Art imitates life

From Mabel’s Eyes

Beezus Murphy

June 14, 2017

My name is Mabel Rutherford. I live with Momma, Poppa, and Beatrice, but everyone calls her Bea. Momma is pretty strict, it’s just the way she was raised in the old country. Bea is a dreamer; her head is always in the clouds or in her books. Momma says I look and act more like Bea than either her or Poppa. More American. The year is 1917 and we all live in a tiny house in Seattle Washington. 
Poppa’s not home a lot any more. Momma says that’s because he has to work long shifts building the Ballard Bridge. Momma is a governess for the Denny’s. She jokes that she only got the post because the family loves her Irish accent and the old Gaelic lullabies she sings to their children. My sister, Bea works at the nearby fish cannery now that she’s finished with school. She’s fourteen, six years older than me. Momma’s trying to get her a proper lady job at the paper goods store so she can meet a nice husband. The rest of the family works, I still have to go to school because I’m only eight. 
When Momma and Bea aren’t working, they’re trying to get voting rights for women; they’re suffragettes. I always beg to come with them on the marches but they say I’m too young. Back in 1854, Momma’s boss’ Grandpa, Arthur Denny, introduced legislation to legalize voting for white women over the age of 18, but it was struck down. Momma and Bea say they’re worried that I might get lost or hurt at one of their busy demonstrations downtown in Pioneer Square. 
One Saturday, as Momma and Bea are headed out the door with their Suffragette sashes and signs, I beg them to let me come. When the begging doesn’t work, I lie and tell them I’m too scared to stay home alone because Poppa is working again today. They say I can come as long as I stay right by my sister’s side for the whole day. I promise to do just that. 
When we arrive downtown, I feel so excited to see everything. I stop to admire the cutest little baby in a pram, but when I look up, Bea isn’t there anymore. I panic. I start shouting, “Bea! Bea!” It is so crowded nobody can hear me. I see a wooden apple crate in the middle of the square. I climb up on it intending to shout for my sister, but once I’m up there, I decide to chant, “Votes for Women,” like I’ve heard Momma and Bea say a thousand times before at home. As I chant, the crowd gathers around and I look down to see Momma and Bea cheering with me. Momma cuts to the front of the crowd and reaches up to grab me and hold me tight. Bea hugs us both, tighter than I ever remember. 
On the street car ride home, they tell me they don’t ever want me to get separated from them again, but they are proud of what I did. I’m resting on Momma’s lap as she stokes my hair. I tell her I feel proud of myself and she and Bea tell me they are proud of me too; even someone small can make a big difference. They might’ve have said more but I don’t remember because by then I had drifted off to sleep in Momma’s lap. 

Don’t move our school!

Dear Directors,
I am the mother of two students receiving special education services in general education classrooms at Louisa Boren STEM K-8. My seventh grader began attending the first year the school opened when she was in third grade and will be in the first cohort of eighth graders to graduate from our school next year. 
Last week I attended the capacity meeting held by Associate Superintendent Dr. Flip Herndon and Capital Projects and Planning Director Richard Best. The district outlined its challenges and strategies for dealing with current and upcoming capacity and remodel issues in our area. The meeting was the most well attended meeting in the history of our school. Our community came prepared with many viable strategies and suggestions for the upcoming remodels needed in our area. 
The representatives from the district had posited moving our vibrant and successful K-8 of over 500 students, with two preschool and multiple special education programs from its permanent location at Louisa Boren to Schmitz Park, a school with a capacity of about 216 AND only one bathroom for each gender. That they even came to us, the school with the largest waiting list in West Seattle-twice that of any other, is simply put, offensive. Would you consider uprooting other successful schools who had been in their permanent locations for short periods of time, like Pathfinder or Fairmont Park? Of course you wouldn’t. Stability is key to a thriving school community. 
Richard Best faltered in the meeting. It felt like he hadn’t done his homework. He referred to our school by the wrong name several times and suggested the McCleary decision, as decided by the Supreme Court, was the legislature’s doing. Most maddeningly, he blamed the need for more classroom space on children who receive special ed services. Instead he could have explained to the group that currently many students like my own don’t have the option to attend their neighborhood schools because their service level isn’t provided there but that SPS is working to correct that equity gap by building special ed capacity at all schools. 
One of the most glaringly flawed parts in this already ridiculous plan of moving a thriving diverse, innovative school located in a low income neighborhood to a building, half the size, in a predominantly white upper class neighborhood, is based on inaccurate projections by the district. At the meeting, district representatives kept implying that our building is woefully underutilized. Anyone who has actually been in our building can tell you this is false and the 750 student capacity they kept throwing out is for high school occupancy not for the lower classroom sizes of 24-28 for elementary grades. 
Not to worry, I have a plan. First, don’t double book construction projects for Lafayette and Alki, but if you must, send one to Roxhill and the other to Schmitz Park. Next for the renovations needed at Rainier Beach and Washington, complete them in phases, bring in portables and utilize nearby “Old Van Asselt” (could use a better name). Additionally our community members suggested building an all purpose/interim building on the property where former Denny sat. 
There are a number of things to consider for future growth in our schools. Housing prices continue to skyrocket. Houses like mine, which is in the bottom 5% of the market, have quadrupled in value in the last ten years. What will the lack of affordable housing mean for our school demographics and occupancy? I attended SPS from 1974-1986 in a very different era of school closures rather than school expansions. 
Examining long term data about the affordability of our city and what that means for our student population, may make it prudent to add capacity where we are able now, rather than extensive investments in new construction. So for example, our school has a waiting list of 189 students. We were told we could not add capacity because it might create a staffing surplus at other nearby schools. We were also told at the meeting that other nearby schools were over capacity. If this is the case, there may be a way in which to manage wait lists and add capacity without creating staff imbalances. 
For now, it’s back to the drawing board and I look forward to hearing more from your team. But please keep in mind, there are so many ways to engage the community and begin the conversation about upcoming challenges and opportunities. However, what the district did, in throwing out the most audacious suggestion first, before even meeting with the community, really felt like a disconnect. Going forward, start the conversations by bringing us the challenges and look to our communities for answers and innovations. Our Seattle Public Schools have said they are committed to community engagement and making all decisions through an equity lens. Show us these policies in action by involving us in critical decision making and process from the start. 
Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

Proud parent of 2 Louisa Boren STEM K-8 students

Bell Times

Dear Council President Bruce Harrell,
I understand that the City Council Education, Equity and Governance Committee is meeting this Wednesday, June 7th at 2 pm. I am writing to make sure that the approval of the legislation to use the necessary funds from the Families and Education levy is on the agenda for your meeting this week. 
I have been actively advocating on behalf of a fair and streamlined bell time system for my own family, school community and the families of Seattle for two years now. My daughters’ school, a K-8, is in the third tier now from 9:35-4:05. As you know, K-8’s are in all three tiers in our current and confusing system. With these funds all but a handful of elementary schools would be in the first tier, K-8’s, middle schools and high schools will be in the second tier to align with the sleep data collected during SPS intensive bell times investigation phase. 
My daughters ride the bus to Louisa Boren STEM K-8 on Delridge from our neighborhood of South Park because their level of Special Education services are not available at our neighborhood school, Concord International School. In the late fall and winter they were returning from school in the dark, tired and ready for dinner. Very little time was left in the evenings for homework and family. 
Other families in my community experienced multiple hardships with our very late start and end times. Some families have children at different West Seattle schools in all three tiers. Others experienced higher child care costs because they had to pay for both before and after school care rather than just one or the other, as in more reasonable tiers. Families also reported they were not able to participate in sports and other community programs after school because our students were dismissed two hours later than nearby schools. 
In doing this work I spoke with many parents all over the city who were experiencing hardships. I talked to a parent at Dearborn International School who explained that their parent community includes many parents with limited English proficiency. He explained that these parents often did not know what time school currently started and were confused by all the different start times in neighboring schools. We’ve heard the complaint from your committee that you weren’t hearing from many school communities and this parent explained, his school community was unaware of bell times advocacy efforts. 
Other parents in the district have explained the difficulty of navigating school choice, coordinating work schedules and very limited child care options, all with the uncertainty of school start and end times. King County currently has some of the longest child care waiting lists in the country. Because schools now have such varied start and end times, families from outside of any given school are having difficulty accessing on site child care at other schools. For example, a neighbor’s child busses to Arbor Heights and is eligible for bussing to child care after school at Concord International School, as was done in the past. However, because Arbor Heights dismisses at 2:05 and Concord International School dismisses at 3:40, their after school program is no longer able to accommodate students from other schools. 
This one time $2.65 million from the Families and Education Levy is an appropriate use of our tax dollars as it will have a positive impact on such a large number of Seattle’s families. A two tiered system is safer, more equitable and less confusing to navigate. Please use your leadership role to help make this simple change for our families. 
Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

Mother of 2 Special Education students in Seattle Public Schools,,,,,,,,,


Tonight I had the honor of meeting a wonderful African American father,the owner of the food truck, who came to our event the first ever GGLOW OWLS Dance Party. He brought his whole family with him to our event. He pulled me aside to explain why it was so important to him that his children were there. He has four children. His two older kids were about 8 & 10 and he explained that their mother is very homophobic. He said that he takes every opportunity to get them out so they will know the truth and learn that love is love. He brought his son over and introduced him to me and asked me to please explain why we were holding this event. I can tell you I’ve never had a 10 year old listen so closely to my words and I am so humbled by the experience. I told the boy all about how my daughter had come out last year at school and what that means. How the community had embraced her and how I wanted to find a way to honor and celebrate our LGBTQ students, families and staff. I told him all about the Black Lives Matter unity event and the second event we did to honor our Muslim and immigrant families-and he was still listening to me. I told him about Pride Month and how it is such a special way we celebrate our community and I thanked him for coming to celebrate with us. 🌈🦉💚💙

Child care keeps U. S. Working

I rarely talk about my work. My real work. The work I am paid for. Taking care of young humans. But it is something that I am truly proud of, and for anyone who I have taken care of, I’m sure you would say I was loving and fun but maybe that I couldn’t ever remember the words to the songs or the rules to the games. You know I was the one who would make you a full costume, on demand, twenty minutes before you had to leave for school, or let you wear gummy bears stuck to your face or sit and draw amusement park rides with you for hours on end, but I never let you kill the spiders. Maybe you remember me painting your nails green or flat ironing your hair or teaching you to always ask before hugging, and when it’s important to use your loud, powerful voice. 
My profession is a funny one. It is both highly sought after and hard to come by in our market. Yet at the same time, lowly valued as unskilled women’s work. Now that I work for myself, people call me months in advance looking for child care. I’ve even had people come visit and plan for care before their child is born. Families stay with me for years and I always feel honored when they bring me their second and sometimes their third child. 
And it’s expensive. Really expensive. My customers pay a significant portion of their income to me so that they can work. Child care should be subsidized and it is for low income families, but in recent years my state has made it more and more difficult for child care providers like me to accept DSHS child care subsidies. 
The state now requires that I participate in a time consuming and cumbersome program called Early Achievers in order to be eligible to receive their subsidies-which, by the way, are about half of market rate. It was very important for me to be able to keep serving my families who rely on subsidies, so I have jumped through all the hoops thus far. In addition to my regular work, I completed their 12 hours of poorly crafted required trainings last month, and have to do 6 more hours of trainings before the end of this month. I should mention, I love trainings and gladly comply with my annual 10 hour requirement, but the content of these state mandated trainings is not useful for my work and is solely an act of blind compliance on my part. 
After I complete these mandatory trainings, I will be allowed to accept subsidies for one more year. I will not be able to continue to accept subsidies after that though because of the stringent requirements needed to pass to the next level. The state is negotiating with our child care union over new regulations, called WACS, that determine how I run my child care business. One proposed WAC would incorporate compliance with Early Achievers as part of the minimum regulations, currently it is optional. If this were to occur, it would be almost impossible for me to maintain my license and stay in business. 
I believe the role of the state is to make sure my child care is safe. I also believe that families deserve a wide variety of child care options to best meet their individual needs. The best way to do this is to keep the child care licensing process and regulations accessible. It is unreasonable to expect a sole provider, like me, to navigate a complicated system while also caring for 6+ children 50 hours per week. 
I have provided child care as a nanny, baby sitter, before and after school teacher, summer day camp counselor, child care director, trainer and preschool teacher for over 25 years. I love my work. When I work, six other families can work too. I even used to have a vintage bumper sticker that said, “Child Care keeps U.S. working!” Just as true today. 

Shawna Murphy

May 19, 2007

Happy Mother’s Day

I had two miscarriages between giving birth to Beezus in 2004 and getting pregnant with Minnow in 2009. After the second miscarriage, which was painful and traumatic, the midwife I was seeing was very critical of my questions about how much each appointment or procedure would cost. I was careful and practical because I was paying cash for her services since I didn’t have medical insurance at the time. When I asked about the cost of the Rhogam shot I would need after the miscarriage because I have Rh negative blood, she shot back with, “maybe you can’t really afford to have a second child.”
I was wounded. I had been taken down to my very most base and vulnerable self, only having recently woken in the middle of the night clutching my three year old and looking down to see that I had soaked both of us, and our bed in blood that should’ve been making the baby. I had had to borrow a car to be driven up and down a pot holed ridden street busy with road construction, almost impassable, as my uterus contracted over and over again trying to expel the tiny fetus. I had spent the day in the emergency room being filled with fluids and prodded and examined to the tune of $3,800. And yes, of course I was worried about money. 
It was one of those times when even as you hear someone saying something and you know how ridiculous it is. You know how wrong it is that someone said it to you. But still, you just can’t get that voice out of your head. And you start to question yourself. It’s a small question in a quiet voice, but it lingers with you even when your heart knows the answer. 
My heart did know the answer. My heart knew that to even ask such a question comes from such an extreme place of privilege. Because I actually got to choose to be a mother. Women all over the world and in our own country do not have that choice and have not had the luxury of pondering whether they could afford to have another child. 
I knew it was all relative. Did she mean will I be able to afford to feed this child or was she thinking more along the lines of whether I would be sending them to expensive private school? I probably should’ve asked her some clarifying questions but in that moment I think I stammered something unintelligible in response and started crying. 
A year or so later I got pregnant with Minnow and as foreshadowed I suppose by the doctor, I was not able to even afford my pregnancy. It turns out I have a genetic condition that causes blood clots when I have extra estrogen in my body and at about 10 weeks a nasty blood clot appeared that sent me to the hospital for an overnight stay. In an instant my pregnancy went from one I had planned at home with a new midwife to a high risk pregnancy. I needed blood thinning medication that cost $3,200 per month and had to quit my job so that I would be eligible for Medicaid to cover the expense of my pregnancy. 
It was a hard pregnancy. I was broke and tired, but I knew I was doing my body’s best at growing a very special child who would one day come out and share her light with the world. I knew that even as my tiny baby in utero would send me running out to the yard every morning wretching until it felt like my eyeballs would come out of their sockets. 
The wonderful thing about having a second child is that you learn to trust yourself. I learned to trust my instincts, to make decisions and care for my baby without second guessing or insecurities. That confidence shows in my youngest. She is different in subtle ways than the oldest, maybe more capable, decisions come easily for her. She trusts herself. 
Most days I can afford my children. Every day I love my children and care for them to the best of my ability. Every day I am glad that wary words of another did not put me off my hard won choice to become a mother. Every day I am grateful for the opportunity to be their mother. 

In loving memory of Jonathan Moore-Thank you

Today would have been my friend Jonathan’s 48th birthday. He was born, like me, in 1969, the year of The Rooster. I have always felt a strong affinity to Jonathan. In recent years because he was a father of two boys, of whom he was very proud, and I am the mother to two girls who mean the entire world to me. We shared similar beliefs about love and people and kindness and speaking out for what is right, and we always seemed to pop up in the same places at the same times, even when we would go years between seeing eachother. 
My affinity with Jonathan goes back to the mid late nineties. We were both leading similar sorts of double lives at the time. By day we both worked in youth programs; he for Miller Community Center and I worked for Ravenna-Eckstein. But at night we usually ran into eachother out in the clubs. Maybe sometimes he was performing or I was working the door for Tasty Shows, but other times we were both just out enjoying live music and art and people. 
So one night we were out and we were talking all about the youth we served. Jonathan was telling me about how he would take the community center van around to the schools the kids, his kids, as he referred to them, attended. He would pick them up from school, take them back to the community center, help them complete their homework, prepare and share a group dinner with them and drive them all home. I was floored with admiration. My program was bigger, whiter, I had staff, we played kickball, ate snack, that sort of thing. Different programs, different ends of town, but the same love and respect for the kids we served. 
So we decided we should do something to get all of our after school group kids together. We would say that every time we ran into eachother for months, and then in the spring of 1997 it all sort of fell together. Chris Ballew, from The President’s of the United States wanted a kid audience to try out some of his new work. We hosted him in the cafetorium of what is now Thornton Creek, in NE Seattle. I had a big group of maybe 50 K-6th graders, and Jonathan arrived just as the show started with his 10 that he could fit in the van. 
When the music started, my kids went crazy. I can remember the way the sun came streaming onto their happy dancing bodies and looking up over my shoulder and seeing Jonathan walking in with 10 kids behind him. I can still see it. He sort of turned to them and nodded and they all ran to cut loose in the fray. 
And it was LOUD. Really loud. It was like 4:00, so the teachers were still in the school building recovering from their hectic day. But one by one they all started wandering in. Standing in a group at the back. Smiling and nodding their heads in time with the music. One of the older teachers recalled having taught one of the guys from the band in 4th grade back when University Heights on the Ave was still a school. 
When it was over, Jonathan and his kids had to quickly get back out into traffic so he could make them a quick dinner before taking them home. He had the kids do their homework in the van that night. You know he always made sure they finished their homework. 
My favorite kind of people are always the ones that are more than what they might seem upon first meeting them. So if I had only known Jonathan as a talented hip hop performer, I would’ve thought he was special. And if I had only known Jonathan as an after school teacher who made sure ten kids had a caring African American male role model to pick them up every day from school, help them complete their homework and feed them a healthy delicious dinner before making sure they returned safely home each night, I would’ve thought he was special. And even if I had only known Jonathan as the person who every single time he saw me, no matter when or where, would cross the street, would stand up, would cross the club, to say a warm and friendly hello, I would’ve thought he was special. And if I had only known Jonathan as the loving father of Upendu and Miles, I would’ve thought he was special. All of this in one person, though, so mighty, so loving, what a gift. 
Rest in Power Jonathan Moore. I am so grateful that I had the honor to share some of this journey in your time here on earth. You made us all better for having known you.