Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Dockers Man-ifesto and a great womanist response

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

So, I’ve been working on this book about postmodern male identity for some time called BE A MAN, and Brandon, a colleague of mine, passed along the text of a recent Dockers ad campaign they’ve labeled the “Man-ifesto.” Here’s the ad content:

Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants.

And here’s a revised version/response from a blogger known as Heartless Doll, which I think kinda rules:

Once upon a time, men didn’t have anyone questioning their shit. They wanted to be congratulated for opening doors and walking across streets. Men were in charge because they kept everyone else down. But somewhere along the way, women wised up and were like, these dudes are fucking assholes and we’d like some freedom and autonomy now, please. Somehow, dance music and delicious coffee made it so that men couldn’t wear the official pants of middle management, left stranded on the road between ageism and misogyny. But today, there are questions scholars, feminists and other people who speak truth to power would like some answers to. The world does not sit idly by as activists fight against the actual evils of the world while some pants company complains about coffee. For the first time since bad guys, we realized that the heroes were often the bad guys. We need grown-ups who don’t whine about dance music. We need men to not be ushered into oppressive gender roles and to eat salad if they want to, and ladies, too. It’s time for everyone to get their hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of gender equality. It’s time to wear whatever the fuck you want.

BE A MAN book survey – share your views

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Below is a link to a survey I’m conducting for my book on postmodern male identity and faith, tentatively called BE A MAN. Please take the 10-15 minute survey if you’re a guy, and pass it along to anyone else who might be willing to share their thoughts for this book.

You do not have to be practicing a particular religion or have any faith at all to take this survey. In fact, we want to hear from people inside and outside of organized religion, and those who believe in God, those who aren’t sure, and those who do not.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/beaman

Thanks for your help with this. And please do pass this on to as many men as you can!

Sincerely,
Christian Piatt

Prosperity vs. Abundance

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Prosperity vs. Abundance

By Christian Piatt

(Originally published in PULP)

It’s easy to turn a deaf ear to all the talk about “the economy,” at least until it hits you where it counts. Sure, we all notice when we have to pay more at the pump, or our health insurance costs jump for the 10th year in a row, but these are mere inconveniences compared to what some folks are dealing with.

I’ve been fortunate to work from home as a contract consultant to nonprofits for the past five-plus years. It allows me the flexible schedule I need to help out with the church, spend quality time with our kids and pursue my writing on the side. I’ve often carried more work during that time than we needed to get by, but my reasoning was that the work wouldn’t last forever.

Man, was I right.

This past summer, I lost all of my contracts in short succession. All of them said basically the same thing: it’s not about your work. We just have to cut back, and contractors are the first to go. Some were freaked out about city-county funding being cut, while others saw writing on the wall with their program-related contracts. One employer offered to keep me on part-time, provided that I move back to Texas to take the work.

Though things aren’t fully recovered for us, I’m grateful that a combination of side projects and a new part-time job with a graduate school in Tulsa have helped us keep the bills paid. We’ve undergone some fairly significant lifestyle adjustments, swallowed our pride and accepted help from family, and we have a plan to carry us at least through the holidays.

This whole experience, though, has caused me to reflect on a couple of things. First, though I’m not a fan of accepting help from anyone, it’s a blessing to have it available when we needed it. We realize that, no matter what happens, we’ll only fall so far. We won’t end up out on the street, and our kids will hardly know the difference.

I also am grateful to have a network of friends and professionals who have helped me dig up work from places I would have never found it by myself; I’m also thankful to have the opportunity to call people in positions of power and means to discuss ideas for employment.

Sure, I get work on my own merits, and I certainly wouldn’t keep it if I couldn’t perform. But this series of networks and safety nets is, without a doubt, the very definition of privilege. We Americans are fond of the idea that everyone, given a solid work ethic and enough ambition, can achieve anything. While there may be some anecdotal evidence to support this, it’s certainly a myth to suggest that this means that opportunity is an equally-distributed commodity.

It’s easy as a person of faith to fall back on guilt, and to assume that the “right” thing to do is deny myself those privileges that skew things in my favor. But, on reflection, I think the more just thing to do is both to recognize that privilege, and then to employ it to help raise others up whenever possible.

This may include giving what I can to charity, or returning the favor to those with less of a support system than I have. It might even be as simple as listening to others’ stories of hardship with a little more empathy and compassion. Most important, perhaps, is not to give myself too much credit for my own successes – or at least a minimalization of failures – and instead focus on gratitude.

The scaling back of our budget also has caused me to reflect on the difference between prosperity and abundance. Over the last three decades, organized religion has fallen over and again into the lucrative trap of preaching prosperity. All you have to do is turn on the television nearly any time of day, and you’re sure to find some preacher explaining to you why it is that Jesus wants you to be rich.

Funny, but I don’t recall Jesus or any of his followers racking up the bling. In fact, there’s more than one account of Jesus telling wealthy people that their prosperity could well be the stumbling block between them and a well-developed faith practice.

Jesus did, however, speak of abundance. Because of our consumer-centered worldview, we like to think that this is synonymous with “wealth.” But abundance is relatively independent of the physical world, and rather is a state of being. It is about believing that we have enough, here and now, rather than becoming willing slaves of want.

It’s ironic that having less has made me more grateful for what I do have. But sometimes it takes having the opportunity to stop and reflect forced upon you to gain a healthier perspective.

I go to bed at night with the peace of mind knowing there’s food on the shelves for breakfast, and that the heat will still be on when we wake up. I offer a quiet word of gratitude for the abundance in our lives, even in the face of slightly less material prosperity. I wonder what opportunities tomorrow may bring to pass that privilege and abundance along, and if I’ll have the compassion to act as I should.

Prosperity is often the perfect antidote to help us forget our hardship. Abundance, however, reminds us that there will be enough, especially if we’re willing to let a little bit go for someone else.

You can’t say that in church!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Request for Qualifications – Draft

Smells Like Spirit

By Christian Piatt

 

(Originally published in PULP)

 

I’ve been co-editing a new book series for Chalice Press, a Christian Publisher connected to my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Yes, that’s really the denomination’s name, including the parentheses. Don’t ask why.

 

Anyway, I recently traveled to Indianapolis and Kansas City to speak to a few hundred folks about the new series titled WTF? (Where’s the Faith?)

 

We Disciples seem to have a thing for parentheses.

 

Obviously, the title is provocative, which is purposeful. The series, created by young adults, primarily for young adults, is intended to speak to them where they are. This includes addressing a lot of things in a lot of ways that most folks in church have never been comfortable doing. So the relatively cheeky title does serve a purpose beyond unadulterated obnoxiousness; it’s supposed to break down barriers.

 

True to form the first book, due out early next year, is about faith and sexuality, and is called Oh God, Oh God, OH GOD! Trust me, you’re not the only one who’s a little bit amazed we even got that one past the editorial board, but kudos to them for having the barnacles to print it.

 

So you’d think that anyone aware of the connotations of both the series title and the first book would have at least a basic idea of what they were in for coming to one of our workshops. But my partner in crime and co-editor, Brandon Gilvin, took even me off guard when he said the word “blowjob” in the middle of our church event.

 

The room got pretty quiet for a minute. Then, thank goodness, we really started talking, which was the whole point to begin with. It should be noted that he didn’t just blurt out “blowjob” for no reason. He actually was making a point about some college girls who came to his counselor girlfriend some time back to ask her which was worse: kissing a boy or giving him a blowjob. This, they said, was a conundrum because “kissing a boy is so intimate.”

 

The point was made that there is more brushed under the rug in faith communities than is talked about with care, thoughtfulness and candor. A few people never lost the look of shock from their faces, but no one left. Maybe they just wanted to see what we would say next, but to their credit, they hung in there.

 

Afterward, I had several people come to me and thank me both for the books and the discussion. People confessed everything from personal struggles with pornography addiction, to eating disorders, and the level of honesty became nearly overwhelming. 

 

It was clear that people have been dying to talk about these kinds of things with people they can trust, who won’t judge them, but who will listen and respond with compassion and love. Though this was only a small step, it’s amazing to think that saying a word like “blowjob” in a faith-based workshop could be such a cathartic and healing experience.

 

As they say, God works in mysterious ways – I guess even through a couple of heretics like us.

Why standardized testing in our schools SUCK

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Why CSAP Sucks

By Christian Piatt

 

(Originally published in PULP)

If the ridiculous school supply and uniform bills weren’t enough to signal the beginning of school, there are plenty of other signs that the academic season is upon us: nervous-looking kids; slightly euphoric parents; bulging backpacks and the telltale crossing guards posted at strategic locations around town.

 

We also know it’s back-to-school time since we’re finally getting a glimpse of the CSAP test results from last year. The CSAPs – which stands for “Colorado Student Assessment Program” – is given to most students on most grades throughout the state, supposedly to track student progress. A love child of George Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation, the CSAPs and similar testing batteries across the nation have drawn mixed reviews.

 

In general, the sentiment toward the tests is negative, but the problem is most folks agree we should have some sort of accountability for student achievement; the problem is that no one seems to have a clue about how to make the tests better.

 

For starters, the tests historically have compared apples to oranges, holding one third-grade class’ scores up against the third-graders that follow them the next year and so on from grade to grade. But aside from any kids who failed and had to repeat a grade, these are entirely different students, so it’s impossible to get much useful data this way.

 

Recently, the bureaucrats and administrators have wised up at least a little, and they’re now tracking cohorts. This means we get to see data from one group of students as they progress throughout their academic career. But this still has huge flaws, particularly in a highly mobile community like Pueblo. In some schools, where the mobility rate exceeds 100 percent, most of theses aren’t the same kids from beginning of year to end, let alone from one year to the next.

 

A more reasonable solution is to implement a longitudinal system that follows each individual students from kindergarten to graduation. This would require more consistency from state to state, but it’s really the only way to use the tests to tell if a particular student is where they need to be or not. 

 

Another issue is the test’s sensitivity, on two levels. First, though some strides have been made to try and make the tests culturally sensitive, there are still issues surrounding the assumption of prior knowledge, much of which comes from a middle class, primarily Anglo background. Simply put, middle class kids have seen and done more than poorer kids, which gives them an advantage over kids who may have never left their home town.

 

A second sensitivity problem is more technical, primarily regarding the higher and lower extremes of the scale. In general, all we hear about is whether or not a kid performs at or above the “proficient” level, which constitutes two of the four possible quartiles within which scores can fall. Each school can see scores in a bit more detail, but for a child who began as a non-English speaker, or as functionally illiterate, a gain of a year or more may not even create a blip on the score chart. Some concessions are made for “special needs” students, but this hardly addresses the fundamental flaw, which is a test that is akin to taking a chainsaw into surgery.

 

Finally, there’s the problem of what the tests actually measure. The testing protocols, which are timed, try to tell if a child has mastered a set of skills necessary to solve a problem, whether it is a math proof or answers at the end of a reading passage. For the kids who get the right answers, all is well, but for the rest, the tests really tell us nothing.

 

For example, say a child misses all five questions at the end of a story passage. Though we can see they got all the wrong answers, did they fail because they didn’t understand the story? Maybe they misunderstood the questions? Or perhaps the directions for what to do in the first place? Did they read too slowly to even get to the questions? Did they have so many words they could not decode in the story that they lost the story’s point? Did they lack the vocabulary to comprehend three dozen words in the first few paragraphs?

 

We have no idea.

 

That’s because these are achievement tests, which do just that: measure overall achievement. If, however, we really wanted to mind some valuable data from this effort, we should be conducting diagnostic assessments. This not only tells you where a child does well, but where, across the board, they are weak. This helps teachers target the low points so that the entire end-result can come up, and so that some problems for which kids may compensate early in their school careers don’t suddenly blow up in their faces come junior high or high school.

 

Some are calling for the whole testing concept to be trashed, which would be a mistake. The problem isn’t that we’re testing our kids; it’s that we don’t know how or why. For now, though, the CSAPs and their counterparts in others states score well below proficient. 

A city is what it eats – PULP NewSpin

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A city is what it eats – PULP NewSpin

By Christian Piatt

You can tell a lot about a place by looking at its people. There are certain things one will notice walking around town – particularly about hairstyles and wardrobe selections that seem to say, “only in Pueblo.”

But there’s another characteristic that’s a lot more disturbing; we’re fat.

A recent nationwide survey found that, once again, Colorado is the healthiest state in the county. And once again, Pueblo did little, if anything, to contribute to that. We remark about feeling as if we’re an island set adrift by the rest of the state here in Pueblo sometimes, but then something like this comes along to show us just how out of touch we really are.

And the disconnect literally can be a killer.

I spoke with Cathy Dehn, the LiveWell Pueblo Project Coordinator for Pueblo County, by phone recently about the obesity problem in Pueblo, and about what’s being done to address it.

So why does Pueblo stand alone in being so pervasively overweight in such a healthy state, and with so many natural resources seemingly at our disposal. One clear connection is poverty. Historically, when a community has a lower median income, the residents weigh more, generally due to the fact that cheaper food often isn’t the healthiest for us. But there’s more going on than just that.

We’re a sedentary community. Although we have the mountains nearby, a fantastic reservoir and some pretty decent trails around town, we don’t exercise as much as other Colorado communities. Part of this, I think, is because in the past, we haven’t had to. If you perform back-breaking work all day long tending to crops or on the line at the steel mill, you burn enough calories that working out is superfluous. So it’s not a part of the culture. But as jobs have become more automated, we’ve become less active, with no history of extracurricular activity beyond high school sports to fill the void.

Finally, there’s the matter of regional diet, which is related to the manual labor culture described above. If you’re performing hard physical labor all day, you need food that will stick to your ribs, with plenty of calories, protein and even fat to sustain you until the workday is done. And although we’ve reduced our overall expenditure of calories in an average day, the diet and portion sizes have not adjusted accordingly.

I spoke with Cathy Dehn, the LiveWell Pueblo Project Coordinator for Pueblo County by phone recently about these issues and what is being done about it.

We’re trying to slowly change the culture,” she says. “What’s happened is people are less physically active and not eating as healthy. By giving opportunities and exposure to fresh fruits, vegetables and opportunities for activity, we’re taking small steps in a longer-range goal.”

Asked if she’s seen progress toward the goal of reducing obesity in Pueblo in the several years the government has been trying to intervene, she was frank. “We haven’t yet made an impact on obesity stat,” she says, alluding to the deep cultural systems they find themselves up against. “We’re just now scratching the surface.”

All due credit to the county for trying, but the fact is you can lead a person to a treadmill, but you can’t make them walk.

For five years, we benefitted from a federal grant that funded our Steps to a Healthier Pueblo initiative. Unfortunately, the grant was not renewed, but the effects of the program remain throughout town. Most efforts focused on training schools, workplaces and health care providers about how best to address the issue in their own environments.

There are other examples of programs put into place that now have been picked up and continued by local partnerships, like the riverwalk steps program, which was started through the Steps grant, but which now is sustained by community partnerships, including the HARP Authority.

Other efforts include research, planning and publicity about increasing the walkability and bikeability of our county. Since some do not have the means to drive out to the mountains or the reservoir, we have to bring opportunities for more activity right to the neighborhoods. There are also programs emphasizing diabetes prevention, tobacco use reduction and ongoing clinics for healthcare providers.

If there’s a true frontline in the battle of the bulge, though, it’s in the schools. Decades ago, when public schools struggled to make ends meet, partnerships were forged with private vending and other foodservice companies to bring in packaged food for sale, with a portion of the revenues returning to the school coffers. Ironically, the sale of sodas, sugary snacks and even meals prepared by fast food joints, helped subsidize the athletic programs.

Now, we’re seeing the generations-long effects of such choices, but we’re so dependent on the revenues these contracts create that we’re not sure how to wean ourselves off. Unfortunately, it’s taking federal intervention in the form of phase-out plans for vending machines and fast food contracts to work our way out of the mire we created.

Fat kids become fat adults, and generally, they raise more fat kids. If we’re going to ever get the upper hand in this war, it will hinge on the battles fought for the health of our children. And the consequences reach far beyond the stigma of Pueblo as a community behind the times. Our health care services and costs suffer as a result, as does the economy as a whole.

One of the biggest challenges I see is getting economic development groups like the Chambers of Commerce and PEDCO actively on board. The problem is, they have a conflict of interest; their own members benefit from things like the school vending contracts and restaurants purveying massive amounts of comfort food we don’t need.

So what’s it going to be? Will we continue to limp along, playing the role of state whipping boy, or will we take responsibility as a community to whip our flabby asses into shape?

Originally published in PULP.

Porn Nation podcast now posted

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

My newest podcast, called “Porn Nation,” is taken from a chapter I wrote for a forthcoming book by Chalice Press called Oh God, Oh God, OH GOD! which deals with a wide range of topics on faith and sexuality. The book is due out February, 2010, and is the first volume in the new WTF? (Where’s the Faith?) book series focusing on young adults.

You can find all of my podcast episodes on iTunes, on my website or at the podcast host site.

For more about the series, visit my website at www.christianpiatt.com, or hit the Chalice Press website (www.chalicepress.com) and click the WTF button at the bottom of the home page.

New Podcast now posted in two parts

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

My new podcast, “All Or Not At All,” is now posted in two parts. Check it out.

This episode is a two-part interview with Josh Einsohn, Hollywood casting director and social activist. He founded www.AllOrNotAtAll.org in response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

We talk about life in tinesltown, civil rights, how his faith informed his worldview and what it’s like growing up a gay jewish kid in the Texas Bible Belt.

You can find this and other episodes at http://christianpiatt.podbean.com, find a player on my main site at www.christianpiatt.com, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by searching “Christian Piatt” in the iTunes store.

Big Fat Jesus Head podcast, Part 2, now posted

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I posted part two of the Big Fat Jesus Head podcast series last night. you can catch it on iTunes and other podcatchers of course, or go right to it with this link:

http://christianpiatt.podbean.com/

Also, if you have not already signed up for my new free monthly E-Zine, “Faith Portals,” just go to www.christianpiatt.com and drop your email in the box at the top of the home page.

Christian

Five must-haves for parents of any newborn

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Five must-have items for parents of any newborn

By Christian Piatt

My wife recently gave birth to our second child, baby Zoe, and she is awesome! She’s very laid-back, sleeps six to eight hours a night and eats like a champ.

Now, while I like to believe some of this is just her natural disposition, combined with our experience in raising our first kid, there are some things that make life much easier, which some folks still may not know about. So here’s a list of my top ten must-haves for newborns:

Glycerin laxatives: Infant digestive systems are constantly changing, especially if you supplement breast milk with formula. although our baby Zoe was a very happy kid, she naturally got awfully grouchy when she got all “backed up.” for our first son, we used little glycerin suppositories, and these things work like a charm! Just make sure you have a diaper handy, because their little GI systems may kick in within seconds. All doctors and nurses we’ve checked with assure us this is a safe way to relieve constipation for infants, and it certainly makes for happier babies and parents!

Simethicone: Unlike an adult (or my five-year-old son, for that matter) who can willingly let a burp rip any time we feel a little bloated, babies sometimes need a little help. Simethicone, whose name-brand equivalent is Mylicon, is a safe way to help break down those painful bubbles and keep them from passing through into the lower intestinal tract. Because the drops are not absorbed into the baby’s system, they’re safe for little ones.

Happiest Baby on the Block: There are tons of baby how-to books out there, and no new parent has the time to read much,but this is the ONE book you need to know about. Why? First of all ,the strategies for soothing a baby, and for helping them sleep well and on their own really do work, as I can attest with two kids now. Second, much of what the book imparts is counter-intuitive, so it’s something we have to learn. If you got nothing other than how to perform the “Five S’s” with your baby, this book is worth it’s weight in gold.

A Swaddling Blanket: Though my personal favorite by a country mile is the Miracle Blanket, there are lots of swaddling blankets to choose from. You can even use any regular blanket, if you know how to wrap your baby up right (see book reference above!). A lot of people think it would be uncomfortable to be wrapped up so tight, but remember that babies spent nine months folded up on top of themselves in the womb, so that’s what feels familiar to them. This, combined with the other “S’s” taught in Mr. Karp’s book noted above, has made a huge difference for us.

Time: One of the biggest regrets I have with my first son is anxiously awaiting each new stage of his development. And while this sort of anticipation is natural, you can miss out on some amazing moments with your child, while waiting for them to grow up. Carve out plenty of time every day just to gaze into your baby’s eyes, to play with them on the floor, to read them books, sing them songs, and generally enjoy every minute.

While it may seem hard in the moment, this time in your life truly will be gone before you know it. Enjoy it all!