Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

The always popular vomiting pumpkin
Halloween Eve 2013 is passing by in a blur of mini-chocolate bars, a flurry of empty Skittles wrappers, and flaming pumpkins. My pumpkins have a tendency to ignite, but lucky I caught this one before it presented a hazard to the trick or treaters on the front porch.

The costume trends of the night: lots of Centennial football players, ladybugs, a pack of 6th grade 80s girls, and a couple of chickens. Even a creative Mad Hatter! For the first time in many years, no Harry Potters or Jack Sparrows at the door.

Kind of missing the days of the
Thomas the Tank Engine costume
As the thermometer drops into the 30s and the mist turns into rain, I'm nearly out of candy so one last lucky group of kids is going to get the dregs of the candy bowl.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saudi Women Defy Driving Ban

Yesterday dozens of women brave enough to defy the Saudi Arabian government's ban on women driving took to the roads. Why didn't thousands of women take to the road instead of dozens? Probably because of a warning from the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry claiming that the government would "fully and firmly" enforce the driving ban for women only. Women caught driving would be punished.

I still find this whole ban on allowing women to drive baffling despite this lack of freedom for women being completely ingrained into their culture tethered to religion. Influential and powerful clerics in this country warn that allowing women to drive will lead to increased freedom of movement for women and obviously (to these clerics) result in increase promiscuity and premarital sex. One prominent cleric even cited medical studies and proclaimed that women's ovaries are harmed by driving a car. Given the amount of driving that I've done my ovaries should have been destroyed decades ago.

Welcome to the 21st Century Saudi Arabian clerics! In a country that is promoting economic development and friendly ties to the West, most Westerners would be offended by this driving ban imposed on women.

Could you imagine living in a society where you could not drive a car because of your sex? You could not pick up your kids from school. You could not run errands. You could not hop in your car and meet friends for lunch. You could not drive yourself to work. Even if you are a man, imagine this. 

Realizing that they are up against a major religious and cultural change, I support empowering Saudi Arabian women to drive and hope these brave women continue their campaign.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ready, Set . . . MEA Weekend Approaching

If you live in Minnesota you know what MEA weekend is. And it is coming up this weekend. If you don't know the meaning of the Minnesota acronym, let me enlighten you—Minnesota Education Association. This is a teacher's conference that always falls the third week of October so most all of the public and private schools in Minnesota are off on Thursday and Friday, allowing teachers to attend the conference in St. Paul.

MEA weekend is sacred in Minnesota. Hockey and football coaches actually cancel practices and no games are scheduled over MEA. People talk about it for months before it happens. They make serious plans to spend a few last nice days up at the cabin, take a vacation, or explore the Twin Cities. I usually fall in the exploring Twin Cities category. However my neighborhood completely clears out over MEA weekend. Friends and neighbors have taken jaunts to Mexico, spent the extended weekend at Disneyworld, hopped down to Chicago, hit a few college tours, or flown out to Washington, DC. Unfortunately DC may not be the best MEA vacation destination this year given the government shut-down of many traditional tourist DC sights. Maybe Congress and the White House will get their act together before MEA weekend hits. If you don't leave town, there's always the Mall of America (MOA), joining the masses at the MOA Waterpark, or a road trip to Duluth.

Knowing that so many people leave town for MEA weekend, I've always wondered how many teachers actually attend this conference. I will get to find out if Minnesota teachers really attend as I'm assisting with a presentation through my work at one of the Thursday sessions for educators. I'll not name any names, but some teachers who may or may not be close relatives have been known to skip out on all sessions. But maybe the rules are different in Wisconsin!

And, for those of you who actually do care enough to point this out to me, I've beaten you to it! MEA changed their name and the official name is the Educate Minnesota Conference. The Educate Minnesota people must take offense to the old name of MEA because they specifically point it out front and center on their website. NOT MEA! Too bad for them; MEA weekend it is.

Anyway Happy MEA week and safe travels!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Washington at Play with Pricey Toys

Back when my kids were much smaller, I was sometimes forced to employ a tactic similar to that currently on display in Washington, DC. When the kids would leave their favorite toys scattered all over the floor and not pick up after themselves— despite many pleas, threats, and warnings—the big black trash bag would come out. These highly visible and very popular toys were deemed unessential because they were left lying about in heaps on the floor and no one cared enough to put them away. They were placed very carefully into the black trash bag and taken out to the garage in a show of parental control and force. Perhaps not the best leadership scheme, but a stunning tactic that captured everyone's attention.

Of course none of these toys were ever thrown out (at least not in the heat of the moment). The beloved toys in the big, black trash bag were now my leveraging tool. The kids could promise me the moon, cry up a storm, throw a tempter tantrum, and then finally calm down. With a clear mind and calm demeanor, we negotiated.

WWII veterans enter the WWII Memorial
on the National Mall despite barriers
Does this sound at all familiar? Despite many red flags, warning signs, empty threats, and generally ignoring what is best for the country, Congress and the President could not agree, forcing a government shut down. Everyone's favorite toys—the Smithsonian museums, the National Parks, the Lincoln Memorial—are shuttered and gated. Essentially disappearing into that big, black trash bag for political theatrics and then splashed all over the TV networks and front pages of US newspapers.

Last week Washington saw plenty of finger-pointing, name calling, and even a few temper tantrums. Those of us ordinary Americans rolled our eyes and wondered what in the world Washington was up to next? Guess what folks, we elected them! Maybe next time think about your vote and if you really want to send your Member of Congress back to DC.

It is time for those who got us into this mess to take a deep breath, pause, pull on your big boy/big girl pants, and do what you were elected to do. Lead this great nation. President Obama needs to be a leader, not dig his heels in until Congress gives in. Congress must negotiate with the Oval Office. Both parties must be realistic; not everyone gets what they want. Simply put, compromise.

Make this work. Compromise so you can pull those toys back out of that trash bag. If my kids can successfully negotiate, certainly the leaders of the Executive and Legislative branches of the US government can figure this out and reopen the US government.