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?


~C.

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."


C.


(**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,
Mom




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 necessities...like 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?

~C.




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

I sit here writing - somewhat contemplative, but mostly having arrived in that official "aaaahhhh" moment of the day.  The excitement of the day combined with too much good food, Mr. D. and I have separated ourselves from the monkey children, he on his iPad, and I here on my Mac while the children are entertaining themselves with their various forms of Christmas "fun".

I should preface this by saying that I'm absolutely thankful for this day every year.  I anticipate it just like a little child - the decorations, the baking, the season full of surprises, and remembering that above it all, we wouldn't be lavishing such love on our family and friends had we not been loved so incredibly ourselves with the birth of a babe 2000 years ago.

But (don't you hate that word?) I find myself slightly melancholy this year.  Despite the anticipation leading up to today, I found myself, more than once, feeling a hint of that depression that we will often hear rises up about this time of year.

I have always loved Christmas, and I remember years of growing up with family Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve.  Maybe that's where I learned to love Christmas Eve so much - I anticipate it as much as Christmas Day!  There were years that we would go to my grandparent's house, or my aunt and uncle, but there were also the years when our house was the place to be, and it was transformed into an amazing holiday party!  Christmas music was playing constantly, mom would cook amazing food, and there were years when our family would invite so many people to the house!  Grandparents, grandparents friends, aunts, uncles, cousins…I swear there was even one year when it was grandparents, grandparents siblings, and THEIR children - you know, those people that you call "cousin", but probably wouldn't know them if you ran into them on the street?  Still - all were welcome to celebrate the season at our home.

Christmas morning was different - always the same, but a different animal altogether.  My brother and I would wake up, I'm certain at an hour that was way too early for my parents, though I have no idea why I would ever do that.  They never made us wait too long, even though we knew we couldn't start opening gifts until AFTER they had gotten up and given us the green light to go ahead.  Grandpa always managed to come over early in the morning as well, to watch us open gifts…he never stayed long, but he always came.  After presents from Santa, we would dress in our Christmas best, pick one new toy to each bring with us, and then travel to see Grandpa & Grandma and the rest of my mom's family which was considerably bigger than my dad's side.  And louder too.  Each side of my extended family were polar opposites of one another.  And that's not a bad thing - They were just definitely different.

This year, I'd give anything to step back into that again.

I know that I can't, and given family circumstances, it would probably just be really weird if it did happen.  But I miss my family this year, even more than I usually do.

It could be a number of reasons - it could be that my step-sister just lost her mother that makes me miss my own.  It could be that a friend of mine just lost her father, making me realize that sometimes I may just have to suck it up and be the adult in this estranged relationship.  It could be that my extended family members are stretched out in multiple states that makes me miss the days of living closer together and actually expecting to spend the holiday together.

Oh I suppose there's something to be said for being able to have a lazy day at home with just the spouse and the kids and having no responsibilities outside of our own little bubble….except that my Christmas was never about staying in a bubble.  It was about family and friends.  Friends that may as well be family.  (Sometimes friends that can be just as close as or closer than family.)  Celebrating Christmas was never about shutting ourselves away for the sake of having a relaxing day at home.

The winter sun is beginning to set on this Christmas day that has gone by all too fast, and the days of multiple family Christmas celebrations will merely have to remain locked away in my memories.  I've talked to mom twice today - I may have to make it three.  Dad is also on the call list, and grandpa & grandma too.  Then I'll probably throw on my new Christmas pj's, and settle in with Mr. D. and the monkey children for something that is NOT video game related (sorry monkey boys!!)

Despicable Me 2, anyone?

I have a table full of snacks, munchies and all sorts of Christmas deliciousness - feel free to pop over this evening.  In the meantime - much love to your family this year, from our home to yours!

C.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This Is Why...

Last week I was stretched further than I ever could have thought my life would lead.  I slept fewer hours, advocated for my kids more, and fought harder for my district this past week than I ever have before.   Tonight I'm exhausted and yet sleep is still not close by.  I have a full night ahead of me as I begin the initial stages of planning a Book Fair and a number of other odds and ends to finish up.

Sometimes I begin to doubt myself.  Am I doing the right thing?  What motivates me to do what I'm doing? Why have I become so involved?

I'm involved because this is my children's education.  I demand to be involved in the process, and it's my right as their parent.  I've said it before that I firmly believe I am their best advocate, and NO ONE will fight as hard for them for what is best for them.  We picked our home to buy because of the elementary school in the back yard.  I've written before on how much I love this village.  Safe to say, I have zero interest in moving into another school district because of the dysfunction that is going on in my own.  The schools my children attend, the teachers who educate my kids, the administrators in charge...all of them are fantastic.  That's why I will always choose our public school system.

My children will benefit from the public school system because I pay school taxes, and because I pay school taxes, I will hold those in power in my school district accountable for the decisions they make with our money.  I may not agree with some of their decisions, but I want them to know that someone is noticing.  For too many years, I was guilty of not paying attention and not caring about that level of action within the school district.  Now that I know...I can't sit quietly.

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't care that the balance of power on my school board did a complete 180-degree turn since the new board members were seated in July.  I didn't necessarily agree with the direction that the last school board was going in, but that's how democracy works.  I'd be lying if the power shift didn't bother me because the decisions made in these last 90 days have been hasty, illogical, and ill-informed.  The power shift bothers me because it has only been beneficial to a select group of a very few individuals that doesn't include a school district of children.

I care about this district with a sincere passion.  I care because there are parents, teachers, and children who have been wronged.  I care because there is a method of communication being used to spread lies about individuals, lies about our district, and lies about their own intentions.  I care, because despite it's title, it is one of the most UNETHICAL things that I've ever read.  When children are victimized, and others' personal information is divulged through the words of little adults who won't even make themselves publicly known, I begin to lose all manner of respect.  So yes, I care.  I care for those whose voices have been silenced.

I do this because I'm completely fed up with false information.  I have personally been lied to, and I have also been given misinformation...whether that person was (again) lying to myself and others in the community or not, I don't know.  I do find it difficult to believe that they had merely been misinformed. These are people in our school district who were elected to KNOW what is going on.  Yet with one simple, little FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request, I was able to get the correct information and determine that indeed - they are lying to the district and the community or they really haven't got a clue as to what they're doing.  The jury is still out as to which.

This is why I'm involved, why I stay informed, and why I am determined that things will get better.  Yes, I'm tired of attending every little meeting that is called but I will continue to do so.  I only look forward to the day when those meetings begin to become productive, and decisions are made in the very best interest of our school district instead of individual motives.

C.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For My Kids

I've been nursing a migraine for about 20 hours.  It could be for a multitude of reasons.  It could be this crazy warm fall weather wreaking havoc on my sinuses.  More than likely it's not.

It's no secret I fight for my kids.  I fight for the very best that is offered to them. I fight to make sure that their education is the very best opportunity for them.  If I don't stand up for them...who will?

This morning I looked at my children with fresh eyes (maybe they were a little cloudy and groggy due to the early morning hours).  I looked at them and realized that despite the pain in my head and the nausea forming in my stomach, this fight is worth it.  My children are worth it.

I continue to stand up for what I believe is the right thing to do for their education, and by placing myself in what could be seen as the minority, may very well affect any hopes I have a being a future school board member. Perhaps that wasn't in His plan after all?

That remains to be seen.

The greater good here is doing the right thing.  Not in doing the popular thing, or doing nothing at all.  The attitudes, rumors, speculation, and agendas surrounding my children's school district are dangerous and unhealthy and for too long it's gone un-noticed, and uncared about.  I can no longer remain  complacent and sit quietly by while waiting for someone else to take care of it.  That "someone else" will never be the best advocate for my child.

So my migraine has been medicated.  The nausea remains, and my nerves are at full tilt.  But it's good.  I'm not walking in alone, for He has already gone in before me and He has paved this path in front of me.

..................................................

Tonight I'm at peace.  Usually I will re-hash over and over what was said and what was done.  Maybe I could have done this better, perhaps I shouldn't have said that, why didn't I just keep my mouth shut? I didn't even have to speak (much) other than a statement I felt needed to be said at one point.  So it was a little later, afterward, I had the opportunity while driving to an event to be able to re-hash the evening's events and I'm still at peace with it....and that tells me that I did what needed to be done.

Will there be fall-out?  I suppose.   Do I care?  Not so much.  If it begins to fall down on my kids, then watch out and look for momma bear to kick in - in a very big way.  But if it's just silly adults...silly adults who are used to getting their way and "adults" who have bullied other adults far worse than anyone ever should at this stage in life...give me a break people.  Grow up and deal with the fact that you've been called out for your wrong-doing.  I'll say it again.  Grow up.

I did it for my kids, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.   Never doubt that strong and fierce parental force within each of us.

C.