Monday, October 23, 2017

It’s Time to Stop Saying No

I’ve read a lot of Mommy Blogs and inspirational Facebook posts. I’ve seen the memes and lists aimed at helping frazzled, over-burdened, guilt-ridden moms to find ways to better balance their sanity and their lives. One common recommendation from all these sources is to “Start saying no” or “Feel empowered to say no” or “You’re allowed to decline for no reason other than to protect yourself.”

I understand this need. I know there are pleasers out there who say yes to all requests and find themselves bone dry and leeched of all personal time and resources. I understand that we could all benefit from fewer commitments and more time for self-restoration.  

But frankly – I’m over all this saying No. It’s time to step up and say Yes again.

I feel like we’re suffering now from too many people feeling too darn smug about their choice to decline. Now that everyone feels good about saying no, we’re seeing a dearth of volunteers and a shortage of reliable help. We need fewer no’s and a lot more yes’s to get through the modern age.

Where Have All the Yes’s Gone?

I attended our elementary school’s fall festival last weekend. As always, it was a fun community event that brought together parents and kids having a great time and supporting the PTA. As always, it was staffed entirely by a few people – the same few people who volunteer to do almost everything. I talked to one PTA board member who said that from a school-wide email that the principal sent to all parents to request volunteers, she received three emails. Three. With a school of almost 900 children, only three parents put their necks out to volunteer for a short shift at a Saturday festival (about 15 folks eventually filled out an online sign-up form). But you know what? The event still happened and went off beautifully. Because those few people who did sign up (the same group who always do), came early, stayed late, and pulled a lot of weight. Not only did those folks not say no, but they said “hell yes” and just got it done. They had to.

I’m on a board of directors starting a new charter school. It’s the hardest and most difficult volunteer project I’ve ever undertaken. I’m currently putting more hours toward that than my own job. Regularly, I want to quit, or at least put the school in the back seat for a while. But then I look around at my other board members – other parents juggling families and jobs (several with full-time jobs or a lot more kids), other adults managing to find hours in their days to help make this school a reality. Because if we don’t show up, it won’t happen. We have to say yes – and then say yes over and over again – if we want to make a difference. It would be easier, more relaxing, and better for my sanity and my family if I said no – but I recognize the greater good served by saying yes to this school and the work it entails.

Community Care vs. Self Care

The movement to say no is rooted in the idea of taking care of the self. Too long, women were asked to donate (unpaid) a lot of time and effort to help teachers, help nonprofits, help the community. In recent generations, we also got master’s degrees and went back to work, then took on modern parenting and all its heavy requirements, and somewhere in all of that do-it-all insanity we got burnt out. How could we not? We were expected to do too much with too little time and resources.

I was there. I felt it too. So in response, we began to encourage each other to get pedicures, go to the gym, hire a sitter just so you can go to coffee. These are good things and do restore sanity, and I don’t want to take them away from any person.

But do you know what’s also good for the soul? For restoration? For balance? Being a part of the community. While personal restoration is important, there’s a lot of good feelings that come from being a part of something bigger, from helping others beyond yourself. And there are a lot of articles out there about how parents feel isolated and alone in raising kids and living in new towns and cities. So why not find some restoration in the company of others, accomplishing something good?

Let’s Reframe What Saying Yes Means

What if, when we’re asked to volunteer, we think of all the benefits that come from saying yes, instead of all the exhaustion.

What if, instead of one mom’s night out each week, you met with a board of directors to help run the arts center where your kid takes classes? You could help create the kind of classes your family wants, while spending time with other people who love the arts and your community.

What if, instead of one trip to the gym or coffee date each month, you volunteered in your kid’s classroom. You’ll build up a few children and help an overworked teacher. You may be a little more tired, but you’ll probably also feel pretty darn good for making a difference.

What if you ran for office, which might mean having to order pizzas for dinner instead of cooking home on meeting nights, but in return your children would see you setting an amazing leadership example? And you could speak up for the other frazzled family and their needs from government?

What if you figured out how to marry family time with community time, setting aside one afternoon each month to help the local soup kitchen? You are then saying yes to your family and to other families who are truly in need.

Yes within Reason

Boundaries are important. We can’t say yes to everything or we will truly be exhausted. And we can’t say yes to everything and still expect to do it all well. But in saying yes to a few important things, we can truly make a difference.

For example, because of my overwhelming commitment to this charter school, I had to say no to a request to sit on my church’s vestry (board of directors). The church certainly needs volunteers. I know I could do good work there. But right now, I have to stick with the thing I started and see it through to the end. I had to say no to the church…but I know that I can say yes in a year or two. I’ll say no now because I know I can’t balance two major commitments, and I want to do my main one well. But that also doesn’t mean that I can’t chaperone a field trip at school or cook a dinner for a church group one night. I can still say yes to small things.

So if you've already said yes to something – bravo! And thank you. You've earned the right to say no a few times now. Hopefully more folks will say yes so that you can get to say no sometimes and stuff will still get done. Until then, though, you've been labeled a helper, and you may still have to do a shift at the holiday bazaar. 

Yes is Not Possible for Everyone

If you read this far and want to punch me in the face, or scream about how I don’t understand your life, then likely you aren’t able to say yes – and that’s OK too. For the single parents out there, for those struggling to make ends meet, for those without stability, for those working two jobs, for those with illness or taking care of others who are sick or frail, and for those with babies who haven't slept in months – you get to say no. Your no is truly about saving yourself and your family, and you get to say NO at the top of your lungs because you are doing the best you can with what you have and you just can’t make a cupcake this week.

Because I value and respect your need to say no, that’s why I need to say yes. That’s probably the most important reason that more people need to say yes – they need to step up because others simply cannot. Perhaps the best way we can support the overwhelmed parents is to volunteer to do the things that have to get done so that those parents can focus on their needs.

So if you have a few minutes… a few free brain cells… some extra resources – please start saying yes. Please stop forwarding around posts about the luxury of saying no, and instead lift up and praise those who are saying yes. Thank your board members. Thank your PTA volunteers. Thank your soccer coaches. And then go join them.

Say yes to making difference, and you might just find that self-restoration you were seeking all along.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Chat with My Local Congressman

Hello dusty blog! I'm posting today because I just had the unique opportunity to speak with my local U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan. I honestly cannot think of any one time that I have agreed with anything this man has said, so it caught me a little off guard to end up chatting with him today on Facebook Messenger. I had started my day by tweeting and sending him a Facebook message to request that he please hold a town hall meeting during this week of recess so that he could hear from his constituents. To my surprise, he (or this may be a staff member -- I have no way of knowing for sure), responded to my message.

Note: this happened while I was on my laptop at my daughter's gymnastics class while also trying to finish up a client project. So I was often distracted and had to leave the chat and come back. I am publishing screenshots here as I think any interaction with public officials should be, well, public. I admit I wasn't on my A-game here (again, was not expecting a response and the time and place were not ideal), but I tried my best on the fly. Thankfully, I had his regular "legislation update" email from earlier that day to reference.

Facebook Messenger, Feb. 21, 2017

First - a screen capture that shows how it started.



Next, cut-and-paste of our convo. Please pardon me for having the formatting go funky -- I couldn't figure out the best way to do this. Just know that my comments are on the right and Rep. Duncan's are on the left (opposite of our views, clearly).

First, I'd like to understand why you're working to pass laws to make it easier for guns to be silenced, and then approving laws that make it easier for the mentally ill to own weapons?
Next, in your plans to eliminate the ACA, I have seen no new plans to replace health care. How do you plan to improve health care for all Americans?
Third, Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest provider of women's health care? Why strip ANY of their funds?
Claiborne
Fourth, we are a country founded on immigrants. We have extremely strict vetting processes in place for those who do want entry. A refugee or Muslim immigrant has NEVER killed anyone on U.S. soil. Why call these people threats and ban them? You'll make Americans safer by restricting gun access, since white American men are the leading terrorists in our country right now.
Claiborne
Thank you for responding to me. I appreciate it.

1) Yes. The bill is called the hearing protection act. I authored the bill and it currently has around 100 co-sponsors. I've done a few interviews on this bill and are happy to send you a few links if you'd like, but I personally have experienced hearing loss, which I contribute at least in part to hunting. When I was younger, hearing protection was not commonly used. But even now with hearing protection, your ears can still be impacted by gun fire. Also for many hunters, particularly deer hunters, ear protection is not commonly used because you need to be able to use your ears for hunting. Electronic ear protection is available, but it can be as high as $700 for a pair of ear plugs. In addition to this, suppressors can be very useful in protecting the hearing of hunting dogs. One thing I've tried to do with this bill is educate the public on what a suppressor is. It does not make a firearm silent, but it does decrease sound by around 30-40 decibels. Another aspect that people are not aware of is that suppressors are not only legal in Europe, they are often required to be used. Recently the head of the ATF released a whitepaper citing that suppressor prosecutions are extremely small, and that public opinion of them has changed dramatically in the United States. The ATF Director called for them to be de-listed from the National Firearms Act, and have them subject to an National Instantaneous Background Check instead.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Regarding the second part of your question on guns, it wasn't a law that was changed it was a rule. The rule was put in place by the Obama Administration without the consent of Congress. So aside from the policy issues at play, there is a process concern in my mind because it was done without the feedback of Congress.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
My issue with the Obama rule, was that it uses the social security system, a system that we are all required to pay into and that many people feel strongly belongs to them, and use that system to deny people their 2nd Amendment rights without adequate due process.

Can the suppressors be used just for hunting rifles? I mean, can you distinguish between requiring silencers for non-automatic rifles, but not make them required for automatics, semi-automatics, and handguns?
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
The bill doesn't specify which types of guns they can be used for, and from a policy standpoint I don't believe it matters. First off fully automatic weapons are heavily regulated already, so I don't even think they are worth mentioning in the same context as other firearms.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Regarding handguns, suppressors are useful for them as well. Same reasoning as before but think shooting range. They actually could improve safety at shooting ranges by making it easier for shooters to communicate, as well as reducing noise levels that could bother people in the communities. I heard stories recently about a shooting club in the low country (near Hilton Head I believe) that is having a lot of issues with the local community over noise concerns.
Claiborne
Well, my sympathies honestly don't lie with people who want to use handguns for fun. They can buy ear protections. I firmly believe that silencing guns that are used as weapons should not be a priority.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Regarding the ACA, I made a post last week with a link to the Kaiser Foundation. They have an interactive website that allows you to compare all the ACA replacement plans. My favorite right now is the Rand Paul plan. I would encourage you to check out the link, and look at the various options.
Claiborne
Thank you. I do plan to read the Paul plan. I am lucky to have SC State insurance, though it certainly has its flaws, but I have many friends who are currently uninsured and can't afford insurance. We need a plan that will insure everyone.
I am one of your constituents who would support socialized health care, but I'm guessing we won't find common ground on that.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Probably not. My goal is to help make it easier for people who want to have insurance to have insurance, and to do so by using the free market. I'm a big fan of association healthcare plans. Allowing groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses (which I was a member of when I owned my own business) to offer plans across state lines to their employees.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
That makes it a lot easier for small businesses to get insurance for their employees, because it allows them to have a broader risk pool.
Claiborne
I don't think that only the employed should be able to get health care. I'm a freelancer. If I weren't married, I would have few options for affordable health care.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
I agree, one of the benefits of the Rand Paul plan is giving individuals the same tax breaks for insurance that they would received if they got insurance through their employer.
Claiborne
As long as they can still get it with pre-existing conditions...
And as long as a new plan comes BEFORE you repeal the ACA
Claiborne
Please do not take away a single person's health care until you have a similar plan in place and ready to take them. Answering to the mobs screaming to repeal ACA right away does an extreme and potentially fatal disservice to those who may lose insurance without having a new plan to adopt.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
On Planned Parenthood, I think this may be an issue where we agree to disagree but let me give you my reasoning. I don't feel like taxpayers should have to pay for abortion. That is currently US law, but we do fund organizations that fund abortion, thus freeing up funds that can be used for abortion. In the case of planned parenthood, they have done some pretty concerning things that has cast the organization into question. There is also concern that they have long misrepresented what type of services they provide, specifically prenatal care. What I support is taking money currently going to abortion providers, and distribute the same amount of family planning money to organizations that focus on health rather than abortion. When we're talking about using people's tax dollars, it deserves an extra level of scrutiny, because people feel very strongly about funding things with their money that they don't morally believe in.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Regarding refugees. I'm a member of the foreign affairs committee and homeland security committee, so this is an issue that I've spent quite a lot of time on. I may be one of a handful of members of congress who has actually visited a Syrian refugee camp. In regards to Syria, the record should show that I opposed arming the Syrian rebels in the first place which helped lead to this humanitarian crisis. There are no good guys in Syria, and to make matters more complicated, the Syrian government is being supported by Russia. I believe the best thing we could do to help the Syrian people would be to establish safe zones in the country. That would allow us to help the most amount of people, and allowing these individuals to work to rebuild their country when the conflict is over.
Claiborne
Re: Planned Parenthood, you're right that we'll disagree on this. I do know that the false accusations about them regarding organ/tissue use have all been disproven. But I'll move on.
Claiborne
Re: Syria. Thank you for traveling there and for understanding that their war is part of this global crisis. Do you really think that safe zones are possible, though? They have repeatedly ignored cease fires and even killed their own people. Syrians deserve safe countries to move to, and the U.S. has an important and Christian role to accept them.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
The Ohio State stabbings were conducted by a refugee. Bowling Green (while it was prevented) was planned by Iraqi refugees, which prompted President Obama to suspend the refugee resettlement program. Boston Bombers (while not refugees) immigrated into the United States. San Bernadino was a similar situation.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
I mention this because our vetting processes are flawed under the best of circumstances, and with Syria, we have very little information to go off of. Europe has seen an increase in sexual assault and terrorism as a result of the refugee resettlement program. We need to be careful if who we allow into this country, and what we are doing to vet them. We know for a fact that ISIS has said it wants to infiltrate the refugee resettlement program. This is a major worry for me.
Claiborne
Those tragedies you mention pale to those being committed by white men in our country, and yet you're spending time expanding gun rights and blocking harmless people. And in blocking all refugees, you're also blocking scientist, contributing members of society, and people who just need a safe home. Pardon the poor analogy, but it's like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Let's make better policies for weapons access instead of overly restricting our borders unnecessarily.
Claiborne
Also, my understanding is that the sexual assualt issues are in refugee camps, which are overrun because those refugees need to be resettled into proper homes. Let's route them from those camps into our communities to prevent more atrocities.
I have to shut down now and get my kids from school. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I greatly appreciate hearing from you. Please also plan a public town hall so that others can ask you questions.
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Jeff Duncan
Thanks for taking the time!
So there you have it. Turns out civil conversation with someone you vehemently disagree with is, in fact, possible. Even on social media!
Claiborne