Posted in ebb & flow, meandering, thoughtfulness

Dissecting people from actions

In a waiting room the other day, I read a short article about Michael Jackson. Its bottom line was: stop listening to his music, so revenue will stop flowing into his estate.

My thoughts around all of this are not linear. Hang on.

I guess the first question to answer is: are the two things connected? Without question, Michael Jackson made an enormous impact on pop music. Pop as it exists now doesn’t exist without his music. Without question, Michael Jackson sexually assaulted young boys. These two things exist. Does one affect the other? Should one affect the other?

For some people, the answer is no. He has great music (or doesn’t) and his actions outside of creating and performing music have no relevance.

For some people, the answer is yes. It’s not OK to cause irreparable harm to people and have your life be unaffected.

Which moves into: is getting caught the only problem?

Obviously, for victims of all crimes everywhere, the problem is being a victim. But we very much have embedded in our culture that it’s only a problem if you get caught, from speeding to drunk driving to cheating (on tests, on spouses, on taxes) to stealing to more violent crimes.

Think about how our systems are set up. They all are based on avoiding punishment or gaining reward (or both) and are not at all based on behaving ethically. Ends justify means.

When a kid does well on something and asks, “What do I get?” in return, that’s evidence of lack of internal motivation. Instead of doing it to do it, instead of being proud of his/her work and having that as reward, an external something is required.

(I think wanting to share one’s success with others is different than receiving a reward, though you could argue otherwise.)

When a kid is consoled for getting a shot or dental work with food or toys, they’re learning that when they do something they don’t want to do, they get rewarded for it…which eventually turns into not doing it unless there’s a reward.

(I don’t think that these couple of examples are sufficient to breed that mindset. They’re examples, not end-all-be-all. But all of this stuff is drip by drip, not a large sudden shift.)

I’ve meandered from the last question I asked, but we need to build more “because it’s the right thing to do” into our culture.

Back to Michael (who is just the example I’m holding up—there are countless parallel examples).

Are the actions a problem if the victims were paid a settlement? Does money fix the problem? Can we do terrible things to people as long as we’re able to pay them off later?

(I would argue that it’s nice, and sometimes it’s all there is to offer, but no amount of money can erase trauma or how the trauma informs every step of life after it. Clearly if money eliminated the effects of trauma, MJ wouldn’t have been a perpetrator to begin with.)

If a no-name black man was accused of the same crimes, he wouldn’t have been acquitted (as Jackson was a few years before his death). Is it OK to do these things as long as we’re famous enough?

Who is held to these standards? I will lose my job on an accusation. The more famous or rich (or both) among us frequently don’t lose their jobs on verdicts.

And my last question: does it matter if the children are boys or girls? My argument is yes, that boys are still more highly valued and homosexuality is more rigorously looked down upon. (And, for the most zealous among us, events like these “prove” that homosexuals are pedophiles.)

Did you know there were girls molested in the church scandal? We only heard about the boys.

I am inclined to believe that it would not have been nearly as scandalous if Michael had been with girls instead of boys.

Where does this all lead? A big mess.

I don’t think people should lose their jobs for consensual recreational activity that doesn’t impact their jobs, whether it’s legal or not. In other words, go get high, but don’t come to work high or hung over. Go to a crazy sex party and return to doing what you do. (But don’t actively work to vilify that which you consensually participate in.)

I don’t think people should lose their jobs over marriage infidelity unless their job is somehow tied to it. A marriage therapist comes to mind as an example, but in that case, the issue is job ethics, not the infidelity. I can’t think of an example where their job would be tied to it but in no other way cross ethical lines.

Anyway, infidelity is complicated. As Dan Savage likes to say, “The victim of the infidelity is not always the victim of the marriage.” Don’t judge. The point is: I don’t think that’s a reason to lose your job. Your personal life is going to be a mess, but work should still be work. (I believe that of all jobs.)


Having sex (or any sexual relationship or encounter) with children is illegal, unethical, and causes trauma.

So the question is: should you lose your job for it? Ultimately, that’s what the question about Michael Jackson is asking. And about any pop icon in a similar situation, where we’re asked to avoid their art. Should they lose their job for this?

The more I think about it, the more I think the answer should be the same regardless of one’s creative capacity or level of fame. If child molestation would cause an accountant to lose his job, why shouldn’t it cause a singer to do the same? Or if it would cause someone in a Broadway chorus to lose his job, why not a more established singer?

That said, people who have any history of mistreating children shouldn’t have jobs that include working with children. Teaching, doctors, nurses, any type of camp or care facility, therapy, etc., etc.

But. (Again.)

I grew up on Michael Jackson’s music. Thriller was the first album I owned. I have several CDs of his music.

With the revelation of information, does his music suddenly not become good?

Of course not.

I have a lot of good memories attached to a lot of his songs. I will still sing along with them despite myself.

So then in some ways the question becomes one of money. Is it OK to play CDs I already have but not buy new ones? Should I avoid his music on Spotify (or other pay-per-play streaming services)?

A few months ago, I was at an event raising awareness and money to fight against child abuse. The DJ played two Michael Jackson songs. That’s poor taste.

So. To be thoughtful is complicated, and I have compassion for people who can’t hold on to all the contradictions at once.

On the other hand, we are communicating what we (as individuals and as a greater whole) are willing to accept. And I think we need to stop accepting abhorrent behavior from famous people just because they’re famous, or just because we like their music or their movies or their humor. (There is always a line of “know better do better” with regards to certain beliefs and actions. I don’t think sex with kids is on that list. Some things require “do better” out of the gate.)

And of course all of this drills down to: it’s critical to protect children from trauma to the extent possible. Not from scraping knees or breaking arms or getting in an argument with their friend or not getting into the school play. But trauma. Because we tend to give what we’ve received, and we don’t have the structures (access physically, socially, financially, time-wise) in place to give help to all of the people who need it. And the help that we have is just that—help. It’s not a reset button.

Long and windy. What do you think?

Posted in food, mindset, tips

Evolution hasn’t solved this food problem

We know that we shouldn’t eat unless we’re hungry (a few health issues aside–there’s always an exception, isn’t there?). All of the ins and outs of that is another post for another day.

But when should we stop eating?

It’s a national pastime to eat until it hurts. We plan out which pants to wear so we can overeat with less discomfort.

I think we know that this isn’t healthy.

But (I think) the majority of us don’t do this the majority of days.

On a normal day-to-day basis, when should we stop?

When you’re no longer hungry. When you’re sated.

Not when you’re full.

“Enough food” isn’t the same as “no more food.”

Eat slowly. Chew a lot. (I’m bad at both of those.)

If there are many foods that all look good, like at a buffet or a big holiday meal, take literally one or two forkfuls of each. When you’ve slowly finished eating those, enjoying each, if you’re not done, pick the one(s) that were the best and have another bite or two of that.

Advice I should take for myself: put your fork (or spoon) down between every bite. Chew and swallow before you pick up the next bite.

Also, it takes time before the stomach registers that it’s full, so eating slowly helps you help yourself not to overeat. It leaves time for signals to make it from the stomach to your brain, and then for you subsequently to decide to stop eating.

It’s easier to stop eating if there’s not food in front of you. If you’re eating at home, serve from the stove or the counter instead of putting all of the food on the table. If you’re eating out, split a meal or bring a to-go container (or ask for one up front).

How fortunate we all are to have the problem of too much food. It just means we have different problems to solve. Instead of “where is my next meal coming from?” it’s “how do I not kill myself with the abundance of food?”

Eat only when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re not hungry anymore.

Posted in differences, meandering


I’m always fascinated by how people differently define their common experiences.

How do you define “summer”?

Summer solstice to autumnal equinox?

End of school to beginning of school?

When it’s hot out?

When traffic is better or worse (depending on your area)?

What constitutes summer has changed for me over time, but only marginally.

When I was a kid, summer was always the chunk of time when school was out, regardless any other factors.

When I became a teacher, summer maintained its definition.

When I lived back east, school started right after Labor Day and ended in late June.

Here in Arizona, school starts in July or August and ends in late May. The district I’m in is on a modified year-round schedule, and teachers start a week before students, so I start in mid-July.

It’s so odd. Teaching in August took some time to adapt to, but starting a week or two or three before my colleagues in other districts is mentally messy. (And it’s July!) I do enjoy breaks between quarters.

Many friends of mine are also teachers, so we have similar schedules. Friends who aren’t teachers define summers differently. Some say meh, summer is no different than the rest of the year. Some note that the office is more often missing people in the summer. Some are married to teachers and still have the school year definition…


Posted in mindset

I love summer camps

I don’t remember there being endless summer camp options when we were kids, but unless my parents told me about them or a friend went, how would I know?

(I’m pretty sure they increased with the increase in any/all parents working full time year round and were not as common when we were kids.)

What I love about day camps is the opportunity The Kid gets to learn more about something he’s interested in that he doesn’t get to do in school, without it becoming a busy school-week activity.

It gives him the opportunity to spend time with new and different kids and to learn different group norms.

Over the last few summers, he’s gone to camp for rock climbing, arts and crafts, Lego engineering, Minecraft, and at the zoo. We were going to do space camp this year, but the facility is closed for renovations.

While he has enjoyed them all, not all of the camps have been excellent, from my point of view. Some camps that we won’t return to. Fortunately, he hasn’t requested them.

Usually, he does half day camp in the mornings and is with us in the afternoons. We still have time for unstructured play at home, and playing with friends, and so on. If we needed to do full days, it would be like a regular school week.

I can’t wait to hear what was exciting today.

Posted in ebb & flow, meandering, motivation, thoughtfulness

Musings from an evening run

It’s been in the high 90s in the evenings just around sundown, which is lovely weather for a run. (This is what they’re talking about when they say “it’s a dry heat.” This is much more pleasant than the day we were in New York when it was 20 degrees cooler but muggy.)

So I’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather (higher temps and higher humidity are imminent) and taking a run around the neighborhood in the evenings.

The other night, a few things happened that got me to thinking about things.

First, some charming individual in a pickup truck yelled out his window at me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been harassed by a dude while I was running, and I haven’t missed it.

Several times, there were pedestrians oncoming on the sidewalk. Unless I’m on a busy street or a very wide sidewalk, I always move into the street and go around whoever is sharing the sidewalk.

It got me to wondering how many (if any) of the people I’ve moved out of the way for have assigned ulterior motives to the move.

That said, I am less comfortable coming into contact with men while running than women, regardless of race, and that increases substantially when there’s more than one.

I was raised in the thick of the Stranger Danger era and was taught to be fearful walking three blocks home from high school in the dark after rehearsal in my quiet suburban neighborhood, so I sometimes have trouble teasing out whether my discomfort with people simply stems from that or is rational.


On the same run as the pickup truck guy, one of the people I ran off the sidewalk for was a black guy.

I didn’t move because he was black. Or because it was a guy. The sidewalk is narrow; I move for everyone.

I wonder, though, if he assumed it was racially motivated. (Not an unfair assumption, given the current sociopolitical climate.)

Which gets me to wondering how often we make assumptions about others’ motives that are just plain wrong?

But then my brain keeps going to situations where people are unintentionally hurtful and blow it off as unintentional. If you cause hurt, it’s your responsibility to tend to it, regardless your intention.

(They say that running clears the mind, and sometimes it does … but more often, this is what my brain is like on a run.)

I guess my point is: give benefit of the doubt on people’s intentions (when their intention is not explicitly stated–sometimes there’s not much room for interpretation). And don’t shrug off causing hurt as unintentional. And don’t yell at or catcall women on the streets.