4.23.2016

Annie Elizabeth | One Month






She is the last and the first and so much more. Annie Elizabeth turned a month old this week, and already we cannot believe this kiddo has given us the time of our lives.



Talk about the fastest month in a while.

The two weeks I stayed home on paternity leave went by quickly, and then time slowed down a little bit when I got back to the office. Even so, before we could barely blink, Annie is a month old.

Already gone: the tiny-baby days, the ones in which our daughter is too small for her skin, all wrinkles and warmth and the world's most delicious smell. I wanted to slow that down this time, to linger, but nothing can stop it from escaping before your eyes.

She's gained two pounds almost, straightened out her breached posture, filled in a little around her face. Her skin has smoothed out, her eyes opening wider and wider. She tastes the air.

For each of our first two children, I produced a video each month for their first year of life, marking time with snippets from our iPhones and cameras. Eventually we realized these films were documentaries--better than what any baby book might take down--and so for Annie, who we think will be our third and final kiddo, I begin again.

Here's her first month:

4.20.2016

Fourth Symphony







It's April, and it isn't like I can go the entire month without posting something poetry-related. 

Here's a poem I wrote in July 2006 about Beethoven, who in turn wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1806 while essentially on a vacation, taking a break as it were from writing what would become his famous Fifth Symphony. (You know, "da - da - da - DAHHH!") I've always enjoyed thinking about artists and their personal lives, and in this instance, I've set the poem from the perspective of someone else living in Count von Oppersdorff's castle that summer.



"Fourth Symphony"
(No. 50)

Her brother was a count,
her sisters betrothed to greatness, yet
here she was falling in love

with the summer tenant, a messy
man muttering about in the halls
who spoke too loudly, sang little songs
at the wrong moments, could not decide
what to eat for breakfast.

Musicians,
she thought, were all like this—
all little men until they waved their arms
and conducted spells of music out of the air.

She knew he had cursed her with his love
late one warm evening in the parlor, playing the piano,
singing her name over and over,
as if saying it could make him hear it—
could make him believe in its consonance.

They were engaged.
In her letters, she wrote of fantastic evenings,
light and airy as the notes floating from his room,
enchanting the Hungarian countryside.
For him, though, the ghost of another love—
her very cousin—shadowed him at night,
when they would stroll through the garden.

That year, fall came early. Beethoven
finished his short symphony and left for Silesia,
the young girl not wanting to hear
what he said to her anymore.









3.29.2016

HB2 Keeps Educators from Critical Tasks





NC House Bill 2 might punish innocent public school employees who are only trying to do their job. 


Most everyone in the state has had something to say about House Bill 2, the legislation that overturned Charlotte's "bathroom law" and made North Carolina into an overnight news sensation. Liberals decry what the law does to gut local measures protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination; conservatives hail the legislation's aim to protect children.

Educators statewide should be wary of House Bill 2, though.

The legislation, which was introduced into the General Assembly, passed by both houses, and signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the span of a single day, was originally in response to a Charlotte city ordinance that allowed transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their choice.

As a result, House Bill 2 puts restroom matters into some very binding language--stating specifically that public schools must designate multi-use bathrooms as single gender.

The bill defines multi-use facilities as bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, or shower rooms. It also includes this specific language: "Local boards of education shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility that is designated for student use to be designated for and used only by students based on their biological sex."

Lawmakers made a few exceptions. Page two, lines 9-17, states that janitors, maintenance workers, those providing medical assistance, or those accompanying a student needing assistance or needing assistance themselves may enter an opposite-gender restroom.

But that's it.

In other words, House Bill 2 makes it illegal for anyone other than a student or those specifically exempted to enter.

That means teachers or administrators are barred from monitoring behavior in opposite gender bathrooms. Say that a female administrator walks past the boys bathroom in the high school in which she works and smells cigarette smoke. House Bill 2 prevents that administrator from entering the bathroom to further engage a student who might be breaking school rules. The same would apply to teachers as well.

Further, if you're an athletic coach, House Bill 2 prevents you from entering an opposite gender locker room facility. I've known plenty of coaches who worked with students of an opposite gender--men who coached women's tennis, women who coached men's track and field, and so forth. As it's written, House Bill 2 prevents those opposite-gender coaches from entering a locker room with their athletes to perform their coaching duties, period. So, a male coach wanting to draw up plays for his women's basketball team over halftime is barred from doing so by this legislation--and remember, this bill extends to include teams across the University of North Carolina.

The law would also apply to student managers or athletic training staff. Many football teams, for example, benefit from young women who work as athletic training staff members. Those trainers are frequently found in locker rooms attending to athletes, managing equipment, and supporting coaching staff. House Bill 2 makes it illegal for female managers to accompany their team into a locker room--or any opposite-gender manager to enter a locker room, even when empty.

I've spoken with a couple of legislators off the record about this legislation, and none could provide clarity as to how these particular examples of teachers performing their job functions would be protected from legal recourse by House Bill 2. And using the exceptions written in the legislation is certainly a stretch for administrators, teachers, and coaches.

The legislation is entirely murky when it comes to students outside of the school setting. Marching bands, and occasionally athletes, are sometimes forced to use activity buses for changing areas--and not often are there enough buses to segregate by gender, nor are there enough chaperones to ensure a same-gender teacher, coach, or administrator is present. It's unclear how House Bill 2 might affect these matters.

Educators can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, though.

House Bill 2 lacks any kind of enforcement clause, meaning that there's no designated charge imposed for when someone breaks this law. The UNC School of Government wrote a helpful blog post last year that notes the likeliest charge for using an opposite gender restroom is second degree trespassing--but it would mean a local district attorney would have to be willing to press such a charge. Arresting a principal for writing up a kid caught smoking in the boys room seems farcical--but my guess is that it might provide a legitimate escape hatch if the kid's parents are lawyers.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper also announced today that his office will decline to represent North Carolina in a court case already filed regarding House Bill 2, meaning that pending court action may well nullify parts of this legislation.

Still, for educators just trying to do their jobs, House Bill 2 offers little protection--and might actually keep them from performing their duties.