Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Time Flies...

And I've been having fun.

If this doesn't inspire you, what will?
But traveling to three states in two weeks means putting off the things I need to do, so I came home to a pile of bills and a to do list the length of my arm (literally). Then there are items like "laundry" that never get checked off of anyone's list.

I wrote about Massachusetts last week. It was a wonderful, relaxing weekend hearing about my close friends' lives. I got to see that grass is just as green (or weedy) on the other side of the fence, when for years I would go to reunions and return feeling that my life wasn't measuring up. It was very freeing. Why are women so intuitively competitive with one another? Does seeing snippets of each others lives on Facebook make it worse? Sometimes I think so. There's nothing like getting down to the gnitty gritty over a lunch to make you feel more connected and in tune with your friends.

This weekend T and I headed West, sans kids. First we spent two days in Las Vegas with his colleagues. It was everything Vegas usually isn't: relaxing and rated PG-fun. Excellent food, the Beatles Cirque show, shopping (window, mostly) and hanging poolside. I went for a six mile run up the Strip at 7:30 am. Just me, the hobos and a few other runners. I also read 2 books in 4 days. (If you like historical fiction, I highly suggest Caleb's Crossing. Actually I preferred her (Geraldine Brooks') Year of Wonders and People of the Book.  A couple of weeks ago I panned Fifty Shades of Grey - but I couldn't help myself - Vegas is the appropriate place to read the sequel. And I did... I liked it a lot better than the first book. A little more plot and a somewhat surprise ending that confirms that I will need to borrow the third book.

My favorite part of our trip (after five trips to Vegas I feel I've Been There, Done That) was driving to the Grand Canyon. It is simply amazing to see the difference in landscape between suburban New Jersey - even the underdeveloped areas - and the vast distances in the West. Here the colors are mainly hues of green. Reds and browns captivate the eyes in Nevada/Arizona. But the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. We walked for several hours along the South Rim but even then we only saw a tiny fraction of the entire park. Next time we will have to down to the bottom. And there will be a next time! I simply loved it! The colors made me want to design, draw or color something beautiful. And why shouldn't I run with the inspiration?

I've lived several places with Mountains. Not the rolling hills you find here in Central Jersey, but real mountains. I love being surrounded by their beauty. As I knit in the car, I kept peeking up to take in the vast mountain view. Sunrise and sunset (pictured here). I forgot how much I missed living near the mountains.

We drove back to Nevada, and had a few hours to witness Sin City on Saturday night. We watched the "Younger Crowd" in line for a disco. I felt old - in years past I would have longed to stand in that line to dance with my friends and "get wild". Now I feel disinterested in that sort of life.

I returned home happy to see my family and looking forward to a nice summer. America - it's just so vast....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another week gone, but not forgotten

Almost a week since my last posting, but it feels like a month.

I have just returned from a weekend at my college reunion. And I'm in love.

I'm in love with a boy named Atsu. He's about 3 1/2 feet tall and 100% darling. I can't understand much of what he said (except I learned how to say "Mee-tay" which means look - I taught him how to say "yummy" and "yucky") and I got to relive that special time when boys are four and you can show them small things that make a huge impact and then are just as quickly forgotten. Smiles are quick and when things go wrong, there are tears. Kind of like me.

My college friends are bright and wonderful and successful women. Five years ago I returned from reunion disheartened. I felt I didn't match up to their seemingly-starlit careers and they were taking the world by storm, while I, in stark contrast, was planning Girl Scout meetings. Had I heard of the Board of Ed and the world of Bridgewater educational politics? Who knows. I came home with a sense that my career was in permanent limbo and my self-esteem plummeted.

This weekend I return proud of my (meager) accomplishments. While only about half of my friends have kids, all of them have been in a period of reevaluation in one way or another. Yes, despite of potential insecurities of "what's next?" they all seemed confident and in general contentment with their lives. In our early forties we are all sure of who we are as people and weren't at a reunion to try to prove anything to anyone. In retrospect, I think that five years ago we were still coming to prove something to someone.We returned just for the enjoyment of (re-)acquainting ourselves with who we are today. I return to New Jersey feeling refreshed. You don't have to be top in a professional field to have made it.

Five years ago, the main attention-getter was a film maker who was putting together a documentary. This year the stars were family-focused: a home-schooling Mom who carried her 12-week old (her SIXTH kid!) instead of a attache' case. And my Dad - who at 87 danced to "Wild Thing" - and told his stories to a new audience of listeners. My friend, a professor of Spanish, would like to try something new, but with four kids, she admits that she has a great job for balancing kids and worklife. Another woman finds herself in the same job as five years ago but itching for a switch. One of my "most successful friends" lives in a Miami school district where funding cuts eliminated K-2 specials so parents fill the gaps. She now teachers her kindergartner son's art class. Meaningful, yes, paid, no.

Kids or not, jobs or not, I felt more at home with these friends than ever before.

C and her friend were discussing how people can change. She and her friends' tastes are so different than just a few years ago. She wanted to know if adults can change just as quickly. I don't know if I change that much in a year, but the timing for her question couldn't be more pertinent.

I've changed a lot in the past five years. Although I was always an active volunteer and engaged in my children's lives, I wasn't entrenched in local politics five years ago. I could not have imagined running a half marathon. I felt frustrated by my career life (some days I still do). But I have grown so much in the past few years. I expect more. I want more. I try harder - at least at some things. I see that my life IS built around my general values, and that I am proud of that. I enjoy taking care of my loved ones. It's the whole package that counts. AP has a wonderful life with her husband. DA has a job that meets her need for flexibility, as well as her desire to work for a cause she believes in. RN is a strong and inspiring speaker who challenges us to be our best. AK puts the mirror in front of your face and reminds you to take off the lenses that cloud self-image and see what's there. KT's doing something right - her four year old, Atsu's manners are the best I've ever seen. KT used her lifetime of travel experience to show her young son what the world offers. And so many more examples. I'm proud of my "sisters".

And possibly for the first time I return from reunion, just as proud of myself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where did the week go?

A mother's day rose? As seen in NYC.

It's May - and time is flying.

In fact I just opened my blog for the first time in a week to find that strangely no one had written it for me. I have a draft of a blog, but I don't feel like editing it. Right now my mind is spinning

I can't write one blog when my mind is 50 different places. (and if I start editing that unposted blog it will be 10 places more)

Some of them include:

  • The turkey dinner that I need to finish cleaning up (or else my Dad will and at 87 he really shouldn't!)
  • How my little boy is touring the Middle School tomorrow... when did little N become so big?
  • The state of our healthcare (I worked at this today) ... 
  • The rain - and my open windows
  • Did C really walk Diego enough or do I need to take him out in the rain (and now, thunder)
  • And all the "next step" questions
  • My college reunion is this weekend and I'm happy like a little girl to see my friends
  • I need to go and close the windows. 
  • How I'm afraid I am that the to do list in my head will evaporate before I get to write it all down
I thought I would be dreading going to reunion. All the professional superwomen who are Captains of Industry (or whatever they ended up doing) made me feel so intimidated five years ago. Possibly thanks to Jem - of the Ambivalent Womb blog - I see my life in a completely different light. She's one of the talented sisters that I so admire, but for years she longed for what I had. Now she's a Mom too. Realizing that what I had and what I do matters (and perhaps even makes others envious) makes me feel a higher state or worth. Which is wrong - my worth should come from my own opinion of myself.

Or, maybe it's just the wisdom that comes with being over 40 and not having the excess vanity to care what people think as much.

Either way, I'm heading North on Thursday. North to my friends. North to my peeps. North to Northampton.

I can't wait. This time next week (when perhaps I will be wondering where another week went) it will be all over. I wonder what I'll think then.

Rain's over. Too late to close the windows. 

Unfortunately I do need to clean up from dinner. Turkey - easy to roast - but the clean-up's a royal pain. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday night under the duvet

Tonight's a BOE meeting.

I'm staying home. Without guilt.

I've spent enough hours at BOE meetings to know that lots of people means lots of stress - and all I really want to do is crawl into bed with knitting, a glass of wine and a good TV show.

Be well all you folks who are braving the rain to attend! The Patch is expecting a rumble. But at 6:15pm I'm already very comfortable in my PJs and even such an event isn't tempting me to leave the house!

Tonight, since I'm going to be home - I hope I'll read my kids "Where the Wild Things Are" - and curl up under the covers with my kids instead. Is 11 and 14 too old to be read to?

And now, to paraphrase Mr. Sendak:


Let the wild rumpus start!

I'll be in my bed, eating a snack while it's still warm.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ambivalent parent

Lately I've been so caught up in my own little life, I haven't thought much about the world around me. After reading Dick Bergeron's blog I'm back to pondering Bridgewater's schools. Dick wondered about morale in the schools. If teacher morale is down it is the students who sense it. Parents, the Superintendent and the BOE don't spend all day in the classrooms. (The Superintendent likely spends a large portion of his week at meetings in schools, but that's not what I mean here).

Today my morale, as a parent, is down.

I am ambivalent. 

Author visits: usually sponsored by fundraising (ie parents)
On the one hand I'm happy with most of my kids' teachers. I want to support them - and, I do. When the kids were in elementary school it came in the form of small gifts (like a book) or dropping food in the teachers lounge. Now that they have so many teachers, I don't show my appreciation in such a tangible way. A few exceptionally great teachers get a letter of recommendation.

On the other hand, last fall I sent an e-mail complaining about a teacher who humiliated my child in front of the rest of the class. I found that this is one of those teachers who has been moved around a bit after multiple complaints lodged against her. Do I really want to support THIS woman getting a raise?

Unfortunately I can't pick and choose which teachers I support - and neither can anyone in a tenured union. The general public resents that teachers have a "job-for-life". If the fantastic teachers who have helped my children grow - even excel - in a subject get support, I would be supporting the one who mocked my kid in front of his peers.

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. I've always participated enthusiastically in it. Do teachers realize that this week has nothing to do with their negotiations?

A few days ago I read this letter in the Patch written by a teacher at my child's school. She says:

For the first time in my 13-year career, I find myself actually questioning why I am doing this; this is an awful feeling. I was feeling unappreciated by the government and now also by my employer.

This is exactly what I don't want - teachers who don't want to be there! The BREA/NJEA are emotionalizing the finances. Manipulating public sentiment makes little sense since we can't vote on budgets anymore. If you've been to a BOE meeting, you know that many members of the BOE don't care what people say at the podium anyway!

Most BRRSD children live here because of the schools. Ergo, they appreciate the educational system and its teachers. The point of the union is to negotiate on teachers' behalf. Based on the stalemate both the BREA and the BOE are stubborn mules. If teachers want to feel like their "employer" appreciates them, perhaps the middle of a bitter contract negotiation isn't the right time to seek the warm fuzzies - and Governor Christie's state isn't the right place. There is appreciation - just not from the BOE and Trenton - and not for teachers who don't do right by our children. We, as parents, appreciate teachers and staff who are professional, who teach our children well and who leave the politics outside the classroom. But if you ask around there are more than a few bad eggs... and that breeds mixed feelings, like mine.

Haven't teachers realized how much community support they have???? Don't parents in the district, on the whole, make their jobs easier by following up, being involved and making donations (monetary and financial) when asked (and in the elementary level volunteer in the classrooms)? Ever been to a parking lot on Back to School Night or a musical concert, a basketball game or open house? Sometimes these events require police presence to handle the crowds! The over-flow parking says a lot (no pun intended): teachers work in a very supportive community. Unlike many other districts, parents attend teacher conferences here. Parents want their children to succeed. Some parents make donations behind the scenes to help supply classrooms, the schools libraries, gyms etc.

We have some really fabulous teachers in the district. I will always be grateful for those who have helped my children. I'm sick of the animosity between the BREA and the BOE.

Neither side is acting in the best interest of the children. They are acting more like parents in the middle of a divorce - each saying they are doing what's best for the kids. And as in many conflicts both entities are most interested in saving face and in financial gain.

And everyone knows that "familial strife" hurts the kids most of all.