IT happened Again…

it happened again.  Kids killed in school.  In a community college.  in the center of a little piece of America where people are just trying to do better.  And the news covered it — for a minute.  And the President pleaded with America to fix things — for a minute.  And I shook my head and lowered my eyes in prayer — for a minute.

And today it may happen again.  Or tomorrow.  How do we continue to send our children off to school with this happening.  How do we do nothing.

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Declaration of My Independence

Oye.  So, my kids won’t read this.  They don’t have any interest in my blog, which is okay, truly.

Disclaimer:

I have been slowly declaring my independence from the ties of parenthood, grandparenthood.  Now, that does not FOR ONE MINUTE , mean that I don’t adore my kids and grandkids.  i would drop everything, everything if one of them needed me –and I have many many times.  Happily. I don’t regret or resent any moment with my family over the last 35 years. Not one moment.

But, over the past 2, maybe 3 years, I have realized that I am running out of time.  No drama here, just reality.  I’m almost 58.  Realistically I have maybe 10 -15 years left to feel pretty good, be pretty active.  Then, with my family history, maybe another 5 years to dwindle…and that is best case scenario. Not guaranteed, by any means. I have spent the last 35 years wrapped up  in supporting other people.  My people, my kids.  But, its time, it really is, for me to have some ME time.  for sure.

We took a honeymoon and then one camping trip in my dads camper before we started having children.  popped out 3 in less than five years. When our third child was 5 we took our first weekend away, with out kids.  Did it once a year for the next 2 years.( This was the time in my life when I used to stand in the back yard and watch planes fly over and wonder where they were going, if I would ever fly again.  Yes, I know, poor pitiful me. )

After  our 20th. anniversary I planned a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I know, Cleveland. That was the extent of our travels, alone, during our marriage.  Period.  We took the kids to the beach, almost every year after the oldest turned 7 — in North Carolina. Wonderful family vacations. We bought a boat, took the kids out every week.  We spent many days with family and with each other, we swam at the neighborhood pool.  We gave them the best life we could. We spent every minute with them, as a family. And it was a good life.

Flash forward, 35 years after we married on that Cold January day.  Kids are grown and married.  6 grandchildren in 6 years and now number 7 due any minute.  We retired early, then went immediately back to work, me in a new career, husband in an extension of his previous job. Our kids all live close.  It is wonderful.  But, it began to be expected that we would cover the holes in their days.  We “felt bad” when the kids were in daycare, so we picked them up almost every day.  we “felt bad” when oldest daughter or our son didn’t get to “go out”, “have fun” — so we babysat, rented beach houses and invited them all to join us.  We worried that they were short on money, or time, or joy or rest time.  So we worked to “fix it”.  And our kids have become quite comfortable and expecting of our involvement.

And then, it occurred to me that while, for 30 years or so,  I was spending every day and night raising kids and then grandkids,  and had zero hobbies, very few friends and no down time, my husband had been  hunting, fishing, building race cars,  playing darts and helping friends.  Not as much as he wanted, but still , finding time to be him.    There was no time to be me.  I lost me.  I went through years of resentment, laying right under the surface, of the life he had molded me into.  It almost drove us to divorce.  I left for a little bit.  He went buck crazy.  I figured, hell, if he wants it back this bad, maybe it IS worth fighting for.

Over the last couple years, I have pushed back.  We are working to live for us now.  It is our time.  We get to vacation alone,  say no to babysitting,  buy things we want and do things we enjoy. When my youngest says “lucky you” when I say we are at the beach, or at a restaurant, I remind her that when I was her age, or when my kids were her kids  age, I was exactly where she is. We are working hard to remove ourselves from our kids marriages – their arguments, decisions are not our business.  We will listen if they talk, but we will not try to solve their problems.  It is not our job to figure out who gets who off the bus, or to the doctor, or new shoes. I shouldn’t turn around on the way to a business meeting to pick up a child that has a parent who should do it, as hard as it is for me to keep driving straight.   We will help, when we can, when asked, but we are trying to help them not assume we are taking care of these things. Its life altering, not only for us, but, Im sure, for them.

We work full time.  We have a big house. We have sore knees and I have stents in my heart.  We have hobbies and toys and things we want to do.  Sometimes we want to do them with company, with children around. Sometimes we try to connect with old friends that we have ignored for years.  Sometimes we will alter our schedule to spend time with the people we love.  We will honor traditions and be present.  I never missed a hockey game, wrestling match or cheerleading performance.  Never missed a dance recital or a band concert.  Never. But I may miss a couple of these things when my grandchildren do them.  I may choose to sit on the back porch and read the paper or drive to the beach.  I’m going to build that beach house and spend months on end there.  And that is ok.

I declare my Independence.

you just never know what’s gonna pop up.

Googled a website today that was instrumental in helping ME survive my daughter’s illness, 8 years ago.  My last couple attempts to log in were met with failure so I thought I’d see if I could figure out what was going on. Google sent me to a list of articles and restaurants (?) and, surprisingly, a blog written by the founder of another organization that set me back years during the recovery stage of my daughter’s illness..  Weird.

Long story short, and I think I have written about it on this blog somewhere, I was asked to become a board member of an organization working in the field of my daughters illness.  Asked after MANY long conversations and emails.  The founding Exec. Director was stepping down and I applied, on a whim.  Im one of those people who wants to pay it forward, and since we had been helped by so many when our daughter was struggling, I thought this might be the opportunity to step it up and be a force.  WRONG.  So, anyway, we talked and talked and talked. They ultimately chose another applicant, but called to ask me to take on another role, sort of a face for the organization.  Someone who could speak with parents, the press, the former exec., the new exec. Great gig, right?  WRONG.

My husband and I planned on making the trip to DC for their National Conference, I bought a new suit — took a day off work and drove down.  After signing in, with a wonderful lady who knew my name and seemed excited to see me, I wandered around for about a half hour, introducing myself, unsure of what or where my place was — feeling like I had stumbled into a Sorority Mixer that I wasn’t really invited to.  Finally the new Exec. Director approached and told me “don’t introduce yourself as a board member, the members are getting offended.”  Huh?  “There are people on the board who don’t know about this decision, people who have worked with us for a while, who are unhappy, trying to figure out who you are.”  HUH?  Wouldn’t the business meeting the night before have been a good time to tell them about me or the role you had in mind for me?

Needless to say, this did not end well.  We stayed the day, listened to the self congratulatory speeches about all the organization had accomplished, watched the new Exec. Director be introduced — Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I remember my husband’s face as he tried to gauge my disappointment, tried to say the right thing.  I had been “removed” , belittled and dismissed by people that  I thought shared my vision, people I wanted to work alongside.  His proclamation?  “You don’t need them, bunch of stuck up women”.  Gotta love him.

Which leads me back to where this post began.  Google led me to  a blog entry, written by the former Exec.  about another website set up to help people suffering from this illness, and their families.  Very similar initiative.  The former Exec. had been ‘removed” from this site for a difference of opinion, belief, whatever.  Years ago.  Apparently her removal was the impetus for starting the new organization.  Apparently she feels the former site was detrimental, archaic and giving bad information.  Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t think so.   The former site had, truly, given me solace and comfort when my daughter was suffering.  I could turn to the site and post my feelings, my fears, my challenges, our triumphs.  I didn’t fixate on  the ads or the promos, didn’t see this organization as promoting themselves as experts, just purveyors of information for you to analyze yourself — I needed moms and dads, brothers and sisters, to listen to, react to and empathize with what we were going through. That is what I got there.  No preaching.  No “our way or the highway”.

So in her blog she ranted about the horrors of the site and demanded it be taken down or revamped.  Sometime in the period of her writing the blog and the time I found the entry, the site had, indeed, been taken  down.  Because of her feelings?  Because of her blog?  Doubtful, but who knows.  On that former site I had shared information with parents.  People had contacted me, comforted me — given me advice and led me to resources that , I believe, helped our family survive.

And yet, the other site couldn’t stand the presence of their existence.  Ironic, right?.  She described her hurt at being removed from the original site, the pain it caused.  I offer up, as a comparison, the pain this group of women caused me when they dismissed me , revoked their offer to work ( for free, obviously) with them.  They missed out on something good.  Im good at this, this advocacy gig.  I am working to better the lives of women, to eliminate racism, to promote health and joy and empowerment.  Your loss, dude.  look in the mirror.

You just never know what’s gonna pop up when you hit “search’

work work work

This retiree, who ,is actually a restartee, is getting tired…. I am, surprisingly, not 22 anymore.  Hell, Im not even 42 anymore….my mind is still sharp, my creativity level is still high, I am stimulated by the challenge and strategy needed to do the job I have taken on, but the hours in the day just dont allow me the time to do what i need to do.

Im slowing down.  damn it.  tasks take longer, organization takes more thought.  And at 6:00 when I get home, i am dog tired.

The drag of it is, I dont have to work.  I have a decent retirement income, we have savings and “plans” that will get us through the “golden years”, but I really really really believe in what we are doing at my job.  My heart is made for service and it gives me joy .  In the 8 1/2 months Ive been on this job we have accomplished great things, built the program, built our reputation, helped people.  So, I dont want to stop, or quit. or even slow down, i just need a few more hours in every day so that I can do my Job and see the grandbabies, go to the mall, meet a friend for lunch, have dinner with my husband, go to church, WP_20140930_043go to the beach…

shades of the past

So, I retired 2 years ago this month. went back to work part time the very next day…..then a year later found the perfect fulltime gig == great job, great people, strong mission…..good stuff.

But, yesterday, the job interfered with the life.  Family situation that I needed to deal with, right in the middle of preparation for an important presentation.  Juggle.   Family wins, of course.  So I took care of that, and have the privilege of being able to telecommute, so did some work last night to catch up.

And this morning, it continues.  Needed by family for a few hours.  Supervisor excellent, understands, all good. But, do I ?  Do I want to be in that place where you have to decide whether to spend time with the grandbabies or the office?  Do I want to do 8 hours a day behind a desk or at meetings?  Or do I want to sit in the backyard watching the kids play….

time will tell.  I dont do anything halfway, so it will be a conscious decision, for sure.  Time will tell.

an observation on teachers

Some of my best friends are teachers.  I was a teacher for over 20 years.  So, the rant that follows may seem a bit, well, treason-ish, but I have to get this off my chest.

Why is it that teachers bemoan the upcoming Monday return to work  every Sunday?  Why is it that social media is full of “I don’t want to go” and “Oh ,6  am, how I hate you” when the end of a vacation looms.   Why is it that the mere mention of a “flurry” brings out the “snow day” cries — and why do teachers start counting down to the end of the school year the minute Spring vacation is over?

And, do these teachers really think that their kids don’t sense this?

Now, I know, lots of it is in fun.  Teachers love teaching.  Why else would we stay in a field that pays so poorly, garners such little respect and has such ridiculous hours….but really guys.

Let up a bit on the “Woo Hoo! I don’t want to go to school.”  It’s just not very becoming.

What mess is this?

I refuse to believe this is a Pre-Christmas funk, because I just dont do that.  I prefer to think of it as post -traumatic stress syndrome.  Dramatic?  maybe, but over the past 7 or so years my life has been full of bumps, hell, downright BUMPS interspersed with immeasurable  moments of golden joy — and I think it is really beginning to take its toll.

I have said for years that I am the worst judge of character EVER.  I believe what people say to me, I am sure that I am mistaken, or to blame, if someone comes off as iffy or shady.  I let people, or in this case, institutions, in and then I am amazed, floored, downright pissed off when they let me down.

Someone said to me yesterday “Your one weakness is you dont like being told NO”.  Huh.  Like that’s ever happened.  I’ve heard and FELT no more times than I can remember.  Havent we all?  My weakness is I expect to be told “yes” when it is regarding someone or something that I believe in.

And I have reached a time in my life where I have the voice to say so.  But, I still am disappointed when I have to regroup, rethink, reexamine someone or something I have put my energy into.

And, I also, deal with the reality that every hit brings back some of the bangs of the past.

catching up

Since Ive retired ( four weeks. woo hoo) Ive kept in touch with a few workfriends through social media and telephone calls.  The calls usually start with them calling me a five letter word — rhymes with witch — because I dont have to get ready for work the next day and they do….but we quickly move into a discussion about the mess that is public education, today.  I taught for 23 years in the state system, and did a couple years in private schools too.  I remember when it was fun — the kids learned, the admins did their evaluations,  I wrote lesson plans, spending Saturdays with my papers spread out in front of me on the family room floor –my peers and I went to happy hour and did secret santa swaps.  we made each other Christmas Presents and had High Tea one dreary day each year, in March, when nothing of any excitement was going on.  We brought in guest speakers, we took trips, we wrote three page permission slips to take the kids to see the remake of Romeo and Juliet, and Rudy, and to the imax theatre to see roller coasters…

You get the spin here.  Learning was all encompassing.  We touched, smelled, tasted, listened to and looked at everything.  Incidental learning occurred throughout the day — sometimes you could see the lightbulbs over their heads when they saw something, processed it and really understood.

Teachers met in the lounge during break.  some of them smoked.  We drank soda and brought in leftover birthday cake and Mardi Gras Beads….When the internet came to our district we researched woodstock and made crossword puzzles. We got excited when they called for snow —

It was fun.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun.  The kids sat for testing once a year.  The scores mattered, but no more than their daily performance, their scores on teacher generated assessment.  Teachers walked the rows, checking for notes written on hands or calculators stuck under desks. 

 

Somewhere along the line something changed.  Businessmen began to tell me how to teach.  What to teach.  programs came into being where someone with a degree in engineering could take a few classes and be a high school math teacher.   There were shortcuts to everything — attendance was mandatory, but not really. students were expected to do homework, but we couldnt count it as a grade.  Noone has to stand up as we say the pledge of Allegiance.  Testing starts in October and continues through May.  Teachers are evaluated based on test scores of students they may not even teach.  Expected to develop growth goals with a cadre of kids, and held accountable for their progress towards the goal.  Kids move in and out of a school three or four times a year.  Parents take them out of the country for birthday parties or to “see my aunt, shes sick”.  Teacher observations are held and computer generated based on 4 or 5 components…The dreaded improvement plan is a vehicle for firing a teacher — administrators are told that there has to be areas of improvement noted on every analysis.  Its like starting with a zero and working your way up, when we all know that starting with 100 and being responsible for maintaining works better.

Administrators at the main office make decisions that have nothing to do with best practices, or they come into a building with grand plans and ultimatums and then they drop the ball on follow through.

Call me a b—- if you must.  but I got out.  I left mid year.   I dont miss it.