Friday, April 29, 2011

Losing an election, winning a voice, growing slightly thicker skin

Is that the fat lady singing???? 

If you haven't figured it out from Wagner's ladies, I lost.

It wasn't even close. But more than 1100 people voted for me, and I would call that pretty amazing. The vote was split among 5 candidates and the incumbents were both popular and powerful, and the two other candidates had (informal but strong) support of a large union and had lived here most of their lives, meeting many registered voters along the way. Nevertheless 1100 people thought I was the best choice. It was a long shot that fell somewhat short.

The last month or so, I felt like I lost my voice. Constantly scrutinizing what I said- or even thought- was excruciating. I felt victimized, just from the lack of being able to express myself. "You just can't say that when you are running for office!" Now I have my little blog back, and with it my freedom of speech. That feels much better.

But I shouldn't have worried - plenty of people didn't lose their tongues and spewed plenty of nastiness. Worse though, were some actions. The election brought out the worst in lots of people. People were conniving, dishonest and threatening. Some people published their own revisionist history (and were openly attacked in the online and print media for it, so I don't need to). Others were condescending to voters. Some people were mean just to be mean, others were hurtful without trying to be. And I was actually shocked by what liberties people take when writing online. People will write cruel things in an e-mail or online that they would NEVER say aloud or publicly.And someone owes me about $50 in stolen signs. (Yes, this blog doesn't have my name, but I've addressed that in earlier blogs).

When I lost I knew I hadn't "tried everything". I lost, in part, because I wasn't willing to try everything.  Some people, even if it wasn't formally cheating, used questionable ethics (I'm tempted to ask the New York Times' "Ethicist"!) I spent days with friends, wondering rhetorically, "Who helped?"  I'll never know....

Last week the whole town, it seems, was asking "The $2500 dollar question." "Was that money really a single gift from a generous friend, or money pooled by people trying to hide their identities."

See?! Even I fell into the spiral of conspiracy theories that surrounded this little local election! I was pretty lucky and stayed largely (but not completely) protected from direct attacks. A large group of people refused to vote for me based on a widely-spread misconception. I was spared from the worst attacks thanks to a guardian angel who reigned in the dogs! You never know what people will pick at - someone even insinuated that my hair was a real problem! Even that I eventually let slide. But one heated conversation still hurts. Some wounds take time to heal.

I'm proud of my campaign. It was compassionate, honest and even when directly asked, I never personally attacked ANYONE in the papers or in private. No longer a candidate I hope I can continue to be proud of my actions. It feels better than my usual self-depreciating humor.

Possibly the most important change has been my millimeter-thicker skin. It grew from the visible support I got from people who care.

My friends and family has been wonderful. I wouldn't even know where to start to explain. I had around 100 signs in Bridgewater families' yards! In fact, I ran out of signs before I ran out of yards. People continuously showed their personal connection with my campaign. One of the Moms at TKD had tears in her eyes as she hugged me (I haven't cried about losing, but she did). Two of my friends dropped everything going on in their lives to help me with anything I needed over the past few weeks, nights, days, evenings and weekends. How do you thank someone for that?! My kids and husband have let me do everything I wanted or needed for this, and stood up for me publicly and privately. (Although I think my husband was relieved when it was over!) But best of all have been the messages of love and support. On Tuesday and Wednesday my phone beeped or rang literally every few minutes with someone wishing me luck or letting me know that they had just voted for me.

When you die, your family throws a big funeral. People drink too much, eat too much and cry too much. If I die tomorrow I know how people feel! For days friends and family have expressed their how much they respect me and how impressed they were by me and how much they care! RG even sent me flowers - gorgeous tulips, very not-funeral like! Even several teachers reached out to me! One sent me a written note wishing me well.  Two reiterated that they wished they lived here because they would vote for me! They understood that I mean well and have good ideas.

How much people love me! Little me!!!! Maybe I didn't get the most votes, but some votes simply count more than others! No, I didn't make it on the BOE - but my meek voice got a bit stronger.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A new twist to an old expression

"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer" is an expression I hear almost weekly in New Jersey. Maybe there is a bit of Sopranos in all of us who live in the Garden State?

But after running for the BOE, I've decided that my motto is "Keep your friends close... everyone else can go to Hell!"

My Sample ballot arrived today. Normally I shred it. I feel like framing this one. Despite the fact that this is an uphill battle and practically everyone says that I haven't got a prayer, I am very proud that I am trying to do something I've wanted to try for a long time. Lots of people like to complain about the state of our schools. I do too. There are only 5 people who dared to run this year. And maybe I will lose... but maybe, just maybe, I will win! I am proud that I haven't gone around and said nasty things about people. I could call one of the incumbents unethical, and if you want to read about the women and their backing, you can in all the local papers."

And other than a misunderstanding with a sports team that will cost me a minimum of 50 votes (well, hopefully only 49), one person I've only heard about one mass e-mail to a large group of people saying nasty things about me. The writer is someone who didn't like that I blogged about her husband a few months ago, so she has a personal grudge. I didn't say anything untrue - but she had to say something bad about me, just to prove her point. I deleted the blog, but women don't get over things like this quickly.

And the other person who said something bad (I'm sure there ARE others, but these are the two that I got wind of) called me just a Mom. HA! This woman is a stay at home Mom too! She's doesn't have my professional experience or my educational background, so criticizing me for not having these things is hypocritical at best, malevolent at worst.

For every negative thing that I've heard or felt, I've had someone come up to me in Wegmans, compliment me on my signs and wish me well. Friends I didn't know I'd had have asked for signs and even one of my five opponents genuinely wishes me well!

This time last week I thought I would win. Today I'm not as sure. Win or lose, I've learned one thing: a lot of people care about me. Deeply. And there are at least two people who have gone to great lengths to show their allegiance. I'll never forget this!

If I lose the election, I still win because I've gained one thing: insight into how people feel about me. Some people I knew were my supporters all along. And some people I thought were, but aren't.

Keep your friends close.... forget everyone else!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New challenge?

I've been feeling like my plate was full for several weeks - or maybe more like several months.
  • Running in a contentious election for BOE and all which that entails (today I put out signs and filled in late forms)
  • Getting my son ready for his black belt test (he did great, btw).
  • Having 2 families visit, plus Cracker, the wonder dog?!!
  • And everything else I have been blogging about for months...
but today I thought my plate just needed one more thing: a job. I went to a job interview and walked out with an immediate start job - as in I started working DURING the interview. No reference checks, no "let me think about it and get back to you" - just a to do list in red ink and a boss with a lot of ambition and high expectations. So I took notes and started working....

... um about that 2 week pile of laundry on the sofa? And the to do list in red at our house? Oh, and my son needing his mom to organize stuff to do during Spring break?

Move over broccoli. There's a new course being served. No taste testing, open, chew and swallow....  Here we go.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roller coaster I can't get off....

"And all I really want is some patience
A way to calm the angry voice
And all I really want is deliverance
Do I wear you out
You must wonder why I'm so relentless and all strung out
I'm consumed by the chill of solitary?"

Ok, so you've waited in the longest line in the world to get on. Your belt is tight, although not as tight as you'd like. A teenager recites the safety rules for the 400th time that day.... and off you go, you look up, the ride just starting in front of you. And whooosh....

up and down and around and you are praying to Jesus or Mohammad or Eddie Van Halen or even to that tree below, please, if there is a God let me get through this....

oh, and please God, don't let me puke in front of anyone


But soon enough the ride is over and you get off. Your friends want another turn, but you offer to watch everyone's stuff instead, letting others slip in line to take their turn.

That sums it up for me. I'm just hoping to get through the ride without puking in public (figuratively). So far, I haven't tossed my cookies. Nearly fainted though, after forgetting to eat. Doesn't sound like me, forgetting to eat, does it?

Did find out that someone must read my blog very very very regularly. I thought most of my readers were friends I could trust. Well, mostly... another person I should have imagined in the audience has been lurking. She knew about El, and about the details of her illness and death. And that we were friends. She could have known about her illness since her son went to the same elementary school as my daughter, but there is no link that she knows about linking El with me. So she has been reading.... luring in the silence of cyberspace, and not with my best interest at heart.

Always good to know.

Time for bed. It's been a long day - tomorrow will be even longer. Saturday is Black Belt Testing and a surprise party for N in the late afternoon. Sunday my first guests arrive. Monday more guests arrive... then it is a week of guests, until more guests arrive on Good Friday, and then we lose two guests on Easter Monday, then Tuesday everyone goes home. Election is Wednesday. Then... then... I can get off the ride.

You can take a ride next time. I'll watch the bags.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The past few days I've been sucking into the vortex of this election, losing part of my sanity with each day.

After spending a while working on the website I decided that I am taking a few hours break from the election. I'm going to do what I should have been doing all along: dishes, laundry and KNITTING.

I realize how much knitting calms me because when I don't knit, I feel the difference. Exercise helps too... but I'm not motivated today to do anything special.

Normal? Well as I was writing this, poor Diego-Doggie-Doo just threw up all over the kitchen.

So now we have a clean floor in the kitchen.

Check one more thing off the list. Actually I am relieved to be doing something non-election related. Dishes, then knitting. Aahhhh....


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sink or swim

I am treading water. Some days I am actively swimming, some days I am trying to keep afloat. This is a big challenge for me and much more stressful that I had admitted to myself.

I will start blogging again soon. It isn't that I don't want to blog, it is that when I am at the computer, I feel that I need to be doing other things: tweaking my website (that will be active soon, my first name and last name (not maiden name) dot com. If you know these things, you can access it.

The site is pretty much ready. It's like a take home test that I am afraid to hand in because instead of one teacher grading it, all of the world can look at it, i.e. look at me, and scrutinize: The content (ie what I think), the concept (ie my educational philosophy) and what I have omitted, either on purpose or by accident.  The reader (and critic) have a lot of fodder for personal attack.

And who knows - maybe I am wrong! Maybe my ideas, my hopes and my plans aren't what people want. If that is the case, I am OK with that. It is finding the personal strength to stand the criticism. I knew going into this that the hardest thing for me is that I have paper-thin skin. I thought just wanting it to be thicker would be enough. No, thick skin doesn't grow on trees, and I am at a loss as to what I can do to fortify mine. I wish I knew. Experience isn't helping me.

The election is in some 24 days. Win or lose, I will have undergone a process. In that process I may not grow a thicker skin, but I will have been forced to get experience dealing with the media, with the schools and with the public at large. With the help of some very loyal friends I am going to make it through - and possibly winning the coveted seat. It is good to know that even if I am doing something that is probably unwise - it isn't smart to run for public office - I am sure I know who I can count on for support.

I have some really wonderful friends!  So it's time for me to put on my swim suit and go out into town and do what I can to meet my goal. If the choice is to swim, sink or tread water - I hope you will peek in on me, and find me swimming. The water is cold in the pool right now, but through my efforts and through the support of my friends and family, my inner warmth will keep me temperate, even if the water gets too hot through nasty rhetoric and personal attacks.

I have learned something else, too. I have no desire to seek future political offices. BOE will be enough for me.