Monday, February 27, 2006


Remember when we were kids. And the 'popular' kids would get together and form a club. It would start with a few of the cool ones. They'd find a place to meet in secret, have their secret handshakes and symbols, their secret password. But not too secret...they'd make it look really cool and fun, so everyone would want to be in their club. Everyone -- even reserved loners like me -- wanted to be in the cool club. Very few ever 'made it.' Were they really 'cool'? Well, by the standards defined by themselves and their peers they were.

You see, the cool ones understood the need for exclusivity. I mean, if you let everyone in, it isn't nearly so cool anymore. So the kids standing on the next rung down on the ladder of coolness would be the first to be tested. And testing was key to entrance into the grand and glorious cool kids' club. You had to make enemies of their enemies, believe what they believed, act like they did. Become one of them. That was the key -- to become one of 'them,' even if it meant becoming less of who 'you' were. And yet, that's exactly what the less popular kids would do -- change who they were to become one of the cool ones, to join the cool club. They might even succeed in convincing themselves that they really are one of 'them,' and had been all along. But really, if they had been one of 'them' all along, then they wouldn't have had to change to join the group, now would they.

And then things change, kids grow up, and life happens. But still, as adults, there are the 'cool' ones, who tend to gravitate toward each other and form groups. And those of us who aren't as cool, who aren't part of the group. The cool ones still understand the importance of exclusivity, on a more cerebral level. And they still pick and choose who will belong in their group. And many of the less popular are still hangers-on, hoping to be picked to belong to the group, and willing to do whatever it takes to belong.

Difference is, some of us have actually grown up in the intervening years. We are no longer caught up in the whole coolness factor, and we are unwilling to change ourselves to conform to the cool club, waiting for that remote chance that we'll be invited to join. Because some of us have become...brace yourselves...individuals.

So, who were you as a kid? Were you one of the original cool ones? The next rung down? One of those who would never be invited to join the group? Or one who, even as a child, marched to the beat of a different drummer? As an adult, how have you changed? Or have you? Do you wish you could change?

Me? I was a loner who wanted to belong but never did. But I pretty much outgrew it. Got used to being a loner, grew up, and learned to see through those former cool kids to the even colder hearts underneath beautiful exteriors. Wanna join my group?

the adventures of butthead and teddy bear

Conversation with rugrat and unofficial boyfriend, in car, the other day:

Her: mom, can you put this cd in?
Her: ** doesn't like this music, he likes rock.
Her: but we're not listening to rock.
Me: Well let him look at my cd's and see if he likes anything.
Her: No, he doesn't need to.
Me: That's rude, let him look.
Her: OK, he can look, but even if he likes something, he's not listening to it.
Him: *didn't say a word*


Conversation with rugrat last night, unofficial boyfriend in her room, us in living room:

Her: mom, what would I use to get dirt from under **'s fingernails?
Me: Well, I'd probably use the end of an orange stick, but we don't have any.
Me: Use the fingernail brush in the bathroom; if he scrubs and uses lots of soap, it should get his nails clean. Long as he hasn't been working on cars.
Her: *eye roll*
Her: *tongue click*
Her: mom, that's not gonna work, he won't be able to do it. He's a guy, they're stupid.


I sometimes wonder if this child was switched at birth.

Friday, February 24, 2006

whoo hoo

I just emailed 8 -- count 'em, 8 -- more pages of dissertation to my committee chair. Just now. Feels damned good. Just might have a beer tonight to celebrate.

Of course, I found a bit of a flaw in my proposal that I now have to address, and it'll add to my total work load -- doable, but it'll take some time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I never saw you as white

Tonight rugrat and I finally got our mexican dinner we'd been looking forward to. Carne asada, mmmm mmmmm!

And then she dropped a profound bombshell in my lap. She said she has friends who tell her that she needs to remember that she's not all Mexican. That she is, in fact, half 'white.' Her response: I don't see myself as white. But, her friends say, your mother is white, so how can you not see the white in you?

Because, she says, I've never seen my mami as white. She is the one who has shown me my culture...the food, the language, the people. She helps me with my spanish, she makes sure we have Mexican friends in our life, she cooks traditional foods, we participate in cultural things, and she taught me to be proud of who I am. She has a better accent than some spanish speaking people, and if you put her in a room with a bunch of latinos, she will be at home and look and sound like one of them. If I think of her as white, I think of her as a white Mexican.

Wow. I didn't know what to say to that. So I just kept quiet, and let her keep talking.

Conversation eventually moved on to boyfriends. She talked about cooking for the new 'unofficial' boyfriend. Compared his response to her serving him -- he is always grateful, and shows it -- to her old boyfriend, who never even said thank you. I don't mind cooking for someone when they appreciate it, she said. It's when they take it for granted that it makes me mad.

Who knew almost-16-year-olds had such little kernals of wisdom hiding inside them?

is this just too cutesy

Rugrat 'entertained' her boyfriend (he's not officially my boyfriend mom) at our place yesterday, while I was out celebrating my own version of valentine's day (well, ok...not my version--our version). She cooked him dinner (quesadillas), they watched a movie, and she gave him a manicure. Yep, a real honest to goodness manicure. Isn't that just too sweet for words!

By the way, I like this guy. He's too old for her (she's almost 16, he's almost 19), but he's a good hard working kid. He'd be in college if he could afford it. He loves my books -- they're mostly social welfare policy and US history -- and when I saw him perusing them this weekend, I told him he could borrow any one he wanted (well, except the late 19th century printings--too precious to leave the house). He took me up on the offer...borrowed one last night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

song of love

Cesca had responded on the other site to a love song tag, and instead of going with songs, she chose a book from the bible. While she said the book of psalms, I think what she meant was the book of the songs of solomon. Love verses in the bible. How hot is that. And they truly are hot, if you can read them with an understanding of the context and time. Cesca's post inspired me to google the songs of read them once again. It has been a long time. 'Mushy' the verse may be, but is valentine's day.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

My beloved spoke, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

the dissertation

An old friend asked me the other day just what a dissertation means. As in, what do I have to do? I blog about it a lot, but don’t ever put it in context.

First, the working title: The Effects of Two Major Welfare Policies on College Attendance by Single Mother Recipients.

Dissertations can be slightly different in every Ph.D. program. For me, it consists of five ‘chapters.’

Chapter 1: Introduction, study aims, relevance for the profession
Chapter 2: Literature review, conceptual model (more on this in a moment), hypotheses
Chapter 3: Methodology – study design, sampling plan, measures, data collection and analysis plan

The first three chapters represent the proposal. Once the proposal is complete, I must defend the proposal to a small committee of four. The defense is open to faculty and students, but I don’t think many attend (thank goodness). The committee can choose to: accept as is, accept with minor revisions, accept with major revisions, or reject the proposal. A rejected proposal means starting all over again, from the beginning. I don’t expect that to happen. I also don’t expect ‘accept as is,’ for this almost never happens. No, it will hinge on acceptance with minor or major revisions. Minor revisions means just my committee chair needs to approve the revisions; major revisions means I go back and defend again to the full committee –I don’t want the latter.

As of today, I’ve completed chapter 1 and the literature review and hypotheses in chapter 2. I started the conceptual model last night. The conceptual model is an actual illustrated view of what I am researching, complete with arrows showing direction and including all the variables I will use in the analyses. It is tricky partly because it’s difficult to do a visual in Word, but more so because I need to be sure that all the variables I’ve discussed in the lit review, aims and hypotheses are represented. This is the model I will use throughout the methodology. I finished the visual illustration last night (oh yes, my domly one, I did actual work on this last night, lol). It also requires a narrative to accompany the visual, which I hope to have finished Friday night.

Chapter 4: Results – this is where I run my logistic regressions (logistic, because my dependent variable is dichotomous – attend college, not attend college). The regression gives me an odds ratio, which basically says, given the intervening variables, what are the odds (likelihood) of this individual attending college, and is the result significant. I don’t surmise anything here, just report the results of my analyses.
Chapter 5: Discussion – summary and interpretation of findings, strengths and weaknesses of study design etc, implications for practice, conclusions.

I’m not collecting my own data, I’m using what is called a secondary data analysis – using data someone else collected and analyzing that. In my case, that data was collected by our own federal government. I’m using one of their Census Bureau datasets – the Survey of Income and Program Participants, better known in research circles as the SIPP. Because I’m not collecting my own data, these chapters should go more quickly than for other students.

And then, once completed to the satisfaction of my chair, I send copies to all committee members to read, and the entire dissertation is defended much like the proposal was, with the same choices available to the committee. Again, it'll likely hinge on accept with minor/major revisions.

I had planned to have the proposal done and defended last fall, the entire dissertation done and defended so I could participate in graduation ceremonies in May. But of course, laptop crashes, major illnesses, and recently, the car issue, have all nipped that dream in the bud. Now, I hope to finish the proposal and defend before all the faculty leave for the summer. Then spend the summer on the last two chapters, and defend as soon as faculty are back in September.

I have the best committee chair -- really tough, but really fair, and always on top of things. I send her my drafts as I complete a section, and she reads, comments, and edits. We use Word's track changes feature, and basically, when she sends me something back with her edits, I pretty much click 'accept all comments/changes.' If she thinks it should be written a particular way, I'm writing it that way! I want to get through this as quickly as possible, not delay it with disagreements.

Whew! Hey my dear, that’s what you get for asking!

And now that I see it all laid out like this, I ask myself again -- are you freakin' nuts?????? WHY are you doing this???

Thursday, February 02, 2006

what's more important

Unfortunately, U.S. House members just approved over $40 billion in spending cuts over five years by a margin of two votes.

ACTION OPPORTUNITY: Yesterday’s State of the Union Address and today’s House vote provide an opportunity to educate others in our communities about the dangers of cuts in services for working families in order to pay for tax breaks for CEOs and other wealthy individuals. Your letters in local papers can have a major impact! You can adapt our sample text and send off letters using our online tool.

What’s more important?

Preventing cuts in medical coverage and increased costs to poor and near-poor families, children, and the elderly = $27 billion over 10 years
Making excessive federal payments to HMO’s in the Medicare system $22 billion over 10 years
Providing excessive profits to drug companies participating in Medicaid $ 9.8 billion over 10 years = $31.8 billion over 10 years

What’s more important?

Child care and welfare to work services $8.4 billion over 5 years
Avoiding higher interest costs for student loans $12.7 billion over 5 years = $21.1 billion over 5 years
Extending the capital gains and stock dividends tax breaks, more than half of which goes to millionaires = $21 billion over 5 years

What’s more important?

Collecting $8.4 billion over 10 years in child support payments to families $4.9 billion over 10 years
avoiding cuts in foster care aid to relative caregivers $1.3 billion over 10 years
preventing cuts in medical care and increased costs to low-income people $27.0 billion over 10 years = $33.2 billion over 10 years

More tax deductions and exemptions for upper-income people (with 53% going to millionaires) = $150 billion over 10 years

With much left over for deficit reduction, expanding health coverage, providing Head Start for every eligible child, expanding child care aid, investing in education…

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

not a trend I like to see

After nearly a decade of decline, the number of children living in low-income families has been steadily increasing, a pattern that began in 2000. Low-Income Children in the United States—National and State Trend Data, 1994-2004 brings together national and 50-state trend data on the characteristics of low-income children over the past decade.

this is who protects our children

Anyone who's been watching the news lately has heard about the recent child deaths in NYC in open CPS investigations (for example, Nixzmary Brown, pictured here). In the aftermath, as supervisors tried to cover their asses, dirty deeds such as altered file records were uncovered. And ACS, as it is called in NYC, has opened an internal investigation into procedures. We already know that the frontline workers will take the fall for a system badly in need of repair.

It doesn't take a freakin' rocket scientist to see what is happening. It's been in the news before. The job of a CPS investigator is overwhelmingly stressful -- they hold children's lives in their hands. And continual federal and state budget cuts over the years have eroded the protection system to the point that these investigators hold far, far too many children's lives in their hands. Current caseloads are in the hundreds, beyond the capacity of any human being, if the goal is to keep children safe. Consequently, turnover is extremely high in this field. In fact, it's so high that many protective services systems are looking beyond the typical social work, psych, and education graduates for recruiting purposes. When I was a volunteer guardian ad litem for the juvenile court (different from attorney guardians ad litem in family court), I had to work with a protective services worker who held a BS in English, and no training in the field whatsoever.

Recently, in the wake of the ACS investigation, a recruitment notice for ACS was forwarded to doctoral students in my program. They are again seeking frontline caseworkers, and for the honor of carrying an impossible caseload of children in need of protection, they are offering a starting salary of $36,161 annually, with an 18 month probationary period -- at which point the salary increases to a whopping $41,877. For holding children's lives in their hands. In NYC. It would be challenging for anyone to even pay rent with that starting salary in NYC.

I did an internship with a specialized child sexual abuse unit in Spokane when I was in grad school. This unit combined protective services with mental health counselors and hospital staff for a unique three-pronged approach to addressing abuse. It was a well run unit, and a national model of how to do it 'best.' My staff supervisor, after a training-in period of accompanying her on home visits and initial investigations, gave me a caseload of five families to provide services to in my 3/4 time internship. And I can tell you, weekly visits and services to these five families kept me busy. My supervisor was one of the best trained workers, possessing integrity not often found in the world today. To this day, I admire her tremendously. Her caseload, however, like most workers, was the caseload from hell. The 'loud' cases got priority, the ones that calmed down were moved to the 'back burner' unless/until something flared up again.

After I had left the internship and moved on, I read in the paper that one of the children in one of the families I had been responsible for had died. She and her younger sister were swimming in the local lake, unsupervised, and the younger one became hopelessly entangled in the 'sea'weed. The older sister, while successful in freeing her sibling, became entangled herself and drowned. It took the authorities two weeks to find the kids' mother to tell her she'd lost a daughter. She'd had no idea her daughter was gone. The dad lived clear across the state and never saw the kids even once in the time I'd been their 'caseworker.' I can't imagine how I would have handled it if this child had died 'on my watch' so to speak. The guilt would be unimaginable. The child did die on the watch of my former supervisor, and I can't help but wonder how she dealt with that knowledge. And she was clearly one of the best in the field.

One of the biggest concerns I had while working in the social services field was the discrepancy between services provided to foster parents versus family of origin parents. I spent some time as a volunteer driving kids in foster care to various appointments around town. Foster parents were provided with transportation to get the kids to court appointed services such as doctor appointments and therapy sessions if they chose to use them. And foster parents were provided with funds for 'respite care,' meaning they could, if things became difficult, seek occasional care elsewhere for the child and have time to themselves. I'm not suggesting that foster parents are living the good life on the system -- I happen to admire any family who would choose to take in a child who is not their own. But I often thought that if the family of origin could have been provided with some of these services, the situation might not have escalated to the point that the children would need to be placed in foster care. Not that it would work in all cases...there are certainly extreme cases, such as Nixzmary Brown, in which the adults simply shouldn't be allowed to have kids in the home. But in thousands of the less sensational cases, things like respite care and transportation to counseling sessions can have a huge impact on a family's ability to cope with a stressful situation.

And yet our president says that the state of the union is great. Tell that to the kids. Perhaps if he weren't so firm in extending those tax cuts for the rich, maybe there'd be some money to put into this, and other systems that are failing our children. Just some meandering thoughts that were sparked by that job recruitment notice. My opinions, nothing more. And no, I'm not applying for a position with them anytime soon.