Arkansas Strong https://arstrong.org Fri, 28 Oct 2022 18:24:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://i0.wp.com/arstrong.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/cropped-ar-strong-icon.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Arkansas Strong https://arstrong.org 32 32 178261342 Voting our Values: a Conversation Piece https://arstrong.org/voting-our-values-a-conversation-piece/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voting-our-values-a-conversation-piece Fri, 28 Oct 2022 18:24:35 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2316 Arkansas Strong does not endorse candidates. What we do endorse is Arkansans coming together from all walks of life and solving problems. We believe we can do this despite our differences. In...

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Arkansas Strong does not endorse candidates. What we do endorse is Arkansans coming together from all walks of life and solving problems. We believe we can do this despite our differences. In fact, we believe our differences make us stronger when we listen and learn from one other, and work together for the good of us all. Because whatever our politics, we share a lot of the same values, like honesty, hard work, freedom, and loving our neighbors.

This recent opinion piece in the Democrat-Gazette caught our attention, because it was written by an Independent voter, a teacher and mother of four boys, who describes herself as a conservative Christian. She writes that her values are driving her vote for governor. We thought it would be a good conversation piece for this community to discuss as we ponder our values and how those are reflected in our choices about who we want as elected leaders.

Please read and comment, respectfully, how you may agree, disagree, or have other thoughts to add. Here are a few questions to get us started:

  1. What are my 3 most important values and how do they influence my voting choices?
  2. If I could design the “perfect” candidate to lead Arkansas what would they be like?
  3. What are the 3 biggest needs facing my family and community right now and how will my chosen candidates help?
  4. What 3 things would I like to see happen to make Arkansas a better place to live?

Written by Laura Marsh and published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

I am a public school teacher in a virtual charter school where I teach civics. Kudos to the state of Arkansas, which requires students to take a civics class and the Arkansas Civics Exam for graduation.

I am convinced that students leave my class more educated about civics than the average U.S. citizen! I try to instill in my students pride in our nation, Constitution, and being an American. Even though our system is not perfect, it has been molded and shaped through the years by compromise, hallmarks of a democracy.

As a professional with a college degree, a master’s degree, and years of experience, I take great offense in Sarah Sanders’ attack on Arkansas teachers, insinuating that when she becomes governor, Arkansas teachers will “educate kids, not indoctrinate them.”

To truly look at civics, we must walk through the history of how our Constitution was written and how our nation has progressed through the years; we tackle issues such as the three-fifths compromise and how compromise was so important to our fragile nation that founding fathers actually wrote into the Constitution that they would not address the issue of the slave trade until the year of 1808; and we examine the expansion of the voting franchise. And of course, we examine the very real civil rights struggle, which still exists today.

Under Sanders, this is indoctrination. Arkansas social studies teachers call these topics American history. Of course, there are events in our past we wish had been different. Regardless, it is part of our story of being Americans.

Conservatives that Sarah has aligned herself with support legislation from the conservative think tank ALEC that creates legislation for states to enact to limit the teaching of facts in public schools. Model laws include allowing any American to sue a teacher for up to $10,000 for teaching certain historical facts that are deemed to be CRT (critical race theory). In Arkansas we don’t teach CRT: We teach facts, and we teach kids to think, not to react in fear to the latest news report. I don’t know many teachers who are willing to stick around and teach whitewashed history or face civil penalties for simply following state standards.

Sarah has also asserted that teachers are failing to educate our students. In addition to our curriculum, I provide individualized instruction to each student, differentiating for a variety of environmental and social needs, and implementing special program modifications as required by state law. I progress-monitor, differentiate, scaffold, and modify every week for my students. I am in class or meetings most of the day; in the evenings, I spend about two hours answering emails, grading papers, writing curriculum, filing reports reaching out to struggling students, all the while documenting my work throughout the week. Teaching the basics is so much more than the three Rs. If Sarah had spent any time talking to teachers in public schools, she would know this.

My husband constantly tells me I work too hard and too long for not enough pay and that no one cares. While all of this is pretty darn time-consuming for teachers, it is so good for kids. I make slightly more than the starting salary for a starting correctional officer in Arkansas and less than a part-time legislator. All over the state, Arkansas teachers pour themselves out for others. It is simply who we are.

With Sarah as governor, there is no intention of raising public school teachers’ salaries or elevating the profession’s status. State legislatures will extend tax credits to parents to use at either private schools or homeschool, which do not have to teach state standards, prepare kids for standardized tests, or accept or provide accommodations for kids with special needs. Additionally, Sarah is proposing to cut taxes in Arkansas by over 50 percent, causing public schools to struggle.

This is the goal: At a recent CPAC convention, conservatives declared that in the next few years they hope to take at least a third of kids out of public schools. Arkansans who value their Friday night lights will see a decrease in funding, students, and staff. Sarah will hurt the people she claims to help, rural Arkansans, who find their strength in rural communities and local schools.

I am voting for Chris Jones. He listens to Arkansas teachers, supports the elevation of the profession financially, and has concrete policy proposals to improve education for all students and teachers in Arkansas.

Mr. Jones, Arkansas teachers look forward to working with you over the next four years to serve all of Arkansas’ children. You are the obvious choice for governor.

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It’s Your Job! https://arstrong.org/its-your-job/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=its-your-job Mon, 17 Oct 2022 14:09:17 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2306 The mid-term election is one month away.  Never in my lifetime have I seen such an important election to save our Madisonian democracy.  As a US Government teacher, I’m scared...

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The mid-term election is one month away.  Never in my lifetime have I seen such an important election to save our Madisonian democracy.  As a US Government teacher, I’m scared that we as citizens are shirking on our duty of being informed and engaged.  So I’m offering this primer.  I hope it reminds you that you have a part in this government.  You have a duty to perform.

Our government only survives with an informed electorate.

We have to be informed citizens.  We have to pay attention to current events, political activity, issues, candidates.  We have to be discerning in our news intake.  We have to recognize propaganda.   We have to constantly think, “Who is telling us this information, and what do they want us to think/do/feel?”  We have to engage our brains.  We have to also remember that it’s not always about ME but about US, and we need to think from not only our perspective but from others’ perspectives.  

Government is a SOCIAL CONTRACT, not a BUSINESS.

Government is not meant to make a profit.  It is not meant to squirrel away money.  It’s not meant to squander it, either.  Government officials MUST think of ALL their citizens, not only their party.  They must allocate tax revenue to use for the best of their society, not for the most privileged or the most powerful.  Creating a surplus from federal funds meant to improve lives of all citizens during a pandemic and then handing it to the richest of its citizens isn’t good governance, as an example.  It doesn’t benefit the majority or the most in need.  We have to think collectively.  We have to think of each other, not just those who benefit us financially or politically.  We must remember that the opposite of governance is anarchy.  

Every Vote Counts Collage

Our elected officials must EARN our VOTE.  They must be ACCOUNTABLE to ALL our citizens, not just their party.

We have the responsibility to vote in officials who will work to benefit all our citizens, not just hold a spot for the majority of the party.  Celebrity does not equate to good candidacy.  Just because you recognize the candidate does not qualify him/her as a deserving candidate.  We must listen to his/her words, actions, history.  We need to elect citizens who actually live among us, live in our state, interact with our citizens.  We must elect officials who are concerned with the issues of the majority of our citizens, not just the most powerful and the wealthiest, the lobbyists with the most influence.  We must pay attention to the words and actions of candidates, not just the designated letter behind their names.  Who will represent us the best?  Who has spent the most time among the citizens of the state?  Who seems the most engaged with issues which impact our daily lives?  Whose ads seem the most genuine, positive, issue-oriented?  Campaigning for education which impacts all our students and then advocating vouchers which benefits 8% of the students in the state isn’t best representing the citizens of one’s district.  Not living in the state in which you’re campaigning and holding no public appearances or town hall meetings in the years of your term does not best benefit your constituents.  It benefits you.  Not showing up for a sponsored debate in the state is lazy.  It’s entitled.  It doesn’t speak well for us, the voters, who let a candidate get by with such action.  We should demand accountability.  We should demand a platform.  We should demand and pay attention to debate.  We as informed voters need to pay attention to the words and actions of our elected officials.  We need to vote for the people who best represent all of us.  

We Are A Democracy.

It’s been said on some media that we are a constitutional republic as a rebuke when someone states that we are a democracy.  These two terms are not mutually exclusive.  A constitutional republic, which we are, is a TYPE of DEMOCRACY, which we also are.  A democratic government relies on its citizens to dictate policy through elections.  We must be an informed electorate.  We must recognize these terms and the fact that we are being manipulated by people trying to divide us with misinformation according to these terms.  Reference the first bullet.

One of the tenets of our democracy is egalitarianism:  One person, one vote.

In order for our government to function effectively, we must vote.  We must allow every citizen to vote.  We must make it easy to vote.  We must not limit voting.  Everyone’s vote must count and count equally.  Manipulating the vote is un-American; laws which limit voting in minority areas are un-American.  The current Arkansas proposal #2 limiting the access to citizens’ initiatives on the ballot is essentially un-American.   In voting for it, we are ceding our power as voting citizens.

Another tenet of our democracy is Majority Rule.

The opinions of the majority should dictate the law.  Gerrymandering congressional districts to limit minority votes is un-American.  Using the filibuster to limit the proposal of laws that the majority of the country wants enacted is un-American.  Holding open judicial seats until one’s party can control appointments is un-American.  The Hastert Rule in Congress of not proposing laws unless the majority of the majority will vote for them led to not proposing law unless the President will sign it.  Both ideas go against the American ideal that each branch of government is equal and independent, and that the Founders created a system of checks and balances in our government so that no one branch gained an undo amount of power over another.  Ballot initiative #1, which would give the state legislature the ability to call themselves into session, goes against this tenet and is essentially un-American.  We need to vote for leaders who are concerned with the majority of the citizenry, not leaders who have tried to manipulate the system to gain power.  

No democracy can exist without an informed electorate, said Thomas Jefferson.  The less we understand about our government, the more power we cede to those intent on steering us away from a democracy.  We have a job to do.  Use your power to vote accordingly.  

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Teach Plus Policy Fellows Address Mental Health Needs of Students https://arstrong.org/teach-plus-policy-fellows-address-mental-health-needs-of-students/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teach-plus-policy-fellows-address-mental-health-needs-of-students Thu, 13 Oct 2022 21:08:53 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2295 Arkansas Strong is honored to be able to amplify the good work of one of our education partners, Teach Plus Arkansas. Fellows in this program just this week released a new...

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Arkansas Strong is honored to be able to amplify the good work of one of our education partners, Teach Plus Arkansas. Fellows in this program just this week released a new brief in which they address mental health needs of students, and offer practical recommendations on how to address those needs.


In New Brief, Teach Plus Arkansas Policy Fellows Address Mental Health Needs of Students

Teachers’ recommendations focus on providing mental health services for students and relevant professional development for educators

The need to support students socially and emotionally, as well as cognitively, has become evident as the result of the COVID pandemic. Lack of such support leaves students unprepared for school and life and contributes to the higher burnout rates of teachers. In their new brief, Strategically Addressing Student Mental Health in Our Schools: Recommendations from Teach Plus Arkansas Policy Fellows, Teach Plus teacher leaders set forth a series of recommendations for state leaders on closing the gaps of social, emotional, and mental health education and support in the state.

“Investing in mental health services for students and ensuring that teachers have the training and the time to thoughtfully implement SEL is good for teachers, directly benefits students, and can help alleviate Arkansas’s critical teacher shortage by ensuring that more teachers remain in our classrooms,” said Teach Plus Arkansas Executive Director Stacey McAdoo. “With these solutions from Teach Plus teacher leaders, we can improve conditions in our public schools to make certain that we are educating the whole child and alleviating barriers so that more teachers want and can remain in our classrooms.”

“Our students cannot learn if they are in fight or flight mode. If we expect teachers to help students learn, we must give educators the tools to help students be in the right mindset in the first place,” said Perla Andrade, a teacher in Little Rock and one of the authors of the brief.

To better understand Arkansas teachers’ experience with SEL, Teach Plus teacher leaders surveyed 247 Arkansas teachers about how their schools are supporting students’ social and emotional needs. They found that schools and educators are committed to their students’ social-emotional learning. Educators try their best to embed some form of SEL strategies into the daily academic day, but they need support in the form of professional development focused on mental health, trauma-informed instruction and the social-emotional learning of students. They also need to have protected time in their day to implement SEL.

Teach Plus teacher leaders’ recommendations are:

  1. Create school-specific mental health services, such as a coordinator/student success coach, in order to provide in-school support for students and professional development for teachers.
  2. Protect teacher time to have SEL lessons and conversations with students and participate in relevant training.
  3. Engage teachers in relevant training, such as Mental Health First Aid training, on how to authentically serve the SEL needs of students.

“The only way we can truly provide an equitable educational experience to our students is to understand the whole child and provide resources to take care of their social, emotional, and mental health needs,” said Christhian Saavedra, Student Success Coach in Rogers and one of the authors of the brief.

About Teach Plus

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. Teachplus.org

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Our Legislators’ Injustice Toward Teachers https://arstrong.org/our-legislators-injustice-toward-teachers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-legislators-injustice-toward-teachers Mon, 10 Oct 2022 14:54:34 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2284 Originally published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette “There is a cost to silence, and a cost to using your voice, and every day I wake up and decide which bill...

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Originally published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

“There is a cost to silence, and a cost to using your voice, and every day I wake up and decide which bill I’m going to pay.”

I read this quote one day as I scrolled through Twitter. The person who tweeted it could not remember who said it as she live-tweeted from a leadership conference somewhere. But she said it stopped her in her tracks, and it did the same for me.

Silence about injustice is not a good option. However, I have been at something of a loss for the right words since I attended the Joint Education Committee meeting Oct. 3. Arkansas Strong organized a sit-in for the few of us who could be there to represent Arkansas public educators, who were of course working their full-time jobs teaching 92 percent of the state’s school children.

Afterward I vented some of my biggest feelings with fellow sit-inners, who shared their own. “You should write about this,” one said. “You have such a beautiful way with words.” But they weren’t beautiful words I was thinking. They were angry ones. And I don’t ever want to write–or otherwise operate–from a place of anger. Not if I can help it.

One of my life policies is to try to approach people and situations by giving them the benefit of the doubt. I do this because it’s the golden rule, and it’s how I would have others do unto me. It is also insurance against becoming hardened and cynical. So even though I have been sorely disappointed by lawmakers these past years, I tried to set grace before me when I made the two-hour trip to the Capitol.

After all, this was the meeting in which they had the chance to keep their word–all of those who voted against staying in special session to discuss teacher raises. Back in August, they told us it wasn’t because they were against us. When we questioned where they stood, most of their correspondence contained a form of this answer: I am for teacher raises. Just not in special session. I want to do it the right way, you see. This is not the time. There is a proper procedure we must follow. After the adequacy study, we will make recommendations. That is the correct order of things. That is how it needs to be done.

I was not inclined to believe this based on past experience. Nor did I appreciate the implication that concerned citizens were stupid enough to believe a tax cut for wealthy Arkansans is more of an “emergency” than the education crisis–and therefore special session material–while teacher pay is not, or that in some other way the tax cuts are good stewardship of the surplus $1.6 billion, but using it for teacher raises is bad. Still, I hoped the desire to do right eventually, and perhaps more thoroughly based on the study, might possibly be true. At least for some.

But evidence from the recent meeting proves otherwise.

I had a sinking feeling when Rep. Bruce Cozart, the House Ed Committee chair, came down to greet the row of ladies in red who were with me in the audience. One asked, “Do you have a proposal for teacher raises?” He answered that they did, and it was great. “You are going to love it.” She pressed, “Will you tell us about it?” He smirked.

“Oh no, I can’t do that now.” He tamped down the air with his hands. “It has to go through the process. You’ll have to wait. But I think teachers are going to be really happy.”

Cozart went on to say how he had gotten a “bad rap,” and claimed, again, that he was truly a big supporter of public schools. That was strange since the only bad rap I know of was one he gave teachers at a Garland County Tea Party meeting where he said, “The reason people are losing their faith in the schools is because of teachers who do not want to do what they need to do for the betterment of the kids. That’s not their priority. Their priority is just themselves.” Perhaps he thought we wouldn’t know that is a quote directly from his mouth?

I mention this interaction because it so perfectly captures the pervasive attitude a supermajority of legislators has toward teachers: my experience since the first time I tried to engage at a House Ed Committee meeting years ago, the atmosphere of the ALC meeting this summer, the tone of the not-so-special session, and the result of this latest meeting in which it was proposed that Arkansas raise the state minimum teacher salary to $40,000. This travesty of justice was the proposal Cozart believed we educators would love.

What mental gymnastics does a lawmaker–or body of lawmakers–have to perform in order to presume this? Is the disrespect intentional, or blindness brought on by power’s corruption? Maybe it does not matter, since the consequences are the same either way: The 30,000 highly trained, professionally certified teachers of Arkansas–and those great young minds who consider going into the profession–are increasingly demoralized, denigrated, and disappearing.

Consider the hubris of this scenario: In 2022, the minimum salary for part-time legislators in Arkansas is $44,357. In addition, if they live within 50 miles of the Capitol, they get $59 per diem; the price increases to $155 per day if they live further away. On top of that they are paid 58.5 cents per mile they travel. No college degree is required, no professional certifications; they need not even have knowledge of the law. (I would add they need not have knowledge or experience in any of the areas for which they make rules and spend millions, like education, medicine, agriculture, small business, transportation, public safety, etc.)

A starting full-time teacher’s minimum salary in the state of Arkansas is $36,000. There is no per diem, nor is there any mileage provided. At least a bachelor’s degree is required, plus official certification and licensure, which includes passing the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching exam, and further Praxis exams in one’s specialty area.

Ours is the lowest starting salary in our region, which is the lowest paid region in the country. Because neighboring states pay better, they recruit our teachers fresh out of college. Many also recruit our veteran teachers because of better pay and benefits all the way up the scale.

Yet, even after the fiscally conservative governor and ADE proposed raising the base teacher salary by $10,000, backed up by a solid plan for how it could be funded in a financially responsible way, our Legislature balked. Then they refused the compromise offered by the governor, and another proposed by the Democratic caucus.

Elected leaders–who have no qualifications other than citizenship, residency in their districts, and being at least 21 years of age, who are paid $44,347, plus per diem and mileage, plus benefits for a part-time job–denied the professional educators expected to be responsible for the mental, emotional, and physical health of 473,861 school children in Arkansas.

The offer from the House Education Committee, pushed by Representatives Cozart, Evans, and Vaught, is $40,000. Which keeps us behind not only them, as our part-time lawmakers, but educators in the rest of the region. This is more than $5,000 less than the part-time salaries of every legislator who supports it, if you factor in even a few days of their per diem and mileage expenses. For our full-time jobs. And they expect us to be happy–to “love it.”

Much of the discussion in the meeting compared schools to businesses. There’s a call popular with the supermajority for them to be run more efficiently as such. But a wise business person knows that to attract and keep the most talented people in key positions, they must be paid well.

Unfortunately, many large corporations exploit their least skilled workers by paying them poorly because they regard them as easy to replace. This corporate greed and arrogance manifests in the disdain of lawmakers toward educators. Rather than recognizing we are the keys to our children’s–and therefore our state’s–future, they have no appreciation for our hard-earned skills. They think we are easy to replace.

They are wrong.

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Wear Red for Ed https://arstrong.org/wear-red-for-ed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wear-red-for-ed Wed, 28 Sep 2022 14:49:31 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2274 Recently, legislators submitted recommendations on teacher raises to our State Legislature’s Education Committees. The committees will meet October 3rd and 4th to discuss proposals and decide what kind—or if any—raises...

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Recently, legislators submitted recommendations on teacher raises to our State Legislature’s Education Committees. The committees will meet October 3rd and 4th to discuss proposals and decide what kind—or if any—raises will be recommended for the upcoming legislative session in January.

Here’s what you can do: Join our sit-in at the upcoming committee meeting on Monday, October 3rd at 1:30 pm. We will WEAR RED in support of pay raises for educators around the state. Let’s pack the committee room so legislators cannot ignore us! If you wish to join the committee meeting sit-in, please email Gwen Faulkenberry at gfaulkenberry@hotmail.com. 

You can also email members of the Education Committee and ask them, “What recommendations are you presenting to education committee chairs based on the adequacy study and what you know about Arkansas teacher salaries?” (If your personal legislators are on the education committee, please let them know you are their constituent. Remember to keep the email short, professional, and polite.) We’ve provided sample wording for you below. Committee members’ names and emails are also below.

See you on October 3rd!

Sample Wording:

I am a ____ year educator and parent of a child(ren) who is/was educated in (city). I understand that the Senate and House Education Committees will discuss teacher pay raises at the October meeting. What recommendations are you planning on presenting based on what you’ve seen from the adequacy study and what you know about Arkansas teacher salaries?

Here’s the email list of the Education Committee Members. Encourage colleagues to contact their legislators and the committee members:

Senate Chair Sen. Missy IrvinMissy.Irvin@senate.ar.gov
Senate Vice Chair Sen. Joyce ElliottJoyce.Elliott@senate.ar.gov
Senator Charles Beckhamcharles.beckham@senate.ar.gov
Senator Linda Chesterfieldlchesterfield@gmail.com
Senator Jane Englishjane.english@senate.ar.gov
Senator Colby Fulfercolby.fulfer@senate.ar.gov
Senator Greg Ledinggreg.leding@senate.ar.gov
Senator James Sturchjames.sturch@senate.ar.gov
House Chair Rep. Bruce Cozartbccci@cablelynx.com
House Vice Chair Rep. Brian Evansbrian.evans@arkansashouse.org
Rep. Rick Beckrick.beck@arkansashouse.org
Rep Ken Braggkenwbragg@gmail.com
Rep Karilyn Brownkarilyn.brown@arkansashouse.org
Rep Gary DeffenbaughGary.Deffenbaugh@arkansashouse.org
Rep Charlene Fitecharlene.fite@arkansashouse.org
Rep Megan Godfreymegan.godfrey@arkansashouse.org
Rep Steve Hollowellsteve.hollowell@arkansashouse.org
Rep Lee Johnsonlee.johnson@arkansashouse.org
Rep Fredrick Lovefjlove@att.net
Rep Mark Lowerymarkdlowery@mac.com
Rep John Maddoxjohn.maddox@arkansashouse.org
Rep Gayla McKenziegayla.mckenzie@arkansashouse.org
Rep Stephen MeeksStephen.Meeks@arkansashouse.org
Rep Reginald Murdockrkm_72360@yahoo.com
Rep Stu Smithstu22200@yahoo.com
Rep Nelda Speaksnelda.speaks@arkansashouse.org
Rep Deann Vaughtdeann.vaught@arkansashouse.org
Rep Richard Womackrichard@richardwomack.com

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The redemptive grace of our rescuers: Dogs https://arstrong.org/dogs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dogs Mon, 05 Sep 2022 20:51:23 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2257 I’m writing right now, as I often do, under a pile of Boston terriers. I have a desk in my room but during the extreme isolation of covid when everything...

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I’m writing right now, as I often do, under a pile of Boston terriers. I have a desk in my room but during the extreme isolation of covid when everything I did was online, I converted my bed into a “besk” where I could pile up pillows, spread out all of my stuff, and be more comfortable.

Though constant hermiting is no longer mandatory, and I teach five classes in person, my dogs remain in favor of this other arrangement. And I find myself so spoiled by a husband who brings me coffee, layers of covers so warm and cozy, and the ambience of snoring dogs so conducive to writing, that on days I am off I may never return to my desk, even if in some future scenario I happen to find it under the piles of miscellany it has accumulated.

In addition to the Boston terriers, I have a golden retriever spread out like a rug beside my besk. They growl at him if he tries to get on the bed and sometimes he lets them be the bosses; not always. When he gets enough he goes savage like in “Zootopia” when an otherwise well-behaved animal loses its mind and turns violent. We try to avoid those times.

I did have on a nice dress but in that moment I could not have cared less if it survived Roscoe. Because in the way of all good dogs, Roscoe is a rescue dog. And he was doing his best to rescue me. As I petted him I could literally feel my heart rate slow, my shoulders relax, my spirit beginning to rest.

I also have a black Lab who John Whiteside says is the only dog I have that’s worth a dime. You can find her curled on the couch at any time of day. If she sees a human she wags her tail and it thumps loudly against the cushions. Like many Labs, the only thing that awakens passion in her is food. Even this most docile, sanguine creature has been known to fight for her right to leftover sausage gravy.

One fateful day this summer I attended a sit-in with other teachers in Little Rock at the Arkansas Legislative Council meeting in which members of the Legislature voted to answer our request for raises by punishing our local school districts. They did this by snatching covid relief money already allocated and approved for covid-related projects in those districts and re-assigning it for one-time teacher bonuses.

They did this to spite school boards and administrators, local control they claim to champion but really despise, and of course to try to squelch a movement of teachers who have finally decided to keep them accountable for their actions when it comes to the degradation of public schools–actions like the one the ALC chose that particular day: using none of the $1.6-billion surplus to raise teacher pay, instead awarding it to the wealthiest Arkansans through tax cuts. In the middle of a statewide teacher shortage.

Just typing that makes my heart beat fast. So you can imagine the state I was in when I left the ALC meeting. I did my breathing thing to tamp down the bubbles of rage fizzing fast to the surface, and drove to Brummett’s. Yes, that Brummett. I am allowed to call him Brummett or even Johnny Ray because I am his favorite if only self-appointed apprentice. He is my favorite crochety columnist.

Friendship, joy, laughter, love–all that matters most–superseded the ugly of the morning.

I had braved Clarksville’s Peach Picking Paradise in the rain the day before to obtain some of his and my favorite white peaches and a few other varieties for his saintly wife Shalah. I thought they weren’t home so I left the peaches on the porch and scrambled halfway to my car before I heard him bellowing, “Hey! Come back here!”

I sat down in their exquisite living room and drank water Shalah gave me in a vintage glass. Their regal beagle Sophie sauntered over to lick my legs. Roscoe, the other beagle, jumped into my lap for a cuddle. Brummett was horrified, which I found hilarious. “Roscoe! Get down!” He looked at me hopelessly. “He’s going to ruin your dress!”

I did have on a nice dress but in that moment I could not have cared less if it survived Roscoe. Because in the way of all good dogs, Roscoe is a rescue dog. And he was doing his best to rescue me. As I petted him I could literally feel my heart rate slow, my shoulders relax, my spirit beginning to rest.

Brummett finally gave up fussing, and while we sat and talked about peaches and furniture and neighbors, goodness returned to the world. Hope floated back into the air. Friendship, joy, laughter, love–all that matters most–superseded the ugly of the morning. And by the time the beagles and Brummetts were through with me, I was fortified to go back out into the world. Restored.

If you are like most humans, you have moments of anxiety and sadness. If you are a person who belongs to a dog, being comforted in those times is likely a familiar experience. Even the Bible records how dogs helped people in ancient times, keeping them company and soothing their sores.

If you don’t have this kind of help on a rough day, well, bless your heart. Maybe it is time to find a rescue dog–or two–and let them rescue you.

Column originally published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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Possibilites https://arstrong.org/unplanned-pregnancy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unplanned-pregnancy Tue, 30 Aug 2022 13:19:22 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2244 What if women with unplanned pregnancy came first in church? Ever since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I have just felt a sinking in my soul. This has perplexed...

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What if women with unplanned pregnancy came first in church?

Ever since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I have just felt a sinking in my soul. This has perplexed me because I am pro-life: I do believe that life begins at conception, and I have also volunteered at a crisis pregnancy ministry in their care center. I think that God has given me the burden of so many women who are terrified, indignant, or just angry at the ruling. I know also that this is a pivotal time for the church in the way Christians proceed from this place, and I fear and see that in many ways the response has not been Christ-like and may turn people away from Jesus.

The purpose of this writing is not to argue my position on Roe but to lay out a path for Christians in the light of Roe. The right to an abortion will now be decided by individual states. But the support and care of women in these situations is firmly in the hands of the church…or at least it needs to be.

In church recently, I was blessed to hear the testimonial from a young woman who at age 19 found herself with an unexpected pregnancy. Raised in a church and youth group, she knew that the last place that she could turn was her church as there would be no grace for her there. By the grace of God, she kept the baby with her life forever altered for the better. She cast a vision for how the church in the future could care for mothers in similar situations: Mentorship, grace, and community. Unfortunately, many churches offer none of these and instead focus on the shame. It is not difficult to figure out how Jesus would have responded to an unwed mother in crisis.

I have some first-hand experience with mentorship, grace and community. For 3 years, I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in Fayetteville, which is an amazing place, which seeks to support women who make the choice to have their baby. During the pregnancy, women would come to our clinic to watch videos about the birthing process. After pregnancy for 8 months, they would continue to come to learn more about child rearing. As a care counselor, I listened, prayed with our clients, formed relationships with them, and just loved them. Clients earned “mommy bucks” for coming, towards which they could use to purchase diapers and other child-related items that were donated to the cute store on site. Each and every week, we were all witnesses to the transformation of these women through the love of Christ.

There was one client who I was blessed to befriend. She was not married and definitely did not expect her pregnancy. She made the hard decision to keep the baby, separated from a huge group of unhealthy people, and began the process of making her life condusive and healthy to raising a child. After she graduated from our program, we continued to stay in touch. I would receive regular texts from her with questions about her then 1 year old. Sometimes she asked my advice about financial matters. Sometimes she had questions about God. Without question, God used this child to grow this woman up: To clean up her life, help her make better choices, buy a house, and begin down a road of faith. Her parents deceased, she regularly tells me that I am the one person she can count on in this life. It is an honor. She really doesn’t have anyone else pouring into her life except me. I feel like this is what I am called to do as a Christian: Not to lecture and not to shame but to support, love, and encourage.

My church is a financial sponsor of this pregnancy center, and some people choose to volunteer there. But their program often reaches capacity, and the timing on the classes doesn’t always fit people’s schedules. In this post-Roe world, I can imagine that these types of clinics are going to be busier than every. So instead of moping in my post-Roe funk, I have taken some positive steps within my own church to have a conversation about reaching out to women in crisis the way Jesus would. What if my church was where women with unplanned pregnancies came first? What if we could pair women with a mentor for support and to walk along-side them? Could we help women in crisis to find community that would truly transform their lives? Are we qualified or trained? Heavens no. Have we raised our own kids and have a heart for others? Absolutely. And are we willing to shower women with the same grace that we have received in our own lives? The possibilities are limitless.

To me, this is the correct definition of pro-life: Valuing the life of a fetus as we walk along-side and love the new mother and child. Are there other systemic issues that need to be addressed. Absolutely. The list is long from paid maternity leave, affordable child-care, and quality and available childcare. None of these should be political issues, and I call upon Congress as well as the General Assembly to tackle each and every one if them in single-issue bills without other amendments attached. I would venture to say that any politician that opposes abortion but is not willing to make the systemic changes is a hypocrite and does not deserve to have a voice on this issue.

I know that there are many other thorny issues related to abortion such as the life of the mother, rape, and incest. Legislators who have made policy without accurate medical information or considered the social/emotional/financial concerns of new mothers have not made good laws: They have simply imposed their views on others without taking care of women and children the way Christ would have. Furthermore, the dogmatic approach that does not address these issues is generating anger and resentment towards the church and Christians.

In closing, my heart is a little less heavy now that I know what I can do to help. I know that I am called to serve and to love. It is a good place to be. The storm is undoubtedly going to continue to rage around this issue. I am going to do what God has shown me to do, and I would be honored if you would create a movement where you live to support women and children in Arkansas. Arkansans, we are likely to have a bunch more babies in the coming year! Who will be Jesus in the flesh and walk alongside these neighbors. The answer is not someone else’s mirror: It is in your own.

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Listen: Braver Angels https://arstrong.org/listen-braver-angels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=listen-braver-angels Wed, 17 Aug 2022 18:08:06 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2239 Braver Angels Arkansas describes itself as “a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side’s point of...

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Braver Angels Arkansas describes itself as “a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.”

They invited our director, Gwen Ford Faulkenberry, to sit down and have a conversation about the work we do at Arkansas Strong. In these two podcasts, Gwen answers questions about her experiences as a teacher and writer in rural Arkansas, and how the heartbreak of her doomed political campaign led her to find her voice at Arkansas Strong and as a newspaper columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

On the Other Hand, Episode 9:

On the Other Hand co-hosts Glen White and April Chatham-Carpenter interview Gwen Faulkenberry, a teacher and author who has a blend of political views but ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the state legislature in her rural district.  Learn how her faith and family inform her political views and her community activities, as well as some disturbing responses she got when she chose to run as a Democrat. This is part 1 of our interview with Gwen.


On the Other Hand, Episode 10:

On the Other Hand co-hosts Glen White and April Chatham-Carpenter interview Gwen Faulkenberry, a teacher and author who has a blend of political views but ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the state legislature in her rural district.  Learn more about Gwen’s political views and her involvement with a new organization, Arkansas Strong. This is part 2 of our interview with Gwen.

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In Search of a Narrative https://arstrong.org/in-search-of-a-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-search-of-a-narrative Fri, 08 Jul 2022 15:34:26 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2171 With the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent diminishment of the rights of body and life autonomy for women, I am in search of a narrative. This decision...

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With the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent diminishment of the rights of body and life autonomy for women, I am in search of a narrative. This decision did not happen in a vacuum but in a context full of disturbing events. An unprovoked war in Ukraine. More mass shootings with inadequate responses. Additional revelations of the plot to undermine the integrity of our system of government. In the midst of all these human failings and betrayals, I find myself wondering why this Supreme Court decision feels so distressing. What am I to make of it? How shall I think of it and what should be my response? 

Part of it is certainly personal. As I have written elsewhere, Syd and I decided to end a pregnancy after it was found that our baby had anencephaly. He had and would have no brain. We were offered options and chose the option to induce labor. It was heart-wrenching and right for us. If we were in that situation today, we would have no options other than to wait until the baby was born, and if born able to breathe, wait for him to die. Those who don’t know us and exhibit little to no compassion for us would have made the decision for us. 

I think, too, of a teenage girl I once met as a social worker. She was not able to speak and had limited movement due to significant developmental impairments. It eventually became clear physically that she was the victim of significant sexual abuse. I remember thinking to myself that if I did nothing else in my professional life, being a part of the effort that helped protect her from further abuse would justify my career. She thankfully was not pregnant, but a girl in her situation today in Arkansas who was pregnant because of sexual abuse and assault would have to go through pregnancy and have a baby. Where is the justice and mercy for such a girl in that?

But it’s more than personal experience that fuels my distress, although that would be enough. I think it’s also connected to how I think about the world. The assumptions I make, conscious or not, and the beliefs I have about people that are challenged. 

I didn’t expect that we would so consciously and aggressively go backwards.

Here’s one assumption: I was born in 1962, and in my lifetime there has been uneven but persistent progress in equality and justice in areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Historically, the pace and quality of progress has been breathtaking. It has not been simple or easy, and we are far from a place to rest and be satisfied, but it has been significant, life-affirming, and life-saving. It has also contributed to a backlash as hard-earned rights and benefits are now being taken away. This abortion decision is the most recent and perhaps audacious example but it fits in spirit with recent efforts to take away medical care from trans youth. Purposely causing harm and human suffering in service to another value or principle which undermines the full humanity of those harmed. Separating immigrant children from their parents is another recent example. 

To be honest, I expected and expect resistance to progress in areas of social justice. However, the amount of dismay I am experiencing lets me know that deep inside I didn’t expect that we would so consciously and aggressively go backwards. I don’t want to live in a place of cynicism and expect nothing but the worst from others, but the assumption of progress that my lifetime had led me to expect is changing, must change. How much remains to be seen as I search for a reformed narrative. 

I realize, at least to some degree, that a factor in my distress is my privilege. I have not lived in the world as a victim of trauma or violence. And I am a middle-age, white, straight, Christian man and not part of a historically marginalized or mistreated group in this country. I have benefitted from the benefit of the doubt from others more often than not. This has certainly impacted how I make sense of the world. My life experience has suggested that it was reasonable to expect better from people and the government than this. For so many others, that is not the lesson in their life experiences. 

I have tried to live giving others the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions—trying to assume good intention until proven otherwise. This has been a helpful stance most of the time. In my experience, most people most of the time are trying to figure out the “right” thing to do, to do “good.” How we define “right” and “good” is very subjective, of course, and often self-serving, and no one I know is above self-interest bias in this area. 

In a world where elected and appointed leaders appear increasingly more blatantly interested in power and control, willing to rationalize immoral behavior and devise rationales to safe-guard self-righteousness on a grand scale despite the human costs, how much of this “assumption of good intentions” approach can I maintain? It need not be an all-or-nothing, either/or approach. The Good Book says to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I’m feeling the need for some re-calibrating, but like most people with their assumptions and beliefs, I would rather not. 

Even if I believe in someone’s good intentions, what happens when their judgment is not good? What does it mean to lose faith in the good intentions of leaders, institutions, and courts—all fallible human endeavors? And what does it mean to grant that someone or some group may honestly want and seek “the good” but that “good” is a human disaster for others? And little to no compassion is expressed or demonstrated for those harmed?  Extreme but contemporary example: the Taliban’s treatment of women and those who disagree in Afghanistan. What does it mean and matter if they are sincere in their beliefs that they are doing the right thing when what is done causes so much harm? 


Growing up, I was taught that the United States was the best country in the world with more freedoms than any other. We were founded on ideals of liberty and equality and defended ourselves throughout history as freedom isn’t free. The country and religious tradition in which I was born and grew up were not in need of major reforms. Perhaps some tinkering around the edges. The big concern was that others did not agree with us and needed to be converted to our way of thinking and living. Individually we were flawed but that was because we didn’t live up to the requirements of our faith and country.  

What it means to be a good American and a good person of faith continues to evolve. 

My adult experience has been a continual adjustment to those worldviews. American history is much more complex and morally complicated as is my religious faith tradition. Both my country and my faith tradition have caused great harm to others with acts of self-serving rationalizations and self-righteousness. Both have also served the greater good and the greater community. There are strengths on which to build and areas of needed repentance. What it means to be a good American and a good person of faith continues to evolve. 

Which brings me back to the present, to today. For most of my life there has been an increased grappling with how we as a people—American people and people of faith—have fallen short and what is needed to make things better if not make things right. But today feels different. It feels like those who have resisted past reforms are saying, “Enough! We know better and we will use all the levers at our disposal to ensure that our version of morality—which serves the historic status quo and hierarchy of whose votes count most, which is mostly us—prevails. We will make the rules that all must follow even if we are in the minority. We will exploit the natural unfairness in our political system and change the rules, if needed, for our benefit. We will tell ourselves that we are saving our culture and country, and because the stakes are so high, we will be justified in whatever means are necessary to achieve those ends.”

Is this a proper and fair reading of the situation? Would those with whom I disagree feel justified in using the same or similar language to criticize my stances? And if so, what does or should that mean?

Seven years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and “my side” rejoiced. It was amazing and inspiring. With this decision, what else might be possible for the cause of justice? Nevertheless, for others this was a moral disaster and a harbinger that the country was on a downward spiral.  

Today the script is flipped. For those agreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, there is reason to rejoice. It is amazing and inspiring. With this decision, what else might be possible for the cause of justice? Nevertheless, for others (on my side), this is a moral disaster and a harbinger that the country is on a downward spiral. 

The similarities in responses suggest we share a common humanity and not that the decisions were morally equivalent. Humans from different perspectives seek purpose to give their lives meaning and direction. Opposing sides want to “take back our country” but what this language means for each side is very different. 

So, in a search for a new narrative and amidst all the grief and questioning, here is what I believe today, open to be revised tomorrow:

  • The present situation is heartbreaking, distressing, and enraging. These emotions come from feelings of loss, disorientation, and fear of losing more. All are real and appropriate to the situation.
  • Some assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives will need to change. But not all. Time is needed to sort through in a thoughtful way. 
  • The story is not over, even when it feels that way. The story can change and will change. I and we can be part of that change. 
  • Change often, usually, takes a long time. “Tipping point” changes are the culmination of a long process. 
  • This sucks.
  • People can be enormously creative and persistent when they have meaning and purpose. The vision of a more compassionate and just world provides more than adequate meaning and purpose.
  • We are called to be faithful, not victorious. We have reaped the harvest of the faithfulness of those who have come before, and we can plant seeds for generations to come. 
  • No one gets to choose how and what I think, what I value, and how I find meaning and purpose. And this is true for you, too.
  • Those of us who feel dismayed are not alone. In many ways, we are the majority. We are not without assets and support. 
  • “Grace bats last.” Thank you, Anne Lamott.  

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Threshold https://arstrong.org/threshold/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=threshold Fri, 01 Jul 2022 16:57:31 +0000 https://arstrong.org/?p=2158 Chester has been with us for over three years now, and he’s made amazing progress. The thing is, so have I. But lately, I’ve found myself being pushed over my...

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Chester has been with us for over three years now, and he’s made amazing progress. The thing is, so have I. But lately, I’ve found myself being pushed over my threshold.

I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I do live with dogs. And I put that in italics because I truly mean it. The dogs I live with are not just accessories; most of my day and night are arranged to ensure they are cared for and have what they need. As a former farm kid, the lesson that animals come first because they can’t do for themselves sticks with me. The dogs, in return, care for me, booping me when I’ve been at my desk too long, making sure I get out every day and move around, and making me laugh when I take myself too seriously.

It’s a symbiotic relationship. 

When Chester came to live with us, he was very anxious. He wouldn’t stop circling the house, moving from room to room, in constant motion like a shark. I followed him around until I finally managed to put my hands on his back, and he leaned into me, realizing I only wanted to pet him. These days, I can’t sit down without him there, either snuggling up under my arm on the couch or creating canine origami in my armchair. While it can be a bit much, the level of satisfaction I get from his trust in me more than makes up for any irritation.

Chester’s coping mechanism is to carry a toy in his mouth, pretty much any time he’s anxious. To strangers, his toy habit is precious and they think he’s just showing them his baby. But I know that he’s got a toy in his mouth because it keeps him from putting his mouth on whatever is causing the anxiety. He does love his babies, though, and he’s always excited when they take a trip through the washer and dryer. He waits for me to open a dryer full of them so he can  have a baby party in the hallway. 

Thresholds are part of our culture’s marriage nostalgia. The image of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their home or church still pops up over and over in movies, for instance, even though few people are aware of the superstition that his doing so prevents “the chance of her stumbling, which would anger a group of ancient household gods.”

Chester does have a threshold — we all do. The threshold I’m talking about is that point where no matter what coping mechanism he uses or how he communicates his anxiety if I don’t listen, he loses it. Once I paid attention and recognized the signs that he was near crossing that threshold, Chester hasn’t lost his marbles. We’ve built trust, Chester and I, and we listen to each other.

I have my own threshold, as well. And, while I have developed some pretty good coping mechanisms, that doesn’t mean I am never near my threshold when it comes to anxiety. I’m just (most days) a pretty high-functioning person with anxiety. Lately, though, due to a number of factors, I find myself teetering on my threshold.

My family is going through a large transition right now, in part because my wife’s employer finally nudged her just enough that it put her over her threshold. That story isn’t mine to tell, but I will say that while our decision to move back to the central part of the state and leave her full-time position as a hospital physician was made quickly, it wasn’t. We’ve been talking about the need for something to change for well over a year now, and it just took a small, seemingly insignificant thing to tip us over the line.  

I’m just (most days) a pretty high-functioning person with anxiety. Lately, though, due to a number of factors, I find myself teetering on my threshold.

We’ve been through big shifts before — medical school and residency, for instance. When we moved back to Arkansas, we decided it was time for me to stop traveling so much for work and to shift my attention to writing, which was always the plan. As someone who always took pride in being able to take care of herself, and who always worked, sometimes with a side-hustle, my retirement from higher education was not a smooth transition. I struggled with identity issues — for so long, my work in higher education was the largest part of my identity. Five years later, I am finally comfortable answering the question “what do you do?” without hesitating or first explaining that “I used to be. . .” Now, the answer comes out: I’m a freelance writer and editor. But still, in this transition we’re making, I find myself flailing again in new and awful ways. 

We made the decision that we are not going to buy another house in our transition back to central Arkansas. While the current market situation is one reason, as is our decision for Doc to take some time off to focus on her board certification which means we are budgeting in new ways, the main reason is we don’t know where we’ll wind up. We made the decision to rent, something we never thought we would do again. It didn’t take long for me to hit my threshold. 

I get that we are not the typical renters. We’ve owned two houses together, and Doc has not rented since 1996. I’ve not rented since 2004. We’re in our 50s. We have no kids. We’re financially stable. But, just getting in the application pool was a nightmare. Even though we’re married, we were told repeatedly that both of us had to fill out applications that included a background check and credit check. That’s not a problem, but what is a problem for me — freelance writer, remember — is that they require all applicants to make at least 3.5 times the rent per month in order to even be considered. It doesn’t matter that one spouse makes more than 10 times that amount after taxes and other things are deducted — if the freelance writer only makes X dollars in steady assignments and Y (which varies as it’s royalties on novels that run six weeks behind), that’s a problem.

As long as the families we’re talking about fit their narrow definition of family — they don’t want to protect my family.

We literally had a realtor contact us that she needed my “check stubs” for my work, despite having Doc’s for the last quarter. Without our full tax returns, basically, they wouldn’t actually process either of our applications. We withdrew them and got our $100 back. But, the “we need Angelic’s pay stubs” took me over the threshold into a meltdown. 

Thresholds are part of our culture’s marriage nostalgia. The image of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their home or church still pops up over and over in movies, for instance, even though few people are aware of the superstition that his doing so prevents “the chance of her stumbling, which would anger a group of ancient household gods.”

My domestic work seems to calm those ancient household gods pretty well. When your spouse works 80+ hours a week and could be called out at any time to go deal with work, you get to do all of the household management. In addition to writing and my own research projects, I literally pay the bills, buy the groceries, plan and cook the meals, deal with the bug guy, and arrange house maintenance on a 104-year-old house. I’m the one here to meet with the electrician when he comes out to wire something. I’m the one who makes sure the dogs get exercise, who buys the cat his expensive prescription food that keeps him alive. When we had a pool, I was the one who made sure we could actually use it.

In the past, I would have been cast as a housewife. And, honestly, I’m fine with that title. But I’m aware that in the eyes of those who are running for office in my state right now, I’m not a wife at all. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been very clear that she believes states should be able to decide whether to recognize same-sex marriages. Likewise, Leslie Rutledge has repeatedly shown her disdain for marriage equality in the natural state. Both of them say they are all about protecting families and “American values.” 

As long as the families we’re talking about fit their narrow definition of family — they don’t want to protect my family. We’ve been legally married since 2007, but not all states (not even the federal government) recognized our marriage. In 2013, Section 3 of The Defense of Marriage Act fell in the ruling on United States v. Windsor, and in June of 2015 the Obergefell v. Hodges case led to a 5–4 ruling in favor of marriage equality, making our marriage legal in all 50 states. Our rental struggles took me back to the years of having to do fancy footwork when I was married in some states and not in others.

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for decades. They built a life together. Before Spyer’s death, they made the trek to Canada to get married. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was hit with inheritance taxes on Spyer’s estate, which she willed to her spouse. The hitch was DOMA, which kept the federal government from recognizing their marriage, even though New York, their state of residence did recognize it. Like Windsor and Spyer, we married in 2007 in Canada, and when DOMA fell, we became legal under federal law, but not under Arkansas law. 

Like Windsor and Spyer, we’ve built a life together over the last 18 years. The difficulties we’ve encountered in the last few weeks remind me I’m invisible to people like Huckabee-Sanders and Rutledge.  I remember protesting as Mike Huckabee held his Covenant Marriage rally on February 14, 2005, Dani holding a huge heart with “I can’t marry my Valentine” written on it. Dani and I met in Little Rock, protesting efforts to keep us invisible and keep us apart. And now, 18 years later, I can only wonder what Huckabee-Sanders and Rutledge have planned for Arkansas after November. The recently leaked draft opinion by Alito certainly sets the stage for those who want to bring down marriage equality to do so, and lots of us are already worried about rights being rolled back.

For the summer, though, our focus is on moving into our rent house and regrouping. Here’s hoping that the cardboard boxes don’t have to be used for protest signs, but maybe I’ll order some markers just in case. 

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