Recently there was a brouhaha over at Derfwad Manor—I can’t link to it because Mrs. G. shut it down right away; the commotion was only tangentially linked to the post she’d written and spiraled out of control in quite an ugly way. One person actually used the “n” word in the comments and my head is still reeling over the fact that a) anybody would use that word and b )anybody would use that word at Derfward Manor.
The gist of the whole thing is that Mrs. G. was sharing a podcast on poverty she’d heard and one commenter, a teacher—let’s say Commenter A, wrote about how hard it is to watch parents make terrible choices about money that impacts their children negatively. Because she mentioned hair weaves, the comment seemed racially-tinged. Another commenter, Commenter B, called her (and the horrid person that used the “n” word) out and things deteriorated from there.
This is the thing.
I know both A and B. I really like them both—okay, I might sort of love B a little in a “how did I ever cross paths with someone so much cooler than I am” kind of way--and I think they are both good-hearted people who care deeply about children and education. I can see why B took what A said the way she did, but I can still sort of understand why A said it—though, in retrospect, I’m sure she wishes she would have phrased things quite differently.
(I have so been there and it was so not fun.)
I understand about generational poverty. I understand about a permanent underclass. I understand about racism. I understand that there are sociological and psychological reasons behind the choices all of us make. I am positive white privilege exists. These are things I understand intellectually and they provide the framework in which I attempt to view various situations; especially as this relates to students with whom I work.
I also understand that a teacher who sees the promise and hope a child has being undermined at every turn by parental choices that run counter to her own values (stress on “own values”—what makes us positive our values are the “right” ones?) can easily become very frustrated. Frustrated enough to dash off a comment that makes her look/sound “racist.”
I think the part of the equation that cannot be ignored right now is the climate in which teachers are teaching. Teachers are being blamed for all the shortcomings in our educational system today and that’s not fair. Even the best teacher in the world cannot overcome a class full of children that are not properly nourished, properly rested, adequately supplied and whose parent(s) support their education with access to books, study time, etc. (This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the systemic clusterf**k that is our currently educational system.)
I am not saying I blame the parents for all of this (see paragraph 6), but I am also saying I don’t blame the teachers (okay, I do blame some of the bad teachers I encounter, but that’s a separate post).
As far as the brouhaha that started this post goes, it is sad to know that two people who would likely get along really well if they ever met "in real life" have such terrible opinions of one another.
I said I was done with BlogHer posts. I misspoke. This has been rattling around in my head and I want to share it with you.
I have been making a concerted effort to be more "in the moment" in my own life. Now, I am far from the worst when it comes to being constantly plugged in, but I am also far from the best (Hello, my name is Jenn and I am addicted to Words with Friends on my smartphone). I decided that, in attending BlogHer, I would not bring a laptop and I would strictly limit looking at my phone. I did that.
I was practically the only person to do that, though.
A very strange thing happened in the panel meetings (and this is a big reason I never sat through a whole one): there were round tables in the room, full of bloggers typing on their laptops, tablets or phones as the panelists spoke. Hardly anyone was actually looking at the speakers and people also weren't really interacting with one another.
It freaked me out.
The panelists are there to speak and connect with the audience--how can you truly relate with someone who is not looking at you? So much of communication is nonverbal.
I know that many bloggers were liveTweeting the discussions and a lot of them probably had obligations to post things later and needed to take good notes.
Still, it freaked me out.
I realize it's a conundrum--we were all there because we spend a lot of time on the internet--but that same internet felt, to me, like it prevented some of "real life" from unfolding.
At the Aiming Low party on Saturday night there was a "fortune teller" at the door--she'd give you a quick once over and then write on the sticker her impression of you. She said she was inspired by my smile. That made me happy and, boy howdy, did I have fun.
Saturday afternoon found Suzy and I ensconsed at a cafe table outside the Starbucks at the Marriott--I downloaded Twitter onto my phone and Suzy had a youngster at the next table over show her how to send a Tweet on my phone announcing that she was ready to meet her peeps.
Her peeps came running.
Digression and background info: Tanis commented on my blog once and I responded to the comment with something along the lines of "I am totally verklempt, blah, blah, blah, you are a blogging godess, blah, blah, blah." I told Suzy this story and she ordered me never again to kiss anyone's ass or they would never respect me.
There Suzy, Shawn, Tanis and I sat, chatting about this and that--mostly philosophy, how much better-looking Shawn is in real life and the fact that everyone assumes that Tanis and Shawn are using blogging conventions as a cover for an affair. Twitter may have been mentioned once or twice.
Having spent 24 hours under the influence of Suzy's extreme "saltiness," looking for a laugh and not wanting to be thought of as an ass-kissing nobody, I told Tanis and Shawn they shouldn't for one minute think I was f***in' impressed to be hanging with them.
I'm not sure they believed me.
Then Julie from Chubby Mommy Running Club stopped by and it didn't take me long to fall in love with her--and the Oh Shoes she was repping (teachers and comfy, stylish shoes are a match made in heaven). Now I'm really going to sound like I'm namedropping, but it is a fact that Bossy wandered by and stayed to catch up (which was really great, because I love me both some Bossy the blogger and Bossy the person).
Suzy would have to tell you the rest of what went on at BlogHer Adjacent, because JCK and I left to get our Closing Keynote Speech on--but I have no doubt that the end was as legendary as the beginning.
You can see now, why, in my first BlogHer post on Monday, I said I was still processing the experience.
It was fun. I was happy.
I am tossing this in here because I can't leave it out, but I can't write another BlogHer post our you will turn on me hoisting pitchforks and torches--another person I met at BlogHer was a friend of JCK's, Diana, who blogs at Life Well Blended; she is smart and lovely and amazing and she totally slayed me when she had to take a phone call from work because one of her fugitives had been caught. You should check her out!
I said I wasn't going to BlogHer to learn to monetize my blog--and, as it turns out, I didn't actually sit through a whole panel discussion. BlogHer for me was about the people--and, actually, it turned out some of the parts of BlogHer didnt' happen at BlogHer.
My BlogHer experience started on Thursday when JCK and I sat at the lake by my home eating spicy chicken sandwiches from my local deli, noshing on sliced mango and talking about our handsome and spirited sons--my Danger Boy and her BOY. She is IN for it--and I mean that in the best possible way.
That evening I got to share the delights of the La Jolla Children's pool with the irrepressible, blue-eyed daughter of Magpie Musing. She didn't want to leave and who could blame her? I was tickled to hear that her dad took my advice and they went back to the beach the next day where she promptly learned to boogie board. I would post a picture of Magpie and me, but it hasn't made it from her iPhone to my inbox--I suspect she's busy having fun in the California sun.
I was sitting in a panel Friday when I started getting texts from the lovely and talented Aaryn Belfer--who, incidentally, was sitting in the same room. One thing led to another and the next thing you know we were sitting at a table in the Sails Pavilion of the Convention Center solving the problems of the world. Obama--call us before you make your next move. We have thoughts.
Friday night heralded the arrival of Suzy Soro, from Hollywood: Where Hot Comes to Die, on my doorstep. And really? She deserves her own post. More tomorrow!
My experience at BlogHer is not one that can be encapsulated in a single post or in a linear way--so I thought I'd spend this week sharing some of the moments that made it a memorable experience; there were many.
Also? The whole thing was a bit overwhelming and it may take me all week to process it!
Saturday night--the final night of BlogHer--was a party night the likes of which I have not seen since, well, ever.Yes, I realize that outs me as soooooo not a party animal, but that is the brutal truth.
JCK and I started out the evening at the Social Fiesta party--it was sponsored by the Latina Bloggers and I am telling you that if I ever get another invite to a Latina Bloggers party I am going. The setting was stunning, the food was amazing, the music was great, they were serving Jack Daniels (not to me, yuck, but to JCK--I had vodka Collins) and the male dancers (think Ricky Martin in triplicate) were *ahem* entertaining.
When the Marriott terrace got a little too chilly we moved down to the Aiming Low party--which had the benefits of a) a totally cute guy from BlogFrog who bought* JCK, BOSSY and I drinks and b) a couch for JCK and I to rest upon in comfort (kudos to JCK's eagle eye for knowing when to swoop in as someone else stood up) as we drank, people watched and talked books, films and Meyers-Briggs profiles (now you're thinking, "no wonder she doesn't get invited to a lot of parties!").
It was already well past my usual bedtime (this makes well after midnight for one solid week peeps--I may well turn into a pumpkin tonight) when we hit the elevator for the quick ride to the CheeseburHer party. I'm going to grimace, and you will to, but I just have to say it this way: the party was off the hook.
I have said this before, but it bears repeating. I do not dance well. I dance like an uptight white girl with no rhythm. Which is, to repeat, I don't dance well. Therefore, I need to have a fair amount of the ultimate social lubricant, alcohol, in my system before I lose enough inhibition to risk Elaine Benes-style humiliation on the dance floor. The thing was, I had to drive home so there could be no overconsumption of alcohol. Moderate consumption ending hours before I drove, yes; overconsumption, no.
It turns out that being in a room full of other people that are having a blast dancing to Ce-Lo Green's Forget You can be just the impetus I need to say, WTF! So I danced. And danced, and danced. I did say to Backpacking Dad, "When I think I can dance, that's an indication I shouldn't be driving" but truly I was being moved by the music and the company and the lingering aroma of McDonald's french fries.
It was 12:30 a.m. when JCK and I parted company--she to the glory of an empty hotel room (a luxury that the mother of young children appreciates like no one else!) and me to the parking lot across the street to retrieve my car. I walked out of the hotel with Stacie and by the time we got to the lot we were good enough friends that I gave her a ride to her hotel. That right there is another snapshot of what BlogHer is all about.
*He used drink coupons, but it's the thought that counts!
So . . . since BlogHer 2011 is in San Diego it would be foolish of me not to attend. I am going with few expectations beyond meeting people in person that I know through the blogosphere. I am not going to learn how to "monetize" my blog. I would love to be paid for my writing at some point, but not for this blog; I love the community and the freedom to write whatever and whenever I want. Plus, I'm a terrible salesperson.
In addition, I can barely remember to pick winners for the giveaways I host. Which reminds me . . . the winner of the E-Mealz.com giveaway is . . .
#1 (randomly chosen):
Posted by: Katherine | July 05, 2011 at 08:50 AM
Back to BlogHer: My plans are somewhat loose--I haven't even looked at the schedule--but I do have the important things penciled in.
Those are the plans--the rest remains to be seen, but I assure you I will keep you posted and report back. If any of you are planning to be there, please let me know so we can be sure to meet.
BlogHer is next weekend--this weekend is the Water Polo Junior Olympics; Mr. Fix-it, Social Butterfly, Peanut and I are heading to Irvine to cheer on Danger Boy and his 18U team. We'll be gone through Tuesday, so posting may be light, nonexistent OR I may have great photos and be dying to share them with you. Who knows?!
With every blog friend I meet in real life I become more convinced that the line between “blog” and “real” friends is very blurry.
Tammy blogs at Delusions of . . . Everything and is yet another reason I really need to make a visit to Seattle soon (as if Mrs. G. was not enough). She and her family have been vacationing in San Diego and we got together for breakfast Wednesday morning (to which she treated me—thanks!) at my favorite breakfast place—The Mission--before she left rainy San Diego for rainier Seattle.
One of the fun things about meeting bloggers in real life is that you get to hear the kids real names—and her son and mine share both an age and a name. I already knew that we are both amateur photographers who love photographing flowers and it is always fun to talk politics with someone who leans just the way you do.
I’m beginning to see my friend Leslee’s point in checking the work of amateur photographers outside of restaurants—geez, lady, you could have mentioned that my sweater was draped over my left breast in a very unflattering way (thank goodness for Photoshop’s cropping fuction). You just can’t depend on total strangers to be vigilant about aesthetics!
When you take a stranger’s photo do you check to make sure it’s good? I usually take two or three, and I warn them when trees or lightposts are sticking out of someone’s head.
My love for the written word is well-documented in this space. I lean heavily toward literary fiction and memoir, but I never say no to compelling non-fiction and there’s a little piece of my reader’s heart that belongs to young adult novels. During Green Girl’s visit, both she and Deb talked about The Hunger Games. I read a chapter from the middle of the book aloud one day when I was subbing—it seemed interesting enough, but I was still a bit skeptical because I am generally not drawn to fiction set in dystopias (which is odd, because depressing never bothers me).
On a whim last week I picked up a copy of the book. Two nights later I snagged the second of the series, Catching Fire. You know you’ve found something that resonates with you when you just can’t wait for the next installment.
Author Suzanne Collins skillfully riffs on what’s happening in popular culture and politics today to create a futuristic society where power is concentrated in the hands of the “Capitol” and children are pitted against one another in a game that is fought to the death and designed to both quell dissent and build a distorted patriotism.
The game itself is “Survivor” on steroids—though “playing” is compulsory and there is no fun to be had for any of the participants. The inhabitants of the “Capitol” are living out the decline of the Roman Empire in living color with modern day conveniences and vices.
The main character is Katniss, a strong, independent teen who supports her mother and sister with cunning and bravery—in short, a nice change, from the gossip girls that tend to populate many young adult novels these days. The main relationships in the book are well-drawn and complicated.
I would love to be teaching 8th-grade Social Studies and be able to be use this novel as a way to draw parallels between the politics of today and our society’s current move away from democracy and toward plutocracy; also, to highlight the excesses that herald the decline of a civilization—connecting this to Ancient Civilizations would be enlightening and engaging.
It turns out that Green Girl, San Diego Momma and I all think this is a book you should definitely get a copy of—share it with your kids if you have them and enjoy it yourself if you don’t. It will certainly make you think.
I follow a lot of blogs (93 in my Google Reader alone) as well as reading blogs through newspapers and trying to touch bases with everyone that reads and comments here. Still, I did not know of or follow Katie Granju, who blogs at MamaPundit until I read her heartbreaking story in the New York Times Motherlode column. Since then I have read her blog daily and thought of her often.
Katie probably has no idea who I am—nor should she—but I am following her call for bloggers to help share her family’s story and aid in her tenacious fight as she hopes that in publicizing the injustices her family are enduring in the wake of the drug overdose death of her teenage son, Henry Granju, justice may be, at the very least, pursued, and, ideally, served.
I am not going to go into all the details of the story here—the link at Henry’s name will take you to the posts she’s written as she shares the details of what has transpired over the last several months, surrounding her son’s death.
What I will do is tell you why I am so invested in the story of a mother and son I’ve never met, who lived thousands of miles away. Katie is a good mother who loved her son with all her heart. Her son was, by all accounts, a sweet kid who knew that he was loved. These things were not enough to save Henry from a descent into drug addiction or to save Katie from losing her eldest child. Where some people are able to comfort themselves with the idea that “this would never happen in my family,” I cannot do that. I really am more of a “there but for the grace of God go I” type thinker.
Shepherding your children from babyhood to adulthood is the most important job most of us have and there are so many ways it can go tragically, sorrowfully wrong. The teen years of my children have, for me, been largely filled with joy; but still, I worry. I know that with certain things I can do my best, but matters are beyond my control. If there is any parent who doesn’t have a pit in their stomach when the phone rings late at night or a siren wails when the kids aren’t home, I have yet to meet him or her.
Specific to Henry’s story, what makes his loss even more difficult to take is that, by dint of his addiction, he seems to have been deemed disposable by the authorities. The questionable circumstances, negligent actions, and assault that are all intertwined with his death have not been investigated, considered or pursued by law enforcement.
Katie Granju has spent months waiting for the wheels of justice to begin to grind. She is done waiting and is taking action to oil the gears that power those wheels. Nobody should be considered disposable. The pursuit of justice should not be reserved only for those that are considered “worthy.”
Katie’s fight is specifically for Henry, but I believe, as does she, her battle has repercussions for all parents, their children, and society. I hope you take the time to follow the links and learn about her struggle for answers and her need to show that even a “junkie” deserves fair treatment in our justice system.
I wish you luck Katie and I wish I had “met” you under better circumstances.