Thursday, August 31, 2006

Co-opting rap

Rob and I just got back dinner and Circuit City with a friend (the modern date) where I picked up the Gnarles Barkley cd I've been wanting since I first caught Crazy on XM. Cee-Lo's husky voice is unmistakable - rap fans would know him from Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family, a collaboration with the cross-over sensation Outkast. Gnarles Barkley is a collaboration with Danger Mouse, who gained fame for his copyright-infringing mesh, The Grey Album, in which he mixed together the Beatles white album and Jay-Cee's black album - genius in the oddest way.

Anyway, I'm giving our friend all this background while waiting in line at the checkout. In front of us are another customer and the check-out clerk, both of whom are black. I only mention this because of the discomfort I felt as the least hip of white women, talking about rap in the ear shot of presumable more savvy black people. (That could be a stereotype too - who knows.)

The thing is that white people are often accused of co-opting black culture, ever since Elvis made his millions off what was previously a black art: rock n' roll. Within the accusation is that we are taking the art without understanding the culture - which in a way is totally true.

As a person with white skin, I haven't faced the kinds of discrimination people of color routinely deal with. Moreover, I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood which was very comfortably middle class. I've been crazy poor but never without the safety net of parents who were willing to pay bills I couldn't meet. So, no, I don't understand the plight of urban blacks, of which rap was born.

On the other hand, I also don't know what it was like to be an alcoholic genius in the 18th century but that doesn't keep me from enjoying Mozart.

So is it co-opting or is it appreciating?

An invite to Miller and Robinson

After a random comment in my last Miller post about the exciting (and thus far unfounded) possibility of a Bush impeachment hearing next year, Rosh101 posted this excellent question:

Do you know if Miller would support inpeachment?

Which got me thinking: why not invite the candidates to answer reader questions? So I sent this email:

To Mr. Robinson and Mr. Miller:

As you both surely know, blogs have gone from fringe entertainment to a mainstay in all areas from news to industry. Blogs offer a personal and expedient platform for political candidates to communicate their message to increasingly savvy voters.

That said, the readers of my blog are no longer satisfied with the information available through your websites or mainstream media. I invite you to participate in a forum on my blog in which I will collect reader questions, pass them along to you and then post your unabridged, unadulterated answers on my blog.

Mr. Robinson, a quick review of my blog will reveal that I am a supporter of Mr. Miller. However, the majority of my traffic comes from my News & Record column and the Greensboro 101 aggregator, neither of which have a political affiliation, ensuring that a bipartisan readership will be exposed to your answers. Moreover, preaching to the converted does not an election win.

Please respond to my invitation by September 7, a week from today, and I will begin to gather reader questions.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

I'll keep you posted if and when I get responses...

Rain on a tin roof

Over the course of my teens and early twenties, I lived on occasion with a couple out in Stokesdale. Their Frankenstein's monster of a house included a big section that was built pre-Civil War while the rest, including the kitchen, were added on piecemeal over the course of the intervening century. The roof over the bedroom I often inhabited was tin; sometimes I would drive all the way out there in a storm, just to lay in that room and hear the rain drops play the roof...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Supporting Brad Miller

I got an email from Brad Miller's field coordinator, Jason Coley, who said

If your readers are interested in helping out with the campaign, need a bumper sticker, or would like to request a Brad Miller yard sign, they can do so at the following link:
To which I say to you, don't bitch about the current political climate if you're not willing to do anything about it. Whether it's for Miller's campaign or another candidate of integrity, do your part to get our country back on track.

Who knows: maybe with enough activism, Greensboro could spend its bicentennial watching impeachment proceedings...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Miller v. Robinson for Congress

This morning, I took a tour of Brad Miller's website. The immediate turn-ons:

As a member of the North Carolina Senate, Brad introduced legislation to expand North Carolina's domestic violence law; to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks; to freeze new or expanded hog lagoons; to limit the influence of political patronage in state government hiring; and to protect consumers from dishonest automobile mechanics by prohibiting garages from charging for work not authorized by the consumer. As a Judiciary Committee chairman, Brad helped guide into law legislation to address "Driving While Black," or racial profiling.
And, being the sucker for pet lovers that I am, I also liked that he mentioned his "85-pound former stray" dog, Harper.

Surprisingly enough, I found more things I like about Miller on Vernon Robinson's website. If Robinson's issues weren't enough to turn me off to him, his list of supporters certainly did the trick. Among the esteemed names:
  • Elizabeth Dole
  • Jesse Helms
  • Lauch Faircloth
  • Pat Buchanan
  • Jeb Bush
  • the NRA
  • Right-to-Life
As a side note, Robinson was at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market last week, pumping the hands of polite farmers as though he was interested in advocating for their rights...

Only Rummy can manipulate the press

Donald Rumsfield is claiming that terrorists are manipulating US media to build criticism of the war. "They can lie with impunity," he said.

Which begs the question: which school yard taunt is the best response? Takes one to know one? The smeller's the feller? Either way, the terrorists are rubber and he's glue...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Taking responsibility for your kids

Today's Diane Rehm show addressed the recent change of status of Plan B birth control from a prescription medication to over-the-counter availability. Bob Knight who, oddly enough, is the director of Culture and Family Institute for Concerned Women of America, argued that this was a detrimental development because it will encourage promiscuity - the same argument that comes up for free condoms, sex ed, the vaccine for HPV and more. Of course the research he's seen supports his view while alternate research supports the opposite - such is research: fallible because the humans conducting the research are also fallible.

What really bothers me about this argument is the underlying theme - the same underlying theme that comes up every time music or video games are blamed for kids' behavior - which is that these people seem to be expecting legislation to take the place of parenting.

My usual disclaimer: I don't have children. That said, isn't knowledge power? What would happen if we taught kids to respect their bodies, the pros and cons of sex including the potential for venereal diseases and the chance for pregnancy, and gave them real data - not trumped up scare tactics but the honest truth? Teens are young and inexperienced - not stupid.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sowell's arguments support gays

This column was originally printed in the News & Record on August 23, 2006

In January of last year, I wrote a piece in support of gay marriage. One reader responded by sending me a photocopy of another News & Record column, Straight Talk on Gay Marriage by Thomas Sowell, which presented the contrary view to mine.

This past Thursday, Sowell was at it again. (Gay marriage laws don’t discriminate, August 17, 2006) While I found the arguments in Sowell’s original article to be weak and narrow, these were surprisingly more convincing, though perhaps not quite in the way Sowell has hoped. In fact, were I to have ignored the headline and skimmed the article, I could have easily assumed Sowell was in support of gay marriage.

Sowell begins his argument by pointing out that “’the equal protection of the laws’ provided by the Constitution of the United States applies to people, not actions.”

Exactly! To use his examples, while action-based discrimination, such as allowing bikes but not cars on the highway, is acceptable, people-based discrimination, like disallowing couples to marry due to inborn traits, like skin color, is not.

Sowell goes on to say that “In the absence of the institution of marriage, the individuals could arrange their relationship whatever way they wanted to, making it temporary or permanent, and sharing their worldly belongings in whatever way they choose.”

Exactly! Just as not all heterosexual relationships are healthy (as evidenced by our 50% divorce rate), not all homosexual relationships will stand the test of time. Straight people, however, have the safety net of the legal system to ensure that belongings and monies are divided fairly. Meanwhile, there is no legal recourse for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in the same situation.

Moreover, more and more GLBT couples are choosing to have children, negating Sowell’s argument that marriage is irrelevant to the GLBT community due to the lack of “inherent tendency to produce children.” Because same-sex people cannot share legal guardianship of children (as they could if gay marriage were legalized), the single legal guardian is at liberty to keep the children from the other parent should the relationship sour. Again, there is no legal recourse for the parent without guardianship, making our collective prejudices the dam stopping what are likely healthy parent/child relationships.

Of course, Sowell is arguing against the legalization of gay marriage and the remainder of his column reads accordingly, including the bogus yet perpetuated assumption that all people are naturally heterosexual and some choose to participate in homosexual relationships. This is the faulty premise upon which all homophobic arguments are based.

Homosexuality has been shown to exist all over the animal kingdom, most recently publicized in the long-term relationship between two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo. Moreover, a spate of recent studies strongly support a biological basis for homosexuality. According to the American Psychological Association website, “The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”

Though I could go on for pages about gay marriage, I’ll end with a fact and a thought.

Fact: Research presented in the book, Gay Marriage for Better or For Worse: What We've Learned from the Evidence shows that contrary to popular expectation, after gay unions were legalized in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, each country saw a significant increase in straight marriage and decrease in divorce.

Thought: Healthy, happy citizens make for healthy, happy nations. Isn’t that what we all want?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An afternoon on Elm St

As part of our Life Celebration Day festivities, Rob and I took a stroll down South Elm Street, long one of my favorite parts of Greensboro. As a teen, I would stroll downtown, clicking pictures for my high school photography class. I once took a picture of Jerry at Fordhams - he hung it on the mirror and gave me free root beer floats until the place closed. I'm always hopeful that I'll walk by someday and it will have magically re-opened with Jerry behind the counter.

No such luck today but I did have a float almost as good as Jerry's at Fincastles. We've been curious about Fincastles but are rarely looking for a burger. This was worthy of the splurge: great burger, slap-your-mama onion rings and an atmosphere that suggests it's the place to hang for Greensboro's insider info.

A peek into the lobby of Triad Stage showed an envelope stuffing campaign that makes us hopeful we'll be receiving our season tickets any day. This is our third year of preview night season tickets - the best deal around. For the price of a movie ticket, you get live drama - really, really great live drama. Next season starts the first week in December with The Diary of Anne Frank, coordinated with One City, One Book. It'll be interesting to see how they handle Anne's story - the traditional sterilized version or the real girl.

Last, but far from least, we stopped into a new boutique in the newly remodeled space on the corner of Elm and McGee (across from the Burrough's entrance) called Just Be. Handcrafted jewelry, bags, etc, conscientiously purchased by a charming owner whose 4-year-old daughter sells her drawings in the store to benefit animal charities. We got a felt-decorated onsie for Rob's niece who is due next month, and, naturally, a piece of art hand crafted by an empowered child.

It's a good day to be alive - and we're just getting to my favorite part: cooking with Rob. It's a special treat to share my favorite hobby with my favorite person...

Life Celebration Day

Oddly, Rob and I each had near-death experiences 10 years ago: my attack in August and his heart attack in December. We wouldn't meet for three more years; we wouldn't start dating for three more years after meeting.

Up until a couple of years ago, we would spend our respective anniversaries moping around, pretending that it didn't bother us and that we didn't want to talk about it. After getting married and surveying this amazing life we've built together, we decided we were foolish for not celebrating having survived.

I've often thought that part of why we work so well together is that we have both had that moment where we thought we were moments away from dying. I have found over the years that often, when I'm strongly drawn to someone, it turns out they too have had a near-death experience. It changes us though after 10 years I still can't place my finger on quite how.

Anyway, today is for celebrating the 10 bonus years that could have easily never happened. Rob took the day off work so we can hang and cook and just enjoy being alive.

I hope you'll take a little time to enjoy being alive today. Life is so precious and delicate.

Happy Life Celebration Day!

Monday, August 21, 2006

A hearty "thank you" to whoever can identify:

Rob took this picture in our backyard, initially thinking it was a hummingbird. Not so?

Where's the NRA now?

This goes back to what I was saying in a previous post about people needing to understand the implications of gun ownership: a 14-year-old Lexington boy died when he and his friend we playing with a shotgun. This child's death would not have happened had there not been a gun in the house or if the gun had been properly secured.

Now both families will have to live with the ripples of this unnecessary death for the rest of their lives: the family of the dead child as well as the family whose gun they were playing with and the poor friend who will always have to live with being in such close proximity the gruesome death of his friend.

Think the NRA is sending reps to comfort these families? I doubt it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Nice in theory

I rather suspect, though, that Arabs, like Israelis, believe they are doing what's best for their children.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Unexpected Forgiveness

Around August every year, I am struck by a loss I hope to never regain, the boyfriend who ended my childhood ten years ago. I mean that in no sort of sexual way. He entered my body, true, but with a steak knife, in spots that have since become small, soft mounds of scar tissue on my back.

Each year, I have an impulse to call him and say, “Remember when?” the way one would normally recall a romantic evening or trip to the beach.

Remember when I promised to marry you in exchange for dropping the knife?

Remember when our eyes met, while you sat handcuffed in the police car and I paced nervously in the driveway, wearing my perforated shirt?

Remember when you called me from prison, hoping to rekindle a friendship?

These things are lost in the telling to others.

For more than eight years, the anger gnawed at me, every time I locked the bathroom door to shower, every time a big screen stabbing made me flinch, every time I couldn’t resist the urge to check every unlikely hiding spot in my house.

In the eighth year, I started writing for the daily paper in the town we still share. I had just gotten married, finally gaining the invisibility that comes of a new last name, when the paper asked for my picture to publish with my editorials.

It was an unnecessary risk, yet I agreed. Hiding had become exhausting.

I awaited his response and rushed to get it when it arrived; a personal letter at the paper’s office. Nervously, I ripped the envelope open in my car… it wasn’t from him. Fear was no long necessary.

Without fear, the anger dissipated, like house lights turning on at the end of a horror movie. I hadn’t known if I would ever be able to forgive him, but it happened almost effortlessly.

The least expected part of forgiveness is the sympathy I’ve regained, for the boy who was abused then disowned by two sets of parents, biological and adoptive, respectively. And for the pain he must have felt when the pedestal upon which he perched me crumbled. And for the four years in prison and the beatings I was told he received there.

Still, sympathy is no eraser and though I sometimes feel his absence like a hole in my gut, it is a hole I hope to never fill.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

9/11 911

As I mentioned briefly in my most recent News and Record column, one of the remaining souvenirs (if you can call it that) of the day I was attacked is the 911 tape. It was given to me by the DA (as per my request) along with the crime scene photos when my ex plea bargained, thus ending the need for trial evidence.

I've thought a lot about that tape today as I've read the news that New York released 911 tapes from September 11th. Apparently the families of the victims demanded their release. I understand their need - there's this weird hoarding mentality that sometimes comes about in the face of tragedy - it's why I asked for the evidence from my attack and why people keep obituaries and funeral hand-outs. I think for me, and probably for the 9/11 families, part of the hoarding comes from needing something solid to prove what happened really happened. It's strange to think that the families, who weren't present for the tragedy itself, and I, who was hilt-deep in my personal tragedy, would have the same need of proof... but strange as it may seem, I remember very little of that morning. Thanks to the power of adrenaline, the attack barely even hurt (until afterwards, of course).

I listened to my 911 tape a half dozen times in the offices of the DA and then my therapist. I recognized our voices (I dropped the phone - most of the attack was recorded though my call was logged as a hang-up.) Little of the dialogue sounded familiar. But the fear in my voice was haunting. My greatest apprehension about the trial was that my loved ones would have to hear that fear.

I hope sincerely and truly that the 9/11 families will think long and hard before they listen to those tapes. I can't imagine anything that could pull that wound open more painfully.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Delayed reaction

Perhaps you'd forgotten the global hub-bub about a series of cartoons featuring the Profit Mohammed - I certainly hadn't thought about them in months... and months...

Some haven't forgotten though. For example, the 200-some artists who contributed Holocaust-themed cartoons for an exhibit and contest in Tehran, Iran, which opened yesterday.

I'm not sure where the leap happened from some random idiots printing offensive cartoons to "we'll show those Jews." But they did - they showed me, alright!

Monday, August 14, 2006

US Department of Peace

I was early for a lunch meeting at Sweet Potatoes in Winston this past Friday. On my way to the coffee shop next door, I noticed Kindred Spirits, what I call a woo-woo shop - you know, goddesses, fairies, groovy hemp clothes - a lot like Eclectic by Nature here in the 'boro. What I got out of my shopping trip went well beyond the celtic goddess earrings and Love>Fear sticker.

Turns out, in fact, that owner Arci Edwards is instrumental in the organization of an upcoming Peace Walk and Festival. Arci expects hundreds of people to turn out for the Triad's part in what is a country-wide demand for a US Department of Peace.

If you're anything like me, you're having mixed feelings about this whole idea right about now. My first thought was "great idea - too bad it's a pipe dream." But who knows? Every great movement in this country started as a grassroots movement that grew so large and loud, it could no longer be ignored by our politicians.

It's worth a try.

Click here for more info about the walk and the proposed functions of a Department of Peace.

Mandatory voting

A letter to the editor in today's New York Times asks:
If jury service is mandatory, why not voting?
The letter's writer, Al Meyerhoff, continues to suggest email voting or weekend elections to make getting to the poles easier.

There was a time in recent history that I made getting out the vote my own personal mission. I'd hassle the clerks at my grocery store, make sure my friends were registered, etc.

Then I read The Left Hand of God by Michael Lerner. When he's not editing or writing for Tikkun Magazine or acting as rabbi for a San Francisco synagogue, Lerner is involved with a research facility that he co-founded - I can't get my hands on the name of it right now - where he studies, among other things, the voting habits of "average America."

What he found was that a huge chunk of people he spoke with who voted Republican did so because they felt the GOP addressed their spiritual needs and Democrats did not - which I guess is pretty undeniable since so many of us Democrats are terrified of the slippery slope of church and state separation - that is, if we talk about spirituality, we're throwing ourselves down the slope.

As a follow-up in his research, Lerner told participants about the Republican party line beyond the God factor and found that a big chunk of those spirituality voters had previously known nothing about the rest of their platform and often disagreed with much of it.

All of which makes me second guess my "vote or die" mentality. Is an uneducated voter really better than a non-voter?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, our voters

Seriously, do these people vote? If so, it explains a lot about the last six years.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Breaking the silence on abuse

This column was originally published in the News & Record on August 9, 2006

We’ve all had brushes with taboo; from the foods we eat (such as America’s rejection of dog meat) to the relationships we condone (or condemn, such as incest), taboo developed to store society’s important information over the course of time and space.

Unfortunately, taboo has evolved beyond its usefulness as a tool by spreading its power to ideas. As a society, we have silently agreed to the falsehood that keeping certain taboo topics mum is for the good of the whole.

Take, for example, domestic abuse. As a taboo topic, domestic abuse is disallowed from common conversation, leaving the victims feeling ashamed to be in a situation that seems to be outside the norm. Add taboo to the many complex emotions and manipulations involved in abuse and it’s not a stretch to believing that abuse shouldn’t be reported because it shouldn’t be spoken of. Moreover, this silence hinders one of the most powerful tools of healing: the simple act of talking.

In many ways, I feel as though I have lived a charmed life, not least of which is because I have an instinctive need to find normalcy through communication, which has allowed me to heal from my own experience with domestic abuse.

Despite the best efforts of my family, I spent my senior year of high school involved with a long-time-friend turned boyfriend who repeated the cycle of dehumanization from his life by introducing it into our relationship. Strikes at my self-esteem turned into physical aggression; I was lucky that I was able to maintain enough of a boundary to make the first black eye the last one.

My rejection on top of a lifetime of rejection was the final straw. On a sunny August morning in 1996, my ex broke into my house armed with a knife. Ten years and lots of loving support and therapy later, I have whittled that morning down to three almost-healed scars on my back and the 911 tape in the attic.

Over these ten years, I have told my story to a waitress with a black eye, to business associates, new friends, friendly strangers and just about anyone else who gives me the opportunity. The statistics match my experience: just as one-third of American women will report being physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner sometime in their lives, roughly one-third of the women to whom I tell my story counter with a story of their own.

What the statistics won’t tell you is that almost every one of those women tell their story in a way which downplays their trauma, as though their story is not worthy of attention. That is the last stronghold in the mind of a woman who has been abused; it is also the power of taboo that obeying it can lead to such a lack of self-regard.

Though I haven’t seen my therapist in many years, I continue to tell my story because of those women who may gain an extra sliver of normalcy from hearing their story come out of my mouth, and because telling it still has a powerful effect on how I feel about myself and my past, and, perhaps most of all, because I believe the only way to take power away from taboo is to defy them by talking.

Poet Audre Lorde is most famous for her truism, “Your silence will not protect you.” Less known but as true, she also said, “I feel have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”

It’s all a part of being human.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Our dog Emmie

Rob recently took this, the best picture ever of our 6-year-old pointer-mix, Emmie.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The little things I love, part 2

I recently took the train to Richmond where Rob was working at the time. For whatever reason, I had decided I would keep my headphones on and my nose in a book and completely ignore the people around me. By the time I left the train, I knew most of the life story of the guitarist for the band, The Double.

I tell this story only to illustrate that I'm a bit of a compulsive people person which totally conflicts with a feeling I have increasingly often with increasing intensity: the immediate need to get out of a public space and into the solitude of my home.

Today was a good example of why: it all started at a walk-up ATM where I was making two deposits, one for us personally and one for our business. As is my habit with multiple transactions, I let a women who walked up immediately after me go first. She said nothing and used the ATM. I could hear my inner mumbling negotiating with my lips, "Just say it! Just say, 'There's something my mother used to always say in situations like this - thank you!'"

Surely, though, she would give me a courtesy smile or thank you or some sort of human acknowledgement when she was done. But no, she just left. Which was a shame because it meant that I was already on the verge of mumbling aloud as I walked across the parking lot to the most notorious of anger-inducing stores: the grocery store.

So, I decide to try what I always try in these situations which is to channel the Dali Lama. Every time a shopper would cut me off, I'd smile at the next one in the hopes of sort of inner peace. It never works for more than a minute or two at a time but what a minute!

I was losing my zen smile right about the time the 5th person cut me off with no acknowledgement. It was then that I turned a corner and just about walked face first into a preppie, pimply teenage boy, who - wonder of wonders - gave me a big smile and took a big step back so I could get by. I could have kissed that kid's pimply face!

It's the little things...

Another new Chuck Folds 5 release

Chuck Folds 5 has put out another new song on their MySpace site - check it out! And, while you're at it, pen in some show dates on your calendar!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Extending the right to shoot

The New York Times reported today that 15 states are expanding the right to kill people in "self-defense" - I put that in quotes because what the laws will really do is expand the right of murder in non-life threatening scenarios like protecting stuff or a less severe attack.

There's a story I always tell when in debates with people about gun-control and the right to use those guns. (Assuming it's printed, there will me more about this story in my News and Record column this Wednesday.) Shortly after my 18th birthday, my recent ex-boyfriend broke into my house and attacked me - I literally talked him out of killing me by promising to run off and get married. True story. By the end of the morning, he was arrested and I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital (though my worst injury was a slightly punctured lunch which hurts but isn't a big deal medically). On the way, one of the EMTs, a woman, said, "Too bad you didn't have a gun - he would have gotten a real surprise then!"

I gave that a whole lot of thought the first few years after the attack, back in the days when I was positive he would attack me again once out of prison. (He's been out for 6 years and lives in Greensboro as far as I know but I've never caught a glimpse of him.) I joined a shooting range with my gun-savvy bro-in-law and practiced about once a week until pulling the trigger no longer made me flinch.

At the end of my year membership, I gave a lot of thought to buying the gun I was so prepared to use and realized that a physical familiarity with a gun is a whole different animal than the psychological willingness to use that gun. Ultimately, I decided I probably couldn't shoot him and even if I could, I was unsure which would be worse: being attacked again or having his death on my conscious for the rest of my life.

At a gut level, I am opposed to the Big Mother government that America seems to want most of the time - it's what we're begging for every time we sue for a Caution: Hot Contents warning on a cup of coffee - and along those lines, it would be nice if as a country we could say, "Sure, have whatever guns you want and use them responsibly." But guns are too dangerous and people are too frivolous to let this one go at that. If it were up to me, people would need a year of supervised training in shooting and a psychological evaluation before being eligible for a gun permit.

Ultimately, the obvious is true: access to guns leads to an exponential increase in gun violence. People who own guns are a third more likely to be shot. These new changes to the "self-defense" gun laws will cause more shootings and less safety, regardless of what its champions would have you believe.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The new girls' club

As opposed to the old boys' club, of course.

Back when I was doing the networking group rounds (visiting with no intention of joining, just to hand out business cards), I ran into another woman doing the rounds, a business coach by the name of Jan Hinton. Though Jan owns her coaching company, Stone Soup Coaching, she was at the meeting to promote the professional association for which she was the president.

That bit of serendipity was how I first encountered the National Association of Women Business Owners, the only dues-based professional organization just for women business owners. My first meeting was like a breath of fresh air; I'm really not a man-basher but women and men just do business differently. At the time, I was in a Greensboro Merchants Association networking group which was great and filled with great people, but I always felt as though I had to conform to their idea of a business person and their idea of success. Well, my idea of a business person includes jeans and unmatched earrings and my idea of success has nothing to do with creating a franchise or having a hundred employees or anything like that - I've always just wanted to do what I want to do and make enough money to live comfortably and eat gourmet cheese.

Not even a year after I joined NAWBO, I was invited to sit on the board as secretary. I'll admit that I spent my entire year as board secretary feeling in over my head; I was surrounded by forward-thinking, experienced, successful (by whatever definition) women and all I felt qualified to do was sit quietly, take notes and hope to learn something.

Though most of the board remained in place for another year, I stepped down from my position, thinking another women could add more to the board. That was a month ago. Last week, I got another call from the nearly irresistible president, Tara Olson, saying that they had created a new position, vice president of administrative services, and hoped I would rejoin the board in that role.

After a week of agonizing over it, Rob finally said, "You know you want it. Just take it." And I did.

Friday, I attended the second half of the board retreat (it was during the first half that they created the position). Nine women were in attendance, covering industries from financial services to PR and marketing research to coaching. It was inspiring to be a part of the brainstorming as we began coaxing our four-year-old chapter through adolescence.

I often think about the state of feminism, how far we have come in the last 50 years and how easy it is to become complacent with what we have achieved. We own businesses; we are in boardrooms; we can do anything. It's organizations like NAWBO that continue to nudge feminism along by showing society that we're not token business women; we're a force to be reckoned with.

Like Slow Food, NAWBO seeks social change though positive action. This past fall, we held our first ever symposium to which all business people were invited though the presenters were all women. This October, we will also hold our first ever Girls Going Places workshop in conjunction with Guardian Life. One hundred high school girls will have the opportunity to learn the basics of being a business women: how to innovate, how to write a business plan, how to manage finances.

The women of NAWBO are going to turn the conventional ideas of business on their head, to the benefit of everyone. Just wait and see...