Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Great Immigration Debate

There were two interesting articles in the paper this weekend. One of them is discussed here, and the other, here.

My uncle (the one who used to be a Democrat, like the rest of the family, until he started making too much money and now he's Republican) sent out an email last week containing an editorial someone supposedly wrote, comparing illegal immigration with breaking and entering into your house. I found the email ignorant, innacurate, and offensive, but considering how other conversations with this uncle have gone, I wasn't going to get into it. My mom, however, did get into it. I didn't want to leave her out there all by herself, so I got into it, too.

You can imagine how this went - my mom, the social worker, who moved to Chile in the early 70's because the country had just elected a Socialist president, and me, raised by this mother in Chile - by definition, and immigrant myself -, against my uncle, who has never left the country and regularly watches Fox News.

I'll spare you the details, but Sunday morning (after a few days of back-and-forth emailing) my eye caught an interesting headline in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Okay, the headline wasn't that interesting, it was more straightforward - something about "Immigration Debate Continues" - but it was relevant, which made it interesting to me.

When most people, at least here in Texas, talk about immigration, they pose The Wall as the solution. Build a big wall along the US/Mexico border, and that will solve the problem because it will keep all those dirty Mexicans out. Yay, we fixed the problem! (Now, I'm not sure if this wall will cut across the Gulf of Mexico, coming out of Brownsville and connecting the Florida Keys, or if it will simply run along the beaches of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida... anyone heard the details on that?)

The article mentioned a case in New Jersey where an illegal immigrant out on parole had killed three students. The article did not care to mention how this particular gentleman happened to have entered the country, but considering he was originally from Peru and he was living in New Jersey, I'm willing to bet he didn't get here hopping the border. My guess is, like most illegal immigrants, he hopped on a plane, went through US customs at Newark Airport smiling and showing his legal passport to the nice officers, then overstayed his tourist visa.

It seems to me that if we want to solve a problem, step number one would be to figure out the source of the problem. How are these people getting here? Why does this article on immigration, pretending to address the problem, not want to share information with me?

One of the most common complaints about illegal immigrants, even the ones who are here working, not committing crimes, is that they are draining our social services without paying anything in, because they don't pay taxes. (It seems to me that is the least of our problems, because it's the easiest to fix! If an illegal immigrant is here working but not paying taxes, because he doesn't have papers, then give him papers! Grant him legal status or give him a work visa, pay him a decent wage, and charge him income tax! Problem solved! But I digress...) The social services mentioned are emergency health care and education.

The man mentioned in the article was an illegal immigrant on parole. He is not a US citizen, and we knw that, but we put him in a US jail. We did not choose to send him back to his home country when we found out he was here illegally and doing no good, we chose to send him to our tax-funded prison system. The same one that drains more tax funds than education.

Giving children basic health care and education is one thing. Children are innocent, they did not choose to leave their home country, their parents made the choice for them. Giving them an education so they can grow up to be productive members of society does not seem like such a terrible thing to me.

However, spending twice as much as I would to teach that child to read and write, to keep some bastard in jail... that one I do have a problem with.

First we chose to keep him, and put him in jail (three meals a day and cable TV - children in school only get two meals a day, if they're on the free and reduced lunch program, and no TV). Then, we chose to release him on parole - and let him stay here, instead of putting him on a plane back home.

The Average Joe, especially here in Texas, will take this case as yet another reason why we need to build The Wall and get those dirty Mexicans out of Our Country... regardless of the facts. What caused the death of those three students was not illegal immigration - we had two chances, at least, to remove this person from the country before he ever got close to those students; the problems were with the legal system.

One of the problems with immigration is that the topic is too big, it has too many facets. It is hard to have a discussion on immigration because the people having the discussion could be arguing completely different sides - some people are simply racist, and don't want anyone "different" among them. Some people have concerns about terrorists entering the country. Some people are concerned about the economic issues, and workers not paying taxes to pay for the public services they are enjoying while living here.

The Wall is not going to address these issues. (Except perhaps the racist one, but I don't care to address it.)

If terrorists are going to enter the country, they are going to do it through smarter ways than crossing the border. If criminals are going to enter the country, they are going to do it through easier ways than paying a coyote's fees and risking their lives in the desert. They are going to come in through visas and forged documents, which is where we need to focus our energy.

For the people who come into this country to work, and are working, all we have to do is grant them legal status, through work visas or resident alien status, and charge them taxes. Of course, they means the companies hiring them would have to pay them legal minimum wage and offer benefits such as health care - the ones opposing that movement are not the workers, but the CEOs.

Politicians are good at Band-Aid solutions to appease the mob, and smoke and mirrors to make you think something big is happening. The Wall is one big smoky Band-Aid.

When my uncle and I finally agreed to disagree and end the steam of emails flooding the rest of the family's inboxes, he agreed with most of the points I brought up. Yes, we need to hold companies who employ illegal immigrants accountable for their actions. Yes, we need to look at all the ways illegal immigrants are entering the country, and control the influx. Yes, if the immigrants are working and are not breaking any rules, they should be granted legal status and allowed to stay, once they start paying taxes. (He still strongly supports The Wall, but that's probably because he watches all that Fox News. And because he vacations in the Bahamas, not Corpus Christi, so The Wall won't be cutting across his beach.)

If we're going to debate the immigration issue, then let's debate the immigration issue. Let's study the facts, all of them. Let's look for a solution, not a scapegoat.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Soul searching... job shopping...

I have two weeks left in summer school (as a student, not a teacher). So far, I'm only about $600 out for the summer session, and next semester, since I'm still at the community college, won't be too bad either... It won't start to hurt in earnest until I hit UTA in the spring.

Although I know I can't go back to teaching, I'm too sick of it, and I've done a splendid job of convincing the people around me that going back to school is the best - nay, the only option for me right now, I still have that nagging little voice firmly planted in the back of my head... nagging.

Am I sure? What am I going to do with a degree in journalism? Where am I going to work? There are no magazines in DFW - am I going to move to New York? Um, highly unlikely. How can I possibly pretend I'd work for a newspaper, when I refuse to read them? I have this wonderful plan of having a successful freelancing career, but that's about as solid a plan as taking a Greyhound to New York so I can make it on Broadway.

They say, "write what you know." What do I know? I know education. Not that well - most of what I spout comes from my professional organization, but I guess I could make it my business to know, and find a way to spell it out to the common people. Make parents understand what goes on in Congress, and why schools are being statute'd to death (and inefficiency). I can cover the education beat.

Sometimes this thought cheers me up a bit, makes me think I might have some direction, some reason for doubling my student loan debt... other times, not so much.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

525,600 minutes...

... how do you measure, measure a year?

I sat down to scrapbook this morning (actually, I knelt down - on the floor, because clearing enough table space to work was not an option, so I took the floor) and finally started to do something with the photos from the Europe trip.

The Europe trip from last summer.

How did a year, an entire, whole year, go by so quickly? What happened to all the stuff between last June and this one?

When I think or talk about that trip, I want to say, "When I went to Spain, a couple months ago..." It seems like it was yesterday. But then again, I was dating Mr. Lexus at the time - and he seems to have been millenia ago. So how does that work?

Maybe this school year was so taxing and depressing that my brain has decided to block it out, and Freddy feels like such a natural part of my life now that my brain tries to place him in all parts of my life, even those before I knew him. Maybe I'm just getting old, and forgetting things.
Last year at this time, Jen and I were prancing around London and Paris, and I was picking up any and every brochure, menu, and pamphlet I could find because I was sure I'd find some use for it in my classroom. I went to Shakespeare's Globe Theater (saw two shows, both awesome) and bought half the gift shop, because I was going to be teaching Julius Caesar to my sixth graders - how cool was I going to be, bringing all this authentic material to class?

While I was cleaning out my classroom, with Freddy diligently telling me to throw things away (because I didn't need them anymore, and he was right), I was softly simmering. Here were all the things I bought just last summer for my classroom - posters, postcards, books, magazines, books, kids' books, and some other books. I was embarrassed that I spent so much money, most of it my dad's (some of it mine, but most of it his, over the summer) on classroom supplies, just to quit a year later. I'm saving all the stuff I bought over the summer (except for two posters that the copy-room lady screwed up when she laminated them), even though I don't know why - I don't plan on teaching again soon - but I just couldn't throw them away, or even give them away. The least I could do was keep them, even if the only thing I'll use any of it for is taking up room in my attic.

On the plus side, I do have a nice little library for my future children, and I can set up my own counterfeit mini-museum of impressionists and surrealists - maybe I can make the money back by charging admission.

Speaking of my future children, going back to school will put all that on hold for two years, if not more. Am I really okay with that, or am I telling myself I'm okay with it because that's just what I have to do now?

How am I going to feel about it 525,600 minutes from now?

On a side note, about this time last year, Jenny was also putting up with me whining about my aching abscessed tooth. Funny - about this time this year, I've developed a new but equally intense toothache (the earliest the endodontist can see me is in three weeks, but the dentist gave me penicillin and some very nice pain meds, so it's all good). Let's just hope this is not planning on becoming an annual ritual.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Script Frenzy

(For some background information on Script Frenzy, please read my Helium article. Or, I guess, you could go directly to the Script Frenzy website.)

As a three-time NaNoWriMo veteran and winner, I thought Script Frenzy would be a breeze. I mean, come on! Plays are all dialogue, right? Writing dialogue is my strength! And the word count - 20,000 words? That's it? That's less than half of NaNoWriMo's 50,000-word goal. I can do that in my sleep!

I guess three Winner certificates hanging on your wall can give you a misguided sense of hubris.

Armed with my laptop, detailed formatting guidelines, and a great story idea, I started typing. Slowly. And not just because I had to keep checking the formatting guidelines and centering the character tags... writing a script is hard! There are no thoughts, no feelings. No reactions. You can't even take your characters into the other room!

You know what the problem is?

You have to plan.

I'm not good at planning.

I have always been a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser. Sit, write. It'll come. If you get stuck, describe the room. Or have some random conversation - you can always cut it out later, and who knows, it might end up going somewhere.

However, in a script, you can't describe anything. And a script made up of random conversations is what they call in the business, "utter crap."

I tried sticking to my original idea, but it was depressing me, because I was getting nowhere and I was ruining a good idea. So I quit.

Now I see why Stanley Kubrick wrote his screenplays from novels. He even asked Arthur C. Clarke to write 2001 as a novel, so he could adapt it into a screenplay. The planning is done for you! You have the ideas, all you have to do it take them and put them in the proper format.

Also, with a screenplay you have more freedom than with a stage play - you can have voice overs (yes, you could probably do that in a stage play too, but it's less common and more complicated, and it sounds crappier because it has to be pre-recorded, yadda, yadda), you can show TV and computer screens, letters, signs, etc. for your audience to read, and you aren't as limited with location and sets. You can have a three-minute scene on the beach sandwiched between a scene in the movie theater and one in the library. On a stage... not so much.

Now, a smart person would ask at this point why I don't just take my story and write a screenplay, instead of stage play.

Because I like to be difficult, that's why.

Although the screenplay has the above-mentioned freedoms, I feel more comfortable with the stage play. I set out to write a stage play, and I don't like to admit defeat. (Also, deep down inside, I want to stick to the stage play because I feel it's more "cultured" - every Tom, Dick, and Harry will be writing a screenplay because it's "trendy," and I want to be different. Yes, it's childish, but so's your face.)

Eight days into the Frenzy, I'm throwing my original idea, and its 1,225 words, out. With 22 days to go, I'm starting over. With one set, and not much more than a general idea... but one that lets me focus on my strength, dialogues, instead of trying to develop an intricate plot. Will it be any good? Who cares! As long as it fills 20,000 words, it's beautiful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On problems and possibilities

I noticed yesterday that it's been a while - a long while - since I've read a book. It has also been a long while since I wrote anything - pretty much since December, after I finished my NaNo novel.

I have an overacrtive sense of guilt (instilled in me by my Catholic upbringing), which makes me think I should not be reading anything "for fun" unless I've finished all my work. If I need to clean the house, do laundry, grade papers, mow the lawn, I should be doing that instead of reading, because reading is fun.

As a result, I don't read. I don't necessarily do the work, either - but I can't "reward" myself with a book if there is work to do. I sit and mope, not wanting to do the work but not able to read or do the fun stuff, and eventually I fall asleep or waste the day or afternoon watching TV. It's a vicious cycle...

Outside of blogging (and it's not like I've kept up with that, either), I haven't written a word. That's because I'm supposed to be working on my dissertation. I can't write for fun until I've finished writing for work... Again, the only thing I end up accomplishing is a deep feeling of guilt, sliding into depression.

This school year, although I finally figured out a system and got myself organized, has been draining. I think that's part of the reason I have had so little will and energy for anything after leaving the school building. I don't know if that's a reason or an excuse, but I guess we'll find out soon enough!

I've been working on my website - the domain name I bought in December but have been to afraid (or drained) to develop. I'm still scared, and feeling a little lost in a lot of aspects, but I'm doing it! (Look for the Grand Unveiling soon!)

Yesterday I was browsing through the classifieds for a local alternative paper (one where I would like to work, and I was wondering where they post their open jobs), and the stress I've been feeling about finding the Right Job with the Right Pay started to lift and dissipate.

I'm at a new beginning - if in dire need, I can always pick up a teaching position. That should not be a problem, even through August; I have a safety net if I absolutely need one. But I dont wanna, and I'm not gonna hafta... I can get whatever job I want. Maybe I'm not going to get the Dream Job right off the bat, but I can work my way to it. There's no deadline. I can have fun along the way.

I have my resume almost ready to go, I want to run it through a few more pairs of eyes before hitting Kinko's... then I'm hitting the pavement, knocking on doors, smiling really pretty-like and asking for a job. A job with no homework, a job I can leave there when I go home - a job that gives me time to myself, to write.

And read a good book every now and then.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

MySpace, MyBusiness! 'm I right?

I have a MySpace - as does every Tom, Dick, and Harry, along with their mothers' dogs.

I enjoy my MySpace. I use it, and my Xanga blog, to keep in touch with friends and family who live far away (uh, like Switzerland). I have met some interesting people from all over the place through Xanga, engaged in intellectually stimulating banter with them, laughed out loud at their eloquent renditions of mundane, extraordinary, embarrassing day-to-day goings-on, and been exposed to points of view I never knew existed.

My students have MySpace accounts. I even found one of them once - his profile was set to "private" and there was no way I was going to blow my cover by "friending" him to verify it really was him, but I know it was. (If he put half a brain into it, he could find my page... but, as with his schoolwork, he lacks the motivation to make the connections and find me, even though he announced to the class he would.)

Mean Girls will just be Mean Girls?
One of the reasons I stopped eating lunch in the teacher's lounge is because I got sick of all the MySpace-bashing that went on in there. Most of the staff at my school (okay, all of them except for me and two other people) are married women would still be afraid of email if using it were not part of their job requirements. They have no idea what MySpace is, to them it is a big, evil club where students go to solicit sexual predators and say mean things about their classmates. Therefore, MySpace must be blown up. Yes, they have often agreed that the entire MySpace operation should be shut down and destroyed.

(Aren't you glad these rational, informed, open-minded women are responsible for educating our future?)

The main beef my elderly matron coworkers have with MySpace is the fact that our students can talk badly about and to each other through their pages. I guess I can see their point that it is easier to trash-talk someone from behind a computer keyboard, in the cozy safety of your room, than to the person's face; therefore students who would normally be too chicken to badmouth a classmate now have the electronic courage to do so, and they feel they have a right to exercise that bravery. The flaw in this logic is that kids trash-talk behind each other's backs all the time - that's what gossip is, it's not delivered to the person's face, it's whispered behind her back. Okay, so now the gossip is posted online for anyone to read, but, really, how different is it?

Yes, now the victim can see exactly what was said about him from the horse's comment page, and I guess seeing it "in print" hurts more than hearing it from what Sally heard Suzy tell Jamie in the cafeteria after school when Tommy and Billy were out in the playground flirting with Jenny.

(Couldn't we say that the victim now has the unfair advantage of being able to come up with a witty comeback in the stressless environment of her own cozy room, without a crowd of on-lookers breathing down her neck, letting her know when her time is "up"? And by "witty comeback" I actually mean a witty comeback, not just another insult - and the beauty of it now is that it is "in print," for everyone who cares to, to read and witness the bully's stupidity - because, really, bullies and their derogatory comments are pretty darn stupid - and the "victim's" clever retort... oh, wait. Sorry, I forgot - I'm not supposed to advocate for that.)

The thing about blogs, and all online content, is that you have to search for it. You have to make the conscious decision to go out there and read it. It's not going to come up to you the way a bully or Mean Girl will - if you don't ever go to Sally's page, guess what? You're never going to read what she wrote. No, really - it's true. Your computer's not just going to randomly pop that page open on your screen.

Okay, okay - so maybe it hurt Joey's feelings that Sally wrote that (because Joey's friend Tommy told him Sally had written that on her page). You know what? People are always going to be saying and thinking mean things about you - the guy who thinks you cut him off on the highway, the girl who hates you for being a size 2 and getting a double-scoop waffle cone at Marble Slab, the kid next to you who got a lower grade than you did on the vocab test. It's one of those things you're going to have to live with - sometimes people have a right to be upset with you (yes, you did cut that guy off on the highway, and if you hadn't been talking on your cell phone at the time, you would have seen him and not cut him off), and sometimes they just think they do. Maybe this is a good time for the kids to sit down and figure out the difference (did Sally say Joey is a rude jerk because Joey made that comment in music class about how Sally should be an opera singer because she's fat, like the lady they saw in the video? Or did Sally write that because she has a crush on Joey, but Joey went and sat next to Jenny at lunch today?)

You're going to have beef with friends, classmates, coworkers, and random people on the street no matter where, no matter when, no matter why. I find it's better to learn most life lessons early, because the consequences always seem to be less expensive earlier than later. Perhaps this is a life lesson these sixth-graders are getting at a special MySpace discount.

Picking on the Principal
The reason this particular topic has been on my mind is because earlier this week a fellow blogger posted a link to an article about a student whose principal suspended him for posting something "bad" about the principal on his MySpace page. The student appealed, claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights, and returned to school on day two of his 10-day suspension. (The link my fellow blogger posted was to a very uninformative article. Googling, I found this, if you want some further reading - I assume it's the same student, unless this trend is more rampant than I thought).

When I first heard about this, I adopted the same attitude I had about the gossiping - so what? So they used to do it orally, to their friends. Now they do it online, on their dinky MySpace pages (where half the layouts are so elaborate they take forever to load, so half their potential readers are lost in the mere wait, and the other half have to struggle to read the illegible text against the background on a half-naked Orlando Bloom... seriously, who has the time?)

As a teacher, one who could be potentially flamed on MySpace, I tried to put myself in the principal's spot. I had a hard time doing that. Perhaps that's because I've been on the poster's side of the fence, and I had a hard time jumping over. Maybe it's because I see MySpace comments the same way I see a student's notebook or textbook cover - random, often misspelled pointless drivel. [insert "whatevah" emoticon here]

The above-linked article did give me something to think about when it compared a student writing derogatory comments on MySpace to the same student writing a derogatory article for a local or community newspaper, and printing it. That made me think about it a little bit more - until I realized that a local or community newspaper has its copy run through an editor before it prints, and that is what gives the newspaper its credibility. The article would never run, unless there were some validity to it.

MySpace has no authority, and no credibility. When all those "rate-a-professor" websites popped out a couple years ago, did any colleges go after the students who posted mean things about their profs on those sites? Anyone visiting those sites knew the people writing were lame college students. If the comment was positive, the student probably passed the class. If the comment was negative, he probably failed the class.

I agree that public education (under-18) students and college students are two different beasts, but my point still stands - it's just a kid venting. So what if the medium has changed? I also agree that a principal (or a teacher) is a figure of authority, and the student should show respect for this person. Posting "mean" things about him or her on your blog is not "showing respect." Neither is talking bad about the principal, or the teachers, to your friends, to your family, to the people at your church, etc. Why should we start suspending students for writing something on a blog, when we let it go in the other cases?

Putting the "Parent" Back in "Parenting"
Now, I'm not saying kids should run rampant online cussing out their classmates, teachers and principals. What I'm saying is that it's not the school's business if they are.

My principal doesn't have the right to tell me to shut down my blog(s), and he doesn't have the right to tell me what I can and can't write about, in my own personal time, on my own personal computer. As long as I don't write anything about the school, or the students, he needs to stay off my back because that is my own personal business - not school business.

Same with the kids - what they do at home, on their own computers, is not school business.

We the educators of the United States of America are merely that - educators. Math, science, social studies, reading, writing - yes, that's my responsibility. I need to do that for them. People skills too, since the vast majority of the time the students spend around other people (non-family) is within the walls of my classroom, making it the perfect setting for that training.

Parenting, though... that's actually the parent's job. Oddly enough. I know that's not the popular trend these days, what with the complete and total lack of personal accountability Americans like to display so violently (Oh, I have lung cancer? Those cigarette companies! It's their fault I bought and used their product! Wait - I'm fat? I'll sue McDonald's!)

I, the teacher, am not responsible for what your kid does at home, on your computer, through your Internet connection. If Sally pulls Joey's hair in class, yes, then I'll deal with it. I'll talk to her, send her to the principal's office, yadda yadda. If Sally writes something mean about Joey on her MySpace... I'm sorry, Mrs. Joey's Mom. You're going to have to call Mrs. Sally's Mom to talk about that. MySpace is not MyJurisdiction.

Parents should be the ones instilling in their kids morals and values, and letting them know that gossipping and bullying, whether online on in your face, are not okay things to do. Insulting your principal or teacher, whether online on in her face, is not okay either. This is not something the school, or the principal, should have to address.

I know there are all kinds of extenuating circumstances - single parents, working moms, etc. You can't be there 24/7 to monitor your kid. But you know what? Password-protecting your computer isn't that hard, really. Neither is making up a fake screenname to get on MySpace and look at your kid's page - hey, it's not "snooping" or "spying," it's posted on a website, for cryin' out loud! Oh, so Sally's going to Suzy's house and getting online there? Well... guess she's not going over to Suzy's anymore, now is she?

Of course, if you have to resort to those measures, it's a pretty sad situation you've raised for yourself. Dealing with this issue should have been taken care of way long ago, way before Sally started typing. Even if we did "blow up" MySpace, wouldn't it be nice if you had raised little Sally to respect others and be nice to the people around her?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Beginning of "Life"

This week, Freddy, my love and I had a pregnancy scare.

This was not my first pregnancy scare, nor would it have been my first pregnancy, but this one hit me harder than the time I actually was pregnant. Because this time, I let myself think about the "What if...?"

Both the time when I was pregnant, and the one time I thought I was at high risk to be pregnant and had to fight my ob-gyn's receptionist over the phone to get "the morning after" pill (obviously, this was before Plan B was available over-the-counter), I knew what I had to do. It would have been a very bad choice for me and the potential child (and the father, if he chose to stick around - regardless of what he chivalrously proclaimed at the time) to go through with the pregnancy. I didn't let myself think about "plan A" at all - okay, fine, maybe for a second. A Johnson's & Johnson's baby lotion commercial came on TV, the night before I was scheduled to go to the clinic (at this point I had known for two or three days), and for a fleeting second my hand flew to my stomach, which was already slightly swollen, and the tears started. Before the conscious thought had fully formed in my mind I knew I had to get rid of it, because there's only so much a girl can take.

This time around, I let myself think about Plan A. Maybe it's because I'm getting old, and running out of time. Maybe it's because I feel more confident about Freddy than about the other two guys involved; I trust him in a way I never trusted them. Maybe it's because my current ob-gyn's receptionist scared the living bejeezus out of me Monday - two weeks after my Pap Smear - when she left me a message asking to call her back, which I took to mean I had cervical cancer and would need a hysterectomy (if you know my family history, I was not overreacting) and my chances for a baby (the traditional way) would be over forever. Whatever the reason, I did it. Each time I went to the bathroom and still had not started my period yet, I thought about it more.

I would have been due in late December. Terrible time for a birthday - I want my kids to be born in the summer, that way you have your presents evenly distributed throughout the year (I'm a July baby. Yes, it kinda sucks that I've never celebrated my birthday during the school year, but I like having exactly six months between large gift-receiving occasions). It was also a very non-ideal scenario work-wise, but better than others, I guess - I could always quit at the semester break.

Saturday morning, when we took the pregnancy test and only saw the one, solitary, childless purple line, I was sad more than relieved. Yes, I know, the rational part of me started listing all the rational reasons why this was for the best. I kept reminding myself of all those rational, logical, sensible reasons, but it still hurt.

Then I remembered that Friends episode - the one with Monica's wedding, when Rachel found out she was pregnant. The good thing is I was able to channel the pain of my loss to anger at their bad writing.

For those of you who are not Friendsophiles, Rachel takes a pregnancy test and it comes out positive. Phoebe and Monica convince her to take another test, in case the first one was a false positive. She does, in the bathroom at the reception, and Phoebe tells her the result is negative. Rachel starts crying, and actually utters something along the lines of, "Oh, why am I crying? How can I be miss something I never had? Isn't that silly?" Then Phoebe saves the day, telling her the test result is actually positive, but she'd said it was negative so Rachel could find out "how you really felt about it."


Now, seriously, what part of "woman nearing 30" made you think she was not going to be at least a little disappointed to find out she was not pregnant? After thinking, for at least a day, that she was? Regardless of all the rational, logical, sensible reasons... you're talking about having a little baby.

The age-old reproductive rights question asks whether "life" begins at conception or at birth. Well, if you look at the science, "life" began way back when with that first brave little amoeba who crawled out of the sea (or whatever it did, I'm not a scientist). My knowledge of science is limited, but I do know a) matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and b) energy can't either, and isn't "life" just matter with energy? Sort of? Life is a continuum - the sperm and the egg were alive before they joined, because they were part of the living parents. So nothing new "began" at that moment, nothing new was created. The cells started dividing the same way they had when they were in each parent's body. Nor did anything new begin or get created when the fetus left the uterus.

"Life," as the pro-life and pro-choice groups want to define it, does not begin at conception nor at birth. It begins at the idea.

The child is "born" when the concept of that child is formed in his or her parents' (or parent's) mind. As soon as that mother begins to think of "her baby," she becomes a mother and that baby becomes a living entity, regardless of the state of mitosis of any mass of cells. Some parents "give birth" to their children way before conception, and each time the stick only shows them that single, solitary purple line, they mourn a loss - even though no cells joined, divided, or did anything else of the like. That child is alive in their minds, in their hearts, regardless of the science.

A woman who chooses to have an abortion is in a completely different mindset - she does not see herself as "carrying a child." There may be cells dividing inside of her (as there were before she got pregnant and as there will be after the pregnancy is terminated, because that's the way living beings work), but she has not given "life" to anything.

On average, a woman will have three miscarriages in her lifetime. This sounds insane, but when you consider the number of women who are not even aware they are pregnant until they are five or six weeks along, then it doesn't, does it? Somewhere in those five or six weeks the egg was fertilized, implanted itself, then for some reason went awry. Was there "life" there, if no one knew it?

If a tree falls in the woods but there's nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound? What's your definition of "sound" - the waves, the noise, or the perception of it? If nobody hears the noise, how can we call it "noise"?

If nobody knows of the existence of this particular mass of cells, can we really call it "a life"?

"Life" as we know it is not a concept defined by science. It is a concept defined by us, the living, breathing humans. A baby can be "alive" before the cells are in place - ask any couple wants a baby but can't get that second little pink line to come up on the stick. Why can't we accept the inverse of that equation to be true as well?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who says?

(This post was inspired as a response to some of the comments made on this post.)

Moms, friends and marrieds will always tell you, "He's out there, just wait - you'll find Him one of these days."

Who says?

And why do I need "Him" to be out there? What's wrong with me as I am?

Yeah, I would like to have someone to take me dancing on Saturday and then to church on Sunday, someone to cook for, someone to help with the dishes and laundry, someone to snuggle with when watching a movie. Someone with whom to discuss the movie when it's over. Someone I know I can call if I get a flat tire. We just had a three-day "ice storm" (Texas-style, but still bad enough for me) and although I had Indy curled up by my feet under the covers, it would have been much nicer to have a not-so-furry bipedal in his place.

Guys don't go through singlehood looking for "Her" - why do we make that the focus of our existence?

I know I'm a rarity. I'm intelligent, articulate, fun, funny. I can appreciate opera, karaoke, Shakespeare, Beavis and Butthead, Stephen King, Bridget Jones, Harry Potter, Tchaikovsky and Tenacious D. I own my own house and car (paid for); I have a degree and a career (and almost have my first graduate degree); outside of mortgage and student loans (which are just a part of life) my debt is less than $2,000. I have no children. I am a cheap date (unless you want to take me somewhere fancy; I won't argue with you.) I don't smoke, don't drink; I read, I think, I can carry a conversation in a variety of settings. I am healthy and attractive. Why in the world no idiot has snatched me up yet is beyond me.

Yes, I'm sure there's Somebody Out There who's a "perfect catch" just like me. And I'm sure we'd get along. But you know what? I don't think I have the emotional energy to hunt for him. I have life to live, I'd rather spend my time doing that than searching for some guy that, if history is any indication, is going to a) abuse me, or b) dump me because of his own baggage and insecurities.

Why do I need to "wait for Him"? Why do people encourage me to do so, giving me false hope?

"Good Guys" are out there; I know, I've seen them. My sister married one. My mom married two (one at a time, you bums!) However, they are few and far between. I usually meet the ones who can't commit, or the ones who committed but are now calling me behind wife's back (yes, this has happened more than once, with more than one guy). Why do I need A Guy to be whole? To be normal? To be happy?

I don't need a guy to be a mother. Ideally, I would love to have one. But I know I'm better off in the company f my cats than some emotionally unavailable jerk who's going to make me feel I'm not worth his time. I've made leaps and bounds in my self-esteem since I've been alone. I hit bottom and below in my marriage; Nietzsche must have been right, because I'm still alive, and much stronger. Alone.

I want "love" and companionship. Who doesn't? But I'm sick of being lied to, by the guys who've sold me the song and dance, and by all those souls full of good inentions who think they are being helpful by feeding me this false hope. Why am I not good enough as I am? Why am I not good enough on my own? Why am I not good enough by myself?

You mean well, I know. And hey, maybe from where you're standing, smug and married, you do truly believe that there is a Someone for everyone and that I just am not trying hard enough to find my Him, or that I'm trying too hard and I need to let Him show up on my doorstep (big red bow optional). But you know what? I'm damn good enough on my own - and so are all other smart single women out there.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year - Bad Karma

At the ripe old age of near-30, I had my first "big" New Year's Eve plans. Courtesy of a friend, of course - if left to my own devices, I would have hung around yet another karaoke bar.

Instead, my good friend Megan came to my rescue, asking me to tag along with her and her friends at a hip and trendy bar in Dallas, Karma. Although it is located in a strip mall, it must be hip and trendy - there was a cover charge (normally it's against my religion to pay to get into a bar, but what could I do?), and we were forced to stand outside, in the cold in our pretty, non-warm shoes and skimpy outfits, until the Big, Scary Man at the door deemed us worthy of entering. At least it wasn't one of those where Mr. Big, Scary Man picks and chooses who gets in and who's not hip and trendy enough; he did go in order.

Waiting outside in the cold was quite irritating and not just for the obvious reasons. As I had mentioned, this hip and trendy place was charging a cover for the pleasure of patronizing their establishment; this cover was $10 if you arrived before 10:00 p.m., but jumped to $20 after 10:00. Conveniently, the line for non-reservations (reservations, I heard through the grapevine, involved not only the reservation of a table but also the purchase of a $300 bottle of bubbly) was stagnant until right about... 10:00 p.m. Hmm... coincidence? Or clever marketing ploy?

Considering how unhappy I was about the initial $10 charge, you can imagine how thrilled I was about being conned into paying twice as much. Had I been alone, I would have turned on my stiletto heel and made a boisterous exit, then promptly headed to my local cover-free karaoke dive. Sadly, I was with "a party," and one I barely knew at that. So I followed the mob and handed over my cash.

I guess, for people who embibe, the $20 cover charge was offset by the $3 drinks. Everything was $3, which at first made me weary (and understandably so, given the events leading up to the bar) - were these punks going to charge me $3 for my Coke with no ice? I leaned in toward the bartender to ask him, but he served the drink before I finished the question. I took the glass and turned around - no, I shall not be paying, and no, I shall not be tipping. The girl at the door took all my money, sorry, Charlie. He didn't seem to mind, though, which was good.

Other than the exorbitant cover charge, the place was nice. I could have done without the colored stobe lights, but all's well that ends well, as I didn't suffer a seizure. The music was typical club music, even though better than most, I think. I'm not a fan of "house/techno" music, I like music with words and with, well, music, not just a synthesized beat. This was still "club" music, with more beat than words, but it did have words and they played a variety of songs, not just the same three popular choices seventeen times over.

I do have to mention the bathrooms. When the line goes down the hall and around the corner, literally... you need more bathrooms. When you charge $20 for ladies to get in the stinkin' place, you can afford to put in some more bathrooms.

The coat check was, oddly enough, also in the bathroom (which was on the opposite end of the club from the bar, don't ask me why). This is not the smartest design choice, fellas - you have a line of small-bladdered, embibed women who already have their panties in a tight bunch because they need to pee and have been standing in line forever, and you're asking other embibed (and therefore less coherent) women to walk past them, cutting in line, to get to their coats and purses? What, do you have cameras set up outside the bathroom to tape the catfights? (C'mon, guys - at $20 a head, do you need the extra income?) It almost got ugly. No, boys, sorry - no catfights, all the girls kept their tops, and their bunched panties, on.

I do have to brag - I stuck it to The Man.

The bathroom contained the lady who handed you paper towels to dry your hands, and a table full of toiletries - lip gloss, makeup, and the like. And, of course, the Tip Jar. Do not ask me why on Earth I would want to borrow the community lip gloss, but I guess I'm just not hip and trendy enough to get it. There was, in addition to lip gloss and cigarrettes, a bowl of mints and Blow-Pops.

While the bathroom attendant/coat check lady was hassling with some girl's coat (which, by the way, were not hanging, but strewn across two chairs. In the bathroom), I snuck a LifeSaver.

I feel I got my $20 worth.