Equal Pay For Equal Work

“Equal pay for equal work!”

His words broke the silence. The midnight air was sultry and my feet ached from tromping around in sandals all day; in March, I’m not used to 90-degree weather, and my body was protesting. The bright moonlight and headiness of three new soul sisters, along with being 100 yards from my air conditioned hotel room were close at hand. In three days I have grown close to these three women surrounding me in the parking lot, and knowing this was the last night together was keeping all of us from retreat.

“I was billy clubbed for you,” came a voice from beside me. “Equal pay for equal work!”

Turning, I saw him as he spiraled, dancer-like, around his suitcase. “Billy clubbed – I stood up for you!”

I glanced at my companions and giggled at their astonished expressions. They’d obviously never come this close to a tweaker before.

“I went down and stood up for equal pay and those cops just billy clubbed me and you know I used to be the face, I used to be the one the agents were calling. I have two children, you know, and now those goddamn….taxi driver, you’re running the meter, right?” His voice rambled, almost incoherently, but we were intrigued.

The taxi driver stood with a coy smile on his face, his eyes glinting in recognition. Tweaker guy was entertaining, and he was getting paid.

Equal pay for equal work
Soul sisters night out

“Why are you standing so far away?” he growled at Kim, who hadn’t moved a muscle since he interrupted our soul sister circle.

“Dude, what’s up?” I tried to connect to his eyes, but they were darting between us like a well-caffeinated mosquito. Meth, I thought.

“I have two children you know. I was billy clubbed for equal pay for women. Those celebs, I was with the best of them. And now nothing…” his chiseled features and Southern California tan made him believable as he teetered between our reality and his. Twirling on the handle of his luggage, he recited his lines with Academy Award winning accuracy. “I was raped by a priest and then I protested for women. Burn the bras, I say! Burn them!”

It was silent in our circle; no one could respond nor get a word in. I reached out my hand to stop his pirouette, to somehow connect and see beyond his ramble. He grabbed it, and for just one nanosecond he stopped spinning. We were there, under the Palm Springs starlight, and I had gotten under his Hollywood veneer and seen him.

“I’m 51, you know. 51 and they all knew me, equal pay for equal work, I say! I love women!” he rambled as the moment was lost, and he was back inside his story. Four sets of eyes fixated on him, the taxi driver chuckling in the background as he waited, trunk open, meter spinning.

“Take care of yourself, dude,” I cautioned as we stepped away and down the driveway.

“Burn your bras!” he screeched back.

I walked along the moonlight driveway surrounded by my tribe. I wanted to buy him a coffee. I wanted to hear his story  – how did two of us, the same age, take such different paths yet collide in a hotel parking lot? What choices did we make to create this moment? Why did the Universe have our journeys collide?

“We need to load the car at 7:45,” I heard myself saying. “We can leave straight from the conference with plenty of time to make it to the airport. Maybe even grab some lunch close by.”

I could see the taxi lights in the distance; he hadn’t left. What was going to happen to him, this soul-sister in solidarity? Where would his story end tonight?

Helpless and hopeless, I slipped my key into the door, wishing I had taken his photo, wondering what his name was and where he would go. The taxi lights were still there, and the silence washed over me. His journey continues. I wished him to find a safe place to sleep, and someone to reach out a hand in the morning.

Equal pay for equal work
View from the next morning – the taxi was gone.

Drug abuse and homelessness are a choice away from so many in our society. Once whole, once vibrant, our journey can pull us in directions we never imagined – away from careers, from friends, from our children. We have the choice to look away or to extend our hand to those who are suffering. In your community, is there a way you can extend your hand, open your heart, and help?

In Sacramento, we have Saint John’s program, an organization dedicated to break the cycle:

“There is no easy way to escape living in crisis. Since our founding on the steps of St. John’s Lutheran Church in 1985, we’ve challenged many homeless mothers with children to grapple with that difficult truth. And not everyone can. It takes a certain type of woman to stand up to everything that’s ever damaged or broken her and take full, complete control of her life. It’s difficult. It’s painful. And again, it’s not for everyone. Saint John’s is for the woman who wants to make the leap. Who will fight the pervasive influence of homelessness, poverty, and abuse. Who will make an empowered decision to rise up and become a productive community member. Who understands, unequivocally, that the decision to create a better life – for herself and for her family – rests entirely on her.”

I’ll be working with Naot Footwear on April 2 as my way of reaching out. The Naot Trunk Show & Donation Event at Birkenstock Midtown Sacramento allows us to combine two things that we love, fashion and helping those in need. Everyone invited to attend the event will be able to contribute to Saint John’s Program for Real Change just by simply trying on shoes. If you try on a pair of Naots, they will donate a pair to those in need. If you buy a pair, they will donate two pairs. It’s fashion for a cause – and your small action can make such a huge difference!

If you’re in the Sacramento area, reach out and join me on April 2 between 10-5 at Birkenstock Midtown 2500 J Street Sacramento, CA 95816. Catch a ride with me if you need to!

I hope to see you there- remember together, we can do great things.

I received compensation for this post; however, I wholeheartedly endorse this orgaization.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Some Soup and a Story


“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

For a moment on Wednesday night, I was worried.  20 freshmen and sophomores, gas stoves, sharp knives and the need to prepare and serve dinner for 40+ people in less than an hour?  I questioned my choices.

As my students trickled into the shelter that night I quickly jumped into teacher mode and soon had the industrial sized kitchen humming with activity.  Onions were chopped, meat was browning, cornbread was mixing up and tables were being set. 

Little by little, my nervousness was replaced by problem solving.  No measuring cup? No problem – use an app to convert cups to tablespoons.  No, I don’t know how to use an industrial sized coffee maker – find someone to help you. And they did.

After a while, any passerby might have thought these kids were running the kitchen of the best restaurant in town.  They were even wiping up after themselves!  As they cooked they bonded with each other, and eased their own jitters about meeting the strangers waiting outside the door.

The real lesson came after the food was prepared and the homeless guests lined up to be served.  With eagerness and compassion, these children served men and women who were actually not so different from themselves. Slowly they ventured towards the dinner tables

Sitting side by side and sharing a meal broke down the scariness.  Stories began to move back and forth, child and adult bonding over simple food and a common desire to get to know each other’s story.  I stood back and watched the transformation, and beamed with pride at the acts of compassionate justice occurring before my eyes.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Lesson Plan for the Occupiers

Still making news, the Occupy movement hasn’t fallen victim to a lack of media coverage.  According to the Sacramento Bee last week, “nearly three fifths of voters” agree with the cause.  I count myself as part of this cohort-I believe strongly in changing the inequities our country is creating.  I also find myself in the 99%. 



Our local Occupy campsite

But even though I am cheering on their message, I feel like the movement isn’t pushing forward in the best way possible to enact change.  Being the type-A-semi-control-freak teacher that I am, I’ve created a lesson plan for the Occupiers to follow.  Welcome to my classroom!

Rationale:  To win over people to the side of the 99%

Essential Question: How can the Occupy Movement share their message and persuade those people ‘on the fence’ to join the cause?

Activate Prior Knowledge:  Remember Martin Luther King Jr.?  He had a cause.  He created a national movement to promote his message using nonviolence.  If MLK had destroyed property or used violence to get his word out he would have only succeeded in pissing people off, not making them think.

Step 1:  Decide that it’s more productive to be peaceful.  If Occupy’s objective is to change people’s thinking, they need to win people over. According to the Sacramento Bee’s article on Nov. 29, “49% said they don’t identify much with Occupy protesters.”  The old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” comes to mind here-the people who need to be persuaded aren’t the types that think violent activism is ok.  The people who need to be persuaded are most likely 60 years of age or older, reasonably educated and have access to the media.  They also have money-they’re the 1%, right?  In the same article, “nearly one third of Republicans said they agree with the reason behind” the Occupy Movement.  These people otherwise might agree with the Occupy message, but don’t like seeing the destructiveness of the protesters.  This might not be the time for anarchists.  Power to the peaceful.

Step 2:  Focus the message.  One of the basic elements of persuasion is to have a strong thesis.  Maybe there needs to be a few key, clear outcomes identified that become slogans.  I know the basic idea behind the movement, but do you know how the success will be measured?  I don’t.  The homeless population, the pepper spraying, and the college protests have all diluted and divided what they want to say.  While all good symbols, the message is muddled.  Instead of fighting and protesting in the dark at the campsites, perhaps they could try to occupy when more people can see them in action.

Step 3:  Choose your enemies carefully.  Be cautious not to attack the 1% in total.  Some of those 1%ers may actually be interested in making change happen, too.  According to a field poll taken Nov. 14-27, 56% of those earning $100,000 or more agreed with the reason behind the Occupy movement.  Make sure there is room for everyone to join and feel like they fit in.  Name calling and stereotyping everyone in the 1% may just alienate people who would otherwise mobilize towards the cause.

Closure:   Think about what the movement is all about.  Do protesters want to be right or make change?  Remember, no one wants to go out and be pushed, shoved, or pepper sprayed.  The media is looking for sensation, but is that going to strengthen the message and make things happen?  Power to the peaceful.  Focus.  Make friends not enemies. 

Are there any questions?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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A Music Miracle: Life Changing Lesson Guest Post from The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom

I’m very excited to feature a guest blogger today – Elisa from The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom has written a special memoir post that I know my readers will really enjoy…but it’s not just about writing today!  Elisa is a musician and a mom, and has managed to write a memoir, too!  Be sure to stop by her blog and experience her life as she “…vow(s) … to write one hilarious, embarrassing, or otherwise outrageous moment each day for 365 days straight.”  Amazing!

What was the best day of your life?  Just think about it.  Sure you might consider your wedding day, a birthday, the day your kids were born, the day you joined the circus, or when you got a divorce . . .  But if you had to pick one day–a life-changing one that you’d relive forever, what would it be?

My day would be ten years ago, back when I was a homeless street musician in Hawaii. 
Photobucket
(Cade and Elisa 2000)
Now don’t go picturing me with missing teeth, holey pants and one of those “will work for food” signs.  I was a classy homeless person.  On the begger’s scale from one to ten, I . . . was a nine!    
   
Anyway, my husband Cade and I woke up in “Homeless Park,” at least that’s what the inhabitants called it.  That was the only area where the cops let us sleep.  If they caught locals sleeping on the beach or on the Waikiki strip at night, they’d poke you with their night sticks.     
   
A ton of Vietnam Vets, dreamers and poets slept near us in “Homeless Park.”  I used my violin case as a pillow because if I didn’t guard it, I worried it might get stolen like Cade’s guitar had the night before.  I woke early with a kink in my neck.  It wasn’t cold, Hawaii rarely was, and the scents around always brought life to my eyes. 
       
I saw some native Hawaiians and got scared.  They were big and strong.  They always seemed to be following us.  I imagined their faces turning menacing and that made me worry.  The Vets had told us not to mess with the “Hawaiian Gang,” that they hated people like us.  I shook Cade, “Wake up.  We need to go.  How much money do we have left?”
       
He slowly sat up.  Sand and grass fell from his hair.  After digging through his pockets he turned to me.  “Two dollars.  The rest of the money was in my guitar case.”
       
My head sagged just a bit because I didn’t know how I’d earn enough to buy him another guitar.  Sure we were amazing together–but a violin by itself wasn’t even loud.
       
We went to the Waikiki strip after that.  It was early, which was perfect.  Street performing is just like fishing, it’s better in the early morning and late night.  I set up my case.  I’m sure I looked worse than Jonah the day he got thrown up (but still a 9 on the homeless scale).  I combed a hand through my hair and swore I’d still play with dignity.  My stomach rumbled even though I didn’t want to care.  Cade put the two dollars into my ratty case.  He kissed me on the cheek and told me to “knock ’em dead.”  The scruffy hair on his chin scratched my face and I smiled even though we had nothing except each other.
       
A few tourists walked past as Cade rested against a store window.  He put his big hands into his faded pockets and looked as if he owned the world.  My violin fit easily on my shoulder, before I closed my seven-teen-year-old eyes and played.
Here’s a sample of our music: The Fifth Side
Anyway, I thought about Cade as I played, how I’d left Utah to be with him; how I wouldn’t change it even for some mashed potatoes and gravy.  The sweet notes swam around me.  I remembered hot meals then, the kind that warm your heart and belly.  I figured if I pretended to be full, I really would be.  But that didn’t work, so I played loud and hard.  A long, long time passed.  I played through breakfast and lunch, but when I put my violin to my side, hardly any money filled the case.
“You wanna get dinner?” Cade asked.  “We can split a burger and fries at McDonald’s.”
   
So, that’s what we did. 
   
At first the food tasted like sawdust.  I didn’t know how we’d make enough to buy a guitar.  “Cade I hardly made a dime.  We had over two-hundred dollars in that guitar case and now we have nothing.”
   
He squeezed my hand.  “We still have each other.  Maybe we’re supposed to learn something from this.”
   
We went back to the strip.  I played through the dinner rush.  It got dark and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the “Hawaiian Gang” started walking toward us.  They were rough and mean-looking.  They had tattoos, piercing and ukuleles!  I wanted to run, but I wouldn’t let them take my spot.  I played then like my arm was on fire.  I moved to the music and danced to the rhythm.  I guess I did something to catch their attention and everyone else’s because a crowd came. 
   
As I played, tourists and the “Hawaiian Gang” gawked at me.  Cade stepped closer, obviously getting nervous.  One Hawaiian leaned next to a tree.  One stood to my left.  Another guy sat on a bench.  That’s when each of them put their instrument at playing position and joined in with my song.
   
What happened next was a miracle.  We jammed.  The notes came smooth and quick.  I forgot about the money filling my case.  I just closed my eyes and thought about how amazing God is.  I opened my eyes at one point and Cade smiled so big.  I swear tears almost filled his eyes as he motioned toward my feet.  When I looked into the violin case, not only money rested there, but food and drinks did too.
   
I quit playing shortly after that.  We met all the Hawaiians and found out they’d been watching over us since the day we came to the strip.  “This can be a dangerous island,” one guy said, the biggest angel I’ve ever seen.
   
I kept trying to give them a good portion of the money, but they wouldn’t take any of it.  They said we needed it more than they did.  And just before leaving, they told us about a kid who was selling his guitar for $20.
   
Cade and I took the food from the case (some orange juice and a loaf of banana bread).  We ate and walked to a sandbar that had surfaced in the ebbing waves.  We stayed there for hours, talking about how amazing life is.  The night was ethereal, so unreal I wouldn’t mind repeating it forever.
   
All we had was about fifty bucks, my violin, God and each other.  And that was enough.
For more information on Elisa’s upcoming memoir, please visit The Golden Sky (My Journal About Zeke) or her blog The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom .

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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