Tuesday, October 28, 2008

‘Hattitude’: Inside scoop on favorite hats

I was reading some comments online, and apparently several readers are as interested in the hat I wear in my columnist’s mug as in my weekly commentary.

A co-worker, Denise Rockenstein, gave me that hat. It happens to be one of my favorites. The flower-and-lace arrangement in the front compliments everything, from salwar kameez to tank top and capris.

Cynthia Parkhill in a plastic tiara
I won this tiara at the
Rogue Valley Fun Center
My co-worker, Mandy Feder, suggested that I write about my hats. Since Halloween is almost here, it seemed an appropriate time to share some of my favorites:

• This time of year, the stocking cap is a recurring favorite -- as essential to my wardrobe as cardigan and gloves. The intricacies of patterned knitting are seemingly limitless in creating beautiful wearable art.

I read a book called “Knitting for Peace” that profiles charitable knitting groups. Recipients range from newborn babes to U.S. troops overseas.

One of the projects is something called “chemo caps,” stocking caps made out of soft materials for cancer patients who have lost their hair. First item of business once I learn how to knit, is to make some stocking caps and maybe even donate a few.

• A few years ago, while my husband and I were visiting Ashland, Ore., we drove a few miles north to the Rogue Valley Fun Center. We spent a few fun hours playing the arcade games and won coupons to redeem for prizes at the arcade concession stand.

I was looking at the prizes, debating which one to get, when Jonathan gave me a nudge and pointed to a plastic tiara with “pearls” and set-in “stones.” After selecting the tiara, I asked him how he knew and he said every little girl wants a tiara.

Cynthia Parkhill in Tudor flat cap
Hand-made Tudor flat cap
• Tudor English flat caps look like throwing discs and could double as discs, I suppose, if stiffened with interfacing. In portraits contemporary to the era, they display panache and flair.

Hang around with reenactors and you pick up all sorts of trivia germane to the shared pastime: so I had known for years that the era’s sumptuary laws required everyone to wear a cap.

A short while ago, however, I learned the reason for the law. I was reading “Shakespeare: The World as Stage” by Bill Bryson and he said sumptuary laws’ restrictions were nearly always directed at imported fabrics. “For much the same reasons, there was for a time, a Statute of Caps, aimed at helping domestic cap makers through a spell of depression, which required people to wear caps instead of hats.”

So there you have it! A historic “Shop local” ordinance!

• The timeless classic I keep coming back to is my brown Greek fisherman’s cap. It’s made of wool with the classic embroidered ribbon across the front and on the peak.

I really like this juxtaposition of a cap style that’s traditionally “male” embellished with a detail that is arguably feminine. It’s a reminder that people can choose to transcend the limitations imposed by stereotypes.

So, for me, the ongoing dilemma isn’t whether or not to wear a hat. In the case of my columnist mug, it’s why I have to settle for just one.

Published Oct. 28, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autism speech for Toastmasters, a transcript

Here is the transcript of a speech presented in October 2008 before Toastmasters Club 8731, the Tenacious Talkers in Lake County, Calif. The title of the speech asks, Is There an Autism Epidemic? In it, I argue that expansion of criteria and improved methods of detection account for the increased prevalence of people on the autism spectrum. “We are seeing more cases of autism because we are learning where and how to look.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ACLU presents misleading picture of local schools

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) paints a misleading and stereotyped picture of Lake County in its latest members’ bulletin. This from an agency that is supposed to combat prejudice!

Its special campaign issue, which arrived in mailboxes this week, promotes its “Schools for All Campaign: Preventing Bias and Pushout.” Its laudable aim is to prevent disproportionate application of punishments by school administrators against certain groups, and to also prevent the targeting of these groups for bullying by their classmates.

The article is illustrated by recent real-life cases involving Northern California schools. But whereas the first case, involving racial profiling at Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, is specific as to the school and locality, the second incident is specified merely to have taken place in “Lake County.”

For the majority of ACLU’s membership throughout Northern California, this may have been the only account they’ve read of the local settlement. That means every one of our schools in every one of our districts, is tarnished with the reputation of having failed to protect a student from abuse. But this is simply not true.

I think in the interest of accuracy, the ACLU-NC ought to have specified that it reached a settlement with Upper Lake Union Elementary School District.

On nearly every day since he began third grade -- at ULES, not “Lake County” -- a student named Robby was the target of taunts, bullying and anti-gay name calling by his peers based on his gender identity and perceived sexual orientation. The verbal abuse escalated in middle school and Robby was physically attacked after gym class by a group of boys who knocked him to the ground, kicked him in the stomach and head while screaming anti-gay epithets at him.

The write-up continues, accusing “Lake County” school officials of being complacent year after year in allowing a climate of anti-gay harassment and intimidation to continue.

What this account fails to acknowledge is that there are multiple school districts in Lake County, with varying climates of advocacy for the victims of bullying and abuse.

At the very top of the list, I would have to rank Konocti Unified School District with its formal adoption of an anti-bullying policy. When Konocti schools scheduled anti-bullying assemblies, this was “Lake County” too. Or when the district contracted with Monty Roberts to assist in building school climates that are free from violence -- this was also “Lake County.”

What about when Konocti organized a countywide forum with Ruby Payne so that local stakeholders could better understand the challenges ofmgenerational poverty?

This is the “Lake County” that ACLU members will never hear about.

To be fair, I believe there are districts that are in need of improvement -- along with surrounding communities. Even in Konocti, a student was lost to violence in a conflict that took place off-campus.

I cannot vouch for every story I’ve heard about bullying at local schools. But I’ve heard enough that I believe each district ought to adopt formal policies that offer redress against bullying.

Since Konocti’s policy has already been reviewed by schools attorney John Drummond, it ought to be a routine matter to similarly introduce the policy in other local districts. The time is past overdue. We don’t need more misleading coverage -- by the ACLU or by anyone -- to tarnish our collective reputation.

Published Oct. 7, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee