Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A change in the program

For me, there's something about leap years. Maybe it's that extra day. Maybe it's the excitement and energy of the Summer Games. Maybe it's the intensity/insanity of a Presidential campaign.

Or maybe it's just that every four years I am ready for something new. A  brief history:

2004 - I became an elementary school classroom teacher.

2008 - I left teaching to run an in-home daycare.

2012 - I left in-home daycare-ing to return to an elementary school - this time as a JV Librarian. (Oh, yeah. I had a baby in 2012, too, but we aren't focusing on that right now.)

And now...

2016 - I am leaving the library to work in the administrative offices of Lakes Region Community Services.

And while a change in my occupation comes along at very even intervals, this is by far the biggest change I've made since I left Los Angeles for New Hampshire. And the enormity of the changes affect my husband and kids almost as much as they affect me. Maybe more. A brief list of how this new job will turn out world upside down:

1. Elliott will go to a new elementary school.
2. Gabe will go to a new preschool/child care facility.
3. After 12 years of me being the keeper of kids' schedules and notebooks and mittens and homework, Scott will be carrying the load of transporting all the kids to and from school/daycare. (Tom is going to a new school, too, but it's middle school and that would have transpired no matter what happened with my worklife).
4. I will go from a 30 minute commute with 3 kids in the car to a 50 minute commute solo.
5. I will not have summer vacation.
6. I am not sure when or how I will train for races. In fact, there are currently ZERO races on my calendar.
7. I have not auditioned and will not audition for any plays or musicals for the bunch of months.

All of the fellas at my life - as well as all of the people in my life in general - have been complete rock stars about all of this. My husband is ready to juggle the life of the primary point person for the kids during the school day. He is so happy for me because my 'career' in the last 16 years has not been what I dreamed it would be. (LOVE kids and LOVE the people I work with in education ,but it is just not my calling.) In fact this job seems to be very similar to the nonprofit gig I had in Los Angeles before our big move. And I REALLY loved that job and was not entirely ready to let it go when it was time to go.

Elliott in particular, who faces maybe the most drastic/unexpected change, is just AMAZING. I know he's sad and nervous, but he was dancing around almost as much I was when I got the call about the job. I swear I do not know how we managed to have such a sweet and empathetic child.

In a few short minutes I will be heading out for an afternoon of HR orientation. I have lots of questions for them about policies and culture of the organization. (For example, I have been offered the opportunity to squeeze in the 37.5 hours into 4 days a  week instead of 5 and this is HUGE. Imagine, a day during the week to keep Gabe home, do the grunt work of the weekend, and prepare to have a relaxing time on Saturday and Sunday... ) And although I know some of the work I'll be doing includes fundraising, donor data base maintanence, correspondence, grant applications, publicity, events.... I really don't know the scope of everything I'll be doing. That will become more clear when I start the job in earnest on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Coincidentally, the boys' first day of school, too!

Finally, I now have a FABULOUS story to tell if I ever got on stage at The Moth. I can't do it justice in the seconds I have left here, but I will share it. Maybe I'll make Scott video tape me telling it... It's a doozy!

Friday, August 5, 2016

For the sake of their teachers, please don't spank your kids

I know this is not universally true... BUT... A can of worms is begging to be opened.

Do parents who spank their kids understand that in many cases this is the ONLY thing to which their kids respond? In other words, adults (teachers, daycare, camp counselors, other relatives, family friends) who don't spank because they cannot (legally) or will not (philosophically/morally) have almost no opportunity to effectively discipline (read: teach) your kids. These adults, who really want to connect and love your kids, are put in an almost impossible position.

The most recent example comes from my DH who had to send a camper home early because there was no progress in getting this kiddo to behave appropriately. When I saw the behavior I said, "I bet his parents spank him and I bet there's no way you can get through to him because he knows he won't get hit here." Sorry to say that the spanking was confirmed by the kid's dad and, guess what? He has a hard time behaving in school, too. Will wonders never cease?

You choose how to raise your kid, by all means. But remember (s)he has to function in the rest of the world, too. And the thing is, there's no way to know when your child is wee if they will be the kind who gets a couple of whaps at home and then learns how to be a functioning human or if those whaps are the only thing to which they are going to respond.
And just in case you think the view from my high horse is obnoxious, I DID spank one of my kids once. It was completely ineffective and only made the situation way worse. I understand there are philosophies and cultures in which this is acceptable. I'm just saying... please think twice Or three or 10 or 1,000 times. 

If not for your child's sake, for the sake of the people in your village that have to help raise him.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

And the answer to everything is... $

Several years ago, usually as we were driving the half-hour to or from school, my kids started asking me questions. Questions like:

"If their food is so bad for people, why does McDonald's keep making it? And why do people keep eating it?"

Or, "Why doesn't our school have such-and-such an activity when some other schools have it?”

Or, “If our driveway is so bad, why don't we just get it fixed?"

Smarty-farties despite their Mama.

My answer to all of these questions always boiled down to, of course, money. And so, we began to realize that the answer to most big questions about why the world works the way that it does is just that: Money. Cash. Dinero. Greenbacks. In fact nowadays my 10- and 12- year-olds will frequently start their ‘big picture’ questions to me like this, “I know that somehow the answer is money, but why…..?” (God, I love these kids!)

(Now that we have the soundtrack and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamiltome” book the questions have changed a bit so sometimes the answer to my kids' questions is "ask the book".... but mostly the answer is still $$).

So these past, present and future conversations are in the back of my mind as I grapple with the horrifying events of last week in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. I listened to a lot of great podcasts and radio reporting (NPR’s Code Switch and Politics, Slate’s The Gist and Political Gabfest, All Things Considered Saturday) about the tragedies. I had a lot of good thinking time doing yoga and running. I had lots of conversation and consternation with my friend as we drove to and from a Black Lives Matter vigil last night.
Still dry.

(BTW - a freaking MONSOON ensued so it was less vigil-y and more good-hearted-people-standing-around-getting-soaking-wet-and-meaning-well-y. But, still, it was a lovely, if squishy….)

Surprisingly, my attendance at said event, my conversations, and my podcast/radio listening did not solve the world’s ills. Huh.

But again, I keep coming back to money. Okay, okay, we need to change the “hearts and souls” of the perpetrators of violence. Yup. Sure do. But when’s the last time you tried to convince a notorious asshat in your life to stop being a d-bag? How’d that go?

Now, consider if you sweetened the offer to the jerk? What if you said, “Say, Cousin Harry, if you can refrain from using misogynistic language in the workplace for an entire week, we will give you a bonus in your paycheck.” Find the right dollar amount and I bet Cousin Harry might try it without making the company go bankrupt. Bonus: women and other humans with any sort of soul can go a week without having to listen to Cousin Harry being horrible.

I know. This is a very simplified example. And I know. Ideally Cousin Harry would stop having such a terrible view on women. But, dammit, if Cousin Harry would shut the heck up about it for a week, then two, and eventually maybe a few months, maybe he would start to feel differently. And, again, everybody else's lives would be vastly improved.

I know change comes from within…. Mostly. But I honestly believe that sometimes change comes from without. (Is that a thing? I don’t know.)

I don’t know exactly how this would translate to police officers and minorities. I think the incentive would have to go toward both parties. Maybe at every interaction where the brown person and a cop get through the process with respectful language and dignity, they both get $50. Maybe that’s discriminatory because it doesn’t apply to not-brown people. Can we figure out a way to make this a universal policy for all people? Obviously there are some kinks to work out....

I wish the problem was, like, Big Bad Corporation or something. We could boycott that. But you can’t boycott the police. (Well, I guess you could, but that would go badly, I think). And you can’t boycott the angry, agitated African American. (S)he needs more of a voice and empowerment, not less.

I don’t know. I’m just spitballing. I think this thing has legs. So, somebody give Obama my cell number and tell him to text me. (I’d talk to Michelle, too, if he’s busy. She’s pretty cool and I could use some tips on her arm workout regimen.)

I'll keep my phone charged.

From one of the whitest states and from one of the whitest ladies,

* "I have honor to be your obedient servant,
P. Van (Scoy-Giessler)"

* It's a Hamilton reference. Honestly if you don't listen to that soundtrack you are not gonna understand ANYTHING I say for the next, oh, 100 years.

Friday, July 8, 2016

All the bad things

What do you say when there's nothing left to say? When you’re me, apparently that’s when you start talking.

I realize that since my blog has been on radio silence forever (that’s metric, more like months-and-months-and-months in American) it’s a bit strange that I would start my re-boot this way. I haven’t SAID anything in a long time. But this morning I just can’t not mark the day. Here’s what I know:

One of our candidates for president is a vile racist (or maybe race-ish’d, since it’s not clear if he truly believes the vile things he says/retweets/implies or if he just knows it serves his candidacy to make sure certain segments think he does believe it). He’s a misogynist. He mocks the handicapped. He thinks that stating something as fact makes it so. His favorite source for information is “Some people are saying….” He has, it seems, no capacity for empathy. And though I applaud leaders who are capable of taking a stand, assessing the facts, and then changing their mind on an issue, this particular candidate has been on almost every side of every issue from moment to moment. (Except Obama. He’s always hated Obama. Gotta give him that…) This candidate makes me SO ANGRY and disappointed in humanity that my head hurts.

The other one of our candidates for president has so much excess baggage she wouldn’t have the credit on her Am Ex card to pay the fees to get on a Southwest flight. Her self-fulling prophecy seems to be “I can’t trust anyone so I better skirt the standards and protocols of my position which makes me untrustworthy and gives people ammunition so I can’t trust anyone….” Back in the 1990s her husband broke my heart (not literally, I interned at “Fresh Air”… ba-dum-dum) but he made it up to me by being an engaged, thoughtful, pro-human ex-President. And she was part of the renewed good feeling. Now, it seems, she’s doing her darndest to finish off my last gasp of youthful, 90s exuberance. Even though I agree with her on most of the issues, this candidate makes me SO SAD and disappointed that it hurts my heart.

Here’s what else I know:

Last night police officers in Dallas were targeted and murdered as they were doing their jobs. And it serves to mention in this time of nationwide questionable tactics, Dallas has been ROCKING police reform. They, it seems, were doing their jobs WELL and RESPONSIBLY. Shooting any cop, even a d-bag racist, is bad, but these particular cops being targeted is just devastating.

The day before a 32-year-old man in Minnesota was doing his best to follow police instructions, inform the officer of his weapon and HIS RIGHT TO HAVE SAID weapon. Reached for his ID. And he’s dead. Because broken headlight.

A man in Louisiana was taken to the ground, taze’d, and THEN shot several times by police. Because selling illegal CDs (and possibly being kind of a dick about it).

All of this makes me so distraught that it hurts my soul.

Other things I know:

People I know and love make choices I don’t understand. These choices are objectively and obviously horrible and have negative impact on those closest to them. From their point of view I have to believe the choices seem to be the only reasonable ones… but I can’t even. I don’t even.

And that’s the thing: I DON’T even speak up. Try to start the conversation. Make an effort. I don’t because it’s far more comfortable to shake my head and tsk, tsk, tsk and worry. Also, I’m a wuss and maybe it’s not REALLY my business because it doesn’t affect my day-to-day.

NONE of the stuff I talk about here affects my day-to-day.

I’m not black.

I’m not gay.

I’m not handicapped.

I’m not sending emails of any kind to Secretary Clinton, let alone classified ones.

I’m not a cop.

I’m not being taken advantage of financially or emotionally by a family member.

I woke up this morning, clicked on Twitter and my public radio app, heard the horrible news, sighed and fretted... and then got out of bed to make oatmeal for my kids. I had the luxury to consider my thoughts. I had to the luxury to decide that I might want to write something down. And I listen to NPR coverage as I type. As I type SAFELY in my home.

Meanwhile, my kids play inside and outside of my house. Free of fear, free of hunger, free of emotional want - as it should be - but as it is NOT for so many kids.

What’s it all mean? What do I want? Specifically, what do I want TO DO?

My guess is there are many more like me who are wide-eyed, shocked, and sad about this stuff. Are you a middle income white lady with no official skin in the game but feeling completely out of sorts about all of this? Please please please tell me what you are DOING? ACTION is what I'm talkin' about. (And yes, "pray” is great but we are so far beyond that).

I will end with the wise Facebook words of my sister, Heather. She is referring to our annual week-ish-long gathering of my siblings and their offspring and then some. As usual, she says in a few sentences what I couldn't' figure out how to say in a blathering blog post.:

If you want an example of how this society could work, spend a day at Camp Gungah. Trust me, you'll be equally annoyed by, entertained by, loved by, given a wedgie by ALL of us.
White semi-racists, white ultra liberals, immigrants, blacks, in laws, out laws, ex spouses of in laws, Asians, Hill Billies, suburbanites, fat people, skinny people, shack in laws, shack in laws' children, young, old, engineers, teachers, homemakers, librarians, country music fans, functional alcoholics....
And we've never shot anyone.

This is only a fraction of the Camp Gungah contingent. But... none have shot any other. Not that there isn't cause in some instances.....

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Running [My Mouth]: the Vlog - Downton Phoebe

My husband is doing a half marathon with me... sort of....

Also, it took a LOT of fancy editing to make my mouth not line up with my words. Yeaaaahhhh, let's say that.

"The World of Downton Abbey" by Jessica Fellowes

Sunday, January 31, 2016