Article
0 comment

Immigration Detention: The People Along the Way

As you know this weekend was our much-anticipated immigration movie screening event, and trip to visit immigrant detainees at the Stewart Detention Center. Along with the hospitality house, El Refugio in Lumpkin, GA, which houses families coming to visit loved ones.

Through my endeavor to learn more about immigration, I can officially say from the other side that I was successful. Possibly more successful than I expected.

I learned that Stewart Detention Center is the largest detention center in the country, detaining about 1,800 immigrants at any given time. I’ve learned that it is one of MANY detention centers scattered across the U.S. that are for-profit, owned and run by corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America, which is the owner of Stewart. I’ve learned that the CCA makes $100 a day per detainee that resides in their facility, which offers great incentive to keep detainee numbers high, and that money is paid to them from our government straight out of your tax paying pockets.

Stewart Detention Center falls in the top 10 worst detention centers in the U.S. Detention centers have ongoing issues and complaints for inadequate medical care, sexual and physical abuse, insufficient food, and high costs for communication to those outside of the facility, making contact with family members hard. I’ve learned that breaking immigration law is considered a civil offense, and not a criminal one, so detainees are denied the right to government provided legal defense.

Detention centers are primarily built in impoverished areas, away from major cities to make it difficult for families to travel to visit their loved ones. In Lumpkin there are no hotels, or public transportation options, not even a regular grocery store.

I’ve learned that our immigration policies and our high rates of deportation have destroyed many families. Thousands. Nearly 45,000 immigrant parents were deported in the first half of 2012 alone, separating them from their U.S born children. It is estimated that at least 5,000 of those children (in 22 states) now reside in our foster care system, which doesn’t account for the number of children in foster care in states unaccounted for, or those that have been orphaned by these policies that now reside with other family members living in the U.S. Husbands separated from their wives, mothers from their children, and fathers from their children.

These are just a few factoids though. Stats. Just a few, since there are so many more I could be throwing out there. And while they are disturbing and sad, they don’t put a real face to what is really happening here.

So, more important than what I’ve learned here, is what I saw.

I saw how difficult it is to navigate the detention system without guidance, and you can wholeheartedly expect to get little to no help from those running or those employed by these bureaucracies. We can mince words all we want about how detention centers aren’t prisons, but only those that haven’t been there would ever make that assumption. Or those that have a monetary or philosophical interest in them. They are very much prisons.

Stewart Detention Center is completely surrounded by high fencing topped with barbed wire. Not only one fence, but two. You can’t walk into Stewart without being buzzed into their two-gate system. You enter the first gated door, and it closes you in before allowing you to enter through the second. Detainees are only allowed one visitor per week, and families sit for hours waiting for the opportunity to visit (I waited 2 ½ hours.) Each visit is one hour long, and only 5 visits can take place at one time. These visits allow no actual contact with the detainee and take place over phone, while being separated by glass. When you go through to visit they require that you remove your shoes, empty your pockets, remove you belt, and place all belongings in a bucket so that they can be scanned. After you walk through metal detectors you are allowed your shoes back, but must replace all belongings inside a locker for the duration of your visit.

However, it wasn’t the inner workings of Stewart that made the biggest impression on me. It was the people along the way.

It was the story I heard of one man’s personal experience in hiring a coyote to take him to the border to get here. About how his group was lied to about how long it would take, so they were inadequately prepared with food and water. About how merciless coyotes can be, and that they were not allowed to rest, even the children. He described the fear of stopping, because their guide would leave them behind with no way to find their way forward or back. He described the experience as a nightmare that still haunts him today, I could hear his pain, and I cried for them. All of them. In my lifetime I will surely never understand the fear or necessity that drives so many to make that trek, or the level of bravery that it takes to make that choice.

Most of us, those “lucky” American born folks never will.

It was the people who traveled from all over to visit their loved ones. Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Children. Sisters. Brothers. Friends. The woman I spoke with who was trying to visit her husband, but was turned away after 40 minutes of waiting because they realized that he had been visited earlier in the week, so was not allowed to see him. The woman that was almost denied visitation access due to her shirt baring too much skin. The woman I met that travels every Saturday from Buford to see her husband, who has been at Stewart for the past 8 months.

And it was the man that I had the privilege, along with my husband, to spend an hour talking with that I gained the most insight from. The man who has been fighting his case and residing in Stewart since Sept. 2011. The one whose mother died from cancer shortly after his visitation request was denied to go see her. The one whose wife suffers from a heart condition, who has been without insurance since his detention began, and can no longer afford the expensive medications she needs. I listened as he expressed his fear for her, as she has been in and out of the hospital. His fear that he may never see her again, and his fear that she will die before he ever has the chance. I listened as he told us the story of how they met, and fell in love. I watched him as he cried for his life being denied him, the loss of his mother, for his wife, and I cried with him. He is scared (like so many others), and he has every reason to be.

So, those are the faces. The people behind all the stats and facts and articles. And it makes me angry. And so so sad. And scared too.

Because as my new friend, Jose described to me – the American Dream has become a nightmare.

Article
0 comment

2013!!! Here’s to getting it right!

I’m running a little behind on getting this post out. As usual, although I intended to be a blog writing machine during my break from school that hasn’t really panned out in reality. Oh, well.

2012 was a really good year for us. SO I really want more of that.

I wrote these goals out over the summer in preparation for the new school year, but since I haven’t really given them much thought since then it seems like a good time to actively start trying to actually focus on them.

My focus going into 2013:

  • Keep letting go. This year my anxiety levels have been pretty minimal. I don’t want to back track. I just have to remember to not get so caught up in the day to day crap, notice how I am feeling about life and do what I need to stay happy. Let go of other people’s expectations for me, but probably more importantly the expectations I place on myself.
  • Fight less. I really want to minimize the amount of time we (my family) spend being snappy with each other or having full out brawls, so I’m trying to pay attention to our triggers for negative behavior.
  • Remember, I don’t have to do everything! Less is sometimes more. And sometimes less is all I have energy for so it will just have to do.

These are more centrally focused on our homeschool:

  • Be more open to on-the-fly learning. I have to be less focused on trying to plan everything out, and being MORE available to the needs of always curious children.
  • Support more independent, student-led projects and learning, which is why I’ve completely cut Fridays out of our regularly scheduled school so that they have a free day where I can stop focusing on the stuff I feel like they need to be learning and can ask, “What would YOU like to learn about today? What do you want to explore?”
  • Foster entire family participation in activities. I would really like to find ways to get Michael more comfortably involved in our homeschool.

Today, we had one of those rather perfect homeschooling moments. While we were cooking dinner, my kids were in the back yard doing this…

Later, I told Haden that what they did on the seesaw was Math, and he just looked at me all confused-like. 😛

Article
0 comment

Year 2012: A Round-up on the Blog

Another year has gone by, and while I didn’t blog nearly as much as I hoped, I still managed to write a WHOPPING 93 posts in 2012. Yeah, I was surprised by that number too. I thought it would be fun to look at some of the highlights from the year.

My NUMBER 1 most visited blog from this year was…..!!!!

Stand Strong and Loud: My contribution to Blog for International Women’s Day that was hosted by Gender Across Borders and CARE. This year’s theme was “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”

Following behind (in order) were…

Our Next School Year: The Plan: My post on this years curriculum plan, which I should probably just write a complete update post on considering we have completely ditched Time4Learning, and are now using How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, ClickNKids, living math ideas, and Pintrest to replace it. Oh, and we ditched our Road Trip USA curriculum too. I have really been reevaluating our approach to school recently, especially since we’ve been on our Winter break. This one was originally posted on a Homeschool Blog Hop.

Rethinking Education: A persuasive essay on homeschooling, outlining benefits and considerations.

Our Homeschool Space: The title is pretty self-explanatory. 😛 Another one that I did on the above mentioned Homeschool Blog Hop, which is what contributed to its popularity.

This is me… throwing down: My response post to the whole Chickfila controversy BULLSHIT over the summer. It is probably my favorite post from the past year.

Now, I figured that I would add in a couple of honorable mentions, because even though they might not have made the top five traffic-wise on my blog, they were in MY favorites when I wrote them. And really that is more freakin’ important.

Warning Snark Ahead – with a fair amount of cussing: From just last month – 5 things that I learned after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Homeschooling: An Interview with My Kids: It was just so darn cute.

Tit Terrorists?: My thoughts on how we (lactavists) talk about breastfeeding and approach our activism.

 

Get to reading the ones you missed! 😉

 

Article
2 comments

Warning: Snark Ahead – with a fair amount of cussing

After spending most of my weekend reading articles, researching, and watching social media posts and comments about Friday’s shooting, I’ve come away with new wisdom that I feel the need to share. In no particular order of importance…

1. When trying to learn more about the ACTUAL effectiveness of gun control laws, avoid sources that have a liberal or conservative slant – and those are hard to find BTW. You will likely encounter some potentially compelling insights mixed in with some half-truths and outright lies. I’ve spent HOURS trying to wade my way through the easiest to find crap out there, and I honestly don’t much feel like getting into what I learned from those endeavors statistically speaking, but I will say that it isn’t nearly as clear cut as most people seem to think, which brings me to #2…

2. Apparently, a good majority of Americans already have this whole thing figured out. They know exactly what we need to do to reduce violent crimes. They know why Adam Lanza committed the act that he did. He was either mentally ill, not mentally ill, or just a “fucking crazy ass pyscho” who is currently burning in hell. (This is considered NOT mentally ill too, just so you know. Apparently, we seem to have some interesting ideals of what does and does not qualify as mentally ill.) Everyone seems to KNOW that it was his mothers fault (if he was mentally ill) for having guns in the house to begin with (under the assumption that she knew he was mentally ill. I mean, IF he was.) Or that it was his fault for not seeking help for his deranged mind. Or lets take it BACK to his mother. It is still her fault for raising such a fucked up kid, regardless if he was or was not mentally ill. Maybe he was just one of those “bad seeds,” whatever the fuck that means – which is still his mothers fault.

I feel a bit behind the curve here because my mind has been spinning all weekend as I have tried to make sense of the multitudes of opinions being splashed around the internet, and even after a whole weekend of being buried in reading and research, I don’t feel like I have ANYTHING figured out.

3. People seem to react on emotion, and jump to conclusions based on their predisposed biases. This seems problematic, because problems such as the ones we are facing in America are NEVER one-dimensional.

4. Apparently, “things like this” happen because we have removed God from our schools (according to Mike Huckabee and other asshats like him), but more importantly because we as a culture are losing god. We are becoming godless, and without God to drive our morals and invoke fear into our being, us godless folk are just going to keep destroying people with our violent behaviors (more presumptions, since we have ZERO idea what Adam Lanza’s religious beliefs were). You know – because religious folk have NEVER been known for violent behaviors. Nope. Not at all.

Personally, I am thankful this was pointed out to me, so that in my future endeavors I can try to be conscious  of the negative effects of my godlessness, so as not to let my violent nature get too out of hand.

5. This may be by far the most important thing that I have learned… That as much as the idea of people that commit violent crimes (like Adam Lanza) scare me, I’m almost just as afraid of some of the people that think of themselves as being “better” than Adam Lanza.

Article
0 comment

*THIS* Close

I am *THIS* close to being done with school for this year, and that means I have a lovely 4-week break ahead of me to try my best to enjoy the holiday, and somewhat recuperate before being thrown into my next class.

You know what that means don’t you??!!!

You should be seeing more of me here on the blog in the very near future. Hopefully I’m not lying to you. I do miss it. I really do. And you know you miss all my updates or rants, whichever you get lucky enough to receive. 😛

In other news, I am officially in Christmas-time hell over at my house with the impending stress of the holiday, the lack of preparations I have made, and trying to wrap up this class, while still trying to seem all “awesome mom” through it all anyways.

Photo evidence…

Article
3 comments

Being Bad: Breaking Social Norms

Last week in Sociology, I had to perform a social experiment by breaking a social norm, and then write about my experience. This is what I ended up with… Enjoy!

Social norms are rules that govern behaviors within society by establishing standards of conduct (Kendall, p. 72). Sociologist Talcott Parsons theorized that social norms are necessary in society to help dictate our interactions with people (2011). Through these day-to-day interactions we learn what behavior is expected of us – how to dress for specific occasions, proper hygiene, manners, language that is appropriate in conversation, etc. These rules help us differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in any given situation.

My plan for the experiment was to meet two of my girlfriends at our local mall, have a drink and some dinner, and formulate a plan on how to break a social norm. I decided to bring along my friends for support, and to hold me accountable, so that I didn’t back out of the experiment. I struggled with the idea of performing the experiment, which had less to do with actually breaking a social norm, and more to do with having to acknowledge the reactions of people around me.

On the night of my experiment my anxiety levels were exceptionally high. I felt nauseous, tightness in my throat, heated, and my heart raced. As we ate, we discussed possible scenarios. I considered some of the class suggestions, along with staring, breaking into dance and using a phone app called iFart to fake a bodily function, among the more ridiculous.

In theory, all these ideas sounding very interesting; I wanted to be that person who could perform the experiment from a completely scientific place and be unfazed by the implications of it, but the reality of performing the experiment by breaking even a mild social norm seemed overwhelming. I reached a point in my evening where I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Why was this so hard for me?

It actually isn’t that uncommon for me to break social norms. Quite regularly I talk very loudly in public, especially when I am excited, and sometimes about topics that could be deemed socially inappropriate. Other times I have been known for nursing my toddler in public, yet even the idea of doing those things with the conscious purpose of getting a reaction seemed an impossibility.

It became clear that there is a stark difference between breaking a social norm because it comes naturally to you, or because it ties into something that is central to your belief system, and breaking a social norm purely for understanding how people will react. Typically, when I break a social norm I studiously ignore the reactions of the people around me.

Most would like to believe that they care little about what others think about them, but we are driven by how people perceive us, and the impressions that we leave. It is culturally deep-seated, this need to care and leave positive marks on the people we interact with, so to knowingly go against the grain and do something that will be perceived as odd or unacceptable with serious forethought feels wrong. At the root of my trepidation, there seemed to be a bigger fear of confrontation, which makes me wonder why I don’t fear that confrontation more in my everyday activities.

On the way out of the mall, as a last ditch effort, I decided to break a very mild social norm by riding the escalator down backwards, while my friends helped with cataloging the reactions of the people coming up the other side, as I watched people behind me. The most interesting thing happened, which was that nothing interesting happened at all. No one acknowledged me. All the people that passed by or were within the vicinity took absolutely no notice of me.

The result of the experiment left me considering how I generally go about my daily activities, especially in a public place. I go about my business, rarely looking at the people that are around me unless it is socially necessary, such a waitress taking my order or saying, “Excuse me,” when I get in someone’s way. Even in the moments of necessary interaction, I rarely make eye contact, and when I do it is limited. At any given time someone could be exhibiting strange, socially abnormal behavior and I would never notice it unless they were screaming, “Hey, look at me! I’m doing something socially strange over here!” So, this leaves me wondering if being inattentive to your surroundings in public is within itself a social norm, or just a socially awkward behavior that some people exhibit?

It occurs to me that people’s reactions to breaking social norms could vary greatly depending on the personality of the person/people you are interacting with, the size of your audience, and the quality of the norm you are breaking. It is my conclusion that it has almost become a social norm to break mild social norms, and that in combination with the patterns of behavior we exhibit in public places and our lack of observation to our surroundings unless necessary, it is likely that you can safely break mild social norms without anyone much caring or noticing.

References

Kendall, D. (2011). Sociology in our times. (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.

(2011). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_(social)

Article
0 comment

T.I.R.E.D.

I’m feeling a little burnt out. This seems to happen to me when I’m taking a class, and since I am currently looking at just a 1-week break before I start my Genetics and Evolution class, and then will be juggling that along with my Intro. to Sociology class starting the week after… I’m not expecting to feel less so than I do at this moment. The blog is suffering, I know. My posts are infrequent,  and I feel like most of what I write is complete crap, just trying to go through the motions to get it done and over. Just another thing on my to-do list, and I am happy when it is no longer there.

Tonight, I had planned to try and post this week’s Peek at My Week post, but you know what? I’m tired. Really tired. There are no words to describe the level of crazy that Addison had in her tonight, like a child possessed. No words. My nerves are still frazzled from dealing with her.

So, I’ve promised myself that I won’t post unless I really feel like posting, however infrequent that may be.

That is all.

Article
0 comment

Some Insight From My Boy

In bed last night, I was reading the book, Maybe you should fly a jet! Maybe you should be a vet! with the kids and Haden said that he wanted to be a writer when he grew up. So, I asked him if he could write a book about anything, what would it be about?

His response…

“I would write about all my thoughts. I’d write all the stuff in my head, about bad days, and good. You know I have a really awesome life?! I’ll blog like you.”

He made me smile and laugh, but it seemed strange to me that he associates me as being a blogger since I don’t really see myself that way or ever self-describe myself as one.

After all this time, (It has been 2 years!) & 154 published posts (Umm…wow.When did I do that?), it may be time I start taking myself more seriously. Or not. 😛  I do none-serious pretty well.

Article
5 comments

Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief

 

I have been steadily working my way through the book, Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief, since it was recommended to me by a friend after my post To the Non-Religious: How do you talk about religion with your children? I have really been enjoying the book so far, and I was happy to find at the end of each chapter, lesson plans/activity ideas to do with your children, along with additional resources like books and websites. It has worked out rather nicely for me since I bought the eBook, I have printed out the ends of each chapter to use, so that I can start working them into our homeschool. The activities range in age appropriateness, but there is something for the littles and up.

My newest notebook is now separated into 9 different sections:

  • The Inquiring Mind
  • Ethics
  • The Religious World
  • The Physical Self
  • Positive Living
  • Celebrating Life
  • Life & Death
  • Creating Community
  • Recommended Films

 

I’m excited to get started! As we begin working them in, I will try to come back and blog about the ones that I liked the most. 🙂

 

Article
0 comment

This is me… throwing down.

Today, I sat idly flipping through a Star magazine, trying to kill a few minutes while I waited for my stylist to finish up with another client so that I could get a trim. I can’t say I was shocked, when the 2 stylists closest to me and their clients started talking about the Chick-fil-a controversy. I mean, who isn’t talking about it right now??!! I wish I could say they were saying things that made my heart happy and caused me to think, “Hey! Kindred spirits!” It was more in a way that made my blood pressure go up and I felt an extreme urge to throw down. However, I refrained. Barely. In the end I knew it would be a pointless battle, just like many of the others I’ve had this week. Or in the past. And will likely have again in the future. The one I’m waging at this very moment…

I sat there easily listening to their conversation, while they took no notice of my being there. No care for the teenage girls listening. What if I were gay? Or one of those teenage girls? Or both? Or even one of the people participating in that conversation? How would all of these little conversations make me/them feel?  The one today or one of the thousands I can find just about anywhere on the internet right now. If there is one thing that this CFA controversy has surely succeeded in doing, it has been to pull down the walls that made being anti-gay socially unacceptable. That used to be one of those things people *mostly* just kept on the down low. Oh, but no more! “CFA” has deemed being anti-gay a wholesome Christian value and that has everyone with the same values(however misguided), stepping over lines they wouldn’t have once crossed. I miss those days.

Yesterday, thousands of people flocked to their local Chick-fil-a’s, so they could effectively and “on their turf”, support CFA and give the gay community the finger. A message sent out to the roughly 9 million people that identify as LGBT; it was surely a job well done. I wonder how many LGBT youths were dragged to CFA with their parents yesterday and forced to show their support for a mentality that treats them as if they are less than people? That there is something WRONG about them.

 

So here’s the thing…

Research from the Family Acceptance Project… “shows that LGBT youths “who experience high levels of rejection from their families during adolescence (when compared with those young people who experienced little or no rejection from parents and caregivers) were more than eight times likely to have attempted suicide, more than six times likely to report high levels of depression, more than three times likely to use illegal drugs and more than three times likely to be at high risk for HIV or other STDs” by the time they reach their early 20s.”

And now, not only do they get to feel that rejection in their homes, they can blatantly feel it everywhere they turn. Great job, folks!

My brilliant friend, Amanda, gave me the idea of trying to take away from all the negative that is being put out there, and do something good. So, instead of throwing my money at hate, I’ll opt to take the money I could have blown on chicken sandwiches and waffle fries yesterday, and give it to the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBT and questioning youths. With the influx of hate spreading right now, I would place bets on the fact that they could use the extra help.

[box] BTW, for those that think this whole thing is still just about one guy’s religious beliefs, then you obviously haven’t given any of this very much thought.[/box]