Friday, January 30, 2009


It's 3:00 in the morning and I cannot sleep.

This is the final stage in my familiar progression of head cold. Two days of head-splitting sinus headaches and swollen, teary eyes during which, if I'm smart, I don't leave the couch. However, by the end of the second day, I've slept so much that I can't sleep that night.

So, here I am.

I have no idea what to write about.

For days, I have been singing a refrain from a song in my head "We need reminding always that we belong to a loving God who won't leave us alone."

It's from an album called Hope For a Tree Cut Down and it's available free to download. A church that's a little like mine created the music for their worship and ultimately recorded it. It's haunting and honest and says a lot of the things my heart says. "We need each other more than we need to agree." It has occasional moments that sound slightly pretentious. What does it really mean to be "intimately broken"? But there is room for poets in this Church, too. :-) Actually, those words are wrapped in such straightforward truth that so many churches do not admit. And it is truth that sets us free. "I am broken. You are broken. Everyone is broken. I am broken. You are broken. Intimately broken."

I think God tells us to seek out relationships so that we realize just how broken we are. There is freedom there.

I am starting to feel a little agoraphobic from all the freedom.

There are different levels of relationships and I think this blog does a pretty good job of reflecting some of the humility and insight that I've received from bouncing off of lots of people and observing how they respond to me and how I respond to them. I think they fall into three categories: acquaintances, friends and family.

But what do you do with someone who feels like family but after only 6 months together feels quite a bit like an acquaintance. I mean really, what do I actually know about the guy? But this doesn't stop me from being my absolute worst and most broken with him. Spending all of your spare time with someone doesn't allow you to hide, much. But he just keeps loving me.

Someone I know told my mother and I that she resolved only to speak to her husband in loving tones. I can't remember who that was. I know that my mother and I both responded somewhat incredulously. Maybe with a little bit of mocking once we were alone.

How could you live up to that resolution and be honest?

Debbie Blue gave a reading at an up-rooted meetingonce and read from her book entitled From Stone to Living Word. In it she said something like, "Love can't be consistent positive regard for someone. How could anyone live with a person and feel that?"

But there is something to that theory of loving tones. How else do you keep the hurt from accumulating? I mean, Jacob's human. When I shout, it's got to cause him to cringe a little, even when he knows it's not aimed at him. How do I keep us from falling into a pattern of hurt and defense?

One of the things about getting married when you are young (I had been 22 for 5 days) is that you have no consciousness of setting precedent. You just reactreactreact. It's honest but can be a little like messing up the foundation for the Tower of Pisa by only a fraction. It's not noticeable now but as you build on that pattern, it becomes a real problem.

Am I missing something here? Where is the bump that helps me skip the groove that I'm trapped in? How are these things reconcilable?

1. Real partnership requires honesty.
2. To be honest, sometimes I have to show him my brokenness.
3. Showing him too much brokenness might ruin our lives.

My therapist tells me that although it's legitimate for me to worry about things like this and good to work them through, I should also consider the idea that I'm looking for a way out. That I've been hurt and that to avoid being hurt again there is a part of me that would rather be alone. I know that I've written about our country's hero complex before. I'd forgotten that it was when I was reading Debbie Blue. Funny repetition there. My reading for my Urban Adolescent class this week talked about it a little, as well. Barbara Rogoff quotes Dennie Wolf:
Since psychology began in this country, the dominant metaphor for a learner has been something between Rodin's thinker and Huck Finn heading off to the territories - a singular, lone figure arm-wrestling the world, some conundrum, or a conceptual matter to the table. We are at long last learning to question the singularity, even the isolation, of that figure.
The point of the book we read is that families and culture are inseparable from the personalities that we develop. How we react and feel is not something that grew in a petri dish. Different contexts create different people. She expands on the Dennie Wolf quote:
The stress on the individual undoubtedly derives from a variety of sources, including the focus of American culture on the independent individual conquering a new land (having left relatives behind) . . ."
But I have not left relatives behind. I am enmeshed in my family and have stated again and again that I desire to be partnered with the right man.

Yet, I look for ways to escape by setting up numbered philosophical "proofs" that this relationship won't work. Those conflicting facts hold true for all relationships and yet, somehow, a lot of them work. How is that? What is the magic that lets them break free of the pattern of hurt and defense?

I wish I had an answer to make this a tidy essay to uplift your day. I don't.

But I have been singing the words, "Receive . . . the blessing . . . of God," which are the next lines after "We need reminding always that we belong to a loving God who won't leave us alone."

As I lay on the couch sniffling and dripping, Jacob held my head in his lap and stroked my hair.


The grammar is imperative, a command. But it could be easily spoken as a plea.

Maybe the magic that lets us skip the groove and keep coming back to each other despite the fault in the foundation is God.

But what else accounts for it?

Hard work?

That fails. How does that account for "better or worse, sickness and health" and all the people who actually live that out?

Receive the blessing of God.

I'll try. I'll try not to give into my fear of being hurt. I'll try to be honest but also to use more loving tones.

But I'll fail. I'll shut out the blessing.

Remind me that I belong to a loving God who won't leave me alone.

Now there's a thought. I can look to be as alone as a cowboy but I'll never succeed at that, either. God will always be there.

So, if I'm to fail regardless, I might as well fail in the arms of man that loves me, right? To also be the arms that he fails within. To show someone else the unconditional love that God shows me? To be that for someone else might just be fulfillment of God's plan for people.

Maybe that's the blessing.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


In the bathroom just now, a Muslim woman asked me if her hijab covered her entire back since she had just re-wrapped it.

Thank you for trusting me with that.

Monday, January 19, 2009

White privilege

When I was in college, I spent a summer babysitting for the McCombs. Sweet little Ashton was only 2 and a half. We would go for walks to the park, which was down a steep hill. I would hold Ashton's hand on one side as I would push his younger sister in a baby stroller. His older sister walked alongside. When it came time to cross the streets, we would stop, look both ways and then cross. Most streets had stop signs, so sometimes we would cross even though a car was coming. I knew the car would stop but Ashton did not have the experience to know that the stop sign protected him. Several times, he would let go of my hand and bolt across the street while I was struggling not to lose control of the stroller.

Of course, letting go of my hand was actually more dangerous than staying put. The driver of the car couldn't see the knee-high-to-a-grasshopper toddler. But Ashton did not have the experience to work out the physics yet, either.

Gosh, did I yell at him. I needed him to trust me that his survival instincts were wrong and that societal infrastructure (the stop sign) would keep him safe.

In her paper, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," Peggy McIntosh wrote down the things she can reasonably expect from her life on a daily basis that people of color cannot reasonably assume about theirs.

These include:

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race.

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.

35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

As we look forward to the inauguration of our first black president (an event that has me randomly tearing up whenever it is referenced on the radio), #20 makes me cringe.

McIntosh writes:
My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow "them" to be more like "us."

But this is not the solution. A whole planet of people who behave and consume like White Americans? What a nightmare. Instead, people of privilege must acknowledge that they have power that they did not earn and be willing to disadvantage their own lives and the lives of their children for the sake of equality. There is no other way.

I'm not sure I can do it. Can you?

I'm willing to keep trying, though. I'm willing to turn off my survival instincts and trust that a greater good will come out of it. We do it all the time. When it's -18 degrees outside, I ignore my survival instinct and walk out to catch a bus. I know that warmth will be available to me before I will freeze.

I believe that White privilege is a result of our survival instinct. Without it, we would have a much larger pool of competition for a finite amount of resources.

There is a game theory scenario called the Tragedy of the Commons. In it, several farmers share one piece of grazing land. If the farmers cooperate and put only a moderate number of cows to graze, they all benefit. However, each farmer has an incentive to cheat and put out more cows than they should. They receive more profit in the short term even though in the long term, the commons is destroyed and can no longer support any cows.

If the farmers are going to live on the commons for a long time, then the continued profit they will make over the years is greater than the individual profit they can make in one season. The incentives to behavior shift from selfishness to selflessness.

There has to be a way to apply this metaphor to race relations in our country.

In class last week, Professor Charles, who is African American, related an anecdote about never being able to hail a taxi when he is in New York. He believes that this is because cab drivers know that, statistically, they are more likely to get knocked on the head by Black passengers. Since different cab drivers are willing to take on different levels of risk, if he waited long enough, one would probably come along that was willing to take. However, since his time is valuable, he simply calls a limo company ahead of time to send a car for him specifically.

This scenario parallels the Tragedy of the Commons. This time, the finite resource for the cab drivers in not getting knocked on the head. Every time they do not pick up a Black man, they create a dynamic in which more Black men do not even try to take taxis. But those Black men who call limos are almost always the Black men who would NOT knock the cab drivers over the head. So, by ignoring all Black men, they actually increase their chances of getting knocked over the head when they do pick up Black men since the pool has gotten smaller. This is called a vicious cycle. As their chances of getting knocked over the head go up, they leave more Black men stranded. Every time the leave a Black man stranded, their chances of getting knocked on the head go up. Ultimately, the system breaks because no cab driver is ever willing to risk taking on a Black passenger and no Black person ever tries to hail a cab.

This is definitely analogous to the series of events that brought our society to its current racial state. As an example, consider segregation in housing. For years, the formal criteria for assessing home value in Chicago included how racially mixed the surrounding neighborhood was. Although the criteria has been changed and the overt racism that inspired the old system has become obsolete, Chicago is still consistently rated the most highly segregated of the largest 20 cities in the country. At the end of last year, the Chicago Tribune wrote another article confirming and detailing the high level of segregation in our city. Their analysis of 2008 population estimates indicate that "[t]o truly integrate Chicago, 84 percent of the black or white population would need to change neighborhoods." This seems eerily similar to the cab driver and the Black men. A broken system. This is also called a market failure.

The only way to disrupt a vicious cycle is for an exogenous (that means from outside the circle) factor to intervene. Often, reparations are suggested. Glen Loury, an economist at Brown University writes that instead of reparations,
"What is required, instead, is a commitment on the part of the public, the political elite, the opinion-shaping media, and so on to take responsibility for such situations as the contemporary plight of the urban black poor, and to understand them in a general way as a consequence of an ethically indefensible past. (This is not so much to 'compensate' for an ethnically troubled past as to adopt the 'right interpretation' of it.) Such a commitment would, on this view, be open-ended and not contingent on demonstrating an specific lines of causality."
Like Peggy McIntosh, Loury believes that this honesty about history and power is the necessary first set to fixing the broken system.

However, the most powerful exogenous force is that of self-sacrifice. Like Ashton, we must be willing to trust that it is more dangerous to obey our survival instincts. In the long-run, we are destroying the commons by allowing market failures to remain. Those of us who benefit in the short term from the broken system must be willing to give up those benefits for the sake of fixing the system.

It is the only way.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Perfect man

Before Christmas, my delightful cousin Megan flexed her charismatic muscle to get some free tickets to the Hubbard Street Dance Company. Her boyfriend's (now fiance's) brother is a dancer there. She gave them to me for Christmas. I took Jacob as my date and met him at the theater after class.

We had a fight almost immediately.

This is not unheard of. I can be both passionate and demanding. Jacob has figured out how his life works best for him and isn't willing to be pushed around. I love that about him.

But it means that sometimes we are on opposite sides of an expectation and that feels bad. So, we exhibit bad feelings with our behavior. I get impatient and when that's confronted, I explode with a torrent of complaints, mostly undeserved. He gets tense and crosses his arms and opens his eyes really wide until we're in a better place to have a conversation.

Those are actually descriptions of our worst. The reality is that we've lived enough life full of enough introspection that when he feels himself withdrawing, he'll come over and hug me and when I notice myself getting impatient, I sometimes tell him that I'm upset but I just need a little time to cool down. That's us at our best. In between are a variety of combinations. We're also getting good at recognizing and diffusing one another's disquiet.

I have dated men before who did not fight.

At all.

It was hell.

Nothing ever changed or got better or moved forward.

I like this man.

So, this fight on that night was skewed heavily toward the best side. We resolved it and kissed each other in the cold, blowing snow on Michigan Ave. Then, went into the show. We sat down next to a man who was probably 5 years older than I, broad-shouldered, lanky and woodsy with red hair and beard and goofy eyeglasses that were missing an earpiece.

Just my type.

A little outside the mainstream with the tall, dark and handsome going for him. I'm a sucker for it every time.

The three of us got into a conversation and his dossier just kept getting more and more familar.

"What do you do?"


Folks, we have a winner here. Probably a full third of men I've dated were not gainfully employed in any regular way.

"I'm living off some savings and I charge my roommates too much."

Excellent. Kind of an asshole but honest about it. Melt my heart.

He had a backpack full of paperbacks on the seat next to him that clearly screamed, "I'm intellectual! Ask me about any great thinker and I'll shrug my shoulders with disdain. Mention Charles Bukowski and I fall down in figurative worship." Goodness, do I fall for the brilliant and cynical. A healthy majority of relationships have been with men of this sort.

When he told us he was trying out online poker for a living but that it wouldn't be worth it if he didn't make $50,000 a year on the heels of a story about winning at backgammon against a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I was sunk.

Overwhelming expressions of self-confidence. I fall for it every time.

When I asked him if working full-time at online poker would cause him to miss people, he communicated an emphatic no.

Ah, be still my heart. He's anti-social, too.

If he told me that he didn't have a cell phone or a car and that he could stop smoking weed whenever he wanted, I'd have won some sort of prize for meeting the perfect Frankenstein of my ex-boyfriends.

At some point in the conversation, I leaned in close to Jacob and whispered, "This guy is completely my type, but I much prefer being here with you."

Afterwards, I played out what a relationship with that guy would have been like. Charming phone conversations, interesting dates, fantastic chemistry. But then, at some point, I would want something from him. Anything. As small as rescheduling a date or as large as wanting him to take me to the airport. Or to meet his friends. Or to stop dating other girls. Oh sure, before this he had been the perfect gentleman with my requests. But hindsight revealed that he wanted to do all those things anyway. Or, at least, they didn't inconvenience him. But after a few months, I will want something that he doesn't want to give.

And he won't do it for me.

And a pattern will ensue of struggling, forgiving, remembering what I liked about him, and thinking that if I'm just more vulnerable and honest and clear, he won't object this time. Thinking that if I sacrifice for things he wants that are inconvenient for me, he'll follow my lead. And I start to drift because I can't trust that when he challenges me it is because I have been unreasonable or if it is because he doesn't want to set a precedent for giving in.

And the die has been cast. The word "unreliable" starts to float around in my head. Sometimes I break it off and sometimes I stay stuck in denial until he does.

I told this story in a charming and delightful way to Jacob in the taxi but as I got to the end, I realized that the final phrase wasn't true for me anymore. I didn't put up with this guy's shit for very long at all. And I told him it was shit, which is a huge step for me.

It was terribly liberating. I've grown past the stage when I was held in the thrall of these dark, brooding poet-types. It was gradual growth. There were emotionally distant guys disguised as nice guys. There were actual nice guys in there with whom I just didn't click. But the process of dating after my divorce has led me to this new place where romantic heroes are not the rugged, self-sufficient cowboy but are instead smart guys who value relationships.

I'm lucky enough that Jacob not only values being in a relationship enough to make the necessary sacrifices and to expect the same from me, but he also values me. Me, all by myself. Not just what he can get from me to boost his self-esteem. And I feel the same way about him.

It's a good stage of life to be in. Even if things don't work out with Jacob (God forbid), I am free to bypass the bad boys and go straight to what's good for me. In the past, I didn't want to miss out on the experience, on the good story it would make. But now, I can see the common theme of emotional unavailability that ran through all those stories and their predictability makes them uninteresting. So, I'm ready for a new genre. No more murder-mysteries; I'm ready for some good, stable, imaginative, interesting and enjoyable science fiction.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Handmade Christmas

One of the most rewarding things that I did this year was to make stockings for my new sisters-in-law. They were a delight to make and I had the most gratifying experience when I sat in the living room of my mom's house, reading a book, and out of the corner of my ear, I heard Kimberly say in a soft, surprised and incredulous voice, "I have a stocking." It's enough to make a girl tear up a little bit just typing it.

What was also gratifying was that I made these stockings almost entirely from elements that I had either bought on clearance and saved until I needed them or that I had gathered from resale stores and garage sales.

I keep a giant box of these types of things and sometimes I berate myself just a little since I use them so rarely.

When I was first making jewelry, the bead store I worked at was closing. I realized that I would not be able to design through trial and error any more since I would have to buy everything I needed for the project up front and figure out how it would all go together once I got home. This is not ideal. How do I really know when standing in a fluorescent-lit aisle at a craft store how the combinations of individually packaged beads will look once I put them together? So, I bought as many "staples" as I could from Philomena, using the going-out-of-business discount in addition to my employee discount. I'm still using a lot of those beads to this day.

Right before I left to move to Orcas Island, I bought a clearance book at Borders that was shiny turquoise and purported to show me how to make new kitschy things out of garbage. This re-use philosophy was part of my romanticized vision of what my life would be like. However, when I unpacked the book and really looked through it, it was full of projects that used already kitschy things to make uber-kitschy things. I had experienced before that kitschy things are hard to find in the moment that you want them. Like beads, you must cultivate a collection to draw from when the design bug bites.

Thus, the box. And thus, the stockings. Perfect handmade holiday.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions. Not sure why. Just never made it a tradition. I guess if I'm going to make a change, I'm not going to make it until I'm good and ready and then I just do it.

However, I do like being reflective. So, courtesy of Denise Sharp, I present to you my prediction regarding what types of things will be on my mind in the coming year. Feel free to click on it to see a larger version.
Denise welcomes all to make their own phrenology heads with her template. Please leave me a comment and a link if you do. I'd love to see how you use the idea.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chatty Cathy

It may surprise some of you to learn that I can occasionally get a reputation as a "talker" in some of my classes. It's been that way most of my life. I remember storming off the front porch of the manse from a Bible study because the leaders' suggestion that we have "talking coupons" that limited (or encouraged) how many times group members could contribute. I drove to a park and fumed, wishing that some boy or another would have followed me to comfort me in a big romantic scene.

Didn't happen.

I think I came to my senses (or got cold as the sun went down) and I think I might even had gone back and talked out my feelings with the group leaders. I can't even remember who they were now but in retrospect I sympathize with them. What do you do with a girl who is so excited about learning and talking (which I need to do to learn) and the subject matter at hand to the point that you have no space to draw out the quiet kids? Teenagers are not well-known for their non-solipsistic tendencies nor their grace. At least, this one wasn't.

But for the most part, I've gotten good feedback for this trait. For the most part, people calmed my need to be known as smart by expressing appreciation for my comments. I remember that during a discussion, Mrs. Grisanzio once passed a question about Biblical language in the Grapes of Wrath over to Doug and I to answer since she couldn't. I remember my US History survey course professor complaining that the class stared back at him like sheep, but made an exception for me. A classmate in grad school once introduced me to his roommate as "one of the smartest people at school" and he's had no exposure to me except what he hears me say in class.

I'm pretty lucky that I really struggle with my homework in grad school and that I've met LOTS of people that I knew in my gut were way smarter than me or we'd have a real hubris problem on our hands here.

Almost universally, outspoken 10-year-old girls stop speaking out as they hit puberty. No one is really sure what mix of nature and nurture causes this but it's fairly well documented. I won't deny that it happened to me. But not in the classroom. It never crossed my mind that it was even an option to dumb it down so the boys would like me. I was having too much fun.

But as I aged and began noticing things like social dynamics and, you know, other people, I began to notice that if I didn't talk ALL the time, it wouldn't be terrible. Actually, I think I've gotten pretty good at choosing my moments to contribute in large-group discussions, leaving time at the end of the question for others to answer instead of jumping right in and thinking out loud less because I've formulated questions or comments in my head before I speak.

This is what I tried to do in class tonight. The class is double the size that the professor wanted due to a technical snafu. He expressed doubts that the large-group discussion format that he preferred would work. He elicited comment and after someone else spoke, I noted that I had experienced good discussions in that room with that size group before. My friend Andrew (who can be unassuming in large groups) countered that sometimes in those discussions, only dominant personalities got to speak.

Point taken.

I thought about that for awhile and simultaneously thought about the content of the class: race. I have a fair amount of experience in this area, for a white girl from the suburbs. A little humility is probably warranted.

That caveat combined with Andrew's plea caused me to make a New Year's Resolution not to comment at all, but only to listen in this class. Maybe I could make it the entire quarter listening to the perspective of others, giving shy folks room to express themselves, not making a fool of myself by saying ignorant things and impressing everyone in the room with my martyrdom, which they would see as grace and restraint. Maybe, just maybe I would say something every once in awhile and my previous silence would give my words more emphasis.

A nice little fantasy, isn't it?

If I'm honest, I made it half an hour.

But then, I didn't talk again for another hour! And I wrote down what my classmates had to say the whole time.

I swear. That's it.



The professor made an off-handed commented that my second comment was good and another student referenced my first comment like an hour and a half later.

It was pretty cool.

However, with only three comments in the entire class (this includes the first meta-comment about comments), the professor was saying by the end of class, "I'm sorry, Rebecca. I want to hear from the other students."

What the hell?!?

Some people said 6, 7, 8 things! Others talked for 5 minutes at a time, repeatedly! And he wasn't apologizing to them about calling on someone else.

What did I do wrong? It's true that I was raising my hand more at the end. But not forcefully and I never got called on. I sit in the center of the second row (of four). Would that make me seem more participatory than my peers in the wings of table configuration?

How did I get a reputation as a talker?

When I hadn't talked?

So, I'm in a strange place of being completely excited about the class and completely nonplussed regarding my place in the class. The professor is brilliant and has a personality that makes me laugh because of his jokes, as well as his idiosyncrasies and nuanced slips into slang. The topic is fascinating. My classmates have valuable things to say. But the valuable things I think I have to say are being ignored.

As with most contradictory things in my life, I'm sure there is a lesson here. I will continue this experiment of shutting up and be more diligent about raising my hand only when what I want to say is glaringly missing from the conversation and when it is actually necessary to contribute. I think the two things I said tonight fit into that category. I think I ruined it when I was indiscriminate with my hand-raising at the end. I will continue diligently writing down what my classmates say in my notes to learn from their experiences. I think that can only be valuable.

And I'm moving to the side tables.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Save Our Toys!

Jewelry and glass beads are my first crafting love. The summer after my freshman year in college, I got a job in the local bead store, which was located in our idyllic down town shopping district. I worked for a woman named Philomena, who fascinated me with her endless complaints about how everything in her life was against her. I think I was fascinated by her tenacity, since despite a crappy ex-husband and a teenaged son who was up to no good and endless customers and suppliers who tried to screw her, she found joy in life and kept plugging away at this small business that she owned. She was not scrupulous but she wasn't precisely illegal. I know she paid me as casual labor (like a babysitter) so she wouldn't have to do the paperwork to withhold taxes but I know she filed some of my wages as going to her family members. Once she called me at the store to tell me to give her son money out of the register to buy cigarettes. All of it fascinated me. Paying me $.50 above minimum wage allowed her some freedom to take care of things and gave me hours on end to experiment with different combinations of colors, textures and techniques.

Working for Philomena really engraved in my mind the struggles that small business owners go through to be their own boss, which is a reward in itself, since rarely do small businesses turn much more than a small profit. As a country, we value small business owners for the entrepreneurial spirit they possess. Although they embody self-reliance, they also promote community, since shopping with them keeps money inside the local economy and promotes actually knowing the people we interact with in our everyday lives.

As a policy student, I've been interested to watch the unfolding implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which was passed after all of those toys from China were found to have lead in them just before Christmas last year. Lawmakers did not write in an exemption for small business owners and craftsmen who make their own toys by hand. The testing and certification required by the legislation will drive almost all of these folks out of business, even though there is practically no risk to children from their products; the culprits of the recall last year were all imported plastic toys that had been painted. Hand-carved wooden cars and hand-sewn dolls made from natural fibers would have to be tested for lead just like all the others.

If you'd like to help out these folks who have often chosen simple lifestyles in order to work for themselves at what they love (which many would consider to be the American Dream), consider signing this petition or reading more here and here.

Actually, I've just learned that the most comprehensive site is the Handmade Toy Alliance.

Today is the last day to add your voice to the policy process that would protect small business owners throughout America from going out of business because of negligence by Chinese mega-corporations.