T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the tag “Boulder”

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.

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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.

Zen Subway Riding

When I was younger I used to visit New York City every year with my family. It was part of our autumn tradition ever since we moved from New York State. On the way to Rhode Island for a thanksgiving/Davis family reunion we would stop and see my mother’s father and stepmother in Queens. Part of the tradition involved my father taking us into Manhattan to see the sites, his old haunts, and, I think, for the overall NYC experience.

A key part of that experience was riding the subways. This was insisted upon and my clearest memory of this was my father’s lessons in “Zen Subway Riding.” He would have me stand in a strong stance, often called a fighting stance. One leg in front of the other, knees slightly bent, the kind of stance I learned in Karate and Aikido classes. It was about balance. He would challenge me to stand for as much of the trip as I could without holding onto any of the poles or handles.

I am sure everyone’s parents had their own eccentricities that annoyed their children immensely and yet those children, as they grew up often look back on them fondly. This was not the case for this particular eccentricity. I feel as if I enjoyed the challenge even back then. I do not remember complaining much about it though my father may remember differently. I remember that as I tried to maintain my balance on the train car with my hand poised to grab the pole my father would tell me stories of his life in the city.

One story in particular that pertains to the skill he was teaching was how he taught himself “Zen Subway Riding”. But he added another component, he would ride between subway cars (DISCLAIMER-WARNING: Please do not attempt this. Adhere to all MTA guidelines when riding on the NY subway system). Needless to say I thought my father was…to put it in the most elegant terms I can, badass. Perhaps a little crazy but I would not want him any other way.

Why, among all the lessons my father has attempted to impart to me, does “Zen Subway Riding” stand out? I have found myself practicing it on the buses in Boulder and the airport tram at Denver International. I would still put my hand up occasionally, ready to grasp the bar if needed and sometimes cheat a bit, as I definitely did as a child, by saying I was not actually touching the pole when in fact I was leaning against it a bit with the palm of my hand.

I live in New York City now, riding on newer cars and some that look like the ones I rode in the 90s. I do not practice “Zen Subway Riding” each time I am on the subway but I think about it each time the train lurches to a start. While I try to fit in and read or check my phone while sitting, leaning against a door (you’re not supposed to do that either) or trying to look as nonchalant as possible as I awkwardly grasp a bar above my head I still maintain the stance my father always told me was the best way to keep my balance. Any time I stumble a bit I evaluate why it happened so I can work to avoid it.

It is not overtly noticeable but it is a connection across time that links my father’s life in the late 70s and early 80s to my childhood in the 90s to my adult life in the new millennium. Transitions. This one has reaffirmed or even created a shared experience and has not weakened the connection.

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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