Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Had a Mike Moment Today

This morning as I was wasting time, lovingly caring for Evan, I was driving pointlessly through Del Taco to get a diet coke. And listening to NPR, of course.

They were talking about how study after study has shown that kids who attend preschool do better in school, are more likely to go to college, even more likely to stay married. Such studies have prompted certain groups and politicians to float the idea of universal preschool in certain states.

Now I'm all for programs and policies that get kids into preschool. But the Mike side of my brain, the side that Mike has successfully infiltrated, started asking these questions. Is this a spurious correlation? Maybe it's not preschool that helps kids be more successful, it's the fact that the type of kids who get put in preschool (i.e. wealthier) are the kind that have more support at home and who would do better in school anyway.

Whoa! It's frightening when that happens.

Life Is Not Fair

Last Wednesday, I went to a RS board meeting. Our bish was there at the beginning to give us a 15 minute address. One of his talk's themes was the idea that life wasn't fair. That he had gone to BYU education weekand had been very impressed by Robert Millett (sp?) who had talked about how life just wasn't fair. And that we can't expect it to be. That we just have to accept it and not spend too much time complaining about it. (There might have been more to that theme, but that's the gist of what I took away.)

I thought about this for a while. And you know what? I agree that life isn't fair. It's not fair that I have so much financial security and others don't. It's not fair that I have a super nice husband and baby and others don't. It's not fair that I have options and choices in my life - whether to work, whether to stay at home, what my profession is - and others don't. It's also not fair that I and my righteous sisters don't have the same or even similar opportunities to contribute to our church community.

But I'm not comfortable with just accepting all that. Life isn't fair. But I don't think that means I should just sit on my tail and accept it. I think I should work for a better world. A world where the poor have more opportunities for security, where all people have opportunities to for education and professional advancement, where women can contribute equally with men.

As one of the most privileged humans on earth, I think I have the responsibility to help to try to eradicate injustice when I see it. To bring attention to it. To raise the awareness of others to it. I think that's what Christ would have me do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nonviolent Communication: When to use it?

At the exponent retreat, one session focused on nonviolent communication. Not only did I enjoy every second of Victoria’s dynamic stage presence, but I also was very attracted to these new ideas of how to interact nonviolently with others, particularly those in positions of power.

The basic rules (what I gleaned at least) for nonviolent communication are these:
-Don’t use judgmental language (e.g. stay away from words like ‘offensive’ ‘unkind’ ‘ridiculous’ etc.)
-Figure out what needs are not being met. Both your own needs, and the needs of the person you are talking to. (e.g. “It’s very important for me to be involved in my baby’s blessing. This is my need. But I understand that you as bishop need to feel like there’s order in the ward. Is there a way that we can meet both of our needs?)
-Validate the other person’s need, and truly try to connect and sympathize with the other person.
-Make a request, not a demand.
-If the person does not meet your need, don’t punish them with anger or passive aggressive action. Don’t punish in any way.

Victoria also mentioned that despair work was an important part of this equation. Interacting non-violently with those who disagree with us is one thing, but we also need a community of sympathetic like-minded people with whom to vent our pain and share our stories openly and unreservedly.

I loved this presentation. As I reflected on my own interactions with people (most notably my husband) I realized how violent my language could be. How I often used judgmental language and punished when disagreed with. Hearing this presentation made me resolve to be less violent in my speech.

But…. I was left with a burning question after the presentation. When do you use nonviolent communication, and when do you lay it on the table and tell it like it is? Because it just doesn’t seem feasible to never use the strong, evaluative (ok, judgmental) language when in disagreement. It seems to me like there could be a place – a good, true, righteous place - for truly speaking your mind, no holds barred. Quakers sometimes refer to this type of speech – particularly when it’s directed at political leaders - as “Speaking truth to power.” I love that phrase.

As a feminist Mormon woman, trying to carve out a personal space in the church where I can act authentically, I know that there will be many times in my life when I will interact with Church leaders. When I will have needs that lie outside the General Handbook. Should I always use this nonviolent communication? When should I not and instead “speak truth to power”? And should I be worried that nonviolent communication may ultimately be promoting passivity in some way?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Awesome video of San Diego mayor changing his stance on gay marriage

Check this out. One of the most heart wrenching and sincere public appearances by a politician I have ever seen.
Throughout these five minutes, he struggles so hard to keep it together. Thanks for having the courage to follow your conscience, Jerry Sanders.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I loved the Exponent II retreat. So many stories, so many ideas, so many experiences. Vulnerability, honesty. It was great.

One thing I came away with was the fact that there are really awesome men in the world. A few women at the retreat married for a second time in their 40's or 50's. These are smart, issue driven women who don't exactly embody the Mormon female ideal. But these great LDS men saw their worth. How cool. Gives me hope for all the Mormon women who currently have crappy marriages. There is hope for a great second chance.

Life of a Part time working mom

School started three weeks ago, so I'm back in the working world. And I must say I'm rather enjoying it.

In the mornings I hang out with baby E. We go to the gym, where he no longer throws embarrassing tantrums. Or I'll run errands with him. I've basically accepted the fact that he's just not going to take a morning nap.

Then I either get him to a babysitter or leave him with mom or Mike at about 11:30. I come home at 4:15ish and pretty quickly start cooking dinner. Evan has recently learned to feed himself with a fork a spoon, so he's enjoying his meals more than ever before. It's fun watching him chowing his food these days.

That means that my evenings are often spent lesson planning, but it's not too bad. I think I may, after 4 years of teaching, have finally begun to find my groove. I'm not as stressed as I used to be.

Friday, September 07, 2007

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Eliza?

Last week I put Eliza on prozac. I had taken her to the vet for her yearly checkup. Like a lot of people she commented on what a pretty dog Eliza is. I made some comment about how I wished her behavior matched her looks, and we got into a conversation about all of Eliza's socially retarded behaviors. She was particulary concerned about the fact that Eliza has bitten me and the baby. And then Eliza, in fine form, snapped at the vet as we were talking.

The upshot is that Eliza is now medicated. There are other options, of course. There's the animal behavioral specialist who lives up in L.A whom I could contact. There's the special cage at the Humane Society dog training classes just made for animals like Eliza, who badly need some training but who are too crazy to learn around other animals.

Maybe those will be next, since the prozac doesn't seem to have any effect on her.