Friday, March 27, 2015

The ACLU vs. Small-Town America

This week, I sat and watched from almost 400 miles away as the news broke on social media and online news outlets that the ACLU was taking issue with my alma mater in Ohio.  Small-town America at it's finest, it's a place I hope to never regret growing up in and graduating from high school.  

Since then, on more than one occasion, I've become angry.

To explain briefly, SOMEONE complained.  SOMEONE didn't like that the district was having religious assemblies prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas. SOMEONE didn't like that the school district values "honesty and Christian values" as stated in the high school student handbook.  Of course, who this particular SOMEONE is will remain a mystery for now, because they get to maintain their anonymity while the ACLU sends letters and makes threats on their behalf.

That angered me - because I don't do bullies.  Just ask any other education advocate in the state of New York right now.  We have one big bully sitting in office in Albany.
(But I digress...)

So is it really bullying?  I mean, let's face it...a public school system really CAN'T do those things.  So maybe I was just angry that said individual(s) didn't just make the attempt to handle it themselves with district leaders, but instead they went straight to the big guns.  Or maybe they did -  Had they been blown off?  

And all of THAT made me angry.

In complete transparency, I will admit that I have no recollection of having assemblies like those that are described by the complaint and what is being reported in the media.  I also don't recall the particular phrase in question from the handbook.  Shoot - I barely remember having a handbook!!  Whether that is because I'm older, and I simply can't remember those details or if it's because they just didn't happen 25 years ago - I have no idea.  

And that infuriates me (that I'm getting old)!

I was born and raised in this particular small town, and I don't think I could have had a more conservative Christian upbringing.  30 years ago, I might have even stood alongside my fellow Christians and yelled and kicked and screamed with the rest of them that my Christian beliefs were being infringed upon by attempting to silence these religious assemblies and unacceptance of a simple phrase of "Christian values".  

You know - I would have gotten angry.

I can just imagine the closed-mindedness of both sides.  Actually I don't have to imagine it, because I've spent the past few days reading it on social media as this story broke online.  There's just nothing like the ACLU taking on small-town America to make people go just a wee-bit crazy and light up the internet as they spout law, fact, scripture, and opinion to make their voices heard over one another.

Tonight, I am writing to hopefully help lift the blinders off of both sides of this argument that has unfolded on social media this week.  Online words of angry individuals who believed that this was a long time coming for the school district, and on the other hand, those who believed that their rights are being trampled on. Claims of intolerance, hatred, and ignorance - all tossed into that virtual arena as fast as fingers could fly across a keyboard.  

So here it is.   I'm going to make a statement that coming from a born and raised, good,  conservative Christan girl, it may just shock my former minister and Sunday school teachers back into their pews.

As much as it pains me to say this, IF  the complaint is accurate - and I have no certainty of this one way or the other - the ACLU would be correct, and indeed, "Houston, we have a problem."


Before you begin to write that hate mail, and before you begin to pray for me that my fundamentalist faith might be restored....


Because I would NEVER, under any circumstances, want or allow my own children to go to school and learn ONLY about Islam, or ONLY about Buddha, or ONLY about Wicca.  And it is that same freedom of religion that protects my children from that very thing happening, that protects other children from having ONLY Christian beliefs enforced on them.  It MUST work both ways if it is to work at all.

Be very certain:  Our children CAN read their bible in school and our children CAN pray in school. Nobody is taking away that right - not some unknown individual with the ACLU, nor any local leadership.  What can not happen, however, and what should not happen is the allowing of individuals in a position of leadership enforcing any singular religious beliefs as the "norm".  

So instead I offer you the following.  Let's teach our children to be strong independent thinkers who know that they can bow their head freely on their own in the school cafeteria and thank God for that meal.  Let's teach them to be strong and courageous enough to carry that Bible in their backpack to school and pull it out during independent reading.  Let's stop complaining that "God isn't allowed in schools" and teach our children about the religious freedom that they do indeed continue to have.

God bless us, everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Orange Jell-O

Three days before Christmas, and here I am with my teenager as he recovers from having a wisdom tooth removed.

Yep.  A single wisdom tooth.  We both know it could be so much worse, but given that the teenager still has a mouth full of corrective metal (otherwise known as "orthodontia"), the surgeon suggested only removing the one tooth that could be counter-productive to the straightening process.

So we've been preparing for today.  Planning the soft foods that he may want to eat when he's ready to attempt eating again.  Soup, applesauce, pudding, milkshakes, Jell-O...

But for whatever reason, my kids have never taken to Jell-O.  It was the "go-to" food when I was sick as a kid, and it didn't matter what illness I was suffering from, gelatin was the cure.  The flu meant you got orange Jell-O  - because the red was just {ugh} when it came back up.  But if I was ailing with a non-regurgitating variety - like perhaps, a sore throat? Or one of the many Oscar-award winning performances I gave on what was surely my death bed?  That's when the cherry Jell-O came out.  Naturally, I've always tried to pass that goodness along to my children.  And they just don't get it.

At least I didn't think they did.

A few days prior to this surgery, I mentioned Jell-O to the teenager, and he was excited that the fruity jiggling fun was in his immediate future!  He even requested that his treat be orange flavored, and even though he was going against non-regurgitating sickness protocol by requesting orange flavored Jell-O when there wasn't even a chance of it making it's way back up, I happily added his request to my grocery list.

Something you should know - as a busy, over-involved mom, I've come to realize the importance of the shortcut and I think that the invention of the pudding cup may just be about the greatest thing ever - especially when there's a chocolate craving to be satisfied.  Not to be outdone by the pudding cup, however, there is also the Jell-O cup.  Ready made and ready to dip into.

There I was, strolling through the grocery store - with the teenager's orange request on my list, that I came across the Jell-O cups and went to grab a 4 pack off of the shelf.  I very nearly picked it right up and merely tossed it into my shopping cart without another thought.

Orange Jell-O - checked off the grocery list.


I couldn't do it.

As my hand reached forward, I thought about why I was buying Jell-O in the first place. Who I was buying the Jell-O for?

Ahhh yes.  My first-born and his unending oral care.

Then, just for a brief moment, my mind instantly raced back to all of the times that my own mother had made me Jell-O when I wasn't feeling my best.  How many boxes and packets of flavored dust did she tear open and stir into the pot of boiling water for the two minutes time it would take to dissolve?   How many times did I shuffle out to the kitchen and open the refrigerator door to see the little bowl shimmering and wiggling already prepared for me (This was before the day of the Jell-O cup convenience).

I don't know what it was, but at that moment I thought to myself that surely I can take the 2 minutes to stand at my stove and stir in the packet of flavored dust.  Surely, when my son will be feeling what is possibly the worst he's ever felt in the 14 years he's been on this earth, I can do something.  Mother-to-son.  A small act that shows him, yes, he's worth a package of Jell-O and 2 minutes of my time.

Because he's worth the world to me.

~ C.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Snovember 2014"

We were responsible.  We were prepared.  We were ready.

The cars were filled with gas.  I had gotten groceries just a few days prior.  I even had a plan of "family fun" for the monkey children.  We would bake cookies!  Play board games!  Build snowmen and snow forts and have snow ball fights!

We're Buffalo.  This is what we're known for, and it's what we do.  

It's Buffalo.
It Snows.
Deal with it.


Well maybe if you're not getting an entire season's worth of snow within a 3 day span!

I'm sitting here midway through Day 3.  That's 3 days of snow falling.  A LOT of snow.  Where I live, the snow is higher than me.  (okay, I'm all of 5 foot 2 inches, every place has snowbanks higher than me.)

There are travel bans all over - you know, IF you can actually dig your car out and drive somewhere.  Which you can't.  And if you do decide to be one of those few who make your way out into the street against the wishes of the local government officials, where would you go?  Everything is closed.  Or if the business is open, they're low on supply.  Gas Stations are dried up.  Grocery Stores aisles are bare.

The children have been home for all 3 days, and they've already called off school for tomorrow.  We haven't baked cookies, we've played one board game that resulted in an argument, and you can't build snowmen in a yard where the snow is up to your {ahem}, and the wind chill makes the snot freeze at the end of your nose.  

I'm going back and forth between being snarky, being the crazed mom, and being able to do nothing but laugh at the insanity of the position we're in.  

They say that by this time tomorrow the snow band will have shifted and we'll be able to dig ourselves out for good.  

It's like holding your breath waiting for Christmas to arrive.

Buried in Buffalo,

Friday, August 1, 2014

Make The Difference

Today was about remembering a friend, the legacy she left, and making a difference to honor that legacy.  For me personally, it was about getting in touch with the "powers that be".  My friend Cindy wasn't one to sit back and wait - she took action.  So that's what I decided to do today to help honor her memory.

One of my passions in life is my children's education.  I'm determined that the amount of money I pay in school taxes every year will be used to make sure that at the end of their school career my monkey children will have gotten the best, experienced the most, and they will walk out as accomplished and educated young adults because our school district will have excelled.

For multiple reasons...this has not always been an easy road to travel.

Over the past few years, I've learned that if you want to see change happen, you MUST get involved. The implementation of Common Core Learning Standards isn't sitting right with you?  Do Something.  Individuals and poor decision making skills at a local level?  Do Something.  Money being taken away from local schools while taxes are on the rise?  Do Something.

At the very least, become informed.

I made that choice to become informed and apparently in the process, individuals sat up and took notice.  The first time I heard the words "major educational stakeholder in the community" I thought, Who me?  You're kidding, right?  I'm just a mom!  Make no mistake, I quickly learned that there is no such thing as just a mom.  My choice to get involved in my son's education began with understanding the role of high-stakes testing at his grade level, then evolved into learning about the Common Core Learning Standards, and we moved on to what was happening at the local level, and don't forget about state-wide...and wait? What's this GEA thing and what do you mean our school (and others like it) have lost MILLIONS of dollars over what was supposed to be a one-year gig?

Yeah...I became informed.  And involved.  And today, in honor of my friend, Cindy, and the incredible education advocate that she was - I made a list of politicians and I called them.  I discovered in the process that I'm not a fan of politics.

Six politicians:

  • 2 state senators (1 from each party) 
  • 1 assemblyman 
  • 2 candidates for governor (1 from each party)
  • 1 candidate for state senator.  
Unfortunately, at no point during my phone conversations today was I actually able to speak with the individual in office, but was directed to an office staff member.  No big deal.  I like to think that even politicians really are busy and can't personally answer every phone call that comes into their local office.

State Senator #1 - The office staff member answered my questions and replied to my concerns immediately by blaming the "other party".

If you know where I live, if you watch the news, and you know the problems affecting my school district then you should also know that blaming others for the issues at hand is definitely NOT the answer that I wanted to hear.  Please don't play politics with my children's education.  Don't blame the other side and don't blame the other Legislative House.  Be a big boy, pull up your big boy pants, and  get these issues fixed once and for all.  If you tell me that you are just as concerned as I am with public education reforms and state funding -  Prove it.

State Senator #2 - I thoroughly enjoyed this phone call.  I didn't get a local office staff member, but received a return phone call from his office in Albany.  Bonus Points for effort!  Joe (yep, that's his real name) even answered my questions with real foresight into the future of the state of New York,  the role he believed our "beloved" education commissioner would play, and talked to me about the "2-year pause" on high-stakes testing and where we needed to go from here.

Thanks Joe, for renewing my faith in my own State Senator!

Mr. Assemblyman's office staffer was obviously annoyed with having to take my call and honestly I wasn't all that impressed with her either.  Buh-Bye.

Candidate #1 for Governor I had to email due to no phone # on her website.  Simple and to the point, will you repeal this if/when you get elected?  (In other words, "how badly would you like this registered Republican to cross party lines and vote for you?")

Candidate #2 for Governor - This office staff member seemed to think that all of the answers to my questions were on the candidate's website, which only made me think that they didn't want to take my call either.  If you want to run my state, you may want to get my vote...especially as a registered party member.  Just saying, you may want to try a little harder in the future.  The only reason I'm not giving up on you yet is, admittedly, I do like the idea of that "Stop Common Core" ballot line.   Make it happen!

State Senator Candidate - Again, no phone number available on the website, so I sent out an email expressing my concerns.  This is just a reminder to said candidate:  I have a choice to make between you and the Senator who already impressed me to pieces today.   I hope you remember to impress me with your reply.   (Side note...apparently our household received Mr. Candidate's "card" in yesterday's mail with a phone number on it....looks like I have another phone call to make!)

Look, here's the deal... Don't brush me off, don't blame the other party for not getting things done, and please - - PLEASE!  Tell me what I can do to make things happen.  I'm here and I'm paying attention, and if we all agree that these issues at hand are a problem, then let's fix it!

Are you part of the problem, or will you be part of the solution?


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wanted: Wednesday Morning Do-Over

On any given week day, Mr. D. will shake me awake between 7:20-7:30am, so that I might see the teenager before he heads off to school.  I think it's actually more so that I have half a shot of becoming ever so slightly coherent prior to having to get the younger two children up and ready for school. 

This particular morning, I opened my eyes and noticed that the clock on the headboard read 7:45, and I went into instant panic mode:

"7:45! I overslept!"
"7:45! Hope D-man got off to school on time!"
"7:45! Why hasn't Mr. D awakened the little kids?"
"7:45! I need to shower, get kids to school, and be on time for an appointment in 1 hour's time!"

All of the above thoughts raced through my head in about a 15 second timespan.  Admittedly, there may have been one or two other thoughts that weren't quite as...eloquent.

I jumped out of bed, and stormed to the princess' room, "You need to wake up!"  I raced to the bottom of the stairs, and yelled up to the lil' dude, "It's late, you need to get up for school!" 

The younger children met me in the kitchen, and I heard the bathroom door open - I was expecting Mr. D to emerge, however, to my surprise it was the teenager.  Panic mode #2 set in for the morning. 

(Why is he still here) "Why are you still here?"
(You're going to be late for your Social Studies final!) "What are you....I mean, Why is....that is, where...." 

For whatever reason, be it utter confusion or just that at that time of day, I generally can't put a coherent thought together anyway, but for some reason I simply felt...dumbfounded.  AND the three monkey children were all looking at me and one another as if their mother had completely lost her mind.

Then I looked at the clock. 

It wasn't 7:45 in the morning, and my teenager was not going to be late for his Social Studies final.  It was, however, only 6:45 am, and I had 2 extremely tired little kids in front of me, and one befuddled teenager.  At that point, I could only hang my head in shame as I sent the littles back to bed for 45 minutes and let D-man amuse himself with thoughts that his mother really was completely nuts as he's believed all along.

Fast forward, and the lil' dude came back downstairs shortly before 7:30 to get himself ready for school.  I busied myself with my usual morning routine of checking email and such prior to making their lunches and getting myself together.  In my head, it was beginning to play out like a normal school morning.  The teenager was on his way (on time!), and the little dude was awake and getting his breakfast.  But it wasn't until I saw the princess make her way into the kitchen, still in her pajamas and hunting for her breakfast at 7:45 (the REAL 7:45, the time when we begin to officially hit "late" mode as we get ready for school.)

"Princess, what have you been doing for the last 15 minutes?"  (Her reply was a blank stare...somewhat similar to the look I had received an hour earlier.) I reiterated to her and Mr. D that she's STILL in her pajamas and still hasn't eaten breakfast...until the princess found her voice and said "But you told me to go back to bed..."

Oh.  Right.  I did do that. (Maybe I should begin to rethink a coffee habit?)

Mr. D began to look at me with an equally annoying yet amused look, as he realized that yep, his wife  was losing it.  

Adding to the "fun" of my morning:
  • I turned ON the light in the house prior to leaving instead of turning OFF the lights like normal people do.  
  • The good news - According to my doctor, I apparently lost 7 pounds!  The bad news - I also apparently lost 2 inches, and am a striking 5 feet tall now.  Super.  
  • I drove on the wrong road for about 3 miles before realizing I was on the wrong road.
This was all before 10:30am.  I'm calling a Do-Over.

Mr. D amused himself by texting me to find out if early Alzheimer's screening was part of my doctor's appointment.   

"I forgot."


(**Disclaimer:  I realize and am very aware of the serious nature of Alzheimer's and Dementia, as my own family has experience in dealing with it.  Please don't take this latest exchange between Mr. D and myself as anything more than what it was...him making fun of me.  Again.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

To My Favorite Teenager

To the boy who has my heart

The past three years have gone by entirely too quickly.  I fear that I have missed a very important part of your "growing up" stage as you made your way through your middle school years, and yet as an emerging teenager, I could only sit back and let you take this time to grow and mature as you became a young man.  I tried to give you the space you needed so as to not embarrass you by always being around.  Your boundaries were enlarged with friends we did not know, most we never even met (except for this past Halloween when they all showed up on our front porch), and some that we may never even encounter.   I hope that you continue to influence one another positively, holding each other up as you make your way into high school in just a few months.

All of this time you've remained the caring and polite boy that we raised as you grew into a young man.  And that's all I can ask.  Sure school has been academically challenging for you, and today at the 8th grade awards ceremony, the special recognitions were for other classmates... but it's when you come home each day and instinctively inquire about MY day before I can even ask about yours - that makes me smile.  When I overhear you taking the lead with your younger brother...guiding him.  Teaching him.  Being that all important "big brother" that he can look up to.  My heart swells with pride.  Certificates, awards, and honors are just pieces of paper that will fade and become crumpled.  It's the hard work that you put into your studies EACH and EVERY day...I don't take that fact lightly.  It doesn't matter if the grades that you've received aren't as high as others.  You've worked just as hard, if not harder than most.  That makes me proud of YOU.

Tonight as you made the choice to attend youth group instead of going to your "Moving Up Day" Dance...I'm so proud of you that you chose to follow that higher calling and that you find yourself listening to that still small voice that is speaking to you and guiding you to something that is so much greater than even I could ever dream for you.  When you find that, I pray that you will reach out and grab onto it tightly, never letting anyone lead you to the left or right, but always moving forward.

As you officially become a high school student in just a few weeks, remember that you are a unique individual.  I've said that all along.  Never, ever, let anyone tell you that's a bad thing.  You have something that sets you apart, and that is what will make others sit up and notice you for all of the incredible qualities that make you who YOU are.

I love you D,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 7. 2014 - #Blizzard2014

I've been watching it come across the country.  I've been watching the social networking posts of friends and family in the midwest as they dealt with more snow than what they're used to and severe plummeting temperatures.  I knew that it was coming my way, but I was prepared to deal with it.  Because, after all, it's Buffalo.  It snows.  Deal with it.

This morning I awoke to the sound of the wind still howling and the snow still blowing, and we were in "official" blizzard status.  Mr. D. still went off to work because apparently Federal employees are immune to the travel bans that are issued by local agencies which limit driving to only medical essential personnel.  I sent him on his way with the promise that I would not come bail him out if he was pulled over for being on the road when he shouldn't be.

Now, here's my complaint...

BAN means "to prohibit".  A driving ban means no driving unless you are a county essential employee or medical personnel. (Still unsure that U.S. postal workers can or should be able to get around this, but that's another argument for another day.)

The problem is that we had this driving ban telling us to stay off the roads (for a reason!), and yet there were businesses that were open and advertising that they were open on Facebook and Twitter (and probably elsewhere).  At this point I have heard about pharmacies, pet stores, shopping malls, grocery stores, local gym facilities, and a free public viewing of a theatre production that were planning on being open today.

The pharmacies I can understand...maybe...except that the entire store is open for those who also feel the need to restock their beer and cigarettes, oreos, or condoms and whatevers during this "white death".  If I don't include pet stores in that same understanding, I'll have animal rights activists all over my butt screaming that our 4-legged friends need to be fed in this weather.  And it's a stretch, but if we're keeping the animals fed, then certainly actual people need to be nourished and therein lies the  need for the grocery stores to remain open.  Even though we've had a week's notice of this impending storm, numerous weather forecasts and reports, there will certainly be individuals who didn't pay attention and have run out of certain bacon...or toilet paper.

That leaves us shopping malls, the local gym, and theatre productions.  Admittedly, I was nearly broken-hearted to have to decide that I couldn't head downtown to see the "load-in" for my favorite musical.  (As it turns out, the weather downtown turned nasty, so it really was a smart decision on my part) But how can these places, and others, continue to count themselves a necessity to remain open?

I apologize to my friends who have already heard my rant, but this morning as I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed I came across a notification that " ***** *** is OPEN!" One person had already commented questioning the driving ban that was in place, so I added a comment that I thought it was irresponsible for businesses to remain open, and thus encouraging drivers to be on the road when a driving ban was in effect.  I promise there was no rudeness or name-calling, I was simply stating my opinion that I disagreed with their decision in the midst of the wicked weather.  My comment was deleted.

So I added the words again...and it was deleted again.  I was in a bit of disbelief that someone seemed to find my comment so "inappropriate" that it had to be deleted, yet it was also slightly amusing - and annoying - all at the same time.

A third time, I added my comment (maybe I should have stopped with the 2nd one? I don't know.) A third time, the comment was deleted. A few minutes later a new announcement was posted that due to the weather, they would be closing. (Finally! A sensible decision!)  I privately sent a final message.  Maybe I shouldn't have, perhaps it was over-stepping, but again, I believed it to be an appropriate response on an open forum -

Thank you for proving to me that you may value the monthly dues from your members but not our opinions. Deleting my comment 3 times from your announcement that you are open today DESPITE there being a driving ban in Hamburg is not only rude but bad business. The fact is, it is irresponsible to announce that you are open for business when there is a driving ban in effect for the town and village of Hamburg. Glad to see that you have since made the smart decision for your employees and members to close at 9.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered this business had removed my ability to continue posting on their Facebook page.  Not once, as a business, did they personally acknowledge my comments, concerns, or messages.  I'm slightly curious that the next time I check in to this business with my key-tag, I will find that it will be refused and my membership revoked.

I'll survive not being able to communicate with this business via social networking in the future, and hopefully there were no accidents this morning as individuals were coming and going to this establishment that had announced it was open for business as normal.

But at what point did profit become more important than the people themselves?