Farrell’s comedy bit rings all too true

Will Farrell’s Sunday night bit at the Emmy’s was so funny…and so not funny all at the same time. In case you missed it because you were scrambling to pack lunches for the week, find that homework paper you needed to sign for the teacher or catching up on the work emails that piled up in your inbox over the weekend, Farrell showed up to present the final two awards for the night with his adorable three boys in tow. Dressed in soccer gear with one kid carrying his blankie and another fiddling with Daddy’s iPad, Farrell explained to the audience that he’d just gotten the call 45 minutes earlier to present the awards and was dragging his kids along because he couldn’t find child care at the last minute. Funny stuff that got big laughs from the audience. I thought it was funny too but in that way that comedy is only great when it rings true.

Farrell’s comedy bit though is a real life conundrum for many moms, and dads, on an all true frequent basis. Unfortunately for those of us not on the awards show circuit it isn’t ever all that funny. How many times have you had your carefully laid child care plans fall all to pieces at the last minute and been left scrambling for a solution? And when your frantic calls don’t find anyone able to help you out, you end up dragging your kids along and praying they don’t make a scene, talk too loud, say something inappropriate or have an all out meltdown? We’ve all been there and it’s never funny. The boss most certainly isn’t laughing. And we are stuck in the awkwardly awful position of trying to juggle work and family duties and usually dropping one if not both balls. It always feels like an epic fail. And it’s never funny.

I don’t know about you but in our house every day is a down-to-the-minute scheduling feat with little if any room for error. One blip and the whole ship goes down — and your career ambitions right along with it. Who hasn’t thought at least once that if so-and-so would just schedule their life/manage their time better these types of last minute disasters could be averted? Obviously, so-and-so just doesn’t have their act together. I was super guilty of this kind of thinking before I had a kid. Now I’m the one on the other side reading these thoughts on the faces of those looking at me with a mix of pity and disdain when I’m dragging my daughter to some meeting no one wants her at and where she doesn’t want to be. And it’s never funny.

So thanks Will Farrell for bringing a bit of real life drama to the Emmy’s and giving us all a good laugh. I’ll be thinking of you next time this happens and wondering why no one in the room is laughing. Except for maybe me, the crazy mom who just doesn’t have her act together yet.

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Victims of a “victimless” crime

There wasn’t much I liked about being a cops reporter back in my newspaper days. Working late nights, monitoring the scanner and responding to fires, fatal accidents, shootings, standoffs. The cops beat is a depressing one — covering some of the worst moments in people’s lives and encountering the kind of people that reappear as monsters in your dreams. I encountered many of these monsters during police sting operations. Pro-active policing was both awful and fascinating, watching how these teams carefully plotted and planned for weeks and months to round up drugs, guns, pimps and prostitutes. Sting operations are a rush of adrenalin as officers pounce on scene, followed by a sad parade of characters either fighting to the end or hanging their heads in despair and defeat.

I hadn’t thought about those days much until I went to a recent law enforcement lecture on human trafficking. I went expecting to hear about the trafficking by foreign men of foreign women, an issue that first caught my interest when I worked in the Senate on a bill attempting to address the problem of mail order brides being brought to the US to work as domestic and sex slaves. (The bill never went anywhere.) Instead I learned about the modern-day sex slavery occurring right where I live. The monsters I encountered years ago seem tame compared to the ones running the game now.

The following information was provided in that lecture and in an outstanding series recently published by the RGJ — you can read their report here.

Sex trafficking victims are mostly young girls who have been recruited or kidnapped into the life. Ten years ago, the average age of a woman arrested in a prostitution sting was 40 — today that average is 18-20. Ninety percent of the kids in the sex trafficking business in the US are Americans — they are not foreign born. Most girls are recruited between the ages of 12 and 14. More than three quarters of girls involved in sex trafficking were sexually abused at home. An estimated 450,000 kids runaway each year in the US and one in three will be lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours. While some boys are victims of sex trafficking, the vast majority are girls. Gangs are moving away from drugs and towards sex trafficking as a primary industry — drugs are merchandise that can only be sold once whereas a girl is merchandise that can be sold over and over again. Pimps set minimums for girls to meet every night, typically 10 men or $1,000. Pimps brand their girls with tattoos and refer to their group of girls as a stable — the comparison to animals unavoidable. Every girl will at some point get beaten by her pimp, often in a deliberate attempt to cause a miscarriage. Child pornography is closely linked to sex trafficking. Johns frequently request young and underage girls or girls who look underage.

If all that isn’t bad enough, the anecdotes are even worse. Pimps cutting braces off with pliers. Johns who wear not only wedding rings but shirts proclaiming “#1 Dad.” Former sex slaves who give talks to educate lawmakers being propositioned by someone attending that meeting.

Most of these girls are lured by pimps with promises of love and affection — someone who pays attention to them and buys them things. For girls ignored and abused at home, the pimp fills a void and satisfies every child’s longing for love and affection. What she thinks is a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, quickly shifts. He tells her she needs to do her part, she needs to bring in money. And to keep that so-called love, she will do anything.

Sex trafficking is a weird conversation here in Nevada, where it is legal in brothels in rural counties. In some counties, those tax revenues are the primary revenue source for government budgets. The perception here is frequently that this is a victimless crime, and in some places not even a crime but a business transaction. Thanks to the likes of Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch and a shameless self promoter, and cable shows like “Cathouse” prostitution looks glamourous even fun. A non-stop party that women choose to join. Since she consents, it must be her choice, right? But is it the choice a woman makes because she don’t have any other? And if she wants to leave the life, what choices does she have then?

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Learning to be patient

As a kid, one of my mother’s ongoing struggles with me was to teach me some patience. Now most, if not all kids, have trouble waiting for anything but I was a particularly impatient child about everything. To the point of annoying my parents to the extreme…and often. I was always thinking about the next thing before I’d even finished what I was doing. It took me more than 30 years to learn how to live in the moment and not constantly be thinking, planning or preparing for what’s next. I’m still in a hurry but am better about being present, at least about some things. Others will probably always be an issue. Honestly, the speed limit itself is annoying but drive under the limit…who does that?

My mother must be proud that I am learning to be patient and that her granddaughter is the one teaching me. PJ goes at her own pace and no one can speed her up or push her, not even her overbearing and pushy mother. No matter how hard I may cajole and bribe she doesn’t do anything until she is ready. She doesn’t cave to the pressure. She’s perfectly content being the one who doesn’t go along with the group and goes her own way. It’s actually quite an admirable trait and something I hope she holds on to as she grows up…not so much in dealing with me but definitely when it comes to her friends! (I know, I know, wishful thinking…but let a mom dream, okay?)

We live in a ski happy town. There are a dozen resorts within an hour and practically everyone here skis or boards. So it is no surprise that many parents have their kids on skis at age 3 or 4, some as soon as they are steady walkers. I’ve been trying to talk PJ into a ski lesson for two years. “No thanks Mom. That’s not for me. Maybe someday.” This was only unusual for her in that there was never any drama about it, just a straight forward declaration of what she will or won’t do. Same with roller skating. And ice skating. Even the slide at the park until she was 3 1/2 years old. “No thanks Mom. I’ll watch you” or “cheer on my friends,” was a common refrain. And that’s exactly what she has done. And she has been fine with it.

I’m not much for sitting on the sidelines so this has been hard for me to understand. For awhile I thought I could eventually talk her into things and when I realized that wasn’t happening I decided to quit hassling her about all of it. She knew that many of her friends were skiing, ice skating and roller skating and she was fine not being a part of it so mustering all of my self control, I decided to let it go. Yay me! And this past winter I didn’t give a thought to ski lessons. So I was taken a bit by surprise when in January PJ announced she was ready for a ski lesson. “I’m big enough now Mom, I want to try it out.” She did and had a blast. We went a few more times and though she ended the season far from proficient, she had a great time.

PJ’s stubbornness has taught me to be a bit more patient and a bit less pushy, traits I hope will make me a better parent. It’s just another one of those reminders that sometimes being a parent is about learning and growing ourselves as much as it is about teaching our kids.

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Our kids are targets

Every day when I watch the news or read the paper, I will without fail learn about an abused, neglected, kidnapped or dead child. In between the stories of Washington gridlock, foreign conflicts and the latest celebrity baby, there is always some short item about a missing, victimized or murdered child. Some of these stories capture attention for days or even weeks before they fade from our memory, others barely survive the news day. Until tomorrow, and the next one.

Maybe it’s always been that way. Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe I’m only noticing it now because I’m a mom. I don’t know. What I do know is that our children are targets. And as a mom, my most important job isn’t necessarily teaching my daughter to read and write or be a charitable person or to work hard and always do her best. More and more, that feels like the easy stuff. STom likes to quote Chris Rock and say his job as a daddy is to keep her off the pole. Sort of funny and sort of true. My job as her mom is teaching her not to be a target. Not funny, and absolutely true.

We have child sex predators who go unnoticed because they fail to register with police. We have teachers, preachers, coaches, you name it getting away with molesting and assaulting kids because other adults help cover it up. We have kids getting shot on the street because they look, walk, act a certain way. We have parents murdering their children. We have children victimizing other kids and tweeting about it. We have children snatched from street corners and bus stops, held hostage for years and submitted to the type of physical, mental and sexual abuse most of us can’t even imagine, let alone comprehend. The most egregious offenders get locked up but too many serve minimal sentences, go free or are never prosecuted because these crimes too often go unreported. It’s beyond sad. It’s wrong. But what are we doing to stop it? Telling our kids how not to be targets.

There’s been a lot of conversation of late about the lessons black fathers and mothers teach their sons so as not to be a target of racial profiling. How to speak to and act around police, how to act when confronted and stopped even if you’ve done nothing wrong, how not to put your hands in your pockets so the convenience store clerk doesn’t suspect you of sinister intent. These are realities white families struggle to understand, if they even try. These simply aren’t challenges we typically face. But the conversation is eerily familiar to me, both as a woman and now as mom to a daughter.

I heard often growing up about how to avoid situations where I’d put myself at risk. I knew from an early age that the way I walked, held my head, clothed my body and did or didn’t make eye contact were mannerisms that could mark me as a target for predators. Or not. That short skirt sent the wrong message and could be an invitation for trouble. It was up to me to make sure I didn’t get caught in a bad place. The world PJ is growing up in bears no less risk. I would argue that technology and our general desensitization to violence, particularly against women and minorities, makes her reality even more frightening. Three decades later, I am compelled to teach her the same things I learned in an attempt to keep her safe, or as safe as I possibly can. And then I read the news and worry it just isn’t enough.

Posted in Feminist Shoes, Mommy Shoes | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In today’s news…

There is just so much good material out there today, I thought I’d do a little roundup of some of the most important and entertaining items I’ve read today. In case you missed it…

Under the category of breaking news, CBS reports that the IRS targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups for investigation under the new C4 rules is a case of ineffective management. Understatement of the day.

The Syrian conflict continues to be the most important and most ignored story out there. No one seems to have a clear view of the situation or strategy of what to do. For weeks now we have been hearing the reports of brutality by the Assad government regime. But stories like this one make clear brutality is prevalent on all sides of this conflict.

Apparently someone in the Attorney General’s office forgot that media outlets who feel they have been wronged will spare no space or ink to let everyone know about it. The seizure of extensive AP phone records is unprecedented according to journalism experts and has got the media and Congress in quite a tizzy. Ironic that the Republicans are criticizing the move, which was supposedly part of the Administration’s more aggressive investigation of leaks — something the Republicans demanded be done. AG Eric Holder says he recused himself from the investigation and the White House is denying any knowledge of the search, which is entirely possible if not probable given how information is shared. Instead of making this political as this fantastic TIME piece outlines, we should all be concerned about the gradual and ongoing erosion of privacy and civil liberties.

Minnesota is the 12th state to understand what equality truly means and today legalized same sex marriage.

Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy was the top story on practically every morning news show. Kudos to the star for bravely telling every detail of her story in the New York Times. I can’t deny though that this preventive surgery and genetic testing is both amazing and frightening at the same time. Further proof that we need to be much more educated and active health care consumers.

The one percent have taken privilege to a whole new low level — hiring handicapped Disney tour guides so they can skip the long lines. Apparently, anyone who was anyone in Manhattan had the super secret phone number to book the service this past spring break.

Prince Harry visits the Jersey Shore. Chris Christie was probably shooting some campaign video, which would explain why Snooki was nowhere in sight.

More trouble for Justin Bieber on his world tour. First he offends practically everyone with his comments about Anne Frank and now apparently, he’s to blame for a major burglary in South Africa.

And finally a little note for the ladies: Be sure to get the upcoming Body Issue of ESPN magazine. Nevada’s own Colin Kaepernick and his tattoos will be featured. You’re welcome.

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Note: I try not to focus too much on Nevada-only issues on my blog but with the 2013 Legislature in session, there are some important topics to discuss. I hope my readers and followers find these interesting and informative even if they don’t live here — I bet these issues are hot topics where you live too!

This Op-ed ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal last week.

Jim Clark hurtles quite a few accusations in his March 22 One View column to prop up his argument that Assembly Bill 46 is a “dangerous scheme”. Here are some facts.

Nevada schools receive most capital projects and maintenance money through a mix of six local property, construction, real estate and government services taxes. Washoe County is the only school district that has access to only two of them, voter approved property taxes and government services tax for debt service.

In Washoe County, voters approved a tax increase to bond for construction and maintenance in 1998, and in 2002 voted in favor of a rollover bond to maintain those rates and continue that program until 2012. Unfortunately, another rollover bond wouldn’t raise any money for at least six more years given Washoe County’s declining property values and in November 2008, voters defeated a ballot question to increase sales and government services taxes for older school improvements and repairs. As of November, that left WCSD with no major revenue source.

Yet, WCSD is responsible for continuing to maintain and repair its 7 million square feet of building space at 93 school sites across the county. That’s 93 plumbing and HVAC systems, playgrounds and parking lots to maintain; hundreds of classrooms to keep current with technology and safe with basic improvements like new doors, door locks and windows. More than half of these schools are 30 years or older and 25 percent are more than 50 years old. Mr. Clark accuses the WCSD Board of Trustees of failing to do its job yet under their watch, projects in the previous bond program to expand newer schools, update technology infrastructure and provide critical security upgrades were all completed within the approved budget.

WCSD’s predicament has been a long time coming. In the early 1990s, WCSD school leaders declined to be included in a bill granting Clark County School District a new slice of local taxes. It was a poor choice nearly 20 years ago and WCSD has since tried to rectify it, but lawmakers for reasons to numerous to name have said no. Other legislative attempts have also failed. And now any bill faces the governor’s threatened veto. Like every other effort to address the district’s capital funding woes, AB46 faces high hurdles.

While lawmakers are considering increased funding for K-12 in the coming budget, don’t forget two important facts Mr. Clark failed to mention. First, the proposed “increases” are in truth only restoring a fraction of the hundreds of millions in education funding cut over the past five years. Second, there are restrictions on how districts can spend state allocations, which are largely targeted at “in the classroom” items not boiler repairs.

AB46 isn’t perfect. Frankly, the $20 million it would generate annually isn’t enough but it’s better than doing nothing. Education is the greatest economic development tool we possess and it’s time to invest in it. As a state, we can’t keep using the recession as cover for our failure to act. We must keep moving forward and planning for better days because only by doing so will they actually arrive.

Tell your legislators you support Washoe County schools and investing in education. Tell them you support AB46.

Jennifer Crowe is a former education reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and a blogger at http://www.jennshoes.wordpress.com

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Wrath of the hypocrites

Just when you think people can’t sink any lower, you’re confronted with undeniable proof of just how awful we can be to each other.

Lucy Flores, an Assemblywoman here in Nevada, has received death threats in the wake of her testimony this week in support of AB230, a sex education bill. Flores hasn’t said much about the threats likely in an attempt not to shift the focus on AB230 from the bill’s actual intent — to establish standards for age appropriate, comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in schools. AB230 has nothing to do with abortion but the mere mention of the word has predictability brought out the wrath of the social right.

Once again, disagreement dissolves into hate. It’s hard to imagine how it felt for Flores to reveal such a personal and obviously painful part of her life and make it forever a part of the public record. She is bravely speaking out not to advocate for abortions but to fight for public policy that ensures the education of young men and women, boys and girls, about their physical, mental and sexual health so that they make smart choices and not wind up in the circumstances she faced. AB230 calls for statewide standards to be established for age-appropriate curriculum, allows for health educators other than teachers and school nurses to present the curriculum, and expands the composition of the local sex education committee.

Parents can still opt their children out of the sex education program at their school. Most importantly, all of the standards and curriculum will continue to be developed, reviewed and approved with extensive public review and input. Having covered curriculum development for several years, there are many opportunities for parents to review and have their say on standards at the state level and curriculum adopted by their local sex education advisory committee and school board of trustees.

Sex education isn’t about advocating anything to kids, it’s about educating them. About their bodies, their health, their emotions, and the dangers and pitfalls they will inevitably face as they mature. State law and common sense dictate we arm our kids with information about cyber bullying, online predators and social networking so they can make smart choices about their peer interactions and how they share their personal information. That’s the reality they live in and it’s our duty to teach them what they need to know to be safe. Don’t we have the same obligation to teach them what they need to know to be healthy?

But rather than talk about what really matters and perhaps even engage in a substantive policy debate about how we educate our youth, too many people have chosen to attack and hate. Disagreeing with Flores on policy and even taking issue with her personal choices doesn’t make it okay to threaten her life. And to think it does, is pure ignorance. Those who step forward to speak up and participate in the legislative process not only have a right to be heard but a right to a certain level of decorum and respect. We get to good through conversation and compromise, not accusations and anger. So often it seems those claiming to honor what’s good are the ones who level the harshest attacks on those who don’t share their narrow view. Saddest part of all is they are blind to their own hypocrisy.

Posted in Political Shoes, School Shoes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments