Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation, Family and School

It's been a few weeks. I won't apologize, because first of all, no one reads this anyway, so there is no one to apologize to. Secondly, I am writing here for me. I like to write, this is kind of my journal, and I will write when I want to. So nyah. Third, I was busy with the rest of my life. I had vacation, we had family visiting and it has been CRAZY busy. Fourth, I am in school. I write a lot for the class. In fact, I write for all of the class since its online. And finally, there's no point to writing if one has nothing to say. And I didn't for a while. But now I do.

So...there's my family. Over the fourth of July I spent some time with my younger brother Rob and his family. They came to our house and hung out for a week. They are terrific. The visit was terrific. I enjoyed them thoroughly. We barbecued, we went to parades, took bike rides, had campfires and made s'mores. It was terrific. It was so nice to hang out with them. The other part of the visit I really enjoyed is that my niece and nephews are starting to get more comfortable with me. See, I'm not as cool as my younger brother. He does silly things with the kids. He makes them laugh. He sung them to sleep each night by singing them the "Pencil Neck Geek" song. It's a silly song he made up about how they are all pencil necked geeks and need to go to sleep now. He does all these funny E.T.-type moves and gets them laughing. It riles them up a bit, but it also helps them to feel a real bond with him. The kids all love him for this stuff and he can be a hard act to follow. I am just not that funny or cool. So sometimes I feel overshadowed by his charisma.

But having the kids around for the amount of time they were around helped them to get over being shy around me a little I think. I cooked meals for them, made sure they had clean clothes, provided places to swim, dig, bounce and run. I think they might have sensed that even though I am not the life of the party like Rob is, I love them too. Very much. My nephew Wesley lost a tooth while at the Fourth of July parade. I put it in a gold box for him to take home to his mother, and put it in his back pack. I put bandaids on his knees when he had a minor crash with his bike. I took he and his sister (my niece) to Canobie Lake park. I make them lunch, I take them on walks, and read them stories at night.

I hope that these things leave traces of my love on their hearts. I don't expect them to remember all these little things. In fact, it's fine if they don't remember any specifics. I just hope that all of these little things combined helps them to know that I truly love them. I hope that when and if they think of me they have fond thoughts and feelings.

My nephew Noah is so adorable. He just turned 3 in June and his language skills are growing by leaps and bounds. He is adventurous (make sure you know where he is at all times Gummy! ) and he has a terrific laugh.

Scotty, Noah's brother, loves his Mommy so much. He has to check in with her regularly. It is such a contrast to his all boy ways when he is running around the yard with his cousins. (I think of them as the Three Musketeers, as they do everything together whenever they spend time together). He can be running around the yard playing guns, or hunting, or making jumps for his cars and trucks, and then he will take a minute to go to his Mommy, first three fingers in his mouth, and ask for his blanky. He likes to rub the tag on his blanket. He has done this since he was a baby. It is so soothing to him. Jackie, his Mom, and I have talked frequently about how the fingers he sucks are the same ones she did as a kid. I wonder if thumb/finger sucking is genetic?

Wesley is my oldest brother's (Billy) boy. He is eight. He is lightning fast, quiet, and sweet. I have found it hard to get to know him because he talks so little around me. I think he is a bit intimidated by me for some reason. But I think he is loosening up some though. He loves to play Wii games. He loves bike riding. He loves anything physical.

Brianna, my niece, is Wesley's sister. She is six and so beautiful. She has thick curly black hair. She has this lovely skin and she wants so badly to be with the boys doing what they are doing. But, as I well remember being a sister, she is often excluded from the boys' games. But that's okay because she can hang out with us girls. She loves to swim, is a good painter, and loves to read about horses, ponies and princesses.

I'm sad. I love these kids so much but I'm not sure how often in the future I will get to see them. My brother and his wife divorced, and you know how that can go. I am trying to maintain a friendship with her, and I hope to keep contact, but sometimes these things can be difficult. This is so hard because I like Rachel. I don't fully understand what happened between her and Bill, my brother, but I feel its none of my business anyway. I hope that I can continue to have a relationship with her and the kids, but I am not good at managing conflict. I am hoping to stay away from issues surrounding why she and Bill are no longer married and stick to keeping in touch with her and the kids.

Only time will tell how this goes I guess.

So anyway, after a really fun week with my niece and nephews and my own family, its back to life as usual. I am in my second class of my graduate program, and I hope that I am developing some leadership skills. I feel completely overwhelmed with the work, but I am enjoying the class. I think I might have to reprioritize my life a little so I can continue on in this program however. The pace is just out-of-control. I think I need to focus a bit on time management skills. Just to be sure that I can complete everything. I got an A in my first class, Business Communications, so I am pleased. I also got a 97% on my first paper in my second class, so I am pleased with that. But I need to make sure that I keep a handle on things or they will get away from me.

And sleep. I need sleep on a regular basis or I will fall apart. I have already had one major illness. I need to be sure it doesn't happen again. I can't burn the candle at both ends forever. So I have to get more strict about a routine.

With that in mind, I think I need to go to bed now. I will write more soon, when I have something to say. Check in if you like. I will try to post something new every once in a while.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Can We Move Away from Lukewarm Please?

The school year is over. Phew! I am so glad to be shut of it. I know that those of you who know me will probably be surprised to hear that because my children are doing well in school, but believe me when I say this: I am glad to be done with this school year.

Why? You ask. I'll tell you why. I am glad to be done with this school year because I am tired of dealing with people who don't have my children's best interests at heart. This year has emphasized for me that people in general do only what is absolutely necessary to get by. My children are all very intelligent. I am not bragging when I say this. I am just stating a fact. They think about things in interesting ways. They continually surprise me by the complexity of thought that they are capable of on a regular basis. If you are connected with me through Facebook, you will see a good example of what I mean. My daughter wrote a poem for a class. It is amazing. And she writes stuff like this regularly.

And the school does nothing to encourage her writing ability. Her teacher this year was terrific. But she had a class of 28 to manage. She barely had enough time to handle the requirements of MCAS preparation, let alone focus any attention on a budding writer.

The teacher my son had this year for kindegarten does what she does. The kids tend to like her and benefit from daughter loved her when she had her. But my son could take her or leave her. He did very well in school and brought home glowing reports. But when asked if he would miss her he said, "Nah. Not really." She did nothing memorable with the class, and I can't recall one single thing that Christopher came home bubbling about. Nothing.

So my children cruise through their educational experience unchallenged. They don't stretch themselves. They aren't challenged. They are learning how to conform, to not rock the boat, and to do what is expected of them.

I suppose I should be happy that they are getting A's on their report card. I should expand my chest with pride when reading the "Is a pleasure to have in class" comments. Part of me is glad to see those things for sure. Having friends whose children are really struggling with the world of academia makes me appreciate that I don't have those struggles. (Boy, did that sound snotty or what? Sorry.)But I am not completely happy. I'm not happy because my children can become background. Because they do not have a "problem," they can get passed over. Their talents may not get recognized, polished, or developed. I want them to develop what they have to the fullest potential.

So what do I do? How do I help them to develop the talents and skills that they have? I want them to enjoy being children. I don't want to load them down with extra "work," but I want them to challenge the things they take for granted as constants. I want them to ask why and what if. I want them to poke, stir, add to, change and create. I want them to play. I want them to inquire, investigate and hypothesize. So where do I turn?

My children are amazing, talented, creative, smart, funny, compassionate and kind people. I don't want those things to wither on the vine, unnourished. So where do I turn to feed these soul traits of theirs?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parenthood...What a Rush

I love watching my children. I am so glad that I am a mother. We are on this crazy ride together and I don't know how to work the control panel, but I don't care. I get to ride with them. I am honored. I close my eyes tight from fear sometimes, but then other times I raise my hands and scream in excitement as we take the next turn and go down the hill.

So life has been exciting lately. It's one of those times where you raise your hands in the air and wave them and scream. My daughter's softball team was in the playoffs. She got to be a part of something really fun. They had their ups and downs, they played their hearts out, and in the end...they took second place. It was a thrilling ride.

Sure, there were parents who were living vicariously through their children. There were a few occasions where I felt I wanted to scream at some of the umpires for forgetting these girls were 9-11 year olds and not pro-level players. And there were times that I wondered if my daughter really wanted to play or if I was pushing this too hard. But in the end, it was a terrific experience for her to be part of a team effort. It was good for her to see that working together for a common goal can turn some real results that feel wonderful.

And you know what? I think she really had fun too. She learned about how to play the game, and I think she learned a little about herself. She learned what was for her and what was not for her. I think we'll sign her up again next year.

Learning about competition is a good thing as well. I mean, so long as she isn't learning to be cutthroat about it. The world is full of competition. She isn't going to get praised for just existing by anyone but her parents. She has to learn to put her best efforts forward. She has to work hard to earn what she gets, and Mickey Mousing it won't cut it. She also needs to learn to be part of a team. To cheer her teammates' efforts on, to pick them up when they are feeling low and to come together and create the positive energy one needs to succeed. She needs to learn to be a good sport too. To learn how to be graceful in the face of defeat. To acknowledge when someone is just better at something than she and that she needs to practice more. Those are important lessons for her to learn.

Christopher learned something this spring too. He learned that he can actually enjoy something we sign him up for. He is the "close your eyes tight and resist" type of guy when it comes to trying new things. He doesn't always understand that sometimes, even though you don't know what something will be like, it might be a good thing. He was so angry with us at the beginning of the spring for signing him up for soccer. He cried, threw tantrums, and refused to participate. But after his first day he discovered that he actually likes soccer. He made some friends, got to do some running (which he loves), and learned a little bit about how to play. So now, not only does he like soccer, but it is actually his favorite activity (yes he did say that).

My Daniel is learning things too. He is learning how to express himself appropriately. He is so affectionate and creative and imaginative. It's wonderful. But he has the soul of an artist I think. With that creativity comes a moodiness. He can go from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye. Sometimes his emotions get a hold of him and like a tornado, they whip him into a frenzy. He screams, he yells, he stomps his feet and tells you that he doesn't want to see you ever again. But then the storm passes, and he is throwing his arms around you and telling you that he loves you a billion times infinity.

I am so proud of him lately. He is learning how to manage the intensity of his emotions very well. Despite his reluctance to do things that seem hard to him, he is coming along and learning to manage how he feels.

He is learning to follow directions as well. Instead of hiding when he is told to do something, he actually makes an attempt to do it. He may get distracted by other things, he may not complete the job, but he does try. Instead of stuffing his dirty clothes under the love seat, he puts them on the washing machine or near (if not in) his hamper.

Now if we can just get him to hold his hands in the air and scream in excitement, life will be good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Confessions of a Stow-Away Student

So I decided to go to grad school. It's something I have been wanting to do for the last 18 years, and I finally just jumped in and began. I was worried about the money. I was worried about finding the time to study. I was worried about having the ability to achieve academically at this level. I was (and am come to think of it) very worried. But I decided that I wouldn't let that fear keep me back. So I took the plunge.

I am attending Kaplan University Online. My first class is Business Communications. I really hope that I do well, but if my first graded assignment is any indication...I'm in for trouble. I spent HOURS fretting over this assignment. I worked and reworked it. Finally, I turned it in. It was a "Request for Funding" memo. I was clear, I was concise. I had no spelling errors. I had well-structured sentences. I was creative. But I never ACTUALLY asked for the funding. When my teacher pointed this out, I felt like such an onion head. How could I miss adding the main focus of the assignment?

So I am going to go sulk right now. I am doubting my abilities and I think I will console myself with ice cream. Rocky Road I think.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day ... Thoughts on Being a Mom

So here I am at work. It's just after 4 am and I am 3 hours from the end of my overnight shift. It's been pretty quiet here. A few calls here and there, but nothing really exciting. I've had some time to think. Maybe I will take this time to reflect a bit.

Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be a mother. What I want for my children and what I should want for my children. I don't know if I have the answer to what being a good mom is, but I hope I can learn before my kids grow up and leave.

So what do I want for my children? What do I think is important? What do I want them to learn, to absorb, and to make a part of themselves? Hmmmmm. First, I want them to be happy, secure individuals. I want them to know that they are loveable. That they deserve love. That they matter. I don't want them to feel entitled, that's different. I don't want them to be demanding. But I want them to be confident. To rest assured that they have a place in the world. They belong. They are important. They matter. I want them to know that this belonging and mattering doesn't depend on their performance. If they screw up, they still belong. They are still loved.

I also want them to know that anything worth having is earned. The world is not their oyster. Or maybe it is if they are willing to be the one to swim to the bottom of the proverbial ocean to get the oyster themselves and pry out the pearl. I have been trying, since my children were very small, to teach them the value of hard work and earning their way. I think I have been going about it all wrong though, as their focus seems to be on money. They feel money is the enemy. Money is bad. I talk with my children frequently about money and how our home and the things they have and enjoy cost money. I don't try to drive it down their throats, but when they complain about not wanting their father or I to leave for work, I will often tell them that we need to go so that we can afford the things we need to live or the things that we want to enjoy.

But I think somehow I am causing them to miss the point. Money is ONLY a tool. It is neither good nor bad. It is useful to obtain the things we need and want. Period. But we shouldn't pursue it endlessly. I think I need to help them focus more on which things we should want to pursue. To my way of thinking, pursuing an understanding of God and those we love should be our main focus. When I refer to those we love, I include love and understanding of oneself. That is one of the most crucial people we need to love and understand. Without this love and understanding, often our perceptions of others become skewed. We have insecurities that cause us to filter out the wrong information when we are dealing with family and friends. If I can teach my children that they are loveable, worthy individuals who are capable of contributing to society in meaningful ways they will be open to learning from life.

So what is my job as a mother? I see my job as multifaceted. I think part of my job is to provide guidance. While I may make many decisions and apply certain rules to their behaviors, I think my overall function in this area is to guide my children. I will do my best to provide the tools they need to learn to make good decisions. Hopefully I will allow them the space to practice making decisions. Some of their decisions will be good ones. Some not so good. I pray I have the strength to let them stand on their own two feet whether those decisions are good or bad. And I pray that they feel they can come to me when their decisions turn out to not be so perfect. If they fall I don't want them to feel they cannot come to me and ask for help.

It's a tough balance. I have high expectations of my children. I expect them to try hard in every area of their lives. I refuse to let them say they can't do something. I don't expect them to be perfect at what they do, but I do expect them to try their very best at everything they try. I hope they experience this expectation as faith in their abilities and not intolerance. I do not want my children to grow up with the idea that everything is going to be handed to them. But I also don't want them to be afraid to fail.

My daughter is a straight A student. I am proud of her. She is in fourth grade and she always brings home glowing reports from school. More important to me than the grade letter however, is the section for the teacher's comments, where the teachers all say that she puts a lot of effort into her studies. She excels in many areas of her studies, but I am most proud of the fact that all her teachers say that she tries hard at everything she does. She told me the other day that she is disappointed with herself if she brings home anything lower than an A. If she gets an A- she is upset. I told her that if she is trying her hardest, it doesn't matter if it's an A or an A-...or even a C. I hope I am doing the right thing telling her this. I don't want her to think a C is okay if that isn't her best effort.

My son Christopher is a wonderful student too. My worry with him is that he is actually a little too hard on himself. He is learning to read. He is doing a great job according to what his teacher says and what I see. But when we read together, he gets so upset if he can't sound out a word. He hits himself in the head and will cry. I tried to tell him the other day that it was okay to make mistakes. He was in school because he doesn't know it all. That was the point of being in school. Everyone makes mistakes and that is okay. He responded with, "I make more mistakes than anyone though Mommy." How do I help my little guy? How do I guide him to make his best effort without creating unneccessary stress for him?

Then there is Daniel. Daniel is almost four, and he is a complicated mix of self-assurance and temper. Trying to motivate my little guy to follow directions and want to participate has been quite a challenge for me. My approval of him has nothing to do with getting him to do what you would like him to do. He can be the sweetest, kindest little boy or the most defiant, frustrating, oppositional individual. It all depends on how you handle him. I wish I could say that I always handled him correctly, but I don't. He does not like to be yelled at, that is for sure. When you really stop and think about it, who does? No one likes to be yelled at. The effect it often has with my Daniel is to make him want to do the direct opposite of what you want him to do. Sometimes I think as he grows that defiance of authority can serve him well. He will question things. He wants to think for himself. He has such a strong ability to imagine the possibilities, create the environments of his choosing, and to love. He is outgoing, friendly and curious. He frequently chats with the neighbors, the cashiers at the grocery store, and random strangers on the street. The world is an interesting place full of things that spark his imagination.

I know that I can't make them learn life's lessons. I know that I am only a part of their world. I am not their whole world. There are other influences on them. Some good (their father), some not so good (television), and I cannot control who they become. I am barely begun on this journey of parenthood, but I feel the weight of this endeavor so deeply.

What will my children become? They are already moving out of that stage of their lives where they need me to be ever present. It's hard for me to see that happening. I am not the central player in their lives any more. My role as mother is already shifting. I am moving from the "Mom as Source" of all role to "Mom as Conduit to" role. I'm not providing them with all their needs anymore...and that's kind of scary for me. Now, lest you think I don't realize the others in our lives that meet the children's needs, let me assure you that I haven't forgotten. They have a terrific father who works hard to provide them with the things that they need. He is our breadwinner, he is a major source of light and humor. He is a steadying force. He is the quiet reassurance that my children need. The lighthouse to their tidal force. But I am talking about my role as Mom here.

So my children's needs are shifting. Their need of me to be their source of all stimulation, food and support is shifting. Now they need me to act as a conduit to experiences. They need me to assure them that they are important. They need me to play games with them. They need me to provide them with experiences that cause them to think about the world around them. They need me to give them a home base to explore from. They need to know that they can venture out into the big wide world and that there is still a place for them when they return either triumphant from their days' adventures, or beat down. Whether we are celebrating or applying healing salves, they need to know there are those who care about them waiting for them at home.

Boy I hope I am doing that job well. I want to foster independence for them. I want them to feel competent as individuals. But I want them to know that on those occassions when things don't work out as they had hoped, I and there father are here for them. I think I do okay teaching them to be independent, but I think my bedside manner when they are not doing so well needs work. I think I am a bit of a hardcase at times. I don't mean to be, but I want my children to understand that the world is not going to change to meet them. They must adapt to the world around them. But I hope I am remembering while I teach them that that they are young. They need. And it's okay to need.

I also want to teach my children the importance of being decent. I was talking with a distant family member today and he put it like this: I see my role as parent like this: I need to teach my children not to be dicks. Crudely put, but dead on in my opinion. That one phrase captures exactly what I want for my children. I want them to have manners, to think about others, and to have integrity. In short, I want to teach them to not be dicks.

We live in a society that is too permissive in my opinion. When someone is rude it is chalked up to a bad day, or it is ignored. On the surface that is. I don't believe that anyone truly forgets if you are rude to them. They can forgive and move on for sure, but when you are rude to someone it isn't forgotten. It is added to their mental database describing who you are to them. Teaching your children to have manners helps them to learn the important role they play in the world around them. It helps them to remember that they are not the only ones who have feelings. It helps them be aware of the needs of others, even if only in a superficial way.

My son Daniel often holds the door for me. He will proclaim, "I am a gentleman Mommy." I usually smile and tell him that yes, he is indeed a gentleman. I hope that this behavior continues as he grows. But it won't unless we encourage it. This encouragement and teaching needs to extend past the superficial act of holding the door though. I must teach my children to think of others' needs in addition to their own. I want my children to grow up knowing that they are part of a larger community. That they have a responsibility to care for that community. It's not just about themselves. There is a larger picture to consider.

So, as Mother's Day begins, I approach it humbly, hoping that I am equal to the task. I hope my children understand how very special they are. I hope I convey to them how important a task raising them is to me. I am hoping as the years progress I will deserve the title of Mom.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful to have such wonderful, smart, creative, beautiful children
2.) I am grateful to have a wonderful partner to raise these children with
3.) I am grateful for those around me that I can learn from to become a better parent
4.) I am grateful for good friends who help support my efforts to be a good mom
5.) I am grateful for the chance God has given me to be a Mom.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I arrive at 3pm? No wait midnight? No wait 2:30am?

So after I finished talking with Brian, I went and checked in with the airline. My flight was scheduled to depart on time, and I was there in plenty of time. I sat down in a chair facing the airline's boarding desk, and whipped out my book.

The book I was working on is called "Heart of a Father." This book is a collection of essays from men who either have children with a congenital heart defect, have a heart defect themselves, are married to someone with a congenital heart defect, or are the grandparents of a child with a congenital heart defect. Some of these fathers have children who are babies, some have children who are grown, some fathers' children have died, and some are living with all the implications of having a heart defect themselves.

I became absorbed in the book. The writing is terrific. I cried my eyes out for the men in these essays. The stories of love, loss and support are amazing. They write about how the decisions that they make affect their relationships with their children, how their marriages endure or fail, and how they cope with the stress of needing to work versus their desire to be by the bedsides of their loved ones.

The more I read, the more connected I became with these men. I was devastated after reading the essay of one dad who held his baby as he died in his arms. One dad wrote a series of love letters to his daughter who died at the age of five. Another dad wrote a poem about losing his son.

As I stopped to wipe my eyes, I looked up and noticed that the flight information at the gate had changed. I jumped up and ran to the Continental Airlines desk. "What happened to the flight to Newark?" I demanded. "Where is it?"

"Are you Mrs. Turner? Didn't you hear us? We called for you overhead." The gate attendants looked incredulous.

"No! No I most certainly did NOT hear you call for me! I was sitting right there!" I pointed to the seat in front of the gate.

"We did call for you several times Mrs. Turner, I'm sorry," the attendants looked apologetic.

I instantly burst into tears. "You don't understand. I haven't had a vacation in several years. I haven't been away from my three young children in more than 9.5 YEARS!" I felt hopeless. My ship was sunk before it left port. My chance to kick back, relax and gain a new perspective...gone. What was I going to do? And how was I going to explain this stupid mistake to Steve? Steve had graciously agreed, without argument, to allow me to take this solo trip, and I had spent money that we could not afford to waste. Now that the money was spent, I would STILL not get the rest I was looking for and it was all my fault. How could I miss the flight? Why hadn't I heard them calling me?

"Hold on Mrs. Turner, we are looking to see if we can help you now," the gate attendants looked sympathetic. They said, "We know what you are going through, believe me. We understand the need for a vacation. Hold on." There were two of them. The one with the long dark hair was biting her lower lip and working busily at a terminal, checking flights.

I anxiously awaited their response. Shifting from foot to foot I tried to be patient. I tried to let them work their magic without my interjections. Finally, the woman with the shorter,curlier dark hair and pretty eyes smiled, "We found you a flight to Columbus,OH where you can connect with a flight to Dallas." Oh yay! I was so relieved. To still be able to go on my little adventure. To have a shot at relaxation. The possibility of a fresh new perspective returning to me.

"Oh thank you so much!" I gushed. "I really appreciate your help."

"Do you want a window seat or an aisle?" the woman with the long hair asked.

"I don't care, really. I am just so happy that you could help me at all, I'll take anything," I was feeling buoyant again.

So I was back on track. I was on my way to see my sister. I would be a little later, but I would still get there. I sent a text message to my sister, letting her know that I missed my flight and that I would be arriving a bit later than originally planned. After texting her my flight information I decided to call her anyway, to be sure she knew the score.

When I got Cathy on the phone she asked me, "Do you like Jimmy Buffett?" Are you kidding me? LIKE Jimmy Buffett? I LOVE Jimmy Buffett. Absolutely LOVE him. "Well, Jay got us tickets to go tomorrow night," Cathy informed me. "I'm on my way to go get them right now," she said.

I didn't care how I got there, I decided. If I had to walk there, I would make it in time for Jimmy tomorrow night I told myself mentally. I would not miss the Parrothead scene for all the cheeseburgers in paradise.

This trip was looking up for me. Okay, so I missed my initial flight. I managed to get on another without it costing me anything extra, and it looked like the trip was shaping up to be extra fun. I have always wanted to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert. The cult following he has is legendary. The crowds that tend to follow Jimmy just want to have a good time. Most of them have clearly visited Margaritaville a time or two before coming to the concert. Many are aging Yuppies. But all just want to have a good time without wanting to hurt anybody. I doubt if any of them have visited a mosh pit, but I could be wrong. Jimmy's good time vibe is just what I needed.

My flight to Dallas from Columbus was cancelled due to weather. Apparently there were hail storms moving through the midwest and the airport in Dallas was diverting aircraft because of them. I was quickly rescheduled on a flight to Houston. I thought to myself, "I wonder if Cathy would be up for a road trip to pick me up in Houston?" I hoped that would not become necessary, but didn't know what I should do if I couldn't get a flight out of Columbus to Dallas. I remembered that Houston was a big city. The last time I was there to visit my brother we drove two hours and were still in Houston. Boy I hoped I didn't get stuck in either Columbus or Houston.

The gate was changed. There were some complications due to weather issues, so the overhead announcement was that there was a gate change for my flight from Columbus to Houston. I grabbed my bags (boy was I glad I only had two carryons and no checked baggage), and headed for the gate.

When I got to the gate that was announced on the overhead it did not list Houston as the destination. Monterrey was listed. I approached the desk and was informed that yes, this was the correct gate, they were just waiting for the plane to arrive from Atlanta. Feeling nervous and worried since I had already missed a flight, I uneasily sat down in a chair at the gate. Reflecting on how easy it would be to miss an announcement overhead (it could be very hard to understand what was being said sometimes), I spied a group of flight attendants. I approached them and asked if they were going to be on my flight. When I was informed that yes, they were the flight attendants for my flight, I decided right then and there that I would follow them. Since my plane could not leave without this group of flight attendants, I would stick to them like glue.

One of the flight attendants seemed to have a direct line to the flight tower. She got frequent updates on what was going on and when we were expected to be able to board the plane. She also got an advance warning of a gate change, so it was a rather simple thing to follow the group of the attendants to the new gate. I felt assured that I would be boarding the correct flight if we didn't get cancelled due to the weather.

Finally we were called to board the plane. I quickly texted my sister that I was indeed boarding and got in line. I listened closely and made my way into the plane and found my window seat as soon as I was able to. I buckled my seatbelt, pulled out my book, and waited for the plane to take off. And waited. And waited. After about an hour, the pilot informed us that he was sorry, but for some reason the crew did not have a flight plan in with the paperwork and that they could not take off until they found the flight plan. We would have to wait at the gate until the flight plan was found. If we so desired, we could get off the plane and stretch our legs while they searched for the paper work that they needed.

Nothing doing! There was no way I was leaving the plane, I informed my young seatmate, a high school aged soccer player. I settled down to read, reasoning that if the crew wanted the plane cleared, they would inform me. Soon enough, the pilot was back on the overhead informing us that a flight plan had been located, they were very sorry for the delay, and we would be taking off momentarily.

The in flight movie, which they gave to us free of charge to make up for the delay, was Marley & Me. The ads for this movie make it seem as if the movie is a comedy about the foibles of raising a dog with bad habits. He is lovingly called, "The worst dog ever!" throughout the movie. But the movie is really about the life of a family. The struggle to balance personal satisfaction and happiness with the needs of a young family figure into the story line quite prominently. It struck me as a movie that couples should watch together and discuss. It was very provocative. It was emotional. It was poignant. And least as far as my life is concerned.

Eventually I did arrive in Dallas. It was 2:30am. I was tired and sore. But I was there. My sister was there, looking relieved and tired. We hugged briefly. She joked around with me about how everyone who goes to visit her misses their flight or has some kind of problem. She took me to a breakfast place that was open all night. We had lattes and banana nut pancakes. It was yummy. Then we went to bed, not to arise until 1pm that afternoon.

On the drive to her place, my sister remarked that I was remarkably calm for the kind of day I had just had. I made the comment to her that after I knew I could still get to Dallas, the rest of it was just fine. I could live with more connections, later arrivals and such, just so long as I knew all would be right in the end.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful for those at Continental Airlines that were willing to help me
2.) I am grateful for Jimmy Buffett
3.) I am grateful for my sister Cathy, who is the queen of hospitality
4.) I am grateful for Jay, my brother-in-law who assisted with my weekend of relaxation
5.) I am grateful for the ability to develop and exercise patience. Good things really DO come to those who wait.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Live Where You Play

So I took my trip to Dallas and, in a word, it was FABULOUS!!! Not without a few hitches, but it was truly fabulous. I am soooooooo glad I went. I hope you don't mind listening to me babble about it as I think I came away with some interesting food for thought. It may take more than one post to truly attend to my thoughts on this trip, so bear with me, okay?

First, let me say, my sister was terrific. Thank you Cathy,if you are reading this. I can't express in words how timely your hospitality was. Not just your hospitality, but your willingness to let bygones be bygones. We have had some differences in the past and truthfully I was worried that they would come into play while I was down in Dallas, but they did not. I had fun, I rested, I relaxed, and I recharged. I was able to do some thinking, and adjust my perspective a bit. It was also a huge help to be able to just have fun. My sister was thoughtful and attentive, and did exactly the right amount of planning. Her ability to go with the flow and be responsive to what I needed was admirable. I wish more people understood how to respond to someone in need (including myself).

I'll recap my trip for you so you can see what I mean. First, I caught a taxi to Logan airport. It was a bit pricey, but I don't do it often, so what the hey? The taxi arrived on time, at 6:45am (ugh!I am NOT an early riser) and we were off. The gentleman who was my chauffer was personable, professional, and prompt. He knew his way around the airport and delivered me to the curbside area for Continental Airlines. All I had to do was step out with my luggage (2 carryons), and check in with skycap.

I was two hours early for my flight, so I felt pretty comfortable. I went through security with only minor problems - my luggage was searched and they found a pair of scissors that I did not know was in my bag (thank you to my children for that I think). After confiscating them I proceeded through without further event.

After ascertaining the location of my gate, I decided to get breakfast at a bar in the area. I sat down, ordered my coffee and french toast, and pulled out a book I was going to read. It was an advanced manuscript copy of a book a friend of mine had asked me to read and review for her, called Heart of a Father. I had begun reading it the previous week, but hadn't had the time I was hoping for to complete it. I was hoping to read it on the flight so I could fill out her survey and give her feedback on the book prior to her sending it to her publisher.

While I was fishing around in my suitcase for the book, a young man pulled up to the bar. He had all his luggage stacked on what looked at first glance to be a wheelchair, but upon taking a second look turned out to be a hand cart. This gentleman looked to be in his early 30's, and the way he was dressed made me think of guys who like to hike in the wilderness, go rock climbing, and love extreme sports of all kinds. He had a bandanna on his head, wore hiking boots, and had a watch on each wrist.

When he pulled up, he said to me, "Do you mind if I pull up here? I don't want to crowd you or anything." I replied, "No, not at all, that's fine." I located my book and pulled it out to read.

"Waitress? Can I please have a beer?" he asked. I thought, "Geesh, this guy is already drinking at 8:00am? Definite problems there." Oh, how judgemental we can be. Without even knowing this man I had already assessed the situation and decided that he had, "issues." When I caught myself doing that, I mentally scolded myself, "Now, you don't know anything about this guy. Maybe he's just travelled from somewhere and his time zones are all goofed up. Besides, it's none of my business."

The "Guy with the Beer" extended his hand, "Hi, I'm Brian. What's your name?" I told him that I was Sheri and inquired about the two wrist watches. "Oh that. I wear the watch with my current time zone on my left wrist and the watch with the time zone I am going to on my right. That way I'm not calling people at the wrong time. It pisses them off when you do that. It also keeps me from missing flights. I've done that before. You know, you think you have two hours between flights but you don't account for the change in time zones."

I proceeded for the next hour and 15 minutes to have one of the single most interesting discussions I have ever had with anyone. I asked Brian what he was travelling for, business or pleasure. He told me both. He said he was a travelling surgical nurse on his way to work in Hawaii for the next six months. He was leaving his wife behind and was hoping to earn her ticket soon.

Brian soon began to inquire of me what my travel was about, business or pleasure. I told Brian that I was a stay at home mother with a part time third shift hospital job and that I was in desperate need of some rest and relaxation. I was hoping to regain some perspective on my life by taking this trip and needed to have some fun.

"You know, God likes us to have fun you know," Brian commented. "Most people don't realize that, but God loves it when we have a good time." Hmmm. Interesting. Most people I talk to either don't care at all about what God wants (if they believe in him), or they think God is only interested in us insofar as we can sacrifice all we are and have in his service. Short term missions to Uraguay to rebuild schools and evangelize the heathen masses. Soup kitchens. Ministries. Sunday schools. Picking up our cross. That kind of stuff. I don't often hear about a God who wants us to go rock climbing, hiking, water skiing and who likes to hear us laugh.

Tell me more Brian. Brian told me about his life and his philosophy. He said, "You gotta live where you play." Why slave your ass off for 50 weeks a year to spend a pantload of money to travel to where you have fun for a mere two weeks? That's no way to live. Brian told me about his life. He found several acres of land on a mountaintop dirt cheap, plopped a simple house on it with a generator and a woodburning stove, and he lives there with his wife year round. People tell him he's crazy to live that way...needing a snowplow on a regular basis to get to his home, having to chop cords of wood to keep heated, and navigating through the occassional blackout by firing up his generator. But he loves it. The manual labor helps him to clear his mind of clutter. He doesn't need a lot of money, and it allows him to pursue his passion as a travelling surgical nurse.

"I always feel like I have to be 'on' I told Brian. I never get to just enjoy life. I have chores, I have obligations, I have committments. I don't have fun."

Brian responded, "Take a bump." Huh? What are you talking about Brian? Before I had a chance to ask the question, Brian said, "If you are ever in a position where the airline asks you to accept a bump from a flight and you have the time, do it. It's totally worth it. And you can get some wonderful R&R that way, really." Brian let that thought sink in for a few moments."You know, I have been bumped 3 times from my flight to Hawaii, and I have almost earned enough for a ticket for my wife to come to Hawaii with me. In addition to that I have had the time to just relax. I don't start my job until Monday, so I can afford to just hang out. The airline has paid for my hotel and given me $600 towards another ticket I can use for my wife," he paused. "It's a great way to relax."

Thank you Brian, I thought. As I was thinking this Brian ordered another beer. I found myself thinking of that Jimmy Buffett song, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." Brian was travelling to Hawaii, and I don't remember how many hours behind or ahead of us they are, but I was sure that if he were there, having a beer would not seem so odd. The next time the waitress came by my table, I decided to order a Mimosa. I found myself internally toasting Brian and his philosophy.

The conversation shifted to technology. Brian wanted nothing to do with laptops, cell phones and the like. He was more into writing with an old typewriter he found at a landfill. He loved the clackety-clack of the keys and felt that it was more closely tied to his writing than the quiet click of keys on a desktop or laptop computer. "But I will probably eventually need one," he conceded sadly. "It's the wave of the future. Everyone MUST have access to these annoying devices." He refuses to use the internet, and more power to him. He views himself as one of the last hold-outs, refusing to be sucked into a world of instant gratification. Far too many people see what they want on the internet, hit a key, and presto! The item in question is delivered to their doorstep.

The world of instant gratification and technology led us to conversing about parenting styles. I personally object to raising my children to be connected to computers, television or video games for any real length of time. "When I was raising my children as youngsters," Brian said (and this was where I found out my assessment of his age was all wrong...he was 51), "if it was sunny outside they were told that was where they needed to be...outside. Go look at frogs, birds, bugs, whatever. Go play baseball, football, frisbee. Do whatever "girly" things you can outside. I didn't care. But they were not going to be indoors." Brian and I agree on that subject. It was refreshing to talk to someone else who saw a problem with teaching their children it was okay to be sucked into the mindless drivel on the television, or to play endless rounds of video-games that desensitize them to violence (I know, get off the soap box...but NO, I will not, it's my blog and I can say this if I want to)or to sit in front of a computer that pretends to have answers but doesn't really have good filters. Go outside. Interact with the world. Cut the cords that tether you inside during the sunny blissful days of childhood. Pick flowers. Throw mud. Ride your bike.

The Mimosa went down quickly as we talked more and I felt the drink going to my face, as alcoholic drinks usually do. I am a real lightweight when it comes to drinking and I often finish a drink with my face crimson and heated. I checked my phone for the time and saw that there was approximately a half hour before my flight departed. Even though I was thoroughly enjoying my conversation with Brian, I was anxious to get to my gate as I was fearful of missing my flight (how ironic I would find out later).

Brian got up, shook my hand, and then hugged me. It was nice to talk to someone who got it. Someone who saw how deceptively easy it is to get sucked into a busy life full of nothing. Full of computers, internet shopping and television. Full of empty jobs, oversized empty houses, and devoid of heart.

If Brian was any indication of how my trip was going to be, I was encouraged. Maybe I was making the right decision by going. Maybe it wasn't selfish of me to want to get away for a few days and regroup. Perhaps God had something to say to me and was using Brian to do it. Maybe he had more in store for me. Boy, I couldn't wait to hear it if so.

My five things:

1.) I'm soooo grateful for my sister Cathy
2.) I'm grateful for meeting Brian
3.) I'm grateful for a husband who can support my needs
4.) I'm grateful for possibilities
5.) I'm grateful for renewal

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Passion vs. The Presents

Easter is once again upon us. I feel kind of lost when it comes to this subject with kids. On the one hand, there is the joy of the Easter Bunny. They get so excited talking about what the fluffy-tailed night visitor might leave them. They always ask to leave carrots for him, to help him recharge for the rest of his night's journey. They love the egg hunt we do in the morning - this year it will probably happen as I am coming in the house from my night shift at the hospital. They work as a team to find eggs and divide the spoils up evenly.

And I love giving them these things. I try not to be too materialistic with my children. While it is undeniably fun to receive gifts, I don't want them to focus all of their energies on having and receiving these things. Spending time with your family, having new and interesting experiences, exploring your beliefs and thoughts about God and the Universe, and sharing close relationships with loved ones and friends is what I want my children to value. Not things. Things pass away. Things get broken, outgrown and old. Things often create stress, whether the stress is related to acquiring them, keeping them or sharing them, things always create stress.

During the year, my husband and I do not buy a whole lot for our children. Rarely do they receive new toys or clothes throughout the year. They have what they need, but they do not get everything that they want. That is on purpose. I think it is important to teach children that life is not about getting things. It's about what you give. But as I said, I love giving them things that make them happy. They're kids. Kids are simple. They are easy to please. How many times have you heard about the baby or toddler that plays for hours with the box the gift has come in? Many times all it takes to make my daughter happy is a few kind words, or to know that you have really listened to her ideas.

My daughter is adorable. She wants to do a presentation to her class about mythical creatures and how they really do exist. She has her evidence of Santa, provided last Christmas by Santa's failure to take his glasses with him and the fact that he accidentally dropped a glove and his sleigh license. She has the money left by the tooth fairy. She wrote a note to the Easter Bunny this year asking for him to leave some evidence of his existence. She told me that she intends to scientifically prove that these creatures exist.

She has begun to ask me if Santa and the Easter Bunny exist. I didn't say no. I told her today that I believe in their spirit. The idea that someone is out there who is unselfish to the point of trying to give so much to others is moving to me. Whether Santa was actually a person long ago or not, I want to promote that spirit of giving. Is it wrong of me to want to promote that spirit? Is it wrong to do it in this way? My daughter responded to my comment about believing in the Spirit of Santa by saying, "Well, I believe in him AND the Easter Bunny as solid, ACTUAL beings. I mean, how could they leave such wonderful gifts if they weren't solid?"

The other issue that troubles me is that we are currently struggling with the subject of lying with my boys. I have had to on several occassions punish Christopher for lying to me. The latest situation involved, as I said in a prior post, him telling our pediatrician's nurse that I was not home when she called. I was indeed home, and I was very angry at Christopher for telling the caller that I was not there. Am I being a hypocrite? I don't want my boys to think that lying is okay...and perhaps they will if they feel these myths of Santa and the Easter Bunny are being supported by me and Steve. This feeling is closest to the surface when I am tucking my boys in at night. Tonight Christopher asked me if the Easter Bunny was like Santa. "In what way honey?" I asked. Christopher responded,"Can he see you when you are sleeping?" To which I replied with an emphatic, "Oh, yes he can, so you better go to sleep." As I leaned over to kiss Daniel on the cheek he asked me, "God can see you when you are sleeping too, right Mommy?" I of course told him that yes, God can indeed see you when you are sleeping. "God doesn't lie, right Mommy?" was Daniel's next question. "No, God does not lie. God tells the truth all the time," was my careful response. Meanwhile I was thinking, "what are they going to think about me as they get older and learn about Santa and the Easter Bunny?"

And finally, we arrive at one of the biggest, thorniest (if you pardon the complicated pun) issues. The crucifixion, death and ressurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Easter is REALLY about, right folks? The fact that our Lord and Savior was willing to humble himself to come to earth in the form of a human baby, be born in all the blood, sweat and tears that that involves, and live a human life for what we think to be 33 years. That Jesus developed and grew within his family and accepted his earthly parents' authority until he was old enough to fulfill prophesy. The very idea that Jesus spent his days in human form teaching, helping and loving others is amazing. That he put his own human needs last and helped the very lowest of the low is a tough act to follow. That he was willing to give of himself to beyond the point of death is humbling to think about. That he could have wiped out the Pharissees, the Sadduccees and Pilate with a single look if he so chose is powerful. That he instead accepted the cross he was offered, didn't run and knew that in order for humanity to live he must die is stunning. All this is incredible, and we haven't even touched the topic of the resurrection yet.

How do I communicate how important a step this was for humanity to my young children? My children, at this point in time have difficulty thinking past the concrete concepts of the here and now. They understand hunger. They know what thirst is. They are well acquainted with desire and temptation, but they couldn't explain what they are. The need for redemption is not something that is so simple to communicate to a three year old. Even a five year old is not quite ready to grasp the concept. My nine year old is probably ready, but I struggle with some of the images that the crucifixion, death and resurrection present. I can't sanitize it for her, but it is a very violent story. The idea that human beings could nail another person (even though they are really God incarnate) to a tree is horrifying. That they would leave them on this tree, unable to move, in deep suffering is horrendous. That he was forced to wear a crown of thorns is cruel. To explain that he was stabbed with a spear to make sure he was dead is the stuff of nightmares for a three year old.

These things only describe the beginnings of what to a young child is the scariest kind of ghost story they could hear. To hear that the body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linens (like a mummy) and hidden in a tomb is way too much fodder for a young imagination such as my Daniel. I would feel abusive as a parent to then proceed to tell him about the resurrection as described in the Bible. He would be terrified.

So do I hold off sharing the truth of the Easter story until he and my other children are older? Or is this a great disservice? Is substituting the Easter Bunny story, while fun, robbing them of the true meaning, or allowing them a grace period? I hope that I am allowing some room for grace. I am holding a place for Christ with the Easter Bunny. I am stretching my children's minds with fanciful tales of this rabbit who delights in leaving gifts in preparation for learning about the true gift the human race was given on this weekend. I am giving my children time to develop their hearts and minds. Time to develop the capacity to absorb the importance of the Passion. To see it as more than a horror story that will give them nightmares.

On Cleaning and Consequences

So...a few things to talk about here. First, don't fall over, but I went on a cleaning spree. I got rid of all kinds of clutter on my main floor, I did laundry, I cleaned bathrooms, I mopped floors, I was an animal. What is up with that? I hate cleaning and I usually feel so unmotivated to do it. I mean, if you could clean and it would STAY clean, that would be one thing, but it always gets messy again and it drives me nuts. It makes me feel like my attempts at cleanliness are futile. I mean, why bother when in 20 minutes or less it will just be a mess again?

Nevertheless, I went crazy cleaning. I am hoping to keep up the momentum. But friends keep telling me it is a pms thing. Or a full moon. So it will probably not last. But for now I will ride the wave. I will make use of my manic cleaning behavior while I can.

Speaking of cleaning, Christopher is in BIG trouble with Daddy. He had a friend over for a dinnertime playdate. That won't be happening again anytime soon. I was asleep (had to work tonight) and didn't see what happened...and didn't want to look when the yelling and crying began. Apparently Christopher and his friend thought it would be a good idea to destroy furniture and make a HUGE mess in our play room throwing around toys and stuff. This is an ongoing issue for our middle child. He just joins in when his friends start trashing things. He doesn't stop them or say anything to us.

How does one teach a young child about respecting their home? They don't understand the work that goes into maintaining a home. Perhaps he will learn as he spends his morning tomorrow cleaning the playroom by himself. Daddy was very adamant that he would be doing that tomorrow morning. And I think that is exactly right. The natural consequence of making a huge mess is that you have to clean it up. It's just exhausting arguing with young children about follow through. You know as a parent you have to follow through, but it's just so aggravating to have to. But you do it no matter how aggravating otherwise you raise kids who are out of control and show no respect.

The other issue we are currently struggling with is lying. My son thought it was okay to tell a nurse who called out house the other day that I was not home. This was most definitely a lie and I don't know how to break him of doing these things. I keep explaining that if I cannot trust him that he won't be allowed certain priveledges like riding his bike up and down the street with his sister. But this is tough because you can never really know if you cure them of lying. You can only hope that you do. My daughter never lies as far as I can tell. But maybe she's just better at not getting caught. You never can be 100% sure.

On a positive note, my daughter got her report card and is on her third consecutive term of straight A's. Not only is this good, but she also gets wonderful comments about her conduct and the amount of effort she puts into her work. It's terrific. She is developing some good study habits and I am so proud of her. Her daddy keeps joking around with her about how his parents never saw report cards from him that were this good. She is a high honors student and we are so proud of her.

Which brings me back to my son. I am proud of him too. He is a good boy. He behaves in school, he gets good grades, and he is so smart. I don't want to compare the two of them and make him feel like he is not as good as his sister. He is. He justs needs some help learning proper behavior. He's only 5 1/2 for crying out loud. Boy I hope that that is what I am conveying to him. I don't want to go too easy on him, but I also don't want him to feel he can't be good. He really is a good kid.

My youngest is so imaginative. He is emotional, fiery, and creative. I love him so much. My heart wanted to break today because he decided not to eat his lunch. He was told that if he didn't eat he couldn't have ice cream...well,he preferred to play. When his siblings got their ice cream and he didn't get his he was devastated. He sat down on the floor, refused to sit in a chair and said, "I don't love you. I don't want my new shoes." He then proceeded to cry the most heartbreaking cry you had ever heard. I wanted to give in, but I held fast. He has had the most difficult time accepting that rules are rules and it is more important with him than the other two to make the rules be the rules.

I couldn't tell him how much I sympathized with him. I needed him to feel the sting of his choices. But oh, how sad I did feel. I know how much he wanted to play. So I harden my heart and hope that this is the last time I have to endure this scene, knowing that it most likely isn't.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's...Mine...Isn't it?

So I'm going to Dallas. I found a "cheap" (translate under $400) ticket to Dallas/Fort Worth airport in April, and I'm going. I feel burnt out and unhappy and I need to recharge. I've said that in earlier posts. I've also said that I absolutely hate it when someone whines about a problem but doesn't do anything about it. So I'm going, hopefully to do something about this problem.

I'm unhappy. Don't really understand why, but I am. I'm not doing a good job as a mother and a wife. I need to recharge, to get some perspective. To do something to refresh the way I look at my life.

Lest you worry, constant reader (ha! who am I kidding? no one reads this blather anyway), I have discussed this trip with Steve and he says he is ok with this. He will miss me he says, but he wants me to be happy. If this trip will help to do that, he is for it.

There's the question...will this help me to be happy? I sure hope so. I don't want to take the trip, come back, and feel the exact same way as when I left, but just have the ticket to pay off on my credit card. I think part of the problem is that I don't exactly know why I am unhappy. I just am. I'm thinking that "getting away from it all," will help me to gain some perspective, some rest, and to come back to New England with a new world view of things. If it doesn't, I don't know what I will do.

But when I think of that, my next thought is, nothing you are doing now is working, is it? I can't just do nothing. I'm sinking into despair and I need to claw my way out. I love my husband and family and I owe them a mother and wife that isn't feeling depressed, overwhelmed and sad all the time. Steve (my husband) is doing his best to provide his family with a good life. I almost feel as if being unhappy is being a jerk to him. I don't want all his hard work to feel like a waste of time. I don't want him to feel that its futile to try to make things work. I think that's where we are headed unfortunately. I don't want him to feel that way, but I can't pretend I am happy either.

I have tried to talk to friends. They help some, but the deep sadness never really goes away. They advise reading the Bible, going to counselors, reading self-help books, writing. I have done these things. They haven't helped. I have prayed, I have yelled, I have tried to build exercise programs, go on "girls nights out," and had a glass of wine or two to relax. It hasn't helped. I have tried to turn the focus away from myself...volunteering, throwing myself into raising my kids, getting a part time job...and yet that sadness is always sitting there, like a stone.

There are those of you who have recommended medication. I've tried that too. It works somewhat...but there are always issues with medication. Side effects. I don't need to belabor those here, but suffice it to say that I think that screwing around with medications to help alleviate my depression played a part in landing me in the hospital last year. Enough said.

So why Dallas you ask? My sister lives there. There are several reasons to go to Dallas. First, I have NEVER been to her home. She has lived out in Texas for several years and is making a life for herself with her husband. She has been back East a few times, but I have never made the effort to go out her way. Mostly because I have in the past always thought about the cost for the whole family to go...and we just don't have it.

But I got to thinking the other day...and one ticket isn't nearly as prohibitive as five tickets. So I decided I would look into it. I would love to see her home, her puppy (she has a Jack Russell terrier named Calli), and get to know her man a bit better than I do. He strikes me as the silent type...maybe he will not really hang out with us, who knows, but it would be nice to get to know him better.

I really wish I was closer to my sisters than I am. We don't really know each other that well. Maybe this trip won't change that any, but maybe it will. I won't know unless I try, right? I wish my sisters felt that they could rely on me, but they don't. I'm not that important to their lives.

Another reason to visit my sister? I guess you could say that I want to observe the "other life." The life of married adults without children. Don't misunderstand, I love my children, I want my children. I just find it hard to NEVER have time without them. When I told my daughter Allison I was taking this trip she was angry with me. Very angry. Because she wasn't invited.

I think that is part of the issue involved with this trip too. I never feel comfortable saying that I want something to myself. I know that I am not the only mom out there to experience this, but its sometimes hard to get others to admit it openly. The tough thing to admit is this: sometimes we don't want to share. Sometimes we want things for ourselves. We don't want to come up with an explanation for why we want not to share, we just don't want to. I think it's because we are expected to share EVERYTHING. It starts from the very beginning. When we first find out we are pregnant. We are sharing our body with a newcomer. They are growing inside of us. And it is a miracle. It is wonderful. We wait to feel the first movement or "quickening." We rush home with that ultrasound, the first physical proof that we are indeed a host to our little one. A good host makes sure that all who are present are comfortable and have what they need. So we go about our business making sure that our precious visitor has what they need...enough vitamins, enough water, exercise, the latest in technology designed to listen in...

Then the baby is born. The baby comes out, squishy, messy and loud. The baby is beautiful yes, but also loud and demanding. They need comfort, they need food, they need warmth. You share your body again. You nurse them. You hold them. You take them into the bed with you. You are still one.

The baby grows. They cry. You respond. You donate your sleep. You donate your wardrobe to spit up and leaky diapers. You change your shirt and laugh off what a mess it is. You give up hair appointments because you can't seem to fit it in around their nursing schedule. You let the condition of your home slide because your baby needs you. The laundry can wait.

The baby grows and begins to notice the world around them. They need you. For comfort. They want to explore, but they are unsure of what they find. You donate your patience because they cannot bear to let you leave the room. You become their touchstone and that is a good feeling. Knowing that you can provide security, warmth, safety.

The baby grows. They begin to walk, climb, tumble and fall. You donate your affection. They get scrapes, bruises, bumps and abraded egos. Your kisses are a salve that heals all wounds and that feels oh-so good inside, knowing that another human being values your kisses so much that they will insist that you come from far away to administer the panacea of love.

The baby is no longer a baby. They are a toddler. They learn to talk. They tell you "I love you" and "I want that." You are thrilled that they are learning to express themselves. You remind them that they no longer need to cry to get what they need and that they can "use their words." You donate your time to reminding them, explaining their world to them, reasoning with them, and teaching them the fine art of negotiation. They learn to say "No" and they learn to accept when you say "No" to something that they request.

The toddler becomes a preschooler. They are testing the limits of your affection. They throw tantrums. They lie. They break things. They fight with siblings, their friends and you. They refuse to do what they are told. You donate your time to researching the best discipline methods, how to teach a preschooler etiquette ("No, you should not tell that lady she is fat!"). They take classes. Form friendships. You donate your judgement sometimes, to help them make good choices in their friendships. Sometimes you withold your judgement so they can develop their own judgement. You hang out with people that you may not otherwise spend time with due to your desire for your children to make friends and develop relationships.

Your preschooler becomes an elementary school aged child. They learn about authority, they test authority, and they make their first steps into the world without your close supervision. You aren't there all day to see what they are exposed to. You donate your hope to the idea that they are not being exposed to the wrong things, you donate your time to field trips, your money to fundraisers, and your concern to the issues that they bring home to share with you over their afternoon snack.

As your children grow, you sacrifice your dignity, your energy and your ego to their close scrutiny. This is hard if you aren't a secure individual. It's something that you do joyfully, but not without cost to you. As you stand there with dinner, carefully prepared and listen to the chorus of "Do we have to eat this?" sometimes you want to walk out the door, and go out to dinner alone. The thought of pouring yourself a few cocktails while making dinner in preparation for the critique session coming is very appealing. But if they have a friend over for dinner, you probably reason that it would be unwise to leave a vapor trail behind as you answered the door when their parents arrived at pick up.

So is it really hard to understand why I don't want to share? When I try to quietly, surreptitiously, open a candy bar and eat it all alone and wind up faced with a child with an outstretched hand and "Can I have some?" in their eyes and on their lips, do you begrudge me my frustration?

I think this trip to Dallas is mine and you can't have it.

Five things:

1.) I am grateful that my husband at least tries to understand
2.) I am grateful that my husband cares about my happiness
3.) I am grateful that I have a sister to go visit
4.) I am grateful for my friend Dawn (you know why if you read this)
5.) I am grateful for good music and funny comedians to cheer me up.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gardening and the Ability to Be Here Now

I started my garden today. What a job. I'm planning a 10'x20' garden plot. Probably going to make it a salad garden. If all goes according to my plan. But jeesh! Breaking ground is a tremendous amount of work. There are so many roots, rocks, branches and such that it is such slow going. I hope I have what it takes to stick with it. Otherwise the pain I caused my knees using the spade to dig was for nothing, right?

Well...maybe not. I have been kind of rethinking how I approach my life lately. See, for so many years I have been focused on the end product of anything that I do or produce. If the end product isn't going to be something special, then I haven't really wanted to put in the effort to do whatever it is. I think it's that New England, Puritanical work ethic thing rearing its ugly head. Don't get me wrong, I value a strong work ethic. I think its an important way for a person to find a purpose in life. But sometimes...every now and then...I think that maybe, just maybe, there is tremendous value in just BEING.

This is not exactly a new concept for me either. It's just one that I am revisting I guess you would say. When I was in college all those years ago, part of the Core curriculum was an Outward Bound-type experience called "La Vida." All students were required to go on La Vida or take the equivalent course as a weekly gym class. As anyone who knows anything about Outward Bound knows, there is much camping, hiking, bush whacking, cooking over open fires, eating of "gorp" (good ole raisins and peanuts), rock climbing, rapelling, partaking of nature, reflection, and an extreme lack of showers or toilet paper.

One of the first things we had to do before we left for the trip was to agree to leave behind all signs of iPods(back then they were walkmans), no cell phones, no watches, no radios. The reason for this? To make sure that we were experiencing our lives in the moment. The idea of La Vida is to slow down and take time to reflect on what is happening in your life right now. My particular group had a motto, "Be Here Now." All these years later, I still remember it. I still try to remind myself to Be Here Now. I don't remember the names of the "sherpas" or leaders we had for our trip (Pam and Larry maybe?), but I remember the motto. I remember enjoying the La Vida experience thoroughly. I remember buying into what they were saying lock stock and barrel.

For that trip, I was a lonely, overweight young woman who truly felt that she was part of a group for once. The others that were in my group (Mike, Jack, Rick, for some reason I don't remember the girls though...interesting...)included me. I didn't feel like an outsider for once. I was not in great shape. I know I slowed everyone down, but I loved the outdoor experience.

We hiked for miles as part of that group, carrying 50lbs in our backpacks. Sometimes we were on marked trails, but sometimes we were not. Sometimes we had to hack through bushes, bramble, and thorns, hoping that at least one of us knew how to use a map and compass. Thankfully, Jack was an Eagle Scout if I remember correctly. He was very confident about making his way through the bush as I recall. The only thing that seems odd to me is the pairing of my memory of Jack as an Eagle Scout with another memory of him...getting hypothermia...and having to be warmed up...or did he volunteer to help warm the other member of our group up? I believe it was one of the other young women in the group...hmmmm....

I remember Mike Fink. He waxed very philosophic. He also reminded me of John Cusack in "Say Anything," because he refused to say what he was going to be after college. He didn't know and didn't want to go on job interviews to try to prove to human resources at Company X that their company was "THE" company for him. He didn't drink the kool aid. He didn't want to buy anything sold or processed, sell anything bought or processed or process anything bought or sold. I admired that in him and I wonder where he is now and what he is doing these days. Did he finally relent and drink the kool aid or is he somewhere living a fabulously free life?

And I remember Rick. Rick was a music major. He seemed to want to dabble in a lot of things. He had a lot of different interests. Mostly women it seemed. But he liked to read, he liked to be out in nature (I think), and he loved music. He helped me deal with a lot of the physical challenges of LaVida by singing with me. He was friendly, and could at times be really funny. I remember him singing "Don't worry be happy" at a campfire. We somehow altered the lyrics in some cute way I don't remember very well and co-opted the song for our group for the trip.

I remember a part of the trip we had to do without our guides or "sherpas." We had to find some campsite with the clues that they left for us. We found said campsite, pitched camp, and started our own private rituals for relaxing. I remember deciding it was a beautiful night and that I was going to sleep out under the stars. I laid all my things out...put down my ground cloth and sleeping bag. I remember talking with Mike who made himself a little ditch to put his sleeping bag looked pretty snuggly. So he went to sleep in his little cocoon in the ditch and I fell into my exhausted slumber under the starry night sky...and woke up to the cruelest, iciest rain I can ever remember. It felt like the sky literally opened up its wrath on me alone. I was freezing...and I started crying immediately. It was awful. My friend Mike fared no better except he didn't cry. His sleeping bag became drenched as it was, as we said earlier, in a ditch. Said ditch filled with rain. Icy rain.

I remember our "solo" experience. For part of La Vida we had to be by ourselves in the wilderness. We could only have a journal, a pen, a whistle, a canteen of water, and our Bible. We were supposed to reflect on things. To think, to sleep, to read. To "Be Here Now." I loved having that time. I looked at the rain on spiderwebs, I read a bit of the Bible (don't remember which passages), and I wrote. I still have the journal somewhere back home in all my stuff.

I remember a twelve mile hike during which...we were supposed to run, but I was not in good walking was the best I could manage for most of it. I remember that Jack and Rick promised me a steak dinner if I ran the last five miles (so if you are out there somewhere Jack and Rick, you still owe me). I ran those last five. But not really for the steak dinner. I ran because they convinced me I could. I ran because I wanted to be part of the group. I ran because I could "Be Here Now" and screw the aches and pains I would feel later.

I don't know if Mike, Rick, Jack or any of the other members of my group remember any of this. Maybe they do. Maybe I made some kind of impression on them. Maybe I didn't. Who knows. But I DO know that they reinforced for me the importance of enjoying the moment you are in. Of valuing doing something for the sake of itself. That sometimes, the end product doesn't really matter. Sometimes, just doing something because you want to is good enough.

So, if my garden doesn't produce a bumper crop, don't be sad for me. All the work of cutting roots out, of digging up stones and moving earth will still be worth it. I will lay a layer of compost, mix it in with a layer of manure, and seed and weed. I will water, debug, and put up fences to keep the rabbits and deer out. I will do all the things you are supposed to when you garden, but I think I will do them for the enjoyment I feel while doing them. If we are able to actually eat salad from the garden, so much the better. But that will not be my goal. My goal, I think, will be to enjoy working with my hands, to feel the sun on my neck, and to savor the exhaustion that comes from working hard.

My five things:

1.)I am glad that winter is finally over
2.) I am grateful that my body is capable of stooping, bending, digging, moving
3.) I am grateful to feel the warmth of the sun, even if it is only briefly
4.) I am grateful for this moment
5.)I am grateful for the ability to do, feel and say

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Sleep Apnea and Feeling LIke Darth Vader...

I get to be fitted for a CPAP device, YAY! As if I didn't already feel unattractive enough. It seems that I have "obstructive sleep apnea." What this means in a nutshell is that when I am asleep, the muscles in my jaw and throat relax so much that my airway becomes blocked. Since blocking my airway keeps me from breathing, my sleep is interrupted. This happens several times a night. The result is a sleepy, cranky woman who is not functioning at full potential. What's even better is that I apparently am waking up in the middle of REM sleep. Know why that's even better? Because apparently, when you are in REM sleep, you are dreaming. Your body's way of ensuring that you don't kick or punch the daylights out of your partner while sleeping is to put your body in a state of paralysis. As you come out of REM sleep into some of the lighter phases of sleep, this paralysis is lifted. But if, like I do, you wake up smack in the middle of REM sleep, you can be fully conscious, yet unable to move or even open your eyes.

I have found myself in this condition on about six occassions. It is REALLY freaky let me tell you, and one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had. So, even though I had previously decided NOT to get the CPAP device, due to concerns with keeping my husband awake, it keeping me awake, the lack of sex appeal ("Oh honey, no offense but looking at that puts me SOOO NOT in the mood.")the lack of comfort it will probably provide, dried nasal passages, etc, I have been scared into being willing to try it. Suffocating while being fully conscious has a way of doing that for you.

I commented about it on facebook and my brother-in-law made a rather funny crack about getting a CPAP that made me sound like Darth Vader. After wiping the tears from my eyes from laughing, I got to thinking about it. Why not? Why shouldn't I have some fun with this? I think I WILL see if I can somehow get one that sounds like Darth Vader. Maybe I could even dress as Darth Vader before bed and play the Imperial March as I enter the bedroom. If I have to be stuck with this stupid crap, I may as well get a laugh.

But I will have to make some preparations. If one of my children gets up in the middle of the night and comes to my room, I don't want the little tykes to be frightened. That will not do. So perhaps we can address this like we are having a costumed slumber party. Maybe ALL of us will have to wear costumes to bed. That way, when they come down the stairs and approach my bed they will be prepared, somewhere deep down in their sleepy little psyches, for the image of their mother hooked up to the "Darth Vader-like" breathing apparatus.

If I could lose the stupid weight it is possible that I would stop having sleep apnea and this problem would go away. I am trying to gear myself up to go back to Weight Watchers and perhaps finally get serious about losing weight. Up to now I have been unable to be disciplined enough to lose the weight I need to lose - almost 100 lbs for your information - I know intellectually all the reasons I SHOULD care, all the reasons I NEED TO care, but really just don't ACTUALLY care enough to get it done. So the question I pose to you is this: if you are an undisciplined person, how do you develop discipline?

Here are my reasons I SHOULD care:

1.) Being overweight sets a really bad example for my children and the choices they need to make to be healthy individuals. I mean, you can blather on all you like about how important healthy choices are, but if you don't actually MAKE healthy choices, your children will eventually decide you are full of shit. I mean, if all that stuff is REALLY important, they will reason, then why aren't you doing it yourself?

2.) None of the really cool clothes fit me. Although we have come a long way, most fashion designers that I can afford still seem to think that purple mumus are what I really want to wear. The best thing I have found recently are some jeans that were on sale because Steve & Barry's went out of business. I got 5 pairs of jeans for $10. That's $2/pair. These jeans are from Sarah Jessica Parker's line, "Bitten." They are supposed to be high fashion for the middle class I guess. They fit ok except for one thing: they are low-cut...hip huggers I guess you would call them. That would be fine except that they come with a custom installed plumber's butt. Maybe on the sexy models that sold them that is cute, maybe even a tad sexy with the thong peeking out (do guys really like that sort of thing?), but on me it just looks gross. So I now wear a belt all the time, to prevent the whole butt cleavage thing that I think is oh so disgusting.

3.) I can't relate to anyone on television. I mean, when I want to see someone that looks like me that isn't on a Jerry Springer episode I have to tune in to programs like, "The Biggest Loser." Boy, that will really give the ole self esteem a boost. I've only seen part of a couple of episodes of this show, but please shoot me in the head if I ever tell you I am considering being a contestant. Don't get me wrong. Kudos to the contestants that are on the show for realizing that they needed to lose weight and that they needed help to do it. That is a huge step (pun definitely NOT intended). But the ratings whores that are the networks do everything possible to go to the extreme. They force the contestants to wear the most unflattering, bulge emphasizing, clingy materials possible when they select wardrobe. They show each person competing in their most obnoxious, indulgent persona possible before they actually begin the weight loss journey. They also force these poor souls on National television to cry, sweat, and stand on a scale to show the world just how big they have become. How horrifying must that be? I mean, when I go to Weight Watchers it is considered truly awful if one of the people weighing you in says your weight out loud so others can hear it. They get spoken to about that kind of insensitive behavior. But these people have to stand on a scale in front of America wearing the most horrible fat revealing clothing possible.

4.) I feel like a hypocrite when watching programs about the grossly obese. I am amazed, horrified and disgusted that a person could let themselves get that big. Aside from the outright lack of self-discipline and self-respect these people have, WHO THE HELL LIVES WITH THEM? I'm sorry, but if my husband was hitting the 400lb mark (or even a lot sooner truth be told) I would outright REFUSE to buy him any food but salads, carrot sticks, and chicken breasts. When you cannot get yourself off the floor and on the couch again, you need to deal with your problem. And I am heading in that direction. Someone help me stop. Hold me accountable for my health and self-respect before its too late.

5.) I'm too tired most of the time to do the things that I like to do. Believe it or not I love to hike, swim, take my dog for walks, canoe, walk and bike. But I am tired ALL the time. Hopefully the Darth Vader mask will help with that, but let's face it folks, I am tired because I am carting around an extra person all the time. I don't have the energy to accomplish what I want to because of the weight. It causes depression, I mean, who wouldn't be depressed having to carry an extra person with them at all times?

As for the reasons I NEED to care? Well, judge for yourself:

1.) I have a poor body image. I feel terrible about the way I look. I won't get into specifics here as I do not wish to publicly humiliate myself any more than necessary.

2.) My family history contains a recipe for disaster: my father has diabetes, high blood pressure. He has had 2 strokes, a quadruple bypass, and now has limited function of his left side and some impairment of his speech. He's not that old either...only his 60's. My brother was recently diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes. So it's there...waiting in the shadows to pounce upon me. Sure, right now I have low-normal blood pressure, good ratios of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol, no sign of diabetes...but that all could be changing if I don't do something. Soon.

3.) I have children who need me. Whether I want to be here or not, it doesn't matter. I created these beings called my children and they need their mother. I may not be perfect, in fact far from it, but my children need their mother. If I don't take care of myself it is entirely possible that I may not be here for them when they need me. I almost wasn't last summer. That should have shaken me up enough to do something. It should have, but it didn't. I often wonder what it will take.

So why don't I ACTUALLY care? Why can't I get myself to commit to taking off this weight, to working the program and changing my lifestyle? I know it isn't about dieting. I know deep down that I will never stick to a diet...that just isn't my m.o. I need to feel that I am not being deprived. The weight loss has to be a result of a choice. I know that I need to choose to be healthy, but I can't seem to make myself do it. Why is that?

Until I can answer this question, I guess I will just don my Darth Vader mask and meditate on how to use the force to my own purposes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thoughts on Standardized Testing...or No Child Left Behind... I am. Planning to write. I have a number of things on my mind and I'm not really sure which I will choose to write about...but here goes nothing. If nothing else I am hopefully sharpening those writing skills I keep blathering about.

First, I have to say that I have found myself shaking my head in amusement or disgust a number of times today. I'm not really sure which emotion is being evoked, but either will do I guess. First, I have to say that what my beloved husband shared with me today makes me want to laugh out loud long and hard. He has recently gone from being a pariah at work to being the hero of the day. The funny/disgusting part? He hasn't changed what he has done and continues to do at work one iota. The only difference? His boss' boss publicly complimented something that he did. His direct boss had previously reamed him for doing exactly what he was being praised for. But now that boss' boss is complimenting the work, Steve is to be high-fived. Steve is ALLLLLL RIGGGGHT. Until the next whim, right? Perhaps he is working for Dr. Jekyll...or Mr. Hyde.

The second thing I am disgusted/amused with is our public school system and this "No Child Left Behind" crap. The complete idiocy of the standardized testing that is in place. Where I am its called MCAS...and it has become the public school's religion, it's ridiculous. I have several reasons for feeling standardized testing is a load of crap, but here are a couple of my latest reasons. First, my daughter is in fourth grade. This is the first year that MCAS is "serious" and the grade counts. Not the first year that she has been forcefed MCAS til she was having nightmares about it, but the first year it "counts." Allison averages about two hours a night of homework, and that's not including the "Study Island" packet they sent home at the beginning of the year to "help" her study for MCAS. She has no learning disabilities, is quite intelligent, has a terrific vocabulary and reading ability and is very responsible. She stays on task quite well for a 9 year old, and does not need testing of any kind so far as I can see. Her last two quarters showed straight A's on her report card. She even got a letter from the school commending her for her academic performance. So why two hours of homework a night? Simple: because in order to cover all the material that needs to be covered to test for MCAS, she has to do two hours of homework a night.

How is she supposed to be able to be a kid with that kind of pressure? She gets on the bus in the morning around 8am, is in school until 2:30pm and doesn't get dropped off at her bus stop until after 3pm. Most days she comes home, has a snack, and does her homework until dinner unless its Tuesday. If it's Tuesday she has a friend over until dinner and does her homework after. Figuring in things like emptying the trash (her chore), showering, brushing her teeth and any extracurricular activities she may have, how is she supposed to have time to just be 9 and think about what 9 year olds like to think about? This Spring is going to be crazy. She has soccer, softball and karate to add into the mix.

I know what you are thinking...well, just eliminate some of her activities. But if I do that she doesn't get enough physical activity to stay physically fit. We can't have that. Plus the activities give her the opportunity to interact with kids her own age outside of school. She needs that. In school they don't have time to actually socialize...they aren't supposed to talk too much remember? They have to pay attention to the teacher so they can learn all their lessons for MCAS. They have abbreviated recesses so they can spend more time learning for MCAS.

I was at my sons' karate class the other day conversing with another mother who is a third grade school teacher in another town. She was telling me that her town, for budget reasons, is being forced to cut 20% from every town budget, including the schools. What this is going to translate into for her is that she could lose her job. She doesn't have tenure. Even if she doesn't lose her job, she was telling me that her principal said that she may have 40 children in her class next year. Can you imagine that? Forty children in a class? How does any learning take place in that kind of environment? Forty children ages seven and eight? At that point its really only crowd control. She was sharing how because of MCAS she has to gut her curriculum too. She can't do most of the enrichment aspects of her lessons because she has to ensure that she has time to teach everything that MCAS demands she teach. To forty students. Yeah. Right.

If that example doesn't scare you, think of this one. I was speaking to another mom tonight, while I was at a meal assembly place (think Dream Dinners). She was telling me that her 9 year old daughter broke her right arm playing basketball. Well, actually her thumb. In two places. She has had her arm in a cast for four weeks. The school keeps asking this mom when her daughter will be out of the cast. Mom has been saying, "I don't know, the doctor is making that decision, and he and I are talking next week." The school's response? "We need her score from MCAS, she can't miss the test." See, her daughter is one of the upper level students and they are afraid of blowing the curve for their school. So because they are concerned about what her missing test score would do to their funding, they are pressuring this little girl about getting out of the cast. I asked mom about whether the school is making special accommodations for her injury, since the cast is on her writing arm. "You have to jump through hoops," she tells me. First, you have to get an explicit note from the doctor outlining what accommodations are necessary. Then, the note must be faxed to "the state," whatever that means. Assuming you get approved for these accommodations, the school must hire someone to transcribe this little girl's responses. According to mom, the transcriptionist must write down exactly what this little girl says for her answer. If she clears her throat, "Ahem!" they transcribe that as part of the test. If she says, "Um..." they write that down. And by the way, they DO NOT write down commas, spaces, capitalizations, or any other grammatical piece unless this little girl specifically tells them to. Geez, no pressure on this little girl, eh? I'm not sure I could pass that test, nevermind a 9 year old.

What the hell is wrong with us? Why are we putting this kind of pressure on our children to perform? Why do our children need to lose their childhoods to prove that they are competitive, smart and talented? Instead of ensuring our children's futures, we are dooming them to becoming monkeys pushing buttons... We are forcing larger class sizes, less creativity from our teachers, and more conformity. Anyone who is different for any reason is being crushed under the wheels of standardized testing. Why can't we offer more room for creative thinking? Why can't we encourage learning through play, which according to Jean Piaget, is the best vehicle for educating the young?

Is there a place for testing of some sort? I think so. But it should be modified somehow. Perhaps the testing should be of the teachers and what they know. Maybe we should have teachers prepared to have a visit from some board or group to observe their teaching style on a regular basis (every three years?), review their lesson plans and comment on the interactions they see between students. Maybe they could look at a portfolio of work made up of various students' assignments and test the teachers. Perhaps this board could review teachers' gradebooks and assess what percentage of the students in the class are succeeding...maybe THAT could be used to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom. This board could make the rounds and review various teachers and render decisions about their license to teach.

Maybe if we did that there would be less teachers in the system that play political football with our children's educational needs. Less children who get put off, as a couple of my friends are experiencing, because the school just doesn't want to deal with them. Fewer teachers who want to pass the buck because of a lack of funds, lack of interest or just plain lack of talent. Let those who are burnt out step aside. Those who aren't suited to the job of teaching young children need not apply. And those that pay lip service to wanting to educate our young will be revealed for the snake-oil salesmen that they are.

And lest you think I am making light of the job of being a teacher, allow me to tell you that no I do not. My father taught middle school Spanish for many years. He taught in a tough school system. Often he could not send home textbooks because he knew if he did they would never come back. Many of his students would be out until 3 or 4 in the morning, running with gangs or whatever. If he tried to have a parent/teacher conference it was laughable most times he told me. Of the few parents that DID actually come, most of them would look at him like he was crazy if he tried to suggest that anything going on at home had anything to do with the education of their child. It was, after all, his job to educate their children, not theirs. They had to work for a living, they couldn't do his job for him.

Teachers are often not given the tools they need to do the job they need and want to do. They have to learn to do much and accomplish much with very little. But they have to keep on keeping on. They need to take joy in the victories, no matter how small, and not become jaded and indifferent to the failures in the system. That is their charge. That is their responsibility. And I think we should take it very seriously if the pressure of that responsibility is being shifted onto our children, who are still learning how to learn. That is what I believe standardized testing is doing. And I am disgusted.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful that my daughter has no learning disabilities
2.) I am grateful for childhood
3.) I am grateful that public education isn't the only choice available
4.) I am grateful for a sense of humor
5.) I am grateful for my keyboard