Girls don’t need telescopes.

(What follows is an essay that I’ll be turning is as part of a scholarship application. This happened last night and I’m still very upset about it. I hope you’re upset, too. The encounter lasted for quite a while but the word count for the essay must be less than 500 words.)

I’d had another essay prepared for this application. It was a really good essay, too, but something happened last night that I feel very strongly about. I am compelled to share this experience with you as it pertains to my educational and career goals.

My son and I went to the observatory here on campus. He likes star charts and planets and imagining what aliens might look like. We climbed the spiral stairs and looked through viewfinders; we saw the stars and he was happy. As he leaned over the railing, he saw a group of kids playing chase and he asked if he could join in. I agreed and down we went. He tore off after the other boys and a girl, probably about ten years old, stood beside me. She told me, as gregarious and talkative children do, about her brothers and her favorite subjects and how much she likes “space stuff”.

When I showed her the star chart app on my phone, she said, “My dad has one of those on his phone but he won’t let me see it.” I showed her the Pleiades on my tiny screen and told her the old myths about the seven sisters. She said, “I want a telescope but my dad says girls don’t need telescopes.” I suggested maybe she just wasn’t old enough and she said, “No, he just says girls don’t need sciencey stuff. Girls don’t need telescopes.” I felt nauseous, but she continued, “We all want to look through the telescope, but my dad says the boys get to look first because I’m just a girl. I’ve been asking for a long time, but finally my brother asked, so we got to come.”

Our conversation continued and I chatted with her mother (who thought I was crazy for wasting my time with school) and the family finally left to go up the stairs to the observatory. The father and the boys went first while the little girl held her mother’s hand and bounced with excitement.

This is why I want to teach: I want to empower children, especially girls, with knowledge and curiosity. “Girls don’t need sciencey stuff” will haunt me for a long, long time.

My husband has deployed to Afghanistan; children there would gather around the troops and ask for candy or pens. He offered pens to the girls first, as pens are seen as tools for education and power. “Kahlum, meestuh? Kahlum?” (“Pen, sir? Pen?”) The thirst for knowledge is acute in the young, even in cultures where women are worth less than a goat…I never thought I’d see a family squash the light of curiosity here in America.

I will teach high school chemistry and I will add oxygen to the flame of curiosity. Girls need sciencey stuff.


I Got Called a Dependapotomus and It Doesn’t Matter

You can find the definition of dependapotomus here.

(I was going to post a picture but you can Google for yourself…the pictures are all very…creative?)

Here’s the scene:

I was sitting in a Starbucks on post working on my nuclear chemistry homework (OMG the brain cells…they hurts us, Precious) and there were two female soldiers waiting in line to order their drinks. One of them starts chatting with me about my school work and what I’m going to school for and what’s what about my life. The other one says, “You don’t even have a job?! It must be nice to be a dependapotumus, but I actually have shit to do all day.” and she laughed with her perfect teeth all over her perfect face. At which point I got all sweaty and nauseated and my vision went all wonky (adrenaline can be so inefficient sometimes) and I said something like, “You don’t know my history, or my spouse, and you should be more careful to whom you speak. And in some cultures having a fat wife is considered a sign of success and virility.”

(Seriously. Where is this culture? I need to move there.)

Then a CWO (Chief Warrant Officer. Respect them. Love them. Fear them.) politely asked the lieutenants if they would please accompany him to a “sidebar”, only he said it like if they didn’t go with him he’d murder their puppy twelve times before lunch. I don’t know much after that because I just stared at my chemistry book, trying not to cry from shame, and cursing my stupid brain for not coming up with a witty, soul-crushing response.  I’m sure I’ll think of something in the shower tonight and it will be epic.

I texted a couple of friends and made a Facebook post. Everyone is on my side and they are all sufficiently pissed off on my behalf. Also, everyone has wonderful retorts and I am going to write them down and keep them in my pocket like Mr. Collins’ keeps compliments. Folks are like “they are just jealous” and “what bitches” and “you are awesome” and “lets cut them” which leaves me feeling incredibly warm and fuzzy. Nothing says love like the prospect of violence on behalf of friendship.

The fact is that I am a dependent. My home, the food in my belly, the clothes on my back, the classes I’m taking, the children (who are clean, well-behaved, and brilliant, by the way) I’ve birthed are all dependent on my husband. I would have none of these things (at least not in their current, blissful iteration) without my husband and the work that he does. I am aware and I am grateful and I won’t spout off about “my role is just as important as his” because that argument makes me very uncomfortable. I am blessed enough to be able to study at a Starbucks…my life is pretty good. We are a team and the execution of our contract isn’t anyone’s business; he’s happy with the state of his life and I’m happy with the state of my life and we will skip off into the sunset together just as soon as the next FTX or JOAX or JRTC or deployment or PowerPoint Rodeo will allow.

I could defend myself with “I’m not fat” (but I could lose some jiggle, its true) and “we don’t have that many kids” (we have 3 and if it weren’t for miscarriages we’d have 5) and “I do stuff all day” (its school work so my house isn’t really that tidy and won’t be until after finals). Really, though, who cares? I’ll be the size I’m gonna be (and finish marathons, by the way) and have as many kids as we want to have (we’re Catholic…we should have a squad by now) and I really am busy all day (with three kids in sports and scouts and clubs-this is obvious to anyone with, like, eyes.) and I was studying fricking nuclear chemistry for Pete’s sake… “I am Spouse, Hear Me Roar” defenses are pretty hollow sounding.

I don’t know why that female thought it was funny but my guess is that she’s seen someone who fits whatever mold she thinks warrants the name dependapotomus and was looking for an excuse to use the word. So that’s fine; she’s entitled to her opinion and I’m grateful for her service to my country. I hope she can get to know other dependents and gain some perspective on military family life. I hope she grows as a person, sees the error of her ways ,and befriends a military spouse in order to appreciate the other side of the tracks. I wish her success in her career.

Also, in the cozy little cockles of my shiny, patriotic heart I kind of hope that CWO made her cry like the crusted over barracks bunny she probably is. 

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. I probably shouldn’t have said anything or made a Facebook post or even written this blog post. But…what is technology good for if not rallying one’s friends for a bitch-lynching?

Sticks and stones, Love…sticks and stones…

Now, I have to get back to my studying for finals, laundry, making dinner, running 4 miles, organizing the garage, getting the oil changed, paying the bills, burying the family pet and consoling kids, getting kids to baseball camp, making everyone’s dentist appointments, electronic griping, preparing Cub Scout meetings, hiding my true emotions about family upsets back home, arranging the prospective purchase of our future home and farm, wrangling the teenager and all of her social contacts, cleaning out the car couch and preparing to get blasted on Easily Offended Military Spouse websites…


Fake, Fakety-Fake-Fake Blogger

That awkward moment when:

You know someone in real life and then you read their blog and you don’t recognize them. At all.

I hope that when my friends read the crap I send out into cyberspace they can recognize me. I hope my best friend says, “yep. yert said that.” and that my neighbor can say, “yeah, I saw her actually do that.”

Fake bloggers, whether mommy, fitness, foody, spiritual…whatever, fake bloggers make the world a really shitty place. They are worse than the air-brushed magazine pictures. At least we know to expect lies from magazines. We don’t expect lies from people who are using their real voice to share with us. We don’t expect lies from people who are supposed to be helping us.

Unattainable comparatives. You are you and I am me and spreading candy-coated drivel in order to attain sponsors and internet fame is on-line with Lance Armstrong’s doping. Lies. Promises and lies and those who really know are puking on their screens.

If you know me, feel free to call me out if I ever pretend to be something I’m not.

Bitches be trippin’.


…and bloggers who lie.

The Brownness of Us

20121217-090829.jpgMartin. Zimmerman.

The whole world knows their names and we all think we know their stories. We think we know the what-happened and the he-thoughts and the he-dids and the whys. But we don’t. There are only two people who know exactly what happened to cause the death of Mr. Martin and one of those people will never speak another word on Earth again. This post isn’t about self-defense vs youth vs gun control vs guilt vs innocence because I am not Mr. Zimmerman and arm-chair quarter-backs rank with those who talk during movies or chew with their mouths open. I was not on the jury and odds are neither were you, so lets move along…

Here’s my question: what will the media use as our excuse for killing each other when we all look like Mr. Zimmerman? Mr. Zimmerman’s mixed-race status is the future of humanity. Soon, there will be no black, white, yellow, red… We will just be humans with our own particular shade of brown and a litany of ancestries. We’re half-way there already, aren’t we? None of us has only one branch in our family tree, we can all point to at least one divergence that makes our predecessors squirm in discomfort. We are all children of the globe.

Here is my wish for humanity: that when one human causes the death of another human, we grieve. I wish we would all grieve with fervor, beating our breasts and crying at the injustice of a life cut short. I wish we would grieve so profoundly, that the human species would become tattooed in the soul and forever shun the possibility of violence. I wish that when someone dies we would hug strangers and weep communally without rancor or hope of fame.

Wishes very often do not come true, so I will hope, then. My hope for humanity is this: that when someone is murdered, we stop labeling the dead with titles like black, white, mixed-race, homosexual, transgender, fetus, product of conception, euthanized. Some labels we choose, some we are given. The words “fellow human soul” are never whispered. How nice it would be if we could file ourselves and our neighbors the way my old boss used to file purchase orders: ‘just stick in in the drawer over there, it doesn’t matter where.’

We protect endangered species of worms with greater verve than we protect our fellow men. There is no sanctity established for being a sentient being… unless we’re studying an ape or dolphin or a toad. We revel in their thoughts, their society… why do we not cherish our own?

I hope that someday we can all just be human, and brown, and at peace.

I Want an Army

Let’s play Pretend. Let’s pretend that on a bright, sunny morning America looks to the sky and sees enemy planes. Enemy balloons. Or, (not possible!) our own planes being used against us. Let’s pretend we look to the sea and an enemy Navy is sending forth missiles and small boats full of bristling troops. Let’s pretend The Shit Hits the Fan.

Who is going to protect us? Data analysts? Biology professors? A senator? That weird guy who smells like baby powder in the next cubicle? Our society is not as full of strong manual laborers as during the Revolution or even the beginning of WWII. Our citizenry bulks at animals as food; we are not hardened, calloused, or accustomed to hard-ships as our Grandparents were. For crying out loud, we pay to get a tan, we pay to go for a run, and we pay for others to raise our children. Who would rise to the gritty challenge of warfare? You?! Me?! Yeah right. I talk a lot of smack about the Zombie Apocalypse, how about you?

The professional soldier is a valuable asset. He (or she) is trained in hand to hand combat, cyber warfare, oceanography, water sanitation, field trauma, finding food, and possibly the most important: a whole bunch of them are trained to work with indigenous personnel.

That means that one small groups of men can take a bunch of farmers or shop owners or whatever and teach them to be an effective fighting force.

So. Back to our Play Pretend. The guy next door is in his front yard freaking out. Wolf Blitzer is hiding under a table. again. Who will rally us? Who will organize us? Who’s direction would you take? The latest schmuck who paid his way into the White House?

A General. A retired Command Sergeant Major. That pimply kid at the grocery store who served three times in Iraq. The dad with one leg who knows all too well about convoys. The female who can use her computer to track enemy movements. The grouchy old fart up the road who knows all about trenches and cold. That scary hill-billy former 10th Mountain sniper.

Investing in an Army isn’t all about paying for GI Bill benefits or “invading” another country (let’s face it: the world wants our money and our blood.) because the UN finger-wagged us into it. Investing in an Army is investing in a society who cares enough to bleed a little.

The data analyst. The biology professor. The senator. The weird guy who smells like baby powder. I know they wouldn’t show their belly to an invading force. I know they would make their ancestors proud. But they’d need someone to lead them.

I know a few folks who serve now and who have served in the past. I’d follow them. I’d follow them not just to the shores of Tripoli (look that one up, why don’t you.), but to the mountains of Tennessee or the factories of Detroit or the local armory. I’d follow them because they are trained and they know what the heck they’re talking about.

A well-trained force is an insurance policy that has, perhaps recently, been over-taxed, but is insurance none the less. Insurance that we have a populace, however small, that is organized, willing, and brave enough make the hard calls. A group of folks who can communicate immediate needs an long term objectives. People who can teach us to kick in doors and then protect a crop. I want those people as my neighbors. I want them to be my friends, local leaders, and policy makers. I want a door-kicker on my side.

I want an Army.


The Value of Questions

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.

The murders in Connecticut have left grief, anger, and compassion in their wake. I add my condolences to the sea of sorrow…

Questions. So many questions. Most of the litany can be sublimed down to why? Why would anyone do such a horrific thing? Why would anyone target children and their teachers? Why would anyone kill their mother? …and so it goes.

We, as a society, as the outside watchers of the news, think answers will help us. We think discussions about mental health policies and gun control will yield the Holy Grail of answers and offer calmer seas. We think we want to know the true nature of evil and bereavement and chaos. We are lead to believe that once a thing is understood, it can then be dissected and prevented. (…or used as a weapon, more often than not…) Humans are pensive creatures; we have a spark of curiosity that defines our species.

I posit this: I don’t think the answers are half as important as the questions and the act of asking them.

If we get the answers we think we want, then we are finished. Complete. We will have labeled and categorized the human psyche as well as we’ve color-coded our genome. We will be no more than the sum of our parts. Also, because we are individuals possessing great brains, each our own, someone will break whatever mold we create for ourselves, more chaos will ensue, and more labels will be required. We will create a prison for ourselves that will squelch pain and happiness. There will be no room for experiences because there won’t be any.

The questions, though, are powerful, visceral things. If violent people are unloved, how, then can I love my fellow man more? If there is evil in the world, how can I foster more good? What can a mother do to love her children more? How am I ensuring that my children know they are loved every single day? How can I prevent such violence in my community?

(…my personal questions are these: how can a society which considers it a matter of personal choice to murder an unborn child or euthanize the ill, be surprised when the violence reaches past the clinic doors? how can we give back the dignity and personhood that goes with being human? why must everything come down to more medicine and less God? are we so blind to the existence of true evil that we are willing to sacrifice our children on the altar of ignorance? why is it a crime to protect but a sickness to harm?)

As long as we are unsatisfied with our collective behavior, humans will continue to try and improve, to become better, more the ideal. “green and growing, ripe and rotting”… The answers we honestly want cannot be legislated: gun control, school security, psychiatric medication, etc. The answers we truly seek are found in the questions about how we can love one another more. In asking our neighbors, “How can I help you?” In asking our children, “Would you like a hug and a chat?” We objectify and angrily castigate politicians, but they are just people, too. Ask your local official, “What can I do in my community to foster love and safety? What can I do to facilitate success here?”

I am so guilty of judging my fellow man. I fail to empathize, I fail to love, I fail to forgive. I fail to see the value of my fellow human being’s simple existence. I will look on a mountain in wonder and look down my nose at the absolute miracle that is my fellow man. I’m sorry for this.

Let us console one another with questions and love. The questions are so much easier than the love part…maybe that’s why we are in this situation to begin with…


Shut Up About Patraeus

David Patraeus had an affair. Okay. Aside from the soul-crushing betrayal he inflicted upon his wife and family, how, exactly, does that effect me? Why do I care what David P. does with his man-bits?

I care because if he can’t keep one simple promise to his wife, how can he hope to keep promises to the multitude of American citizens? If he can’t keep his pecker in his pants, it stands to reason that same mental/moral deficiency limits his ability to keep his secret-carrying mouth shut.

(disclaimer: I can’t be trusted with M&ms or a credit card, therefore I shall never ask to be trusted with the lives of ga-jillions of people.)

Now that the news is out, though, I’m tired of hearing about the emotions and motions behind the act(s). I want to hear facts about whether or not David did his job vis a vis those four (more?) dead Americans in Libya. I only care about his tryst in as far as it pertains to American interests.

Eisenhower may or may not have actually had a physical affair with Kate Sommersby, but he certainly strayed emotionally; so much so that Mamie Eisenhower was driven slightly mad and to the bottle. Eisenhower liberated Europe while carrying on with Kate, then was later elected President twice. Rumors of an affair obviously didn’t hinder his prospects of success because he did his job.

What happened while Patraeus was carrying on with WhatsHerName?