Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Jackets

Marty_fair This year at the North Carolina State Fair, I wanted to do more than just eat. Which is unusual. I wanted to win something for Little Bird. Knowing full well that we would be paying about 1000% mark up on any stuffed animal we would win for him, I decided on shooting for what I felt like was a sure thing.

We would have a carnie guess Kevin's age.

I thought this was a sure fire way to win something for Bird for only $3. Here we were, a seemingly young couple with a young toddler and a baby on the way. There was no way anyone would guess Kevin was over 40.

Confidant in my husband's stunning good looks and our youthful aura, we stepped up and gave the carnie our $3. He offered to guess my due date, but I wanted to boost my husband's ego with the sure fire guess of 37 or 38 years old. Age guessing it was.

It only took a few seconds for the carnie to scribble down a number on his Post-It pad and after some meaningless banter with the people ignoring him as they passed by, he asked how old Kevin was.I smiled smugly and eyed a little stuffed dog that Bird would love.

The carnie had hit it dead on.

Poor Kevin's ego was bruised instead of stroked. I felt terrible about it, but found it hilarious all at the same time. I started teasing about what else that carnie could have told us like what kind of little sports car Kevin drives or that I stay at home with the kids. I joked that the carnie probably knew it was a second marriage and would probably be able to guess a few things about our ex's as well.

It was funny in a self deprecating kind of way; our favorite kind of way.

On the ride home, we chatted a little bit more seriously though about what people don't know about us. About the misconceptions and assumptions. No one would look at me and guess that I used to play in rock bands. They wouldn't assume that Kevin is a guitar collector, and amazing jazz guitarist, and is building most of our recording gear himself. Someone even told me recently that we looked like the kind of couple who would just want an OB and an epidural rather than an intervention free birth at the Birth Center

It's so cliche, judging a book by it's cover. I just hadn't looked at my own cover lately I guess. Who knew that I look like the suburban housewife waiting for medication and possibly a mid labor latte? Who knew that Kevin actually might look his age? Who knew that our covers, while giving some hints about us, would be so far off the mark?

Aside from being amusing, it makes me grateful too, for the people who have opened the book and taken the time to get to know us past the jacket.

To read a few more chapters about Marty, you can check out her personal blog, Don't Take the Repeats. To stick with the liner notes, follow her on Twitter.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Election Day: Local Elections Matter

I'm going to keep this one short so you can take the time to check out the links here.

This Tuesday, October 6, is election day.

Municipal elections don't get much media attention or ad spend, but they are critical to our local way of life. I admittedly bust a move on national elections and can lose sight of what happens in my own backyard. However, now that I am a mother of an elementary age son, I view my world a bit differently. Don't get me wrong, I always vote, no matter how "big" or "small" the race. I love to vote and cherish my right to do so. Since my boys have been born I have taken them with me to the polls, whether nestled into the baby carrier, strapped into the stroller, or walking hand in hand. I even let my then-five-year old fill out the ballot for the presidential election in 2008. Voting is a civic responsibility and honor that won't go unnoticed in my household.

This Tuesday we vote for important local offices. In Wake County we are voting on candidates for school board, mayor of Raleigh, and city council. Cary and Durham have city council races (Primary in Durham with the election November 3). These are the people whose legislation and policies directly affect our lives - schools, zoning, budgets, trash collection, recycling, public transportation, use of public space, green space, parks and recreation, public safety (police and fire) and a whole slew of other responsibilities. In a word, these elected officials matter. To all of us.

And please allow me a sidebar here: Just because I didn't have kids in public school before doesn't mean I didn't vote. All these issues, arguably education especially, affect us all.

So do me, and you, a favor. Please go vote on Tuesday. And have a look at the voter's guide here for more information. Voting is a right we take for granted. Make good use of your right on Tuesday, October 6.

Wake County Voter Information

Durham County Voter Information

And on November 3, there are elections in Durham, Angier, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon.

As for me, you'll see me at the polls on Tuesday with my two sons in tow. Because I'll be volunteering at the polls all day for Kids Voting, you won't see me in my normal election day partisan attire. But I'll be sporting a Kids Voting T-shirt, proudly supporting an organization that brings our civic process to life in and out of the classroom.

Ilina blogs at Dirt & Noise, where she unleashes her political fury when she's not waxing about her boys' latest mischief or sharing a cocktail recipe on her weekly 5:00 Fridays post.

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The Public's Schools

I have a confession to make: As the mother of a rising kindergartner,
there's a tiny part of me that hopes all the "neighborhood schools" candidates get elected to the Wake County Board of Education on Oct. 6.
You see, as a mom, I'd really love for my son (and, in a few more
years, my daughter) to attend the elementary school in our neighborhood.

not to love? We could walk to school in 20 minutes, joining with our
friends along the way to form a daily elementary school parade. He
would be in school with kids he knows, whose parents I know. He'd be at
a "good" school that's safe, familiar, stable and on a traditional
calendar. Norman Rockwell himself would probably want to paint a
picture of it all.

Even before I became a mom, I couldn't fault the parents who complain
about (and then form yet another group to fight) annual reassignments
that resulted in instability, uncertainty and sometimes long drives for
families around the county. Now that I am a mom, I understand their
concerns in a whole new way.

But I know too much. I am more than
a mom -- a former teacher, a public education advocate, a citizen, a
taxpayer -- and I cannot in good conscience support an approach that
will lead to the re-segregation of schools, no matter how lovely my
personal scenario might seem through the eyes of motherhood.

a parent, my job is to do what is in the best interest of my own child.
But the teachers, administrators and elected officials in our
community? Their job is to do what is in the best interest of ALL
children, regardless of what neighborhood they live in or who their
parents are.

There are plenty of arguments on all sides of the
debate around "supporting diverse schools" or "supporting neighborhood
schools" (which aren't mutually exclusive in theory, but generally are
opposites in practice). I don't have the time or energy or clarity of
thought to wade through them all. But here are few things that, from
research and personal experience, I know to be true:

  • Schools
    with high concentrations of poverty have a harder time being successful
    than schools with fewer low-income students. It's not some kind of
    hogwash about having poor kids sit next to rich kids so they can learn
    better. It's simply that students living in poverty, no matter how
    smart they are, come with additional challenges (like being hungry or
    not having adequate health care or having a single parent who can't be
    home much because she's working two jobs) that schools must try to

  • Schools with high concentrations of poverty
    tend to have higher rates of teacher turnover because they're tougher
    places to teach. That usually means more teachers with less experience
    and a general instability within the school culture, which means that
    teachers suffer and students suffer. And that's all students in the
    school, not just the poor ones. Studies suggest that students in poor
    and minority schools are twice as likely to have an inexperienced
    teacher and are 61 percent more likely to be assigned an uncertified

  • Advocates for a "neighborhood schools"
    approach who claim that additional funding will be given to schools in
    poor neighborhoods to help them overcome their challenges are full of
    crap. Particularly in today's world of slashed budgets, the money won't
    be there -- or if it does come, it won't last long. And, unless you're
    Geoffrey Canada in the Harlem Children's Zone, it won't be enough to make a difference.

  • Wake
    County's diversity policy is imperfect -- and I think the district
    sometimes does a poor job of implementing the policy, leaving families
    feeling ignored and snubbed -- but maintaining integrated schools is
    the right goal. The district is not "out to get" anyone and derives no
    pleasure from disrupting parents' vision of how school should be. They
    are simply wrestling with making the best decisions they can in support
    of the nearly 140,000 students in the district.

As for the
election on Oct. 6, unfortunately I don't get to vote because I don't
live in one of the districts on this year's ballot. If you are eligible
to vote, I certainly don't presume to tell you who to vote for and am
not endorsing any candidates. But I hope that, regardless of where you
live, you'll consider that, as parents, we have the luxury making
decisions based on our own children. Our school districts must consider
all the children at once.

* * *

If you'd like more information the role of diversity in maintaining healthy public schools, read Making Choices, a report I co-wrote in 2003 when I worked at Wake Education Partnership, or Striking a Balance, a 2008 report from the same organization. And feel free to comment, argue, debate -- just please be polite about it.

When Cyndi climbs down from her soapbox, she can be found blogging at Junius & Pippi Take the Cake.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

On Gun Control

I saw this article on our local news yesterday, and it made me sick to my stomach. In case you don't feel like clicking a link, here's the story.

A 2-year-old Sanford boy was killed late Wednesday morning in what authorities have labeled an accidental shooting.

Details were not immediately clear, but Sanford police Capt. David Smith said the child or another child in the home at 522 Cannon Circle got hold of a gun and that it was fired. The boy was shot in the head.

"It�s obvious someone left an unsecured weapon,� Smith said. �We don�t know if the toddler shot himself or if one of the other children in the house was playing with the gun.�

Two other children, ages 3 and 4, as well as the boy's mother, Melanie Tyson, were at the residence at the time. His father, Joey Tyson, was at work. Police did not release the name of the child.

Emergency workers responded to the report at 11:13 a.m., and the child was taken to Central Carolina Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Smith did not speculate as to whether the boy's parents will face any charges.

�I don�t want to be premature and talking about charges until we finish our investigation,� he said.

This? This is not ok. And this is why, yes, I absolutely believe that we need tighter gun control laws in this country.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this: I admit that I have a somewhat irrational fear of guns. I've never touched a gun in my life, and never want to. When my school decided to take one semester of 7th grade Phys. Ed. and offer "Hunter's Education" class instead, I had my mom write me a note saying that it was against my beliefs. They let me take study hall for that period. I hate guns, I wish they didn't exist.

I think that if you want to own a gun for hunting, fine. It's not my personal hobby, but whatever. If you want a handgun for "personal protection," I think that's ridiculous, but I also realize that it's easy for me to say that from my very safe, upper-middle class neighborhood. I think the idea of anyone owning an automatic rifle is absolutely obscene, and that no one needs an AK-47 outside of a military context.

That said, in spite of all my personal wacky liberal views on guns, I'm not stupid. There's never going to be any real anti-gun legislation that gets passed in this country. For Christ's sake, people show up with loaded assault rifles at town hall meetings when the topic is health care of all things. Try to imagine the reaction if Obama wanted to talk about passing restrictions on gun ownership. Armageddon? Probably close.

But look, there has to be some middle ground here to put an end to these types of horrible accidents. Like oh, I don't know, maybe requiring gun owners to take a basic gun safety course? Or passing a law that if you have a gun and there are children in the house, you also have to buy a lock like this for it?

And I know that all of you conservatives are all about "personal responsibility!" and "I don't want the government passing laws that restrict my freedom!" or whatever the hell your argument is. (Although, ironically, when the issue comes to either abortion rights or gay marriage, y'all want to slap a whole bunch of laws all over that shit. Which makes no sense to me at all, but that's neither here nor there.) But is this really all that different than being required to pass a test before you can get a driver's license, or laws that require car seats to keep your kids safe? I don't see anyone at the DMV with a protest sign, claiming that their personal freedom is being infringed upon.

I'm not unsympathetic to the family in this tragedy. Obviously I have no idea what it's like to lose a child - there are other people out there who know that type of pain, and I'm truly thankful that I don't. I don't think they're bad people, I'm sure they had a gun because they wanted to keep their family safe. But to not only have lost a child, but to also know that you're the one who brought home the weapon that killed your child? I don't know how you go on with your life after that. There has to be something that can be done to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring. There just has to be.

has lived in the Triangle since August 2008. Originally, she's a
Southern native (Mississippi girls, holla!) who spent the better part
of the last decade in Seattle, where she met a cute British guy,
married him, and had a beautiful baby girl. Since they had a kid, they
decided that Seattle was too far away from their families, so they
relocated. They're enjoying life in NC, even though they both whine
about the heat during the summer. Cindy blogs at, and is @poobou on Twitter.

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