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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yes, it Matters That Chloe Stirling is 11

By now you have probably all heard of Chloe Stirling, the 11 year old girl whose booming home cupcake business was shut down by the state of Illinois. Why? Because they stated that her home failed to meet the sanitation standards required of a "professional kitchen" by Illinois law.

Social media responses were all over the map. Many felt bad for a little girl just trying to make a little of her own money and felt that the government was overstepping. Some (and these are the ones who concern me) felt that the government was well within its purview to step in, stating that "the requirements are the same for anyone who wants to sell food items - why should they bend the law for her just because she happens to be 11 years old instead of, say, 30?" They suggested that she rent space in a professional kitchen, since that can be cheap and easy. Right.

Have you ever tried to enter into a legal contract - rental or otherwise - at age 11? It's surprisingly less easy than you might think. It's no picnic for the business offering the lease either, since most business insurance plans refuse to cover anyone who is not actually employed by the business. Have you ever tried, as a business owner, to hire an 11 year old? Also surprisingly less easy than you might think. Those child labor laws sure are a constant annoyance, aren't they?

So you rent to her parents and have them sign a waiver, right? Wrong. The insurance company still will not cover anything. Because of the way child labor laws are written, even with a full-disclosure waiver of liability signed by her parents in the blood of their firstborn and notarized by the Angel Gabriel, the parents still have full rights to sue the business if anything happens to her while she is on the premises. Not only that, but the business also assumes responsibility for the child's product - meaning that if something were to go wrong with the cupcakes, the customer would be able to take legal action against the business instead of just the girl baking the cupcakes.

And here's the kicker: the "sanitation standard" she likely failed to meet was a three step sink. Most houses don't have them, and they are expensive to install. But I'll do you one better - many counties within the state of Illinois routinely grant temporary food sales permits to groups and businesses for events like an outdoor chili cook-off. They meet the "three step sink" requirement by placing three buckets full of water on the ground in the vicinity of the heat source. Any guesses as to how Chloe Stirling's home kitchen (lack of three water buckets notwithstanding) stacks up next to these guys in terms of sanitation?

The real problem here is not that the government regulates sanitation standards in food service (although it absolutely is a concern). The real problem here hinges on the fact that they go out of their way to halt the business efforts of children. (Lemonade stands are being shut down. Girl Scouts are being told that they can't sell cookies in their own front yards.) And yes, it does make a difference that she is 11 and not 30. Here's why: if you tell a child she can't do something enough times, by the time she is an adult she will STOP TRYING. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to discourage even the brightest of children. My uncle, for example, was five years old when he started learning algebra. Bored in church, he would copy problems from his brother (then in high school) and work them out on his own. But if you asked him if he was smart, he would say no - his siblings had called him "stupid" so many times that he actually believed it was true.

What happens when you beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your children? You have a populace that accepts victimhood as inevitable and sits docile as the government takes over more and more of their liberties and their lives.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wendy Davis, Split Personality: Feminist Icon and Victim of Sexism

Politico posted an article naming Wendy Davis the "most judged woman in America." Predictably, Conservatives everywhere nearly imploded. Though I believe that most days Sarah Palin would beg to differ, I believe that Wendy Davis has indeed found herself under increased scrutiny in the past few weeks. I also happen to believe that she deserved it.

Politico "reporter" Liza Mundy speaks of a world that accepts the antics of a narcissistic male divorcee in politics but then nails a woman in the same position because of sexism. That explains the Jon Edwards Presidency, I guess. Wait, what? You mean Edwards basically got laughed out of politics when he cheated on his wife while she suffered from cancer and lied about fathering a child with his mistress? Where were the cries of "sexism?" Why did no one talk about the bias against men who use their wives to get ahead in politics and then leave them when they cease to be of help?

The article then goes into a tailspin attempting to explain why Wendy Davis should not be judged based on her actions because she's a woman, and society still looks down on women because sexism. So, Liza, you want us to "judge" Wendy Davis based on her gender rather than her actions? I'm not sure you and the rest of America are working with the same definition of the term "sexism."

But here is what I find *really* interesting: Wendy Davis is held up by the left as a feminist hero -she's the lady who rocked pink trainers while she spoke for hours on the vital importance of being free to kill our children in clinics that fail to pass basic safety and sanitation inspections. And the instant she comes under fire for lying to her constituents, she claims that it's because of sexism. (Make no mistake - we are not criticizing her for taking money for school from her ex husband. We are not criticizing her for choosing career over family. We are simply asking that she not marginalize working single mothers and fathers by dishonestly coopting their hardships for her political gain.)

On behalf of Liza Mundy, Ms. Davis, I have to ask that you make up your mind. Wendy, are you a strong woman who pulled herself up from the bottom? Or are you being held down by a male-dominated society? You can't be both, and you're confusing people like Ms. Mundy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

This Just In - People Join the Army for the Good Workout Program...

I'll admit, I was quite tempted to simply let this picture speak for itself. It says a lot about the girl who posted it, after all. But I have something to say to her:

First, Alexia, do you plan to go to medical school? If you do, I would suggest that you spend some time learning punctuation. You may think a missed apostrophe or a misplaced comma or period is no big deal, but when doctors do that, people die. You don't need to be trained to shoot a big gun in order to kill someone, after all.

Second, you talk about the "selfish reasons" that people join the military. I personally joined the military so that I could be on call 24/7/365, have no time to take advantage of the free education, and miss out on the first words and first steps of two of my children. I was hoping when I signed up to "work out for a summer" that I might end up with a job that likely contributed to the dissolution of my first marriage. The thought that there was a 3% I might get shot at was just a bonus.

And third, let me go ahead and blow your mind: when I joined the Army, they did train me to shoot several guns, some of them big. (I particularly enjoyed firing the AT-4 grenade launcher, but that's another story altogether.) But after I finished "working out" and "learning to shoot big guns," I went to school. The Army trained me to be a combat medic and an x-ray/CT/MRI technician. So wait, you mean those soldiers you just disrespected for not knowing how to save a life are trained to do just that? Absolutely. And I'll do you one better: even in a time of war, those same soldiers are trained to patch up enemy soldiers who are injured while trying to kill them. And I don't know about you, but where I come from, a man who helps to save the life of his own would-be murderer IS a hero - not a pussy in a superhero costume.

As for the death rate in Chicago - we could fix that simply by teaching more people how to shoot big guns and allowing legal access to them. But I digress.

I Don't Fit in, and I'm Not Sorry

I was  definitely born in the wrong era. I should have been born either forty years earlier or ten years later. Why? I can explain.

Most people born in the late seventies, as I was, were raised in a culture in which going off to college immediately following high school was the norm. So that's what I did. I finished high school, and then I went immediately to college. However, like many 17-18 year olds, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Had I continued to conform at that point, I would have chosen a generic major like "liberal arts" or "women's studies" or "economic equality in third world nations." My degree would have qualified me for exactly two things: flash-frying frozen potatoes, or a life in academia. And given the quality of public secondary education these days, those professions are far more similar than you might think.

But despite being raised with the first generation to truly understand just how much our parents are to blame for our shortcomings, somehow I was brainwashed into the unevolved and unliberated notion that my future was my responsibility. So when others in my class either left school to work retail or struggled through classes they hated for a degree they couldn't use, I signed a contract with the United States Army. And even there I saw the effects of the "blame everyone else" generation. Soldiers, once revered as being made of stronger stuff, were sitting down during ruck marches because "they were tired and their feet hurt." I remember the shocked look on my Drill Sergeant's face when, after a wicked ankle sprain, I got up and finished a run. Kids (and at 20, yes, I was still a kid) were not expected to overcome adversity without blaming someone else, or at least complaining about it. Confession: there was a lot of prayer and a few choice words that went into my getting up and running after that fall.

Flash forward fourteen years, and I am now nearing graduation. After ten years in the Army and the growth of my family, I am finally earning degrees in subjects that interest me and that I can use: political science and history. Both give me an invaluable background upon which to draw in my forays into local grassroots politics.

But I still say that I should have been born forty years earlier or ten years later. Forty years ago, the hard work I was raised to do would have been appreciated or at least accepted as the norm. My choice to raise a family despite having a post-secondary education would not be judged a waste by hipsters with relevancy issues. And my children wouldn't be labeled extremists simply because they were homeschooled and there were more than 1.9 of them.

The ten years later thing was more because it would have been easier on me. I could have simply showed up to class, never taken a test or done a single assignment, and been given a 60% in the class. (Yes, there are schools - public schools - that are now implementing this regulation.) I could have gotten a degree without earning it. I could have popped out a few kids without getting married and had my life financed in full by the suckers who go out and work for a living. I could have let the public school system raise my kids, and even though they would have grown up thinking that the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism and Che was a misunderstood hero, I would have had the time to blog every day - but I would have had to write about things I didn't understand.

Excuse me, but I like it better this way. I don't fit in, and I'm not sorry.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dear Amy Glass, yeah, you in the hipster loft with the ripped denim...

This letter was written in response to an article that attempted to shame homemakers into climbing mountains. Or becoming doctors. Or something.

Dear Amy Glass,
Or perhaps I should say, "Dear emo photo of the view from your hipster loft with an intentionally nonchalant (would that be "chalant"? I'm never sure.) peak at your strategically ripped denim,"

You speak of feminism and empowering women like those are terms you are capable of understanding. You talk down to women who have you beat in terms of life experience, some in terms of education, and most probably in terms of happiness as well. You claim to have the answer that all women are looking for in regards to their ultimate fulfillment and contentment, but if that's the case, let me be the first to inform you that your delivery sucks. Out loud.

First you say that feminism is not about embracing choice for women. Let me ask Elizabeth Cady Stanton, champion of women's suffrage and political empowerment, what she has to say about that. Or I could just Google her life story and learn that, after working tirelessly for women's rights, she CHOSE to marry and have children because that was what fulfilled her.

Second, you talk about "placating the mommy bloggers." Newsflash: the only placating mommy bloggers care about involves that which calms the teething infant. Most of us are too busy being mommies and bloggers to give two rips what you think of our life choices. And most of us have children still in diapers who are more respectful toward other human beings than you have shown yourself to be.

Third, you claim that getting married and having a family is an "average" thing to do. Anyone can do these things. I would first like to ask what your credentials are that you feel qualified to judge the worth of another human being? I'd also like to point out something else that is "average": sitting behind your computer and ridiculing anyone who exemplifies that with which you disagree. What is above average is taking the time and energy to understand those who choose to live differently than you do. Incidentally, these things you claim "anyone" can do - um, men can't. You are taking the one physical act that ONLY a woman can do, and telling her that she betrays the whole of womankind (I'm sorry, should that be "womynkind"?) if she chooses to do it.

What message are you trying to send? Are you trying to convince us that you hate women? Because reading between the lines leads one to believe that what's wrong with women is that we're not enough like men. That sentiment is far from empowering - in fact, it's enslaving us to a standard that leaves no room for growth and no potential to capitalize on our own individuality.

What I find exceptionally amusing is that, based on this article and others you have written (I took that bullet so that the rest of you won't have to - you're welcome.), I would have to guess that you have a problem with "slut-shaming." You know, the idea of telling a woman who is - for lack of a better term - indiscriminate with her liaisons that her morality is questionable at best. Because only a bigot would care what another woman chooses to do with her private life, right? But bigotry is bigotry - and looking down on someone simply for choosing vanilla (marriage and kids) when you like chocolate (the single life) is exactly that.

An apparently unfulfilled woman who has spent ten years in the military, delivered five babies, been published nationally, and is an absolute fiend in the kitchen, and is four months from two bachelor's degrees.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Open Letter to Wendy Davis

Dear Wendy,

May I call you Wendy? The familiarity with which you address topics like being a struggling single mother made me feel like I could address you in a familiar fashion as well. Forgive me if that was not your intent.

I have a few concerns about the way you have represented yourself, specifically the way you have reframed and edited your life story for public consumption in your bid for the Governor's office. You spoke of the struggle of a single parent, working hard to feed and clothe children. You spoke of the anguish of divorce and the desire to shield your children from public scrutiny. On the surface, all of those things seem to ring true. But as is often the case with those in public office, once the surface is scratched, the picture begins to change. In regard to that emerging picture, I would like to clarify a few things for you:

First, allowing the other parent custody because "you aren't in a good place to take care of children" (even though you can apparently afford to pay $1200 monthly in child support) is not the same as "struggling as a single parent to make ends meet." Struggling to make ends meet is walking your children to the babysitter and then walking to work because the minute you filed for divorce your ex husband stopped payment on your car and had it repossessed. Struggling is knowing that your 18 month old knows her babysitter better than she knows you because in the Army, you're on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Struggling is knowing that no matter how many hours you work, you will never have one minute of real relaxation because there is no break in transition from work to taking care of children. Struggling is being thankful that childcare is only costing half the money you make each month, so that even if you know there is no car and no savings in your future, you also know that you can feed your kids every day. Struggling is knowing that your ex husband is happy to refuse to see the kids in order to punish you, when in reality they are the ones who cry over every broken promise and every cancelled weekend.

Second, claiming the "anguish of divorce" loses credibility when the divorce comes as a result of your own infidelity and on the heels of your husband paying off your law school debt. If you wanted to shield your children from pain and public scrutiny, you should have protected them by not acting stupidly. It's an interesting parallel, considering your recently acquired nickname "abortion barbie," that you want other people to retroactively shield you and your children from the consequences of your actions - but if the irony is lost on you I wouldn't be terribly shocked. So let me tell you, in regards to divorce and protecting children, what anguish truly is. Anguish is weighing the effects of divorce against the effects of continuing to live with an emotionally abusive alcoholic. Anguish is knowing that no matter how many chances you give him to be a good man and a good father, he will always pay for his own habits before he takes care of his children. Anguish is watching your son coming to the realization that he can never look to his own father to be an example or a source of financial support. Anguish is watching your daughters struggle to find a male role model and knowing that they will have to look somewhere besides "Daddy."

I only spent one year in the Army as a single mom of four, and I know many who have had it far worse than I ever did. I had a very understanding Commander and good friends who were able to help me when I needed it. I had a babysitter who worked for half the going rate because her husband was Army too, and she knew exactly what I was getting paid. Many single women don't have that. And on behalf of those I know who did have it worse, I am outraged that you would claim some sort of solidarity, a part of that sisterhood, or even some moderate comprehension of what they go through every day.

Understand, I am not attempting to downplay the struggles you may have faced yourself. I get that giving up custody of your children is a difficult thing to do. But when you choose to do that and you can afford to then pay child support, do not then claim to understand the struggles of the women who every day wonder if they are going to have to skip a meal in order to make sure their kids have enough. Do not by your own actions and choices inflict damage on your own life and then attempt to draw attention to the fact that you survived it while demanding no one pay any attention to who it was that caused it. In short, tell people the truth. Then if they still don't like you, it will be their fault rather than yours.

You're welcome.