Thursday, December 28, 2006

greetings from the border

greetings from ajo, arizona!

we had a whirlwind of a christmas, with julie's whole family visiting for the weekend; three church services in 24 hours (remind me to write about serving communion to a nun at the christmas day, homeless service); our annual "island of the misfit toys" party between the two services on christmas eve; and a chinese food extravaganza on christmas afternoon. we then skedaddled to the airport and flew to pheonix, collected our backpacks and rental car in the wee wee hours of the 26th, stayed the night at an econo-lodge, and then made our way to organ pipe cactus national monument, where we have set up camp in the desert, with the mountains of mexico just to the south.

our plan was to car camp a couple of nights, and then hike back country with our packs for a couple of nights. a cold, dreary rain today has us instead in ajo, eating good mexican food and hanging out at the public library (where, wouldn't you know, they are showing the movie cars! the kids are thrilled.) we've had two days of beeyooouuteeeful day hikes so far, and the kids have been amazing troopers, so i can't complain too much! tomorrow is supposed to be nice again, so we're going to try for a one-night back country packing adventure, probably just three miles or so out, and then back again the next day. we fly home early sunday morning.

look forward to desert reflections and some photos when we return!

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Monday, December 18, 2006

"what do you do?"

i get asked this all the time, and i have yet to come up with a satisfactory response. in the first years home with micah, i said simply, "i'm a mom and a homemaker," or "i'm home raising my children." that's what i wanted to be doing, that's what i was passionate about, and that work completely fulfilled me. i loved the work, and i loved resonding that that's what i did.

in the past year, and especially in the past months, however, my work outside the home has exploded. it's very very exciting, and i'm feeling very invigorated by it, thinking about possible new directions for a career when micah is in school full-time, and learning about and honing skills i didn't know i had. it feels very very right to be shifting focus as i am, as my kids enter new phases of their lives, and i do too.

so, these days, the things i do in addition to raising kids and keeping a home include:

  • i'm a la leche leader, and i lead a monthly meeting on my own (i don't have a co-leader as yet). i also spend about three months a year (in two week chunks) staffing the helpline, which means i take from 0 to 4 calls a day from moms needing breastfeeding help in all of philadelphia county. i've also just begun leading several leader applicants through the accreditation process, which will involve at least bi-monthly meetings.
  • i have several leadership positions at my church. for the past three years or so i have served as church school superintendent (before that i taught sunday school). in that capacity, i recruit and train sunday school teachers; organize regular teacher's meetings; negotiate space so that we have sunday school rooms, and also make sure the rooms are in good shape; evaluate and order curriculum; buy supplies; arrange for substitutes or sub myself; and conduct a 15 minute children's worship service each sunday before the sunday school hour.
  • for the past two years, i have also served as a deacon on the official board of the church.
  • for the past year, i have met bi-monthly with a small group dubbed the "reorganization task force," charged with proposing a whole new vision of how we "do" church. the culmination of that process finds me on a new administrative council, coordinating partnership-building and fundraising for our outreach programs (homeless shelter, food and clothing cupboard, summer day camp for at-risk youth, and city work camp program for rural and suburban youth groups).
  • finally, and by far the most exciting and time-consuming, is that i serve as the chair of the board of my daughter' s charter schoool. in that capacity, i have in the past three months doubled the size (and racial diversity!) of our board; begun implementing an entirely new model of board governance called policy governance; and begun to work with the ceo on launching a capital campaign. i've also found myself pulling out all my connections from my law school and law firm days in order to bring some political muscle to bear on an effort to remedy what started out as an administrative snafu regarding enrollent (i.e. how many students we're getting paid for, as opposed to how many we're actually educating -- the numbers don't match up, and not in our favor), but which has turned into a huge, hairy political nightmare in the midst of a mayoral campaign and a school district budget crisis.

so, that's what i *do,* outside of raising my kids, cleaning my house, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, planning and cooking meals -- all the homemaking, stay-at-home-mom stuff that i l*o*v*e. i estimate i spend between 20 and 25 hours a week on my "outside the home" work. and when it started getting to those levels, i started responding to the "what do you do?" question a little differently. instead of just saying "i'm a mom and a homemaker," i'd say that plus "and i do a lot of volunteer work outside the home." but funny thing, no one ever really asked me about my "volunteer work," and i always got the idea that people thought i was, you know, going on a field trip now and again with my daughter's class.

so i decided recently to respond to the question "what do you do" by telling people what i do, just like every other working mom would. by describing my work, especially with the school, work which has really become my passion. the thing i'm learning, though, is that work outside the home -- no matter how important it is, and no matter how many hours you spend on it -- doesn't really count if you're not paid for it.

for example, on sunday i had a rich, full day -- after church (which for me starts at 9:00 getting ready for church school, and ends around 12:15 when the service is over), i helped julie prepare a lunch for the children's choir, which she directs, before they began a dress rehearsal of their cantata on christmas eve. i then went to a two and a half hour meeting of the reorganization task force, where we hashed out a plan for the church's structure in the coming year, to be presented at the congregational meeting in january. i then rushed to a house party a friend of mine was hosting for a mayoral candidate i support (personally, although doing so too publicly has become a liability for the school, because unfortunately he doesn't currently wield much power, and is probably going to lose...). at this house party, glass of wine in hand, i was introduced to a woman who serves as the treasurer of the local chapter of the national organization of women.

and she asked the ubiquitous question, "and what do you do?"

i replied, "i'm the chair of the board of a k-8, environmentally themed charter school in XYZ neighborhood." she looked at me quizically, and inquired a bit about what i do. i began to talk about some of my work, and she just looked more and more confused.

"but, is this a paying position?" she interrupted, clearly confused about how i could be paid for chairing the board of a charter school (i can't), and equally clearly unable to understand how that could be my "work," what i "do," if i'm not paid.

"no," i sighed, "i'm not paid for that work. i'm home with my children right now, but that's the work i do in the world." inevitably, as everyone does, she launched into the completely patronizing speech, which she no more believes than anyone else who uses it in response to "i stay home with my kids," about how that's just such important work, the *most* important work, really.

that, i have learned, is the signal that you have been dismissed. that is the point at the cocktail party when you are about to be abandonded for greener pastures. and it appears to be true even if, in fact, you are running one of the few highly successful charter schools in the entire city of philadelphia. because if you are not getting paid for it, it just doesn't count.

go figure.

so, has any one else found themselves in this position? how do you handle it?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

response from the art museum

i was well pleased with this.

Dear Ms. [last name deleted],

I am the Director of Visitor Services at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and I am writing in response to your recent email about your friend's experience. We work hard to ensure all of our visitors have a pleasant experience and are upset when we fall short of that goal. I can only imagine your friend's frustration and concern when she was told that she could not breastfeed her baby within the gallery. I assure you that is not our policy. The Museum is fully aware of the ordinance that permits women to feed their children wherever they wish. This ordinance is reviewed with all of our staff and security personnel during their training. It seems that in this case, this particular officer was not clear on the policy. I cannot apologize enough on behalf of the Museum that your friend was put in that situation. We have reviewed this ordinance in subsequent line up meetings with all of our security officers as well as ensured that the class currently in training is clear on the policy.

Ms. [last name deleted], I am a mother of three and I know and understand how difficult it can be for mothers who choose to breastfeed their children and then have to deal with criticism from those around them. We take pride in welcoming families to the Museum in hopes that our young visitors will continue to explore the Museum, as they grow older. We would not want anything to hinder that relationship.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. We look forward to welcoming you and your friend back in the future.

[name deleted]
Director of Visitor Services
Philadelphia Museum of Art


Monday, December 04, 2006

what i've heard so far:

Thank you for applying for a position at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
using electronic mail. It is not necessary to send a hard copy of your
resume. We are currently reviewing resumes and will contact you for an
interview if your background and qualifications closely match the needs of
the department. All resumes will be considered for one year.

We appreciate your interest in the Museum.

Human Resources Department
Philadelphia Museum of Art

(i sent my letter to info@, visitor services, human resources, development, and the women's committee [whatever that is ... rich white ladies from chestnut hill, no doubt]. this is what i received from hr. do they even read their emails??)


Sunday, December 03, 2006

breastfeeding at the philadelphia museum of art

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a long-standing member of the Art Museum, and I am planning to make an additional contribution toward the effort to keep "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia. The Art Museum is one of my favorite places in the City, and my children and I are frequent visitors.

I am also a breastfeeding mother, a La Leche League leader, a member of the Philadelphia Breastfeeding Coalition, and an attorney. I was very disturbed recently to learn that a mother visiting the Museum was asked to move out of a gallery into a cold and drafty stairwell to breastfeed her infant.

Surely the Art Museum is aware that Philadelphia City Ordinance 1996 Amends Section 9-1105 of the Fair Practices Code, making it an unlawful public accommodations practice to prohibit a breastfeeding mother from, or segregate a breastfeeding mother within, any public accommodation where she would otherwise be authorized to be, whether or not the nipple of the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to breastfeeding.

I feel certain that the Art Museum does not have a policy on breastfeeding in public that knowingly puts it in violation of the Fair Practices Code. Therefore, I am assuming that this unfortunate incident occurred because the Museum has not adequately trained its employees about the Museum's legal obligation to allow mothers to breastfeed anywhere they please in the Museum.

If you have already implemented such a training program, please let me know so that I can rest assured that the Museum is in compliance with the law and supports breastfeeding mothers and their children. If you have not already implemented such a program, please let me know how I can be helpful in that regard. I would be very happy to put you in touch with attorneys and lactation educators who could not only inform your employees of the rights of breastfeeding mothers, but also the overwhelming public health benefits that accrue from the public support of breastfeeding.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Marta [last name deleted]

"Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce... have sons and daughters .... seek the welfare of the city ... for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

Jeremiah 29:6-7