We’re Not Going to Take It!

I’m an ancestry.com buff.  I spend a lot of time tracing my roots and I’m very proud of where I came from even though some of the characters in my past would not necessary be people I would admire today.  My family immigrated to the American colonies.  That’s right, colonial times [1600-1700s].  They came from Britain, but most of my family had immigrated there from France, Germany, and Italy [think the Holy Roman Empire].  My American roots are strong, but I still recognize that my heritage belongs to Western Europe.

I had ancestors in the American Revolution and ancestors that fought on the losing side of the Civil War.  I’m also a bit of a history buff too.  Generally speaking, most countries do not celebrate wars that they lost.  With that said, I feel like I need to yell this part so forgive the all caps here, THE CONFEDERACY LOST. Not every Confederate soldier wanted to fight for this cause – I have an ancestor who deserted the Confederate army more than once [I know I would have LOVED him] because he didn’t want to fight.  I recognize that many of these soldiers were fighting because it was their home they were defending.  I get that and I’m not wanting to dishonor them.  The Civil War is a stain on our history, though.  It was ugly and not something of which we should be proud.

I really don’t understand people who want to celebrate the Confederacy.  It was war that ended a very long time ago but the only ones celebrating it are from the losing side.  I don’t celebrate sports losses.   Scholars will argue that the Civil War was fought on economic principles and states rights, but most Americans feel the war was about slavery.  SLAVERY WAS BAD.  Slavery was horrible.  It was the culture of the time, but that doesn’t make it right. 

Robert E. Lee was a great general.  He had a distinguished military career before the Civil War and was offered a position of general in the Union army.  He chose to fight for his home state even though his personal letters imply that he was opposed to slavery.  Choosing to fight against his country was technically treason.  Lee had many admirable qualities but he became a traitor to the USA when he donned the gray uniform. 

So why do people erect statues of him?  He LOST a war and he was a traitor.  People obsessed with the Confederacy seem to miss the point that the Confederacy lost.  If they were truly obsessed with history then they would know this.  They would also know that many of these statues were built in the 20th century during the Civil Rights Movement – and we can certainly infer what the purpose of building these statues was. There are people who celebrate the South who aren’t racist, white supremacists, but if we are all honest here most of the people sporting Confederate Flag are racist, white supremacists.  In other words, they are the dishonorable dregs of our society.

I have a message for the white supremacist out there [though I do doubt anyone reading my blog falls in this category].  You, neo-Nazis are pathetic.  You are a low life.  Scum.  You are the people who say immigrants should go back to where they came from.  I’ve got news for you, Nazi, unless you are related to Pocahontas or Sitting Bull, then you have immigrant roots yourself.  If you want to celebrate the losing side of the Civil War, then you are delusional.  We Americans need to stand up to you and say not in my country!  We Americans need to call you out for your despicable behavior.  We’re not going to take it anymore!  America is a place that welcomes all skin colors, all religions, all genders. If that doesn’t appeal to you, Racist, then perhaps the USA isn’t the country for you. Perhaps if you don’t like it, you can trace your ancestry and go back to where your family came from.

Our country needs to come together, and people who live a life of HATE will never help us achieve the harmony our beautiful nation deserves.

For Moms/Parents of Younger Kids

This is another self-indulgent post.  I could barely sleep last night.  I spent yesterday watching recitals of little girls just to see my big girl perform.  Today, is her recital.  She has two shows, and the anticipation of closing this chapter is overwhelming.

I remember when Will played his last soccer game.  It was the last of his sports.  I didn’t know it would be his last game until the end, and it was when it was over that I realized I would never have those moments with him again.  It hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried on the way home from that game, but even then, the enormity of saying good-bye to that part of motherhood didn’t seem quite real yet.

Now, though, he is an adult and our relationship is different, wonderful but different, so this enormity of losing this part of motherhood is much more real the second time around. 

As I watched the little ones come onto the stage yesterday in tutus bigger than they were, I wished I had been able to note when her last recital with that kind of costume had been.  It seems like forever since I’ve heard her whine about it itching while I thought it was so pretty and precious.  Those are the moments we don’t know to appreciate. 

So today, I am going to watch and enjoy.  I may shed a few tears with my fellow moms — there are so many of us this year.  Claire was in a large dance class of seniors and they have been together for so many years.  The theme of this year is “The Time of My Life,”  and I think these kids have experienced that together.  Our concerts have a dramatic piece, and Claire and her friend Bianca play the two friends that essentially narrate the show, that has a climax where Biana’s solo leads into a piece featuring all seven seniors that are still dancing [we’ve had an injury].  The show concludes with graduation.  It is so special that even with such a large class each of these seniors are still able to perform their solos and do their special piece.  I should proudly mention that they just learned the new piece last week — these kids are really rockstars!

My message that I wanted to share is this — for those of you with younger children, be present.  Sometimes you will be blessed to know when the “lasts” of your children are happening but many times you won’t.  If you are present, you will be blessed with the happy memories that will make days like the day we have today truly special.  Yes, I will shed tears, but they will be happy ones.  I am fiercely proud and have so many happy memories.  It’s time to move forward and turn the next page…3dosher first recitalShow5Rehe-18Show5Rehe2-2818Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 8.10.08 AM

Life Changing Circumstances

My move to Florida was an interesting one.  Twenty-two years ago, my husband was interviewing for promotions.  He had been advised that if he were to advance in his company that he would need to move.  We literally looked at a map and chose a radius for how far we were willing to move.  Tampa, was at the edge of our distance. 

During his interview process, we discovered that I was pregnant.  We were hoping to start a family after the move, but life works in mysterious ways and our little miracle happened sooner than expected.  In August, just as the school year was starting, John got an offer to move to Tampa and we began making plans.  We went to look for a place to live and signed a contract with a realtor to sell our home. 

John left for Tampa on Labor Day weekend 1995. I stayed in North Carolina.  It was brutal.  I was young, pregnant, and wanted to be with my husband.  However, because we were young and quite honestly poor at the time, John and I had each chose to have our medical insurance with our employers.  John was not changing companies, only positions, so if I left my job, I could not be insured.  I had a preexisting condition, my pregnancy.  I had to remain in North Carolina until open enrollment in January.  I worked until the start of the winter holidays, moved on Christmas Eve, and officially resigned on December 31 so I would remain insured until January 1.  My baby was born just eight weeks after I arrived.  I spent most of my pregnancy away from my husband and barely had enough time to meet the doctor who delivered my baby. 

With all of the talk of preexisting conditions in the news, I thought I would share my story.  Since then, I have always stayed on my husband’s insurance, not wanting to risk being separated again.  I thought then that it was ridiculous that I had to wait.  Bureaucratic red tape kept our family apart and made what should have been a happy time more difficult.  Because of the late term move, I was deemed a high-risk pregnancy and there were challenge’s with Will’s birth.

There was a reason why most people liked the preexisting conditions aspect of ACA coverage.  When we look at what conditions can be deemed preexisting now, it can be frightening because while coverage is still guaranteed, the cost can be raised. 

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t pretend to know the answer.  I know that what we have now isn’t working for everyone.  We are lucky now.  My doctors are constantly pointing out to me that I have a “Cadillac” insurance plan.  Twenty-two years ago, my husband and I were both hard working, and a move that we were making to better our finances could have been detrimental to us.  Luckily, I had a good friend that let me move in with her when my house sold so we didn’t have to try to have two mortgage/rent payments while trying to maintain health insurance.  My point is, we weren’t people who were lazy or trying to avoid healthcare cost.  There are a lot of people in working circumstances like us that have to make tough choices to provide healthcare.  I think of that baby I had nearly 22 years ago, being almost at the place we were then.  I hope it doesn’t have to be so hard for him. It just seems that it shouldn’t be so hard.

Anne Frank, “Half-Pint,” and the Kind of Grandparent I Want To Be One Day

On one of my many trips to our nation’s capital, I bought a book about Anne Frank for my daughter; Claire was about 10 at the time.  I remember learning about Anne Frank, not really in school exactly, but from reading a Scholastic magazine with an excerpt of the script from the 1980 Melissa Gilbert movie based on Anne Frank’s diary.  I was compelled by her story then, probably more because I loved Melissa Gilbert and it was fascinating to see her in something besides her prairie dress.

Over the years, as I matured past my devotion to “Half-Pint,” I began to understand the wonder of Anne Frank’s story.  It wasn’t until I became a teacher that her words truly impacted me.  That is when I actually read her diary in full.  To be in her situation and to be able to still believe as she wrote that people were still good just filled me with such wonder. 

Last night, I met with a group of women.  We ate snacks, talked about our families, and talked about the future.  While talking, we all took pen to paper and wrote to our Senators and Congressional Representatives.  We wrote to members of both parties.  Each person there wrote their own messages.  I tried to take an encouraging tone.  I do appreciate the work that those working in government do on behalf of the people, and I believe wholeheartedly that most do it for the right reasons, even though I might not agree with all of their policies.  It was nice to feel like I was taking action in the wake of recent circumstances, when my belief that the people who are in the highest office maybe aren’t in it for the right reasons.

While we were writing, one of the women said that she wanted to say to our leaders, “What do you want your grandchildren to think about the decisions that you make when they study this time period in school?”  I found that prolific. 

And that brings me back to Anne Frank and my daughter.  When she read the book, I didn’t think to warn her about the ending.  I’ll never forget holding her when she realized Anne had died.  That night I remember wondering if I would have been brave enough to be Miep Gies.  Would I have been brave enough to risk everything to save someone else even if it was the right thing to do?  Would I have landed myself on the right side of history?

I want to think I would have.  That’s why I’m speaking out now. 

I have another friend.  A wonderful, loving, well-educated friend post a Facebook message about Liberals needing to give the new President a chance.  I don’t think it’s just the liberals who have a problem with what is happening.  I don’t consider Senator Graham of South Carolina a liberal.  I don’t consider Senator McCain of Arizona a liberal.  Former Secretary Condoleeza Rice is not a liberal. 

This is not about liberals.  It’s not about conservatives.  It’s about being on the right side of history.  Unfortunately, most issues are complex.  If they were simple, so many people wouldn’t be so upset.  I have friends on both sides of most of the issues facing our country today.  I wouldn’t call a person a friend if I didn’t respect that at his/her core was a value of caring about others and strong integrity. 

So as I close, I am thinking about what kind of grandparent I’m going to be.  When my grandchildren who have yet to be born [and hopefully that is years and years away], look back on this period of time and ask me how I responded to the politics of 2017, what will my answer be? 

Life is a Cabaret – Seriously, It Is!

I went to see Cabaret last night.  I was excited and giddy, not just about the show, but honestly to get away from the political atmosphere for a bit.  I must confess that I had never seen the movie or show before, but as a dance mom, I feel like I know the soundtrack by heart so I was looking forward to a wild, racy time at the theater.

I was wrong.

I was made to think.

It was interesting that a show that in many ways was about social freedoms being slowly taken away would be playing in my town this weekend.   As the character Herr Schultz, the Jewish Fruit vendor, kept proclaiming that he was German and this Nazism would pass, I kept thinking about our current political climate.  How many people are thinking, this will pass…it’s just politics…nothing will happen.

And, of course, there were the songs.  “Money, makes the world go around…A mark, a yen, or buck, or a pound…is all that makes the world go around,” I know it’s cynical, but how on target are those lyrics?

The end of the show was so unnerving that I truly had a hard time sleeping.  I loved the show; it just upset me.  Stories of that nature do. 

So this morning, as my usual, on the way to work I listened to Morning Joe.  I love this program because I think they try really hard to present a balance viewpoint and offer a healthy political debate.  As the hot topic was the border closing, it wasn’t going to get my mind off of Cabaret  and it’s chilling prelude to the Holocaust. The guest on my way in to work was Sean Spicer, and he offered and explanation about the border closing this weekend.  He said [and I’m simplifying this statement] that if inconveniencing 109 travelers meant keeping just one American safe then it was worth it. On the surface that is reasonable.  However, there is a problem with this argument. 

Most of the terrorist attacks committed on US soil have been committed by US citizens, the exception is the Ohio State incident last fall, which was committed by an immigrant.   If our new administration REALLY wants to protect Americans and keep Americans safe, then I would suggest they look into what has caused 120 times more American deaths than terrorism on American soil and that is firearms.  Seriously, look at the chart below.  I am not making this up.  This is not fake news.  I am all for our constitutional rights and all for the second amendment, but I think our founding fathers would agree that some restrictions are necessary when it comes to keeping our citizens safe.  If a license is needed to drive a car, then why not to own a gun?  I know the arguments already [the criminals will have them anyway …blah, blah, blah].  Well, people drive cars without a license and then they have to face a consequence.  The same could happen with guns.  I’m just saying, if this whole issue of closing our boarders is about making our country safer, I think maybe our leaders and their followers should take a closer look on the inside before being so judgmental about what is on the outside.

I think it’s time for those of us who are reasonable, those of us who can compromise and who are normally quiet to start asserting ourselves into the conversation.  The majority of us, I think, probably feel like neither political party completely represents our views in whole and just vote for the who we think will do the least amount of damage.  I think we deserve more. 

In the meantime, I’ll close with another thought from Cabaret:

“What good’s permitting some prophet of doom?

To wipe every smile away

Life is a cabaret, old chum!

So come to the cabaret!”

What is our Cabaret going to be?screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-2-36-55-pm

The Job Too Important To Fail

When John and I became host parents for Lukas, our exchange student from Switzerland, a few years ago, it was on a whim.  During the application process, one of the questions asked of us was what were our rules.  Honestly, it was the question that stumped us. 

If you know us and know our kids, that may or may not surprise you.  Our kids are pretty good.  They aren’t exactly kids now at nearly 21 and 18, but they have always been generally well mannered and well behaved, and well, we haven’t exactly had rules with them.  It wasn’t that we lived in a home absent of rules, we just had rules as they were necessary.  For example, when Will was a toddler, we made a rule that he couldn’t watch the Rugrats on television because I didn’t want him imitating the behavior on one of the characters who was bratty. 

That was our general approach to parenting, and well, I think we did ok.  I mean, Will is now an adult and he is in college on track to graduate on time and Claire is a senior in high school.  Both are doing really. 

I tend to deal with my classroom in the same way.  I don’t have a laundry list of rules for the students on the first day we just have an understanding that we will all treat each other with respect and if that isn’t working, I will step in and deal with situations as necessary.  It works for me.  It works for my students too. I can only think of a couple of students over the past 25 years who have thought I was unfair, but even with those students and parents I have maintained a positive working relationship.

I think that is my problem when we tackle problems with steadfast, set in stone, black and white solutions.  What works in one instance doesn’t always work in another. 

I know that when we are talking about problems that our government deals with, it is bigger than problems a parent faces or a teacher, but I do think we have to be reasonable.  I understand the fear that some have about terrorism. It is real.  However, the ban from the executive order, no matter what the intention, is not going to be effective.  It has, I believe impacted the wrong people the most.  It’s because when making the rule, when just looking at the black and white, the shades of grey weren’t considered at all, which is why we see the backlash, and why we will keep seeing the backlash.  Our leaders need to start thinking before acting, which brings me back to the best parenting lesson I ever had.

When Will was just three, I grounded him from the television for a week.  This, by the way, was always the best consequence for him.  However, I did not consult John, who used the tv as a babysitter while he got dressed in the mornings [I was already at work], nor did I think about how awful it would be to have to entertain him without the television for a week. Still, as parents, we followed through.  We made a 7 day chart and we stuck to our guns, BUT, I never again gave a quick consequence without considering how the consequence would impact the rest of us.  I’m hoping that if nothing else the backlash from protests, judges, and angry Congressional members will convince our leader to think twice before acting rashly again.  I know the job is hard, but it is too important for him to fail.

A Thank You to a Special Student

Today, I am struggling a bit.  In truth, I’ve struggled a bit for the past week knowing that the anniversary of the tragic deaths of a family that I knew was fast approaching.  When it was raw, I wrote a note on Facebook, and I’m going to share part of that here.  It’s not that I want to relive this moment, but it’s that I don’t want to forget.  Here is the excerpt:

…The daughter was so bright.  I remember her has being very quiet in class at the beginning of the year and then totally impressing me with her voice on the page when she wrote for me.  She was a student that I could count on to always “get it” when I presented a big idea.  She had beautiful, shiny eyes and a lovely smile.  She was in the same section as my daughter and the girls in that class had to stick together because I had a lot of lively boys that loved to talk about war.  

The son had a much deeper impact on me as a teacher.  There was a time a few years ago when I was only teaching part time and coordinating our IB program part time.  He was in my son’s class the year I taught my son.  He was also on my forensics team, and he was a big winner for me.  His eighth grade year was a tough year for me personally, and I have trouble remembering parts of that year.  However, one moment from my writing extension class keeps coming back to me.  We were drafting research papers, and I sat down next to this young man to help him.  He was really struggling with the task of getting his outline to his draft without it looking like a list of facts.  As I sat down next to him, I told him not to read the list, but to tell me about it.  After he did, I told him to write what he told me.  A big smile came on his face and he did just that.  When he turned in his rough draft to me, I was so proud of him.  I also felt a pang in my heart.  I wanted more moments like that.  I knew that teaching was my true calling, not coordinating a program.  That was the moment that I started making my way back to the classroom full time.  Because of this young man, I became a better teacher…

Being a teacher is such an important part of who I am.  Sometimes, I don’t always appreciate that.  This time of year, when spring fever is running rampant, and I dream of summer vacation, I sometimes forget how important teaching is to me.  It is so much more than a job.  I will say, that if not for the boy mentioned above, I’m not sure that I would be teaching today.  I was, at the time, on a path in education that was leading me out of the classroom.  I will be forever grateful for this angel leading me back during his time on Earth.

I remember him today.  I remember his beautiful sister.  And I will remember both them every May 7 for the rest of my life.

Jen-sicles: Peaches -n- Cream

As if I don’t have enough going on, I’ve decided to start making popsicles.  I mean, I don’t even make dinner most nights, yet the idea of this new venture is exciting to me.   A few weeks ago my lovely daughter was sick and couldn’t eat.  All she wanted was popsicles, but I felt like they needed to at least be the full-fruit kind so they would be healthier for her.  Yet, these full-fruit popsicles are expensive.  Then I thought about the fruit that I buy that we can barely eat before it gets yucky.

Next thing you know, I’m on Amazon, looking for popsicle makers.  Click here to see the one I purchased.  It’s simple to use and comes with its own sticks.

If you know me at all, then you will know that I decided against looking up a recipe and just made popsicles.  My first venture was with kiwi.  I like them but they are a little tart.  I probably should have added some sweetener.  One thing I’ve learned from my trials is that the freezer seems to zap some of the sweetness.  I’ve also made a blackberry/blueberry combo that was pretty good.  In this one I used stevia and probably could have used more than I did.  I didn’t “juice” the fruit.  In fact, I just used my hand-mixer to mash it up because I was too lazy to drag out my blender.

Today’s batch was my first attempt at a dairy popsicle.  I used frozen, organic peaches, Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek Nonfat Yogurt, and raw honey.  Of course I didn’t measure; I just mixed and tasted.  It’s the first one I think most people would like.

The other issue with my Jen-sicles is storage.  What I did was take cling wrap [close to a square piece], wrapped it around the pop, and put the pops in a Ziplock freezer bag.  If I come up with any amazing flavors, I’ll let you know!PicCollage

Helping Them Deal…

I saw a post on Facebook today, and it was the headline for an article,”Please Keep Doing Things That Your Children Can Do For Themselves.”  It’s a lovely article , and the gist is that kids grow up too fast so parents should cherish when they can do things for them. 

I love the sentiment behind this article, and there are plenty of things I do for my kids occasionally that they can do for themselves.  I sometimes fold and put away their clothes or clean their room.  I’ve done Claire’s hair.  I do these things for my kids as a treat and they in no way expect them. 

However, my kids started doing their own things as soon as they could.   Admittedly, some of this is because there are things I hate doing.   My best example is laundry.  They were eight and five when I started requiring them to do their laundry.  Of course, I helped at first, but both of my kids have been able to do that task for years.  It’s one of the many, non-material gifts that I have given them. 

As a seventh grade teacher, I know that I impact kids.  Yet the best part of me being older and wiser than I was in my youthful teaching days is that I have now been in the shoes of the seventh grade parent and I can see potential mistakes.  I can also offer advice, and I think that is my best impact as a teacher — its on the parents.  This is essential, I believe, because over my 25 year teaching career, I have seen kids become more and more dependent on their parents, for even the smallest tasks.

My big “catch phrase” of late to parents is that they need to let their kids figure things out.  More specifically, I’m talking about grades and my speech goes something like this:  absolutely no one but you cares about your child’s grades in seventh grade, so this is the time to focus on the skills he needs to develop to be successful when his grades do matter and you aren’t there to help. 

The same is true socially.  There is a fine line between effective parenting, supporting your child, and interfering/enabling.  First of all, I won’t claim to be perfect on this.  I’m not.  But over the years, I think I’ve gotten better.  I try to be very involved in my kids’ lives while letting them forge their own paths. 

Over the past couple of years, the high school social scene has presented both trying and joyous times for my daughter.  It was so different for my son — in this way, boys are easy.  So as Claire has navigated the rough waters of changing friendships and “girl drama,” I’ve supported her.  I’ve asked questions.  I’ve tried to help her see other perspectives.  I’ve given her advice.  There have been times when she has been left out by a group, or even uninvited to an event [yes, UN-invited].  While part of me wanted to call the moms of the “offenders,” I refrained; this was something my daughter and her friends needed to handle.  Instead, I coached my daughter on how to work through it.  I reminded her that people aren’t perfect and oversights can be made.  When you can, give the benefit of doubt.  I taught her the difference between being civil to people and being friends with them, which is a huge lesson in being an adult.   In less than two years I will be sending her to college where she will have to navigate these waters by herself.  Now, she has practice in comporting herself with dignity. 

Learning to face disappointment with grace is, I think, the best gift I could give either of my children.  Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go.  Still, it’s hard watching my kids when they suffer.  It’s hard not to step in and make it better.  But sometimes, doing what is hard means doing what is right. 

PC? Politely Caring? Positively Compassionate?

One of my favorite things to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas is to listen to Christmas music on the radio.  One of my favorite tunes is from the 1942 film Holiday Inn; it’s titled “Happy Holidays” and this song is credited with the popularity of the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This song is from 1942.

Of course, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and the PC combatants are lighting up my Facebook feed with their broadcasts about how they hate political correctness and that they will say “Merry Christmas and if you don’t like it then…”well, you can guess the rest.

Why does everything have to be a controversy?

The current usage of “political correctness” or PC didn’t start until the 1990s, but really took off in the 2000s.  That’s 50 – 60 years after the term Happy Holidays was first coined, which just shows that saying Happy Holidays isn’t an anti-Christian meant solely to promote political correctness.

Maybe, however, PC stands for more than political correctness.  Maybe it stands for Politely Caring, or Positively Compassionate.  What is wrong with those ideas?  

When I first moved to Florida, I met my first Jewish friend.  I had never thought about saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever before meeting her.  I have to say, that I was raised Christian and consider myself a Christian, but my Jewish friend is one of the best people I know.  Her character is exemplary.  If more people had her morals, the world would be a better place. With that said, since meeting her and countless other wonderful people of different faiths, I have proudly said Happy Holidays, especially to people that I don’t know.  I want to be polite.  I want to wish people happiness.  I don’t want to assume that anyone’s faith is the same as mine, and I know that saying a generic holiday phrase hurts my faith in any way. 

I am, quite frankly, offended by Christians who are offended by people who wish them a happy holiday.  If you are offended, ask yourself what is wrong with you?  These folks are trying to be polite, compassionate, positive, and caring.  How do they know that you are a Christian?  Happy holidays fits everyone.  


I saw this picture on my Facebook feed today, and it perfectly sums up this situation.  It’s originally from this site:  http://www.joeydevilla.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/holiday-greeting-flowchart.jpg

I love the line on this flow chart that says that “if you can’t see past the words of the wish to its good intent, then it’s not the holiday well-wisher that is broken, it’s you.”

…just something to think about!