  In many ways it seems as if Galbraith grew up reading the Potter novels and has taken the magic of Rowling's unique style and applied to a story of murder and mystery.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more by Galbraith.  The story clearly leaves room for more.  I encourage everyone I know who loves to read to enjoy this book.  I think we as readers are going to need to have a lot more oppourtunities to enjoy his work. Let's hope that is made possible by the monetary success of his debut work.