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FRC & Its Lack of Diversity

FRC welcomes trustees Saxton, McNett and Elliott

Take a look at the photo with this article. Do you know what that is? That’s a 21st century photo taken of a board of trustees from a California community college and its president. California. The most diverse state in the nation.

Notice anything peculiar or odd?

A complete disregard for its ethnically diverse student body?

The socioeconomic diversity of its body? (Retired baby boomer pensions abound in this photo, ya’ll).

The gender inequity? (Especially at a school with way more women than men).

Ladies and gentlemen what we have here is a (what is the plural count noun for this) a tittle of trustees, a board of boys, a jury of geriatrics — the majority of whom have NO background in education relevant to the 21st century.

Plumas County voters love to shoot themselves in the foot–that’s kinda what we do here. This time around two out of three of these ran unopposed—-including a man named Trent Saxton–whose made himself known in the county as a homophobic misogynist racist via his frequent missives to the newspapers Letters to the Editor. His belief system clearly is at odds with the California Community College mandate, yet there he sits.

The third man, Guy McNett, I ran against and lost 3 to 1 (much like all other progressive things in the county–Trump’s guy LaMalfa won over the brilliant Audrey Denny by the same margin so I’m in great loser company).

He’s not Betsy DeVos evil or anything, but he knows about the same about community college as she does. During debates with him he’d lose his place and train of thought; he was unable to answer straight forward questions most people with even a hint of college educational background could answer. But hey, he shows up to all the football games. I should note that he was originally appointed to this board—over another woman with a solid background in educational administration.

This is what happens in rural communities sometimes. You don’t get the best and the brightest: you get the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. And they mean oh so well and they really do like that free lunch once a month. You get the ones who like parade floats and football games making huge decisions about education.

Enrollment on campus is down 28%. There are very little classes to chose from and no one wants to work there any more. On top of that , Mike Eisner is running the college Disney style.

Why do I care? I totally shouldn’t care. I’m glad not to work there. Glad to be supported in the work I do now in the places I work now.

But the college is in our backyard. We taxpayers–I think–should have a right to ask for accountability and diversity that reflects our community and the college’s student body. I have two teens who are going to follow the trend of other kids bound for community college in our area: go someplace else online or even make an hour + trek to other community colleges to feel welcomed, to find needed classes at times that work for lower socioeconomic students both in high school and adults.

See that’s what they’re missing here. It’s fine and dandy to recruit sports players and horse enthusiasts around the country to come to a town in the middle of nowhere and to schedule classes around them and tailored to their interests. But what about students from here? What do they get?

They get that photo above. They get people not in tune with the needs of today’s community college students from an entirely different social class. Not unlike my last post on not getting hurt again by trying to save people who don’t want to be saved. I think I’m going to make a new year’s resolution not to try to save institutions that don’t want to be saved either.

But so many of you emailed me with the link to this photo…thank you for calling it to my attention.

Eventually the California Community College Chancellor’s office might get interested into why former employees sue this institution so frequently. Or they might wonder how in California there is hardly any diversity among the faculty–given that most of the faculty come from somewhere else so it’s not because they are pulling from the county’s homogeneity.

They are not, in their present policies, following their own mission nor are they sustainable.

Good riddance, Feather River College and your continued elitist, white supremacy and your continued march towards mediocrity.

Categories
mental health

Ashes and Sage

I’ve not really written about the big story that looms still over my head. It seems almost too much of a story—so many wrong turns, so many places that dead ended into hopelessness and incredulity. I’m not even sure if there’s a place to start. So much is what happens when there’s a person in your life that needs help and refuses to be helped.

My fiancé and I have bonded as two people who tried in every way we could think to help two women and each attempt to help did not help, exasperated the situation, or flat out didn’t work.

It seems so easy. You want to solve something that looks on the outset like it has an easy answer. Just get them employed. Just get them social services. A therapist. A class to take. A support group. Drug treatment. Detox. Friends. Something that isn’t us. Something that doesn’t require it be us. Something that makes them not our responsibility. Something that makes them functional adults.

As an artist I’m often baffled at the road map that lies before others that they refuse to take. How I long for a road map. If you do A, then B will happen. Artists work in the hopes that there might be a pay off somewhere but they also feel compelled to be artistic. It’s a way of life and a lifestyle that I would not have chosen given the choice. And now I just have learned to create regardless. Create in ashes. Sage the burned out places of life, make them safe enough if not entirely safe and move forward.

There’s resignation and regret—you wanted one life for them, but you’re stuck with another.  I guess that’s the way it has to be. But what if there could be change? We like to think people can and will get better. If only this one element were fixed things could be okay. That’s certainly the way I see my sister who suffers from mental illness (among other issues); and that’s the way my fiancé sees his ex-girlfriend—a woman whose emotional growth stunted by childhood traumas. Both have had psychotic breaks with reality. Both estranged themselves from friends and family until there were very few of us left holding on to memory and hope.

My sister is now estranged from me. Living sometimes in another county with a man none of us know. Living sometimes in jail when things get too much and she has an outburst of violence after a binge of drinking. My sister spent last Christmas in jail for violating a restraining order against someone who’d witnessed her rage. She is not the person she was 10 years ago. I have mourned her even as she is still living. She discovered opiates nearly 10 years ago but there was always something even before that. There will be, I know, always a hole in my heart, every birthday, every Christmas—knowing I gave up, knowing I couldn’t save her from her. It’s my own arrogance. She didn’t want to be saved.

Last time I saw her she called me a ‘normie’. As in ‘you normies wouldn’t understand.’  That’s addiction talking I said to myself. But when there’s nothing left of the old personality then what have we left?

The last time we spoke things spiraled into circles. Heavy circles. Accusations. Memories that seemed insignificant to me that she carried with her for decades.  Places to set blame on the shelves of her mind. I wouldn’t “be this way if it wasn’t for you sort of thing.”

My fiancé had much of the same. Maybe this treatment. Maybe this therapist. If she’d only get off all the prescription meds. If she’d only go outside. If she’d only make friends. She finally tried to kill herself in his bathtub. 5150’d to a mental hospital. Lied. Got out. Broke into his house—the house of the last person on the planet who would treat her with any kindness—and tried to burn down his house the day after Christmas last year. She was arrested. Jailed for six months and as she’d never been in trouble with the law and is great at playing the victim, was released into homelessness in Santa Ana where she now lives in a converted bus terminal with a few restraining orders over her head.

None of this had to go down this way but you can’t make someone do what’s best for them.

I miss my sister. The way she was 10 years ago. The way I mourn her like she’s dead but she’s living in a changeling body somewhere in the foothills of these mountains. The arsonist was supposed to be in a half way house that took care of mentally ill patients but refused to go.  But the demands of both women were too high for either of us to live with. If I’d been younger and childless, I’d have made my life miserable and moved my sister in with me and watched my life burn away like my fiancé did.

It’s an accident on the roadside that I cannot look away from. Both of us have those solution problem solving personalities that want to fix things but in these cases we did not know how. We have had to admit our faults. Our powerlessness. Our stupidity at not knowing how to handle those who inhabit many spaces in their minds. We see a glimmer of hope and negate in our own minds the person before us who wishes to cause us harm. And so the closer we got the more we got singed. How do you hold someone who is aflame without going up yourself?

Ashes

Last week we were in his house demolishing what’s left so it can be rebuilt. Months ago we went through it and began dumping the burned debris and molded items from the fire suppression waters. Hardly anything could be saved. She went after photographs of his daughter, anything that he cherished, and in the midst of it set her own things afire. He lost things only of value to him: the few possession of his late father and dear family friends.

In the end there were a couple of boxes of photographs of her own kids that she was estranged from. She never arranged pick up of them. On social media she exclaimed to hate them. We have nowhere to send them. They sit in a corner reminding us of what happens when someone goes a lifetime without treatment. I want them gone. I want to move on.

I found remnants of spells cast on him. Black magic spells attempting to bind him to her. My stomach would turn as I’d read the spell words and feel the ash of the fire the melted candles, the mishaped accoutrements of spell casting.

I too want to assign blame. To the mental health doctors who kicked her out of the hospital because she’d eaten through insurance. To the social worker who didn’t make sure she went to the half way house instead of squatting in his house. To the cops who let her squat because she’d once lived there and needed to be legally evicted.  To the court who let her out when they had the opportunity to treat her. To every friend of hers who silently crept away rather than confront her. And for my sister I wanted to blame every man who ever took advantage of her trusting nature. Her ex-husbands who separated her from us. Friends that didn’t look after her. Myself.

Sage

Thankfully I sat down one day with a former friend of my sister’s who said. “She was a grown ass woman capable of making her own decisions. This is what she chose to do.” That coffee that day in San Francisco with that friend is what saves me from despair.

I bought my man sage. We scrubbed through the debris and broken spells with token salt water. I am probably the most understanding I have ever been in my life now, with this man, who knew so little of that before. I have made it my quest—to keep him safe from at least this kind of harm.

And now the house is stripped to the posts and studs and with any luck by next summer he’ll have a new house—a bright place where family can thrive and friends can laugh. 

May all those in need of help find the road to that help. We are at crossroads. What will it take California, America, for all those needing treatment to get treatment again? How many bystanders go up in flames before it happens?

But out of these particular ashes, from this sage scrubbing, my man and I—we will start our lives together, phoenix rising. Sisterless. Crazy ex-girlfriend free.

Holding each other tightly—focused on our children, our families and our passions that keep us alive—no longer hoping against all odds for miracles among the embers. Creating out of ashes and sage a new beginning without them.

Blue skies after the storm.
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St. Nicholas Day Thoughts (not about st. nicholas but of parenting and such).

It’s the morning of our first real snow in Plumas County—though by midday it will be melting as it does in our new climate reality. Nothing holds forever. Nothing sticks.

I am sitting in my former living room with my son who will go to work in a few hours and our remaining family cat, Ivy (Mars disappeared in May of this year). My ex-husband still lives here as does my daughter. My decorating eye slightly challenged at the bacheloresque decor and my daughter’s look of all this is temporary I will leave you people soon vibe.

Last year it was the end of the world not to remain together. This year we live the reality of so many Americans. There is strength in numbers.

There’s a calm about this. It isn’t impending anymore. It just is. I have to remember that just like separate checking accounts, my life is separate and only slightly tethered now by children. I’ve just fed the kids some favorite dishes. She’s off to shower. My son turns on the giant netflix screen. I make a makeshift cozy sleeping area out of a love seat and ottoman. We are still influx. I’m not all together sure which Christmas decorations wound up at which house. We had to throw out some boxes last year. A family of mice had taken up residence in them.

We’re watching season 2 of Luke Cage and he’s more than peeved that there is no season 3 as it’s a Netflix cancel. He makes a comment. We have a similar sense of humor that would get either of us on a watch list if taken seriously. We don’t take it seriously.

They remarks these days the way teenagers are apt to do. Question their surroundings, their upbringing, take everything for granted, and complain about how bad their cushy American lives are. They are not silver spooners however–and feel the American class system acutely as it hits them once in awhile.

I try to let it pass by me without comment. For this I’m scolded for being lenient. To me I am surviving. Picking my battles, The mother of teenagers job is to see people through to 18 alive and relatively unharmed. And everyone’s grades are high enough and extra curriculars interesting enough to get them into something somewhere when they graduate. I want them to explore the world but not so much that they wind up in rehab pre-college. I keep a watchful eye on those that would help dim their lights. And that they are relatively good people who can stand up for themselves and others.

It is with–of course–mixed success and many abject failures that one mothers teens correctly–whatever that is. Weird stuff sets me off. When they have unmeaningful conversations in horrific slang –when the social justice I’ve taught them is coming only half way through–when they piss off their grandmother who has not kept up on the psychology of  what one says and doesn’t say to teenagers.

Lots of forgiveness is needed in raising teens–as well as the willingness to call them out. There are however, many gifts that even as belligerent teens they’ve given to me and made me proud and quite possibly as if I’ve done a good job. They are often lazy and non compliant. But they seem to always rise to the occasions when I need them.

Like last night with my migraine. Like sticking up for kids of color when they are bullied at school.  Standing with LGBTQ kids and being out spoken about it. That makes me feel good. They are good with most of their elders too.

St. Nicholas Day. Tonight they will find oranges and something chocolate. We will start Sunday’s tamale prep tonight too. Our lives are changing.if we parents can let go of control we never had to begin with long enough we’ll know that this is okay. This is how its done.

They are almost 14 and almost 16. There is very little we can hide from them now. They know our secret. That we are human and that we aren’t just here to sacrifice ourselves for them. That we need love and strength and support as well.