T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the category “General Posts”

Put that gay slur in my ‘Totes Gay’ tote bag

Pride BraceletsAfter spending a fun, hot, sweaty, exhausting day checking out the Pride Parade and street fair, I emerged above ground from the subway station wearing the rainbow beads I had been tossed by TD Bank during the parade, the rainbow Macy’s “pride + joy” bracelet, the stickers affirming the importance of being true to myself and my voice provided by GLAAD and AJWS, and of course carrying my “Totes Gay” tote bag I received for donating to HRC.

GLAADAs I began my walk home, slightly longer than usual since the local train was too slow and the breeze outside was preferable to the sauna of the subway station, I, for a moment, considered removing all this pride gear, excepting the rainbow yarmulke that had elicited numerous compliments throughout the day. Considering removing everything and stuffing it in one of the less obviously LGBT themed bags was a throwback to past fears and internalized homophobia, something I could get into but isn’t the focus here. Instead I’ll just say that I considered suppressing my outward expression of pride since I was no longer surrounded by the LGBT community, allies, or my friends. I quickly suppressed the urge. I was headed home and why should I feel the need to hide what I had only moments ago been so eager to display.

As I turned down a side street, I was lost in the world of a Robert Jordan audiobook and barely acknowledged the small group of guys that I passed. After we walked by each other I heard some shouting and looked around confused. I took out an ear bud and saw the guys I had just passed looking back at me, one of them waving and shouting “Fucking faggot, FUCKING Faggot!” You know, when they put the emphasis on the “ing” in “fucking.”

I actually thought for a second, are they just messing with each other. Is this a “macho” friendly bullying moment between friends that absolutely has nothing to do with me? Nope. They were staring right at me; one was punching the air with his first in my direction. I turned away with a calm that was mostly inspired by bewilderment as the rainbow beads felt slightly heavier, the stickers seemed to pull at my shirt, the bag felt like a purse and the young bullied kid inside thought about how much I must look like a girl (as if this would be a bad thing).

hrc bagI didn’t remove any of my pride accessories; I didn’t turn the “Totes Gay” against my body so no one would see. I put the ear bud back in and continued on my way. I was hyperaware of everyone around me at that point, but kept my calm, New Yorker “I don’t give a shit” face and wondered if I even really did give a shit.

I didn’t have a knot in my stomach, didn’t feel especially nervous, but I did feel something uncomfortable. I texted the two friends I had been with earlier (straight females, if it matters) and they quickly responded with, “Where do they think they are” and “Hey, the fifties called, they want their homophobia back.”

I have no particular insight to share from this event. I didn’t return home invigorated to fight homophobia, I didn’t curl up in a ball and cry (both valid responses, just not mine). I just considered how long it had been since someone called me a faggot to my face. I considered the stark contrast of seeing elected leaders, celebrities, and major corporations show their support for inclusivity and tolerance (a misleading term, people shouldn’t settle for being tolerated) only to be followed by a few young men taking a minute to try to dispel any sense of pride I may have in my identity.

It’s worth noting that I barely batted an eye at the two protestors at the parade that calmly explained how we were all going to hell (I’ve always felt my Judaism provided a great shield against such nonsense).

As mentioned before, I have no real moral of the story here. No pretty conclusion. Homophobia is still rampant, our country isn’t perfect, a lot has changed in the 45 years since the Stonewall Riots but I didn’t even know what those were a few years ago.

I’m still me and I’ll continue to be me. An LGBT (because one letter isn’t enough for me) Jew with a tattoo, a loving family, good friends, and a neurotic need to constantly question myself. Calling me a faggot, a kike, or claiming that you know more about my gender, sexual, or religious identity than I do has yet to change any of that.

Alissa, Me, and Melissa holding up a Jewish LGBT pride flag!

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My American Marriage Roadmap

On June 23, 2011 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed what many are calling “historic” legislation that made New York the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriages (it is legal in Washington D.C. as well).  The news has touted the various reasons why New York’s decision is so important including the size of the state, the largest to legalize same-sex marriage to date.

This important step that has been taken in the state that I not only live in but is the state of my birth led me to wonder the status of same-sex unions in the other places that I have lived.

NY Map by Kevin Middleton from Toon Maps

Doing this mildly thorough research I have realized how representative these four states are of the diverse opinions Americans have on this topic.

I was born in New York and we already know that come July 24 (or thereabouts) same-sex couples will be able to marry and receive the same rights and privileges associated with that union that heterosexual couples receive.

NEW YORK = MARRIAGE FOR ALL COUPLES

After New York I moved to Illinois.  Known for Lincoln, political corruption (the two are unrelated to my knowledge), an recently abolishing the death penalty, Illinois recently (June 2011) instituted and legalized same-sex civil unions.  These unions have the same privileges and benefits, to my knowledge, of a marriage however they are not officially titled as such.

ILLINOIS = CIVIL UNIONS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

From Illinois I made my way to Florida where I lived 11 hot and humid years along the Treasure Coast.  As of 2008 Article 1, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution states: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

FLORIDA = CONSTITUTIONAL BAN ON ALL SAME-SEX UNIONS

My next 11 years were spent in the Centennial State AKA Colorado.  More specifically I lived in Boulder…an interesting city.  In 1975 City of Boulder clerk and recorder Clela Rorex issued the first same-sex marriage licenses in the country. Unfortunately with the issue all of a sudden raised Rorex and Boulder were quick to take fire.  The marriages were later invalidated.

As of 2008 the Colorado Constitution has stated in Article II Section 31: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”  Allowing for the future possibility of civil unions for same-sex couples though recent legislation that attempted to institute these unions never passed.

COLORADO = CONSTITIONAL BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

This is only a snapshot of some of the country, a country that is very disjointed in how it chooses to deal with what seems like a simple issue to many.  I recognize that the issue may not be so simple for all people. However I am a big fan of civil marriage, which I believe should be separate from religious and spiritual recognitions of personal unions and available to all consenting adults of any gender, race, ethnicity, religion and so on.  The religious and/or spiritual side of it, in my opinion, should be left to each couple’s personal preferences and practices.

Something to consider.

Dad Grad

This summer I have the great pleasure of interning at the Midtown Community Court. It is a fascinating project and first of its kind “problem-solving court” that deals mainly with the arraignment of violations and misdemeanors in Midtown Manhattan (catchment area includes roughly 14th St to 86th St from Lexington Ave to the Hudson River). There are many wonderful things I could say about this court and I am very tempted to go into exhaustive detail about its jurisdiction and organization…the kind of information that I get excited about and everyone else seems to glaze over for when I ramble on about it. So I will try to focus this post.

There is one program in particular that I would like to talk about: Dad’s United for Parenting or D-UP. This program works with non-custodial fathers many of whom have some interaction with the criminal justice system. I am still new and not involved in the program so I am lacking on many of the details but I know that they run group and individual counseling sessions with the fathers, have employment and financial training and assistance, an attorney that helps the fathers understand the maze that is the court system and more specifically the family court system and various other features. What I believe is the most important aspect is the support the program provides for these men and the encouragement toward building healthy relationships with themselves, their children, and their partners.

I had the honor of attending the D-UP graduation on Thursday, June 23 at John Jay College. It was amazing to witness. The camaraderie between the fathers was palpable and the bond between the fathers and the staff was not only apparent but also moving. Lives had been touched on both ends. The fathers had their children and other family members and friends present making this event feel like so much more than a formal affair. I felt like I was watching one very big family celebrate a significant milestone.

There are many groups that need support in our country. I believe any program that inspires and promotes healthy family building (while acknowledging that families can look any number of ways) is an important space for social workers, and anyone for that matter, to be involved in. There are fathers that strive to be a part of their children’s lives but struggle for various reasons. This includes attempting to maintain a job that can sustain child support while spending time with their children and supporting themselves. D-UP does a wonderful job of addressing this population of fathers.

To wrap this up I am including the D-UP pledge, as it conveys what this program works to achieve.

D-UP Pledge
I am here to:

I. Be more involved in the life of my children, both financially and emotionally

II. Find stable employment

III. Enhance my parenting skills

IV. Improve my self-awareness

V. Learn how to become an engaged father

VI. Respect my needs and the needs of my family

VII. Enhance my communication skills with my child and spouse/co-parent

VIII. Learn constructive ways to discipline my child

IX. Understand the major barriers to nurturing parenting

X. Understand my family roots and heritage

Removing the Bars

On January 29, 2011 I had the pleasure to help facilitate Columbia University School of Social Work’s (CUSSW) first ever skills-based conference on criminal justice titled “Removing the Bars.”  The Criminal Justice Caucus at CUSSW, of which I am a member put together and sponsored this conference that despite some resistance and numerous logistical considerations proved to be a great success.  The conference was a full day of workshops, a panel of formerly incarcerated individuals and their family discussing their experiences, and a plenary session on the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” where The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-NY presented.  Among my responsibilities I was able to recruit my professor, Markus Redding JD MSW to speak on the problem solving courts of New York City and how social workers are, can be, and should be involved the court system.

The conference brought in students from various schools, professionals in the fields of law, social work, and criminal justice as well as community members.  The diversity of attendance spoke to the need for these issues to be explored and part of the beauty of the conference was that new or uncovered issues were raised that can be addressed at future events.  At the end of the day I let out a giant sigh of relief and satisfaction.  It was a lot of work that proudly exemplified collaboration across caucuses at CUSSW and I believe the work was all worth it.  I look forward to helping bring the conference back in future years.  Check out the Criminal Justice Caucus blog to read more about it.

We also had really cool t-shirts!

Displaced Detention Worker

As I have mentioned I have begun studying for my master’s degree in social work.  I will nonchalantly remind everyone that I am pursuing this degree at Columbia University.  Do pride and arrogance really have to look that much alike?  Since October 2007 I had been working at the Boulder County Juvenile Assessment Center.  Nice name yet somewhat inadequate description for the multi-faceted juvenile detention facility where I worked up until the end of July 2010.

Now I must state that the facility where I worked was very progressive and not nearly as punitive as most detention facilities.  That said it was still detention, a locked facility staffed ‘round the clock.  Juveniles wore detention scrubs and were transported in shackles and handcuffs (do not be shocked, when you are arrested you are put in handcuffs).

Now I am entering into a very therapeutic atmosphere.  Social work school talks a lot about collaboration, self-awareness, and openness.  All of this is very important however I have not seen a lot of discussion regarding assertiveness yet.  It has been all of three weeks so who am I to complain.  I have heard mention about difficult field placements toughening a student and growing a thicker skin but it tends to be discussed as more of a negative; a “this is what has to happen” sort of dynamic rather than elaborating on the benefit that can be gained by ensuring you maintain a balance between being smooth and being firm.  I am a very strong believer and supporter of the search for balance.

We are taught about boundaries though the topic usually comes up when prompted by nervous questions regarding how much personal information a social worker should reveal to a client or whether it is okay to hug a student and similar queries.

I think one reason that I have begun to contemplate this is because I am noticing the influence of my detention work.  While I have and continue to view myself as a non-confrontational individual who leans toward collaboration rather than authoritarian methods I do believe the latter has its place.

My first year field placement is at a middle school in the south Bronx.  I believe it is safe to say that the majority of schools in New York City retain a harsher atmosphere than Oslo Middle School in Vero Beach, FL.  I was ready to be shocked and taken aback and wildly nervous.  I believe I am all of those things but not nearly to the level that I thought.  I have been in the field all of two days so my views and understandings could and will change.

I do however notice that I do not gravitate toward the softer attitude or approach in the school.  When discussing what to do with a student who is disruptive during a group session my first thought is of the various consequences: send back to class, send to dean, inform parent, and deprive of certain privileges.  My supervisor’s response was to simply send them back to class and inform her if it continues and we would take it from there.  My fellow interns, the different past experiences of whom I greatly admire, seemed unsure of a course of action though this could have just been my perception.

When a student came to the office and sat down with no explanation I remembered our supervisor telling us that students could not just spend time in the office as a way of avoiding something else.  They needed an appointment, to be scheduled in a group or have a pass to set up an appointment.  I engaged the girl, asked what class she had, what she needed and why she was not on her way to class.  After her various vague answers I politely yet firmly told her she needed to go to class, that she could not hang out but to return if she needed to when she was not in class.  This impressed a fellow intern yet seemed simply appropriate to me.

There were numerous other smaller examples (supporting a dean for having a student leave the assembly for speaking after being warned that if he spoke he would have to leave).  I believe, especially with adolescents, that being open and available is just as important as being firm and steadfast.  Follow through is very important and if a consequence is associated with a particular behavior not applying that consequence sends the wrong message.

I do not believe that “punitive” is the way to go.  I believe in collaboration especially the collaboration between being firm and being open, between being conservative and liberal if you will allow me to make such a comparison.  If I am willing to follow through on a reward I better be willing to follow through on a consequence and the other way around.

P.S. I must also note for my former co-workers that for someone who does not like and seeks to avoid confrontation I had to hold myself back from stepping in when students were being rowdy, this is no longer a part of my job…unless their rowdiness happens during something I am running.  I also picked up a bent paperclip and threw it out…I cannot let contraband sit…even if I am in a place where it is not contraband.

Yellow Card! Green Card! Blue Card! White Card!

No, I am not talking about penalties in soccer especially since I had look up “yellow card” to be sure that there was such a thing as penalty cards in soccer.  I am talking about Yom Kippur.  One of the three Jewish holidays most non-Jews are aware of.  This is the day that most know as the “Day of Atonement” and my family prefers to refer to as the “Day of AtONEment.”  Creative right.

Transitions are very important to my people.  We spend the day on Fridays preparing for Shabbat, the Sabbath when we make a separation between all the stresses and weight of the week and a time to focus on yourself.  It is the original weekend.

Rosh Hashanah is the holiday that begins a very important transition for Jews.  We blow the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah also known as Yom Teruah (Day of the Call or Blast or Clarion depending on the translation).  It begins the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe or AWEfull Days) when we try to repent for our mistakes, our missteps over the past year.  The Yamim Nora’im consist of 10 days that end with Yom Kippur.  After Yom Kippur we are supposed to be done focusing on our transgressions from the previous year.

I believe there is a beauty in this.  How many of us are guilty of dwelling obsessively over our various slip-ups?  It is not healthy to fixate on the negative however it must be dealt with at some point.  Therefore Judaism gives the opportunity to deal with our issues and then the chance to let go and move on.  I think this makes a lot of sense.

What do multicolored cards have to do with this?  Growing up in my father’s congregation in Florida we had a particular tradition.  Yellow, green, blue and white index cards were handed out to everyone.  We would then write one or more of our wrongdoings on these cards and each one represented the target of that wrongdoing.

Green = nature
Blue = yourself
Yellow = others
White = God

Here is my attempt at a poem to remember them:

Green is for what the earth has seen,
Blue is for you and Yellow your fellow,
And most difficult to cite
On white the sins against God we write.

Okay, I tried.

These cards would be collected on Rosh Hashanah and some would be read on Yom Kippur.   It was a cathartic way of physically letting go and moving on.  This is important.

With all that said let me apologize to those I have wronged over the past year.  We do what we can to be the best we can be but mistakes happen and people, our planet, our faith, and our ‘self’ can get hurt.  Sometime we are unaware of pain we may cause.  Again I apologize and hope that in the coming year I can grow and learn do my best to help bring about Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

a new chapter

Picture turning that page, it ended a quarter of the way down and the back is blank.  Why?  This is because you are starting a whole new chapter, perhaps a whole new “part” (you know those books that are split into multiple parts and then chapters).  I am thinking about how to creatively graft this metaphor onto my situation.  Let me take a different approach: how would I have begun this “chapter” of my life had I been writing it as a part of a book.  Perhaps the last chapter would have ended with the hectic and stressful last minute packing and preparation before passing out on my parents’ couch for my last night in Colorado.

Thus Far Untitled Autobiographical Literary Attempt
By Ronin
Part 4 Chapter 1
(or whatever number it would be)

We began driving.  Well my sister began driving and as she found various ways to express her excitement, relief, anxiety, and all the other emotions that were bursting from her I strained to decipher my feelings.  This was it right?  This was when I was supposed to express my thoughts on this major transition.  Up to this point I could say I was focused almost entirely on the preparations and therefore did not have time to think about superficial sentiments.  Aw sweet rational, blank faced solace.  But now that I was supposed to be flooded with all of those feelings that I had pushed aside yet I was still struggling to sort the internal disorder.

I have not been one to cry for quite some time and I felt damn near guilty for that as I hugged my parents.  I must admit that one pang I felt in my gut came from watching my mother wave to me and knowing that I would not see her for quite some time…odd, thank you Freud.  I know of course that I will miss all three of the parents [Note: three parents?  Refer to the end of Part 2 of this book] for varying reasons but leaving ‘mommy’ turned out to twist something inside and I would be lying if I said I was not surprised by this.

We were on the highway anticipating what we knew would be the dullest and therefore the most straining part of the drive…Kansas.  Kansas and its endless fields of corn and sunflowers where looking in the rearview mirror is no different than looking ahead, that is if there was any space to see out of the rearview mirror.  Farewell Colorful Colorado, you emblem of an independent century.  I will miss your stunning sights, your schizophrenic weather, and your purple pretentious politics.

As I make my transition to the Big Apple, a feat I will attempt to do without damaging these damned braces, I hope I will not go down in flames in a city that greatly overshadows the entire state that encompasses it.  There are a few stops along the way and perhaps I will be able to sort out the chaos in my head by the time I get to Manhattan.   Nah, probably not.

Financial WHOA!

I will admit that this is a headline driven post. I have been financially woeful lately since having to confront a host of very foreboding financial transitions however I might not have blogged about them yet, much, or ever had I not thought of such a witty, perhaps punny title to this post (I say as I humbly bow my head).

With higher education comes higher debt. Prior to my graduate school acceptance I was paying off two credit cards and one hospital bill. This was my debt and while I had let those credit cards get a little out of hand at times (damn ebay) everything was still manageable. All I had to do was stick with my secure, relatively well paying full time job and eventually that debt would be lessened and I wouldn’t have too many bald patches from pulling at my hair.

But why follow that route when I can quit the stable job, move to the most expensive city in the US, attend a private university, and have no steady income in sight come August? Call me a dreamer, call me hopeful, call me crazy…just don’t call my cell phone. Minutes are expensive.

Isn’t there some person or computer out there that can weigh my current situation against my future plans and give me some formula for how smart or idiotic I am? Actually it is probably better that I don’t know.

I know that there are many people out there surviving mainly off of loans and once they can support themselves they are barely surviving by working to pay off their loans. Isn’t this the American way…or at least one of the options you can pick in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book of American lifestyles? By the way I am working on this post in my cardiologist’s office where I am waiting to be told everything is fine, “your heart looks great” and then pay $400.
I would like to find a job in NYC but as of now I have no idea what my coursework and fieldwork hours will be like. But if there are any employers in Manhattan with flexible scheduling I have experience teaching, editing, filling cream puffs, stocking movies, selling clothes, sitting in a courtroom, restraining agitated youth, low-profile counseling, going to happy hour with ADAs and probation officers and I make a delicious yet sloppy pumpkin pie. Not to mention I can read Hebrew, know a smattering of Japanese and have extensive knowledge of old time radio shows. COME AND GET IT!

I currently work a shift that ends at 11:45pm. I am lucky if I am out of bed before noon and I am moving to “the city that never sleeps” to probably take 8am classes. And I’m worried about money? I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs in one piece each morning.

Seriously though, I am excited for this big change or at least that is what I’m told. When I express my financial fears I am told that it will all work out. Now if I could just get a signed and notarized copy of that statement to provide to the banks that would be awesome.

Butter


A tradition in our family is to “surprise” the birthday person by slathering butter, or the non-dairy equivalent as the case may be on their nose.  I took a Folklore class during undergrad where I learned that this tradition is meant to encourage the birthday individual to move smoothly into their new year.  Variations on the butter include peanut butter and…get this, grease.  Moving or perhaps sliding smoothly into your next year and in my case my 26th year (turning 25, finishing the 25th year, ah numbers).  Remember transitions?  My sister put a hefty and surprisingly well shaped square cut of butter on my nose.  As I struggled to keep it from sliding off while the camera was being fumbled about I thought about the transition I was going through and how smooth I could expect it to be.  Life has not felt smooth especially with the impending tooth removal, echocardiogram (long story), trying to secure a place to live in NYC and so on.

Recently (yesterday) a heated discussion appeared on my sister’s facebook wall regarding Israeli/Palestinian issues.  I found that I did not like the idea of attempting to have a civilized and intelligent discussion/argument over a facebook wall.  It became obnoxious and I found myself almost falling prey to it.  Discussions over the internet are very impersonal and it makes it easy to forget that you are actually partaking in discourse with other individuals.  My point is people seem to feel they can say nearly anything, there are less consequences or at least it feels that way.

In my opinion becoming overly defensive, using inflammatory language and becoming too emotional over a topic detracts from any progress or enlightenment the exchange might bring about.  Unfortunately this is what happens most often.  It is difficult to see why anyone should put any effort into being open-minded and considerate if it falls on deaf ears…or more accurately blind eyes.  It makes an already exhausting situation even more draining with little gain.  I wish that encouraging decorum and disagreeing in a constructive manner would have any effect on people but more often than not people ignore it or claim that their overreaction is only a necessary response to someone else’s overreaction.  It is frustrating.

.transitions.  Attempting to make them smooth sometimes makes it more rough but the attempt is what is important….right?

Toothless

Have you ever seen the movie “Toothless?”  It was a Disney Channel Original Movie, the fancy description for Disney Channel’s TV movies.  This is before “High School Musical,” Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and so on.  It starred Kristie Alley as a dentist who is lacking in the social and love life.  She almost dies and becomes a/the tooth fairy.  Where is my point, you ask?  The movie says that once a kid loses the last of their baby teeth they lose their innocence, so when she returns to her life and removes the last baby tooth of the young boy who helped heal her heart he all of a sudden has no memory of his interactions with her as the tooth-fairy.

Again you are asking where my point may be?

I turn 25 on June 2 and on June 15 my last two baby teeth will be removed.  Yes, I still have two baby teeth and finally, thanks to the help of a full time job’s dental benefits I have begun fixing the issue.  What does this major dental transition coincide with?  I will begin graduate school at Columbia in New York this fall.  I have worked for Boulder County for nearly three years and lived here for nearly eleven.  Time to move on, try something new, take a bigger risk than I ever have and all this will take place as I lose the last of my baby teeth.  People are proud of me, excited for me, a little sad.  Me?  I am scared and uncomfortable and anxious and all I can think about are the two holes that will be left in my mouth after June 15.  Is there more to this tooth issue then I have explained?  Yes.  Will the holes be there forever?  No.

.transitions.  There are so many things I love about change but it is a powerful force that still evokes anxiety in me.  I want to make sure that as I move forward in my life I continue writing and blogging has been suggested by a few people now.  Many people do it, I can barely bring myself to read any of them, so why not give it a shot myself.  For the few technological strengths I have, posting on the internet (with the possible exception of Facebook) is not one of them.  Readers, if I have or will have readers, please bare with me as I attempt this.

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