Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Are YOU Running For?

'Cause Everyone Is Running for (or from) Something?

Yesterday as the polls started heading toward closing time and the votes got guestimated first, then called by various news outlets, I couldn't wait for it to be over. But is it ever really over?

The Motherlode: NY Marathon
It's a new day. And while I'm pleased that my board of ed candidate won, there were no surprises in the Senate, making me want to put my head in the sand for the next six years... by which time we'll have elected at least one new president. 

As I was running up Van Holten road yesterday I remembered how it felt to run for a political office. The highs and the lows. I realized that just running for board of ed impacted me in many ways. I thought I knew who my friends were, but there are always surprises. People who stood by me every step of the way, and others who didn't, teaching me that some affiliations trump friendship. Time has healed that, and I have put it behind me, but it left enough of a scar to keep me from running again for any office, ever. If you can't count on friends' support, how can you expect the general population to support you? Like jogging, running for office is largely a solitary venture. Maybe that's why they share the same verb?

If I take it a step further, and think of running more as a metaphor, so many ideas open up. Years ago people would ask me what I did. I was a stay at home mom, but I'd sheepishly say I'm a writer. In the interim, I "ran for" a few jobs. And now I'm a writer. Statement of fact with a salary (and writing samples) to prove it. When my daughter starts applying to college next year, she'll be "running for a place at the colleges of her choice." At work we have this new push to have quantifiable results, so you might say I'm now running for improved metrics. 

We run for lots of things... we run red lights, we run households, we run meetings, we run for cover. Over the next few busy, pre-holiday weeks I'll be thinking of my next goal. What will I be running for? 

But here's a better question: what will you run for? What are your goals for today, next year or the longer term? Good sneakers are a must for a distance runner. Consider the tools you need to make your goal. Remember that the most important part of running for something isn't winning. It's about creating experiences that will give meaning to you. Running a 10 mile race isn't about the medals. It's about the endorphins.

Good luck newly elected candidates. Serve your pubic well because before you know it, you'll be running again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why I'm Voting for Barry Walker

A long time ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away...

... I ran for a School Board. It is not a position to take lightly or to vote for "just anyone". 

You've seen the signs...
Barry Walker is running a tough, but honest campaign. It's not easy when your main opponent is an incumbent with strong political ties and a tendency to play by his own rules. In fact when I ran against him years ago, he used the Middle School directory to solicit votes. As an attorney and a board member - or even as a parent who can read - he should have known that this was verboten, since a "not for solicitation" clause is printed on all school directories. Misuse discourages families from including their information in the future.  As the saying goes, "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission." Maybe I'm jealous? Since I wrote the elementary school's directory and had every single email on my computer, I was tempted to do the same - it would have taken me 5 minutes... the difference is, I didn't. 

Barry Walker wouldn't use the directory either. In fact I asked him about this when he invited me for coffee a few weeks ago. I have gotten to know him, and he's what I want in candidate. He's well-versed in the district's issues, and has spent a lot of time volunteering for the PTO. Him, not his wife, him. Why? He's a stay-at-home-Dad and I have a lot of respect for men who chose to stay at home to raise kids. Especially in 08807. Even in 2014, I can count only three men I know who do something that so many still consider "women's work". Think it's because he couldn't work? HA! He's got an BS in physics from Carnegie Melon University and boatloads of work experience. And, before he had kids of his own, he volunteered with youth organizations, including the boy scouts, so he's very kid-oriented. He came out to hear me when I was running for the board and that left a positive impression. Since then, he's continued to be involved in the district in a grass roots way. He attends board meetings, so he knows what he's getting into, and as a parent of a "mainstreamed" kid, he has no agenda with special interest groups and is among the vast majority who make up the middle of the academic spectrum. 

Barry will vote his conscious. He won't intimidate other BOE members to vote a certain way. At the last BOE meeting I attended a few months ago, the other candidate pushed members to vote with the majority because it looked better for the board to vote unanimously, even though they disagreed. Board of Ed members represent the community - and as such, they should vote their conscious and vote in a way that represents their constituents. 

Barry's pushing for increased STEM teaching and he has a special focus on the sciences. He's wants a better relationship between the board and teachers - which is important, as he would be on the board for the next contract negotiations. Barry is very approachable and welcomed hearing my opinions, even when we disagreed (which we did on a couple of things). I respected that. 

It's time for new blood representing me and my family. As I mentioned, the last board of ed meeting I attended was directly hostile (I heard last week's meeting was also rather volatile). I was already rather jaded and felt that many BOE members don't care. Members should want to hear from the community and know how much courage it takes to speak out. Barry Walker understand and will work for families like yours and mine and will listen to you. I encourage my friends to vote for Barry Walker on Tuesday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Waffles and things

In Praise of Good Work

A Special Treat

So often when I blog it is in reaction to an inappropriate action, a statement - true or otherwise - or an unpleasant encounter.

Today I just want to write something nice.

Every other Monday around 6am we get an update automatically emailed to us with my son's latest grades. Not every Monday starts on a positive note. Thank Goodness for @Evelyn. She talked me off the ledge many a Monday morning.

Yesterday, however, was the perfect way to start a Monday morning. It began by reading three simple comments from three different teachers. "Keep up the good work." "Pleasure to teach." "Is a positive role model." This is always nice to hear about your offspring. By the time your kid is in high school you kind of know what to expect... and while I think N is a pleasure to teach, it's not often I've read, "keep up the good work" so it was a big deal for Mom.

As I often do, I took a walk at lunch. Today I stopped at N's favorite sight in all of the Big Apple: Wafels and Dinges. N's friend B introduced us to this beautiful stand a few years ago, and we've all been madly in love ever since!

This afternoon it served as just the right token: It looks like a square Belgian waffle, but really it's a gingerbread-flavored message that says, "Keep up the good work."

I hope I become a regular customer. Who cares if I go broke spending the college savings plan on high-caloric treats? It's worth every penny to start the week off with positive feedback.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hiatus!

Dear Friends,

My commute is early, but not without benefits
I have been on a social media hiatus (with two exceptions: work-related use, sometimes I use my personal login to update company social media) and private messages for Facebook friends whom I don't tend to email.

I've heard from people that they miss my updates. That warms me and surprises me in equal parts.

What am I "hiding" from? Several things:

  1. All things political - including religious-political banter and school board election-related discussions - especially school board elections: It's funny. I made a few posts about school-related matters (once about a grammatical mistake that my son's English teacher made on back to school night, and another about a parent who nearly ran over two students who were legally crossing in a crosswalk in front of the high school) and it was enough stress to make me give up Facebook for a month. I even took down the grammar discussion after fearing I'd lost a friendship with my neighbor. An incorrect object-pronoun isn't worth bad blood between neighbors. 
  2. Jealously. I'll admit it. The green-eyed monster resides just below the surface. Pretty ironic since I live such a cushy life!! I've got it all: love, family, every material item one could desire, a great job and a very interesting life. Still 20 minutes on Facebook and something ALWAYS brings out the worst in me. When you have so many friends (and I'm using the term loosely, since I'm talking about facebook) someone is always on a fabulous vacation, eating the perfect meal or out with people I like, and instead of being happy for them, I notice I wasn't invited...
  3. Competition: I never thought the most competitive sport I'd ever enter was parenting! We'll leave it at that, Bridgewater Moms. I'll never be as perfect: thin, pretty, well-liked, and my kids will never be as perfect as the women around me. I just have to learn to live with that. (Please note my sarcastic tone).
  4. The great timesuck. So I have no time for Facebook and yet I make LOTS OF TIME for Facebook. (I have a 90 minute commute on a good day, each way - that alone could gives me 150 minutes on Facebook - I can connect on part of the commute). When I cut Facebook I actually read. Well, it could be that someone reads to me (formerly known as "books on tape") while I knit on the train. And, earlier this summer I actually spent time writing!!! As in, creatively, using a pen and paper!!!! It's amazing how much time I sacrifice to Facebook.
 I have to admit, I do miss it. There is something so casual about "liking" a picture or adding my two cents to something I have otherwise no business discussing. I enjoy debating parenting with my friends in Seattle. They live in such a different world - or do they? I like to support friends when they are having a bad day and I LOVE seeing pictures of people who mean something to me (and, yes, like everyone else who uses social media, I do enjoy a little stalking of people whom I have no business peeking at).

My office view. We enjoy this strange combination... 
I'll be back in November to see (and, of course, to post) the holiday pictures that people love to enjoy - and some like to mock. I'm not sure how much political blogging I will do. Lately thinking about Bridgewater politics really gets to me - to the point where I'll be in the middle of a run and have to force myself to make it home because I am so upset that I can't think of anything else. I relive conversations and rethink what I really wanted to say to someone, and it ruins my running "mojo". In that moment I feel doubly defeated - I'm losing my limited time to exercise and I'm losing the confidence I gain from a good run. The person who upset then wins twice without even knowing it.

And I'll miss the "good lucks" I'd get if I were to post that I am running a 10 mile race at the end of the month. All the best wishes on N's confirmation and I'll certainly miss the halloween pictures (which I can probably still see on November 1st).

But now, it's 9:55 pm - and when you begin your day at 5:30 am that means it's bedtime. I look forward to hearing from - and about - my beloved friends in two weeks. And for the rest of you... yes, we'll be in touch on or around November 1st.

Until then - I do have a phone, an email address and... yes, a mailbox.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Running

I am a runner. Statement of fact. About an hour ago* I returned from an 8.2 mile run. Anyone would think that makes me a runner.

Except me.

I don't know the source of my insecurities. My constant feelings of not meeting other's standards (or even who the "other" would be). I do know that I generally say I'm sort of a runner. Even though I've run two half marathons, a 10 mile race, multiple 5 and 10Ks, I don't see myself as a runner. Noel is a runner. Anna is a runner. My 89 year of father, who hasn't run in a few years, is a runner. I'm an impostor.

Except I am a runner. I used to run remembering my friend who died. I often think about people who love to run (or do another physical activity) and can't, when I run. I find it motivating: be grateful for what you can do, and push just a teeny bit more.

Tonight I ran into a friend who has run marathons, but no longer can. Her knees. Not a disease, not an ailment, just plain old shot knees. I will always think of her as a bona fide runner.

What makes you a runner? (Or a swimmer, a violinist, cook?) You do. As I get older my mantra is "be who you are". Guess what: the correlating concept should "you decide who you are".

*this was written several weeks ago and not posted. The images come from that evening's run.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

College Prep Course for Soccer Moms

Are You Ready for What's Next?

I still have two more years until it will be my reality, but this summer I'm getting a taste of what it will be like
An image from my "sorta stay-cation" (View from BRHS)
when C & N go off to college and I become an empty-nester. I've seen what a difficult transition it will be when my kids finally go off to college. I think my life will change as much as their lives do. All I have to say is that I'm glad to heed the warning: they grow up too fast, so enjoy every minute!

Morning Rush (Church St.)
You've heard of a working lunch? Well this year I'm experiencing a "working summer". I've been leaving my house before 7:00 am and not returning until after 7:30 pm. While I've been able to knit or read quite a bit during my train rides from Somerville to Newark, and occasionally (if I'm fortunate enough to get a seat) on the PATH train between Newark and the World Trade Center, it doesn't make up for the time missed with the kids.... 

That is, if they were home! C left for Camp Cory in Penn Yan, NY (near Rochester in the Finger Lakes) on June 27th. She won't be home until August 23rd. N spent two weeks in a ceramics class at Bridgewater-Raritan High School - and he rode his bike both directions, (if any BRRSD Board of Ed members are reading, I found out your big secret: the district doesn't want kids to bike to the high school, so the district has rejected allowing bike racks on the campus... NOT COOL, but that's for another blog), showing me some evidence that he is ready for high school. Then, he spent 2 weeks at Camp Cory (see picture below - he's in one of the 2 person boats), then he came home last Saturday night only to leave for Norway on Sunday afternoon. Today is Sunday and in two hours their plane lands in Newark, I'll get him home for 5 days and then he's back at Cory for another two weeks. They return with just enough time to buy a few binders and finish their summer work before school starts in early September.

N - somewhere on Keuka Lake

Wish I could be a camper

Having them gone so much has been a rough awakening for me. My days of spontaneous trips to the beach or weeks at my in-laws summer house have been traded for writing endless marketing copy, checking open/conversion rates and daily meetings. When I was home I pined for full-time work. Now that I have it, I miss having summers off. Can't I learn that the grass is never really greener? 

So I'm trying to do what I've always done in life: do something - anything - to make the most of each day, in whatever life I have. This summer, that has included looking for a new place to walk/run, trying to see friends more often, reading good books and eating well (well, in theory). Today, I felt like writing (or, perhaps I wanted a break from cleaning). Some days it's easier than others to have my kids not physically present. Some days I am not jealous of the fantastic lives people appear to post on Facebook, remembering that my life is pretty fabulous, and I'm very grateful, even when I get lonely.

One thing that doesn't change whether the kids are home or not, whether I'm home work at work: I still loathe housework - laundry, cleaning, yard work, going through junk mail (I almost threw away the tax bill... subliminal???) and preparing for a new week of work. But it's got to get done... and now's my time to do it. Thanks for reading. Be well, friends... 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bittersweet

750-ish Middle Schoolers graduated this week

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." 


Well, "TBH" (to be honest, as the teens tweet), it wasn't either the best or the worst, and now it's over. If I had to grade BRMS over the past two years, I'd give it a B-. There were a few well-deserved As counterbalanced with a few failing grades.

The As

A couple of teachers who went the extra mile - communicated with me when N was lagging in the homework department or tried to make workable solutions to bridge the gap between his abilities and his output. They were also the ones who saw N as a very bright boy and encouraged him to participate in class.

A few U-apples

Some teachers clearly didn't care. Worse than that, they said that N didn't care either, which shows how little they knew him, earning a solid U (what we used to call an F). If they can give that grade for partially completed homework, I can give them this grade for partially-completed educating. "I reminded N to hand it in." --My (mental, non-verbalized) response "And I reminded you to remind him." In between was the guidance counselor who played middleman between my "professionally-toned" (i.e. curt) e-mails and teachers' somewhat lackluster responses.

Outside the classroom

Socially it was a mixed bag as well. This year he didn't do a single activity - no sports, no clubs. The only club he wanted to do was skiing, and he didn't get picked. Can't they make it so more kids can be involved? Encourage non-superstars to take part? Some kids aren't looking for sports scholarship... On the bright side, unlike his sister's grade, I didn't hear about (or see!!) any 8th graders drinking, and to my knowledge there weren't any drug busts (which happened a few years ago). Another mixed bag 50% - another U.

The lunchroom was overcrowded and the lines were long. With his schedule he often got to the cafeteria late, and didn't always have space at the table with his friends... so he ended up making others. I'd grade that a C, but my son would probably give lunch a B+ or A-.

The sweet side

However, he still has lots of friends, and had a great time at Hershey, bringing home lasting memories and a chocolate cover for his cell phone. And while I am not a fan of Hershey - I would have preferred something more academic-oriented, like DC - he loved it, and he loved the 7th grade environmental trip. A-.

He didn't get one detention, not one call home for behavior, never an argument or a tear (except maybe mine about homework frustration - I hear it's normal for boys not to hand in homework). I remember tearful heartbreak of unrequited love from Ernie Davis Junior High ca. 1983 - N hasn't had that experience. He doesn't know how lucky he is.

Summary

And now it's over. In the blink of an eye he is off to high school. I'm not sure who is more nervous, him or me. He can't get into a good college with the grades he got at BRMS, and he wants to be a scientist, so he has to get good grades. He's no longer a little kid - he's well on his way to becoming a man, and I guess an overcrowded BRHS is as good a place as any to navigate the world's waters.

Today he's biking to the high school - to get used to it before he takes an enrichment class there starting Monday - another step on his daily journey to independent life.

And four years from now, I may be sitting at my computer writing another bittersweet blog (hopefully with MUCH better feedback).

Honorable mention

Today's blog is dedicated to my friend's son. He just graduated from BRHS - heading to a Big 10 School.

D: Your Mamma-M is going to miss you more than you know, and guess what - you're gonna miss her too!! Best of luck in college, and remember to keep in touch with Mamma-M (and not just when you need something), Grandma "Ma" and the sisters who admire you! I don't need to remind you to keep in touch with P-Daddy - I'm sure you'll be text sports scores.