Two women seeking equality in a state where some couples are more equal than others.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Confessions: I was a Welfare Queen

I've seen food stamps (also known as SNAP or EBT) in the news a lot lately. There's a lot of vitriol about them, and a lot of judgment. People like to refer to "welfare queens" that have a better living on government benefits than those who work, when they are just as capable of working. I've tried sharing links to the statistics about EBT with little reaction, and now I'm attempting to bring in a truth that may help to change a few minds about this program. So here it is.

I was a welfare queen.

Twice.

For a year each time.

Now, Erin, you say, you weren't really a welfare queen. You only used one government program, and not for very long, and you were working, and you really needed the help. You bettered yourself and worked hard, and now look at you stand on your own two feet. That's not being a welfare queen.

Okay. So how many programs would have made me a welfare queen? I also should have been on Medicaid, but through some restrictions and bureaucracy wasn't. That's not to say that I wouldn't have used Medicaid if I could have. I also would have used section eight housing subsidies at the time if the waiting list hadn't been so long. It's actually really hard to get that many benefits or keep them for very long, but I would have done so if it meant that I could live in a safe apartment, have regular medical care, and know where my next meal would come from. Because, you see, while I was working, in most cases two jobs or full time or on a stipend that MSU must have believed was a living wage, my hours were so irregular and my pay was so low that even with a college education, I needed some help.

To those of you who count me as somehow better than the people you actually perceive to be welfare queens, perhaps because I only used EBT for a short time or was working (which is how most people use them - see link), do you believe that the food stamps allowed me to get out of poverty more quickly? Do you believe I would have escaped my low income situation faster if I had been allowed to run out of money, sell my car, get even sicker from malnutrition, lose my job because I couldn't reliably be there? I've heard that argument - that if I had hit rock bottom, I would have worked harder. Maybe. I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

To those who think that every person who ever uses food stamps should be like me, I will also assert that I came into the Recession - into poverty, into the hemorrhaging of money that a forced relocation to the Detroit area after my MA program and Rebecca's preclerkship ended - with much more than many. I had two BAs and an MA from a quality university. I had work experience. I had the ability to finance a car. I had a network of people around me who were employed and could vouch for me. So while I didn't have money, I had a lot. I'm grateful for all of that. Things could have been much worse - I see much, much worse for some of my students. And I would argue that they still don't deserve to starve. Ideally, we would offer them job training and assistance in finding employment, although it's not that simple, but in the meantime, they don't deserve to be homeless (oh, did I mention that I've been homeless?).

Jesus said that as we do unto the least of these, we do unto Him. Jesus preached the Beatitudes. So whatever you say about welfare queens, I hope you would be willing to say about me. I hope that my story comes to mind. I hope that you're willing to consider people needing grace and help in a time when things are really hard and really scary.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Defense of: The Humanities

Edit: a reader requested links/examples to support the central theme of this post, so I've added connections to previous posts.

Given what I do for a living, I often hear parents assure me that a liberal arts university would not be appropriate for their child. Some of this stems from a misunderstanding of what liberal arts means - students may study almost any major in a liberal arts program, but they will do so in a more interdisciplinary fashion, with coursework in a broader spectrum of programs than they might have in a technically focused program.

For those who already know this about liberal arts universities and still believe their child should avoid them, the attitude is that since their child will be studying engineering or a pre-med emphasis ("pre-med" isn't a major, contrary to popular belief) or business, coursework in the social sciences and humanities is not only unnecessary, but a waste of time and money.

I was fortunate enough to end up with dual degrees in education and Spanish, and then I did a master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a blend of pedagogy and applied linguistics, so I definitely studied in a liberal arts format. During the Recession, I sometimes asked myself if that had been a mistake - after all, I liked economics and biology in high school. Maybe business or a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) program would have made more sense.

As I develop into my career, though, and especially given that the Recession has finally ended, I'm grateful to have been in a program that built "soft skills" like writing cogently  (and actually, a large complaint from many employers is that their college grads don't write well), genre analysis (useful in technical writing), and anthropology. I'm grateful to have read and analyzed story structure, because it has allowed to see the stories in my own life, such as the thread of my relationship with Detroit. I'm glad that not only do I speak a second language, I understand another culture to some degree. My education program focused greatly on designing lessons around objectives, which helps me evaluate activities, both within and without classrooms, for purpose and efficacy. I believe this background has allowed me to be more empathetic and structure arguments better, and to identify solutions to problems.

And I think in the long run, it will stand me in good stead as the job market changes. Technical skills, after all, are based in current procedures, and therefore may become obsolete. And though STEM has been in fashion, certain majors within it have not been guaranteeing graduates jobs at any higher rates than those with my form of academic work.

Even if I'm wrong on that, though, I've found a great deal of my humanity in the humanities. Seeing stories, relating to people's pain, knowing about social structures and history, such as this post on narrative that has helped me understand the civil rights issues of the day, in addition to a deep understanding of pedagogy, all of these have enriched my life (this link shares one realization of this) in ways that extend far, far beyond my employment situation. So I will not stop mentioning the liberal arts to families as an option. I hope that a few students find the joy there that I have (see a link to all of my posts labeled "joy").

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MI Love: Detroit (also known as "how I'm Jonah")

It's been far too long since my last MI love post. I'm hoping to get out a few more of these in coming weeks. This post contains an extended allusion to the Book of Jonah in the Christian Old Testament. Feel free to check out. It's weird but pretty convicting.


______

I am Jonah. I have been called to Detroit, as he was called to Ninevah, and I have run, only to be swallowed up and re-sent. I completed summer fellowships there twice, once in 2007 and once in 2009, and I felt drawn to Detroit Public Schools (DPS), to bilingual education, to finding a way to cut back on the number of toner shaking dance prayers (Dear God, Please let this toner cartridge be sufficient to finish my copy job so that my students can meet their learning objectives. Amen.), to get more DPS students into college, to see them fed nutritious meals, and so much more. I started my student teaching at an elementary school in Detroit a bright-eyed idealist, thinking that the district emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, would figure something out. I believed that the round of school closures would stem the hemorrhagic tide of funds and stabilize the remaining schools.

I suffered panic attacks, crying spells, exhaustion, and depression that fall, partially due to an underlying health issue, but very much exacerbated by the daily reality with my children. I had to leave. I thought I was leaving forever, destined to stay in the safe, comfortable suburbs (Tarshish, in the Jonah metaphor). I applied to teach for Kaplan Test Prep, imagining small classes, resources, motivated families.

And then the great fish got me the first time. Upon arriving to the informational interview, I discovered that Kaplan was running a contract in Detroit Public Schools, and they were looking for ACT instructors. I remember thinking, "Well played, God. In a recession, You knew I didn't have other options." And I taught at Western International High three days a week for four months, until it was time to move for grad school. It was still staggering, but I worked with educators who showed me why they stayed. Some of my students cared. (Some didn't.) And I loved the joy of the classroom, though I think I started realizing by then that my role would not be as a full time classroom teacher.

I moved for grad school - by this time, Rebecca and I were together and she was in med school. My MA is more preparation to teach at a university language center than for a K-12 public education setting. In fact, I've never finished my teaching certificate, though I think about it sometimes. My initial plan in my MA was to either teach abroad or at a university, with the thought of working at a refugee development center in the back of my head.

But I graduated into the same recession, again/still. Together, we had chosen Henry Ford Wyandotte for Rebecca's base hospital, with the thought that I would work at Wayne State or U of M. Neither panned out.

I spent that summer as an Americorps volunteer in southwest Detroit (again). This time, I ended up working with an organization affiliated with the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) as the EAA took over a DPS building that had been identified as failing. I also applied, at that point, to start doing test prep again, this time for GRE, and I began preparing an application for Ph.D. programs in higher education administration.

I was running to Tarshish again. After the recession, the Ph.D. I'd chosen was hedging my bets. I had the perfect essay, but the truth is that I wanted insurance against unemployment, possibly a chance to gain power and prestige (with mostly good intentions), a formal process to follow. I missed East Lansing and academia. Wyandotte was hard on us, for many reasons (those of you who read regularly may have started sequencing this timeline).

So I was accepted, and we left, really without great indication that it was right for me. I wasn't funded until shortly before school started, and even then, not fully. We loved being back at our church in Lansing, but my work wasn't right for me, and Rebecca missed the Henry Ford system. As I took my classes and met people in my program who were amazing, dedicated, brilliant, and with so much experience, more experience than I had, more passion for their research, I was glad that I knew them, but I knew I didn't belong, at least not yet.

It was devastating. I had seen myself as an academic and craved the legitimacy and stability I thought my degree would confer. For financial and insurance reasons, I ended up staying in my program, needing to keep up my GPA, after we had concluded that we'd be relocating to the Detroit area so that Rebecca could do her residency at Ford.

I feel like that semester was bathed in tears of uncertainty, fear, questions, but also knowledge that I was moving closer to what I'm meant to. I spent the summer teaching partnerships at universities as much as possible, including one with pre-public health students who, make no mistake, are going to change the world once they finish grad school. I'm a little bit in awe of their commitment and ambition, and of the fact that the help I offered in test prep strategies will someday be a tiny period in one little chapter of their amazing life stories.

I spent a good chunk of this past school year in a United Way partnership while Rebecca works out of Henry Ford in Harbortown and the New Center. We're still figuring out what we'll do long term, but I'm beginning to accept that my call might not be what I thought and that my five year plan might not be as useful as I thought.

And while we refer fondly to a dream of moving to Montreal, where our family would be legally recognized, Rebecca could be faculty at McGill,  our children could go on walking field trips throughout the city, and I could be educational staff at the biodome (hey, it's a dream, it doesn't actually have to be feasible), we can see that's too far off to plan for. It might be Tarshish, or it might be the next place after Ninevah.

Detroit is not an easy place. But there's a sense of belonging there, that we are all neighbors, that we're in it together to have a blessed day, we hope more blessed because we're all making do and making better. That's not a place to run from. I don't know how I fit in. I don't know how I bless people who in most cases have been a bigger blessing to so many than I can fathom. But I'm called to something, and I'm done marking time, saying I'll do it when I have my life together or Rebecca's residency is over or when I'm finally sure I'm never going back to grad school. I want my hands and feet to be dirty, like Jesus' must have been. I'm done running from my calling and ready to run into Jesus' arms.

Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore, Wedding Cake, and Heartache

Dear readers,

The last few days have been highly emotional ones.

The demonstrators in Baltimore have brought to light even more oppression in the United States, and at the same time, a select few people have further damaged a city that was already struggling.

The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on marriage equality. Issues of religious liberty continue to spark explosive debates about the balance of following the legal system in place in a nation while expressing one's religion freely - and this will not be decided by the outcome of the marriage equality case in front of them. In addition, I've been continuing to see, or perhaps even seeing more of, discussions justifying reparative therapy and putting forth the notion that it's possible to "pray away the gay," framed as though this and many other cliches are not tired repetitions of the same harmful notions that have caused the suicide, substance abuse, and despair of so many whose prayers weren't answered.

I don't have answers for this. Every time I think I have a knot untangled, I realize that one of the loops was actually ensnared in a bigger knot. But I have seen a small glimmer of hope packaged in a Facebook thread, so I'd like to share it with you. I think that it exemplifies many of principles I had hoped for in my post about bringing civility to online discussions. I'm going to share it with you with the names redacted to initials (if you were involved in this thread and would like your full name included, let me know):

My initial post:
"I have no good words for today. My heart hurts to see the #‎baltimore‬ #‎blacklivesmatter‬ push for equality when I selfishly want 24/7 coverage of #‎lovemustwin‬ #‎scotus‬ ‪#‎marriageequality because the outcome of that benefits me. My heart hurts to see how slowly we're arcing toward justice. Let's join together to pray for equality and peace, beloved humans."

Response from L:
"It's not selfish when you're fighting for equality as well. It's sad that the rioters are getting more attention than the other 10,000 peaceful #blacklivesmatter protestors. Your battle matters as much as theirs, even though theirs is different because of recent events that have unfolded. Keep fighting for human equality and never think you're selfish about it, because you're not a selfish person."

My response:
"Although I'm obviously not rioting, and I don't support violence, I understand how they feel. They have peacefully protested for decades, tried to get the right to vote to change things, have tried the things that society tells them to do, and have seen little, or even no, progress. I'm hopeful, because marriage equality is in the courts and following procedure and may get recognition legally, but I'm fed up after just a few years in this fight."

Response from L:
"It sucks because violence doesn't solve violence. They feel they have no other option. They need a strong advocate to help lead them in a positive direction or else it's just going to get worse. We sadly live in a backward nation that has always seen skin color as a separator. At this moment it's a fight between the protectors of society and an entire race of humans. A strong human being needs to step up and become someone who is worthy of changing history for these misguided people. Social media also needs to stop televising the riots because it's only evoking fear and feeding society with hatred instead of inspiring change."

My response:
"I can't help feeling that they've had strong leaders, peaceful ones, more than most of us even know, and many have been assassinated. MLK was one of many. They don't need to come up with a leader. Society needs to change."

Response from R:
"There are many factors that have gone into these riots, as you have stated. Change is needed. Changes in police policy. Changes in the way we discuss our problems in our homes. Changes in visible Black leadership (because Erin is right, for every MLK Jr. and Malcom X there are many, many less visual leaders of the black community). And changes in our hearts. Because it isn't an us or them issue. It is a human rights issue.
And quite frankly, my heart hurts going on Facebook after these events. People just spew hate.
And Erin, I hope your change comes today.
"
(emphasis applied by Erin)


Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Post: Please Don't Call Me Catholic Anymore

Note to readers: My friend Kate, who has written a guest post previously, linked here, asked me to share this with you. I was incredibly moved (and saddened) by her story. I thought adding a voice to mine in terms of the deep longing members of the LGBT community have to participate in Christian fellowship but the pain of being rejected from spiritual groups they used to call home might expand on this for some of you.


I was raised Catholic my entire life.  I was baptised and confirmed according to schedule and spent 13 years under the care of nuns and other teachers at 3 different Catholic schools.  For most of my childhood, I went to church every weekend.  Don’t get me wrong.  We weren’t perfect Catholics.  We skipped some weekends, and did not observe holy days of obligation outside of Christmas, Easter, and Ash Wednesday.  My parents always encouraged free thinking and had many conversations with me where I was taught that it was okay to question things about your faith and not agree with everything that is taught in homilies and Sunday school.   All in all, I would say that I know Catholic teachings better than a lot of Catholics who go to church on a regular basis, and I was never exposed to any other faiths.

In college, I finally accepted a very important thing about myself.  I am gay.  While I have been in relationships with guys, none of them have left me as fulfilled as the relationships I have had with women.  I had already felt myself starting to drift away from the Catholic church at the time, but this was pretty much the final straw for me.  The Catholic church teaches that while there is nothing wrong with homosexual thoughts, it is sinful to be in a homosexual relationship.  Therefore, all homosexual people are being called to a life of celibacy.  I have a close relationship with God.  I  know what he is calling me to do.  My entire life I have felt the calling to be a wife, and to be a mother.  And if the Catholic church said that the only way that I could do that was to be with a man, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of it anymore.

But I got in contact with a former youth minister of mine.  She was a youth minister at a church not far from me, and she needed adults to join the adult team for the high school youth group.  This youth minister did not know I was gay, and I decided it did not matter.  I feel it is important for teens to have a safe place to go to express their faith, no matter what that faith might be.  I had been looking to find some sort of volunteering position, and it seemed like God was placing this one right in my lap.

I volunteered for two years under her leadership, all the while, keeping my sexuality hidden from her and most people around me.  Only those closest to me knew, and I decided that was the way I wanted it.  I did not want to be judged or defined by my sexuality.  When I had someone I wanted to introduce to people, I would come out then.  But until that point, it was not a big enough part of me to share with the world.

After two years, my friend quit her post as youth minister and a new one took over.  I got along with him great and I continued to volunteer.  In the spring of his first year, I met Marie.  I knew this relationship was different.  I knew it was going somewhere.  I knew that I was ready to tell the world.  I also knew the Catholic teachings and I knew that I had agreed to respect them within the confines of the church.  So I did one of the hardest things I had ever had to do.  I went to the new youth minister and had a meeting.  I knew in my heart that there was a good chance I was going to be asked to leave.I told him that I would continue to teach the Catholic teachings to the teens and would not mention my relationship to anyone.  This was not a stretch.  I had taught other things I disagreed with and I don’t feel that it is appropriate for teens and the adults to be discussing relationships of any kind.  He said it wasn’t a problem.  He said that as long as the teens didn’t find out, he did not want to lose me as a volunteer.

I was relieved.  I didn’t want to lose the position I had held for 3 years.  However, in the fall, circumstances beyond my control caused me to have graduate classes on Wednesday nights.  I hated it.  I was not able to go to a single meeting that semester.  I missed the teens terribly, and though I had defriended all the teens so that they would not find out about my relationship, I got several messages from them asking when I was coming back.  I told them that I would be back in January.  I told the youth minister I would be back in January.  

Then in November, I proposed to Marie.  I knew she was the one, and I did not want to wait any longer.  I told the youth minister about it, and he seemed genuinely happy for me.  He said that if I wanted, we could go out for dinner and talk about how comfortable I was continuing to hide my relationship.  I reiterated what I have always felt, that youth group is about the teens, and the personal lives of the adults have no place under any circumstances.  He agreed with me and that was that.  A week later, I picked my graduate classes for the winter semester.  I did not take a class that I should have just because it fell on Wednesday nights.  I wanted to go back to youth group so badly, that I rearranged my schedule for them.

In January, two days before the next meeting, I messaged the youth minister.  It simply said, “See you on Wednesday!”

I got a message back that said, “I need to call you.”

And he did call me.  He thanked me for my service, but said that they no longer had room for me to volunteer.  He said that he had had a conversation with the priest of the parish, and because of my “choice”, I was not allowed back.  He tried to put it all on the priest, saying that he had defended me and everything I had done for the teens.  He tried to say that if it was just his decision, I would be allowed to stay.  He then compared it to another adult who was also getting kicked out because she was pregnant out of wedlock.  He said it was the same situation and they could only have role models who followed the teachings of the church.  I pointed out to him that we all knew that the other adult was having sex out of marriage and she didn’t get kicked out then.  She only got kicked out when she could no longer hide it from the teens.  I was still in hiding.

His only response was that perhaps he would have to be more careful in the future about the adults allowed to help out.  I pointed out that he was losing a volunteer who knew more about the Catholic church than the other adults.  When they had questions and he was busy, they often came to me for the answers.

He asked if I understood.  I told him that I understood that he probably should have told me back in April, when I told him in the first place.  I told him that he (or if it had actually been the priest’s decision, the priest) should have told me back in November when they decided I was not a good role model any more.  I told him that because he didn’t, I had missed an opportunity to take an important class that was now full.
He acknowledged that he should have told me sooner, which I appreciated, but then he said something that I thought was completely out of line.  He invited Marie and I to come to their young adults program.  He wanted us to come and find out what the Catholic church and the bible REALLY teach.

I held my tongue and simply responded that I was not interested in being preached to.  I answered that I was involved in his church because I thought it was important for teens to have a safe place to go and to feel accepted.  If I felt the need to be “ministered to”, as he put it, it was going to be a church that was loving and accepting.  I was not going to be going to a church that apparently knew better than I did what God was calling me to do.

On Wednesdays, I still get a bit down.  After all, I spent three years of them working with some of the greatest teens I have ever met.  Slowly, the teens have started refriending me.  Out of respect, I cleared it with the current youth minister who told me that he thought it was important for me to continue my relationship with them, and even told me I could be open with them about my sexuality.  Apparently, it is okay to continue to mentor and advise them outside of the church, just not inside of it.  I have done so in a respectful way, making it seem like it was my choice to leave.  They have nearly all been supportive of me.  

I am looking for a new church to go to, but for now, I am comfortable with my relationship with God without a faith community.  One thing is for sure, however.  When someone asks me what religion I am, I will never again respond Catholic.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No, My Profile Pic Isn't a Red Equal Sign

And it won't be. I know the Human Rights Campaign wants me to change it. I get it that it would "raise awareness" about the upcoming Supreme Court marriage equality case.

But honestly, beautiful readers, I'm tired. I'm tired of having to tell people about something that has been in the news over and over that they already know about if they generally track current events. I'm tired of having to check boxes to be entitled to civil rights. When is there enough posted on social media? When have I contributed to enough petitions? When have I shared my stories enough for you to understand? (Incidentally, you can still find my stories here. I'm not discontinuing the blog.)

My marriage exists. It's not perfect. No one's is. But I'm tired of checking boxes and having to have, at least in public, a better marriage than my heterosexual peers to be deserving of legal recognition.

The Supreme Court will not be checking my facebook profile in their decision. They shouldn't be. Social media doesn't determine whether heightened scrutiny is warranted, or whether the Constitution promises equal protection, or whether Loving v. Virginia is a reasonable precedent, or if having already allowed hundreds or thousands of couples across many of the states now in question to get married or file federal taxes would create undue hardship if they upheld state level bans on marriage equality, or whether religion gets a say in civil marriage, or whose amicus briefs have it right, or many other things that actually have bearing on this case.

No shade on those who are doing these things. In fact, props for denying cynicism and participating in the process. I voted and won't stop voted. I wrote my legislators and governor, multiple times. My story is here, in digestible installments. I don't know how putting my face in a red box again, like I did for DOMA, will help.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bringin' Civility Back: 7 Phrases/Principles for More Respectful Web Dialogue

I'm bringin' courtesy back, cuz all the social media trolls just don't know how to act . . .

Last year, we used a book called "They Say, I Say" in my Ph.D. program. I wasn't initially sold on it, but I recommend it with some regularity now. I'm drawing somewhat on its formatting style, which is to highlight ways of phrasing statements in academic writing.

Y'all, I've been seeing a lot of facebook threads lately that utterly lack civility. I'm not saying we can't disagree or argue, or that everything has to be perfectly PC, but we also can do better than slamming the other side, generalizing/stereotyping others so that we can dismiss them, and repeating the same tired rhetoric over and over. To that end, here are some statements that CommittingintheMitten would really like to see more often:

1. "Could you clarify that?"

We often assume we know what someone means, even if we don't know that person or their comment is very brief. Instead of jumping to conclusions, ask for more information.  Another version is: "What I think you're saying is . . . do I have that right?"

2. "This has been my personal experience . . ."

If your opinion is based on personal experience, own that. Anecdotes can help statistics come to life. But their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness - if it's your story, that doesn't mean it's been the same for others. Be honest about that.

3. "From my survey of this thread, the big themes I see are . . . "

Oh, to use this one, you have to read the whole thread. If you're interested in engaging, think about what you bring to the conversation. Repeating what pundits have said, especially in cliche form, really isn't helpful. Repeating what has already been said in other comments also isn't helpful. Summarizing your interpretation and then adding your viewpoint to fill in gaps or expand is how to help us all move forward with you.

4. "Thank you for sharing your experience."

One reason many default to rhetoric is to avoid taking the risk of sharing something personal. Or, alternatively, people have downgraded themselves because in the past, no one has shown any sign of caring. If someone has shared something that has helped you understand better, whether it's someone you know or not, thanking them is a way of telling them to keep it up!

5. "I think we've gotten away from the topic at hand."

Everything is connected. Lots of things must be considered systematically. Sometimes, in a thread, another topic starts to emerge, and that's not always bad, but sometimes threads are taken over by discussion of an issue that is more salient/noticeable. Sometimes, it helps to steer back toward the original topic.

6. Ask yourself before you post: "Would I say this to a friend, to her face?"

The anonymity of the Internet does something in our heads, especially in a thread where we don't know most of the people. If you're about to post something you wouldn't be willing to own in an in-person conversation, give it a second look. Could you be kinder?

7. Ask yourself before you post: "Am I trying to find a solution, or just criticize everything everyone else says?"

Jesus rarely allowed Himself to get caught in dilemmas. When facing two bad options, He typically rejected both and found a third one. Many people object to compromise because they feel that ceding ground to the other side puts them in a moral area where they're uncomfortable. Fair enough, but is there a more creative way to solve the problem? Is criticizing the other side, particularly in its entirety, without offering a tenable suggestion, productive? Is there a genuine question you could ask to try to understand better first?


I'm sure this list isn't exhaustive. It's not that I don't want to hear what you have to say. It's just that we're all muddling through this together, and maybe sometimes people should get the benefit of the doubt. Maybe attempting to understand can take precedence over being right, particularly in a social media discussion that isn't deciding policy. We could all use a little more grace in a number of areas.