Town Hall

My Congressional district is the Illinois 10th.  We seem to identify as Moderates, which has us sending the following people to Congress:

2010:  Robert Dold – R

2012:  Brad Schneider – D

2014:  Robert Dold – R

2016:  Brad Schneider – D

There was redistricting in the middle of that, too.

Since the election, I have been rather more engaged with my elected officials, and I have listened in on recent town hall conference calls with both Brad Schneider and my state Senator.  In both cases, a short introduction was made with a summary of some current events and then there was Q&A.  I remember hanging up with two feelings:

  1. People aren’t asking questions – they are putting their opinions out there in the form of questions.  And Ugh – who wants to listen to that?
  2. I appreciate hearing what my representative has to say and am glad that no one is being nasty.  Wait.  Are the questions being vetted before they are asked?  There have been no follow ups, are people being cut off?


Well.  Today, I decided to show up to one in person.  I arrived..perhaps 20 minutes early, and was the fourth person to sit.  The staff was friendly, thanking us for coming and asking us to sign in.  Rep. Schneider arrived, with apologies for being late (I hadn’t noticed.  He said that his staff made him get a haircut.) and then dove right in to his talking points about the congressional committees on which he serves.  This included a side note that the Judiciary Committee is where Articles of Impeachment happen.  Smooth.

Then to the Q&A.  A guy from Arlington Heights went first, with one of those multiple-part questions about health care.  I stopped listening about halfway through when he said, “And how do you expect to do that without the doctors in the room?!”  I might have tweeted something snarky at that point.  Several questions were like that.

Nothing was particularly contentious or confrontational.  Wait, there was one guy that tried to challenge Schneider’s “flip-flop” on the Iran agreement.  I think I heard him ask if the congressman had even read it.  I almost snorted.

I was keeping mental notes on how many men as opposed to women were given the opportunity to speak – and where in the district each speaker lived.  Eight men and three women was my count.  None of the women were asking five part questions, either.

The first woman exclaimed, “We are losing our rights!  What are the Democrats doing about it?!”  I have a Republican friend that would have dismissed her as an hysterical liberal, but the question, “What are Democrats doing?” is perfectly valid and, in my opinion, led to the only small bit of tap-dancing that Schneider did.

The second woman was rather long-winded, but asked what was being done about the hyper-partisanship in Congress right now.  Schneider answered that negotiations are happening, but always behind closed doors.  Apparently, some Republicans need the cover of darkness to reach across the aisle.  (OK, maybe some Democrats, too.)

The third woman asked about the erosion of Voting Rights, which I thought was a great question because that is something we take for granted in our part of Illinois.  Schneider noted that in some rural areas, the offices to obtain the official state identification needed to vote are prohibitively far away.  He noted the rural poor in Alabama, in particular, just have no way to get to those offices in person.

Overall,  I appreciated the meeting.  I wish that more women were given the microphone, and that’s on the staff, not on Rep. Schneider.  I will stipulate that women were somewhat more tentative in raising their hands, but there was absolutely no shortage of women looking for a chance to speak.  I wrote up a comment card on the way out.

Women Hold Up Half the Sky

A couple of weeks ago, I received a program in the mail for a special exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  It is called Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and is based on the work Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn highlighted in their book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity.  I read the book and loved it several years ago.  The exhibition opened today with a keynote by Lisa Madigan, so I went over to take a look.  Madigan was speaking at 2pm, so I figured I would check out the exhibit, stand in the back of the room while she spoke and book out as soon as she was finished.

Not so much.

I arrived shortly after 11am and the place was nearly empty.  It seemed that they really didn’t want people in the special exhibition until after the event.  As it happens, I hadn’t actually visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum yet..even though it is practically in my backyard.  Yes, I am ashamed of myself.  I went in and am very glad that I did.

To state the obvious, it is smaller and has fewer artifacts than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.    It felt somewhat less overwhelming, but rather more personal.  Skokie, you see.  Those are our people.  I could still hear the voices from one video interview as I walked on toward the next, which seemed very natural.  There is an awful lot to read, if you have the time.  The lady at the front desk suggested it would take an hour or so to go through and I took more than two.  I also didn’t bring any Kleenex.

When I finished the main exhibit, I went downstairs to grab a cold drink and read my book.  The crowd started to arrive – there  were actual shuttles to the overflow parking lot, so people came in big groups.

The room was packed.  The program started with the usual Thank Yous and acknowledging sponsors.  Lisa Madigan spoke only briefly, but noted that the fight against domestic violence and human trafficking is also very local.  Chicago is one of the U.S. hubs.  One in five women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and one in four will be physically abused.  Then she pulled out the same program I had been mailed and noted that it contained the names of local organizations working on behalf of women and they have plenty of ways for us to get involved.

I’d had enough of the crowd, so I didn’t go through the actual exhibition today.  But I became a member of the museum and will be going back soon.  There are several more programs and panels running over the next few months and I plan to make the time.


You can find more details, including that list of partners, at the website of the  Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

I am going to hug my dog now.



Discussing Gun Control and Other Important Matters

At a conference last week, I walked in to the hospitality suite to find a group watching Fox News. I almost turned around and left. Somehow, I landed in a discussion about gun control that led to my feverishly Googling for statistics on my phone while my friend Tim did the same on his. I couldn’t find the chart I wanted, so I asked Facebook.

The immediate response from my friends was Get. Out. Of that. Discussion. But Bill found it for me:




Then my friend Steve, a conservative and a scholar, asked me to consider this one:




Which, of course, did not help my argument.

I went several rounds with Tim that night over statistics and several more with Steve the next day on a topic where people are unbelievably entrenched. With Tim, I had to concede that you can generally find statistics to prove anything you want. With Steve, I had to concede that statistics generally don’t prove Cause and Effect. But I left both of those discussions feeling good and believing that there are plenty of people on the other side of this issue that are also trying to be thoughtful and realistic and engaged. Here are my conclusions:

  1. We should all do a better job of doing our homework and considering different points of view.  This isn’t going to get resolved in one conversation, or with one new law. It’s going to take lots of conversations to hash out.  It is going to take some compromise.  And there might be unintended consequences to address.
  2. We will only be able to do that if we believe that we are all in this together.  Acting in good faith.

Sometime online, during the election primaries, I was on a thread about how the world is not going to end if “the other one” is elected.  No one is really moving to Canada and Texas isn’t actually going to secede from the Union.  We’d better find a way to work things out.


Compared to most women over on Twitter right now, I have exceptionally little to complain about.   I have never been raped.  I don’t walk around with any serious fear for my physical safety.  I had kind of chalked it up to the fact that I was never all that pretty.  Guys only assault pretty girls, right?  (Rolls eyes at self.)

Even in college, at my absolute most attractive, I was more charming than pretty.  This weekend, Twitter has taught me that I have been lucky, because “charming” could very easily be mistaken for overt flirting which, it seems, can be taken as an open invitation to sexual assault.  But that isn’t what I want to tell you.  I want to tell you two stories – from work – that illustrate the extent to which I have adapted to male bullshit regarding women.

First.  It will surprise no one that in my seventeen years working in Human Resources, I have investigated one or two sexual harassment complaints.  I am happy to say that they have generally been matters of cluelessness rather than malicious intent and the “accused” have generally been genuinely sorry to have made someone uncomfortable and wanted to apologize more than anything else.  One case in particular struck me because I worked rather closely with the “accused”.  I was asked whether I ever felt like the guy was talking to my breasts.  I hadn’t noticed.  I’ve had people staring at my chest since I was 10 years old.  I stopped noticing sometime in high school.  I never once gave an “Eyes up here” or made a complaint or even offered a knowing glare.  I didn’t make a conscious decision to ignore that behavior as a general practice but, hell.   I don’t have the time or the energy to get upset about that stuff, let alone confront it all the time.  So I block it out.

I am not proud of this.  It is just how I have operated.  I am a bit ashamed, now that I am typing it out loud, that with my general confidence and competence and ability to confront people that I have been too lazy or weak to do so.  But there it is.

The second one is worse.  A few years ago a young lady in my own department told me that she had a troubling experience when she went to speak at a conference.  The weather had been bad and she’d gone to the bar to watch a game and get a burger for dinner.  Harassing experience ensues.  She wasn’t physically threatened, but felt way uncomfortable and the dude was, by extension, a client.  My first reaction, God forgive me, was “I wouldn’t have gone to the bar by myself to watch a game and have dinner.”


How m-f brainwashed am I that the thought even entered my head.  How brainwashed am I that I wouldn’t even consider watching a game by myself in a bar on the road over dinner?  I sit in bars by myself when I am waiting for people.  I eat dinner in restaurants by myself all the damn time.  I have stopped in front of random televisions in a thousand public places, by myself, to watch some sportsball item or another.  I have gone to sporting events by myself.

This isn’t even a conscious decision.  This is an “it would just never occur to me”.  Is it some great hardship?  No.  At the same time, it is only happening because I am female.

So.  Yeah, yeah.  Less than a First World Problem.  But if you are asking the question, “Really?  All women have been affected by a male culture of sexual dominance/violence/intimidation in this country?”

Yes.  We all have.


P.S.  I sorta want to delete that last post about guys in bars.  But I’m not going to.

At the Bar

To begin at the beginning my boss, G,  and I were at a conference in Boston last Spring.  One night, we went to dinner with some colleagues from our member companies and someone that was not me thought it would be cool to have a beer at the Cheers bar , which I swear used to be called something else.  There were about eight women along with G,  and a guy from Alabama that I will call..Alabama.

We were sitting around the corner of the bar and I was at the end, pretending to drink a beer, which I never do.  And a couple of drunk Virginians on their way back from Fenway sat down next to me.  I know they were drunk Virginians on their way back from Fenway because they told me that  a) they were from Virginia; b) they had just come from Fenway of them was breathing on me.  Dude asked me twice if he could buy me a drink.

Now, I am not used to having drunk guys..breathing on me, because I am not Jennifer Aniston and because my Single Girl Stare of Death is extremely effective.  But I was with people!  I hadn’t charged it up!   I glanced over at G a couple of times, but he was oblivious to my plight.  So the end of the conversation went like this:

Dude #1:    Where are you from?

Me:               Chicago

Dude #1:      Chicago is great.  Can you guess where I’m from?

Me:                Virginia.

Dude #1:       Whoa!  How did you know that?!

Me:                 Because you told me five minutes ago.

Dude #1:        (turns redder)

Dude #2:        (falls off his chair laughing)  (literally)

When I say “literally”, I mean Literally and not Figuratively.  They finally left and my group left shortly thereafter.  I was trying to decide just how much shit to give G for leaving me all stranded when Alabama started laughing at me.  He had watched the entire thing and thought it was hilarious.  My head exploded.  (Figuratively).  He said that I obviously hadn’t needed help and he swore up and down that he would have jumped in if it had gotten ugly.  By then, the Single Girl Stare of Death was ready, but it was too dark outside for anyone to see it.

Fast forward to last weekend.  I was waiting for John in the bar next to his theatre when a..much older gentleman struck up a conversation.  Because he was guard was down and I chatted a bit and the next thing I know he was..breathing on me and my Single Girl Stare of Death was totally not charged!  I got out of it somehow, which led me to tell John the story about Alabama in the Cheers bar.

The next morning, I flew out to the next conference and my first..assignment was to meet G and Alabama.  At the bar.  Here’s how it went:

Me:               I was talking about you last night.

Alabama:    Great.  What about?

Me:               About how I thought you were my friend until you let a couple of drunk Virginians breathe on me at the Cheers bar in Boston.

Alabama:     (laughing)  That was funny.

Me:                Not funny!  Mean!

Alabama:     Slightly mean.  And really funny.  But anyway, what was I supposed to do?

Me:                You were supposed to walk over, stand next to me, look at the guy and say, “She’s with me.”

Alabama:      (does a double take)  What am I supposed to say, that I’m your father?!

Me:                Wait, what?!  No!

Alabama:      Am I supposed to say that you’re my girlfriend?

Me:                No!  You just say “She’s with me”.  (turns to G)  Is that not the universally semi-polite way to tell a guy to back off of a girl?

G:                   Yes.

Alabama:      Ok, ok.  Lemme get this straight.  Any time we are together and some guy comes over and hits on you, I am supposed to step in and say, “She’s with me”?

Me:                 Yes.

Alabama:       (…)

Alabama:       I can do that.  But I’m tellinya right now – next time it is going to be the love of your life and you’re gonna be sorry.

As an aside, I clarified with G that if it happened to be Brian Urlacher that hit on me, that he was to stop any Alabama intervention.  G agreed.

You may all consider this a public service announcement.

Sometimes, the System Works

I ran an errand this morning, then went to yoga.  When I was finished, I went back to my car and looked at my phone.  There was a voicemail from an 800 number that turned out to be Amex.  Fraud alert, please call.  So I did.

The last time I had a fraud alert, it turned out that my account had been flagged for making too many charitable contributions in the past week.  Seriously.  So I wasn’t worried.  In the automated system, they asked if they could text me the details.  I said they could and the system stayed on the line while I checked.

$1,300 to Continental Airlines.   Continental Airlines doesn’t exist anymore, but nevermind that.  I didn’t make that charge, so I clicked the button and the next message said that they were transferring me to a live person.

The live person asked me to confirm that the charge was fraudulent, confirm that one more charge was fraudulent, then ran through a bunch more charges that were legitimate including the one from this morning.  Then she reversed the two bad charges, cancelled my card and said a new one would be at my house on Monday.

This whole process took less than 15 minutes from my cell phone, sitting in my car.

When I got home, I logged in to look at my recent charges again.  Everything looks fine again.  I don’t know what kind of data mining action these people have going on, but this is the second time (the first was on my Chase card) that fraud was spotted and flagged before I knew there was anything wrong.  And then killed as soon as they got hold of me.

This, kids, is why I feel totally comfortable using plastic all the time.

Pool Etiquette

I was going to write a nice post with pictures of yesterday’s tour, but this morning’s time at the hotel pool changed my mind.  I don’t spend much time poolside, but in this hotel it is the only good place to sit outside and read.  All of these things actually happened, albeit not all on this same trip.  So.  The rules obviously start with No Talking on the Damn Phone:

  1. No calling your children.  (“And what are you doing today? Mommy misses you!”)
  2. No bragging to your friends.  (“You should see the sun right now!  It’s gorgeous!”) (This woman actually made three calls in the two hours I was sitting next to her. I got into the pool to get away from her.)
  3. No ordering out for pizza.  (Seriously.  Dude had to call information first, then call the pizza place.)

In fact, the only acceptable reason to talk in a cell phone is an actual emergency.  Even if you need to coordinate your little party, you can bloody well do it in the bar where you will be somewhat less disturbing.

Next we have the “No Bogarting the Chairs” rules.  I arrived at the pool at 7:45 this morning and the pool opens at 8am.  There were two other people sitting and reading while the staff was doing their chemical and whatever checks, but more than half of the deck chairs were already reserved with towels.  Not even stuff.  Just towels.  Many of these people weren’t there by 9am.  So.  Anne’s Law:  Unless you are actually in the pool, there is a 20 minute limit on holding a chair.  More than enough time for running back to your room, going potty, or hitting the sundry store for snacks or magazines.  Or making a phone call.  Seriously, this is why some hotels are charging $50 to hold chairs for people.

  1. You will not reserve your chairs and then head for the breakfast buffet.
  2. You will not reserve a chair for your husband while he goes snorkeling.  For two hours.
  3. You will not reserve chairs for your three friends – in fact – no one is allowed to reserve more than one chair.  For up to 20 minutes.
  4. You will not reserve a chair for a friend that isn’t even awake yet.  We know that you can’t go anywhere else until hangover girl gets up, but that doesn’t mean you should hold a chair for her.

Interestingly, the children seem to be the best behaved in the pool.  They will share chairs, they try not to splash people, they share their toys with the other kids and they leave when they get hungry.  Just one rule for them:

  1. No Marco Polo