New Year, New Idea

Happy New Year! Well, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you are almost one full week into keeping it! How are you doing?

I was not going to make a resolution this year. Usually, I vow to eat healthier, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. And every year, I do it for a few months and then tend to go back to my old habits. Can any of you relate? I did not want to set myself up for failure, as terrible as that sounds.  So this year, I did not make any resolutions…until I read a blog written by Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

If you know anything about the show, you know they are a deeply religious family from Louisiana. It is really an amazing story and one that exemplifies the American Dream.  Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, literally went from rags to riches based on an idea, hard work, and the grace of God.  The first two seasons were my favorite ones because they were less scripted but I still watch the show.

This family has had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I credit them for bringing me closer to God, but that’s for another post. Anyway, Missy is Phil’s daughter-in-law and has gone through struggles of her own with her daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate. This family stands strong however, and does something I think is brilliant.  Instead of making a resolution to improve their appearance or to stop a bad habit, they choose a verse from the Bible as their resolution for the year. And they do it as a family. What a great idea! There are so many short and simple verses that tell us to lead a good life. Why not choose one of them to  focus on? We will not only improve ourselves, but the lives of those around us.

I started to examine myself and one of my biggest issues is worrying about things that may or may not happen.  I have gotten better about realizing that all things are in God’s hands and that worrying does absolutely NOTHING but rob me of peace, but I still tend to do it. Sometimes, I am good during the day and then when I go to sleep at night, the “what if’s?” start creeping in my brain and prevent me from sleeping.  My mind starts racing and a million different thoughts come into my mind.  I hate that!  I know many of you can relate. An alarming number of Americans (including a growing number of children) are on medication for anxiety and depression. While it may be human nature to worry, some of us take it to the extreme.  But the verse below tells us to live in the present and not think about what we cannot control in the future.

Matthew 6:34:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

And there it is! That’s the one. That will be my resolution for 2017. It will be a challenge, but that is what a resolution is supposed to be – a challenge to make you a better person. If you want to try this, you can simply google “Bible verses on…anxiety, depression, fear, love, etc.”

Whatever you resolve to do, I wish you the best of luck!  Hope you all have happy and healthy 2017!

 

This Year for Lent…

I am giving up Facebook. I don’t post much on Facebook, but I scroll and “like” things.

A lot.  Too much.

Why? Because I am nosy.  Yep. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.  While Facebook and other social media can be great outlets to bring awareness to causes and see friends and families on vacations and other positive things, it can also bring out the worst in people.

Or maybe it’s just me.

As I scroll along my feed,  I have noticed that seeing certain people’s pictures or reading “news” articles tend to bring out my judgmental side.  I don’t want to be judgmental and wonder if I have become more judgmental since I started on Facebook. I’m thinking yes. Also, I  get very angry reading articles on the awful things people do to each other and do not want to see pictures of abused animals or children on my feed.  I know evil exists and that God will take care of them, but when I see abuse, especially of a child or animal, I wish HORRIBLE things on the abusers, which is also not very Godly. Shame on me.

Finally, a lot of gossip stems from Facebook posts.  I do not want to be a part of gossip anymore.  I feel that while I have gotten better about it, I still have some work to do.  Every now and again, I still get sucked into “Did you see what she posted on Facebook?” “Wow. What was she wearing?” “Why would she post THAT?”  Who the heck am I to think these things? Shame on me again.

Since Facebook definitely causes me to be un-Godly at times and takes my time away from doing something productive, I am giving it up for Lent, along with my traditional pleasure food – chocolate.  I am also pledging to read and reflect on scripture every day.  That way, maybe I will have the strength and guidance to be a better person – on and off social media. Who knows? Maybe I will not be on Facebook at all anymore after this experience.  Time will tell…

What are you giving up for Lent this year?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Same Color, Different Dress

“Always a bridesmaid and never a bride” – was a phrase I heard and lived for many years.  After being in and attending over 20 weddings by the time I got married, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted and what I did not want for my husband, myself, my girls, his guys and our guests.

I think our wedding was fabulous and I have never felt so much love from so many people in one room.  It was by far, the greatest day of my life, not only because I was marrying the man of my dreams who has exceeded every expectation I had for a spouse, but because all of the people I loved from my old friends and family to my new friends and family were all together.

I loved planning my wedding, but am certainly not a professional, but there are certain things that I think went extremely well.  Based on my many years as a wedding guest, bridesmaid, maid of honor and of course, bride, here are some thoughts:

1You and your husband should make the decisions.  While we greatly respected our parents’ opinions, what they wanted/suggested, was not always what we did. One of the issues we had early on when planning our wedding was deciding to invite children.  Many of our cousins and close friends had little ones and we had to decide whether or not we should invite them.  In the end, no kids under the age of 13 were in attendance other than our nieces and nephew who were in the wedding.  Our wedding, our choice. Done.

2. Choose a reception venue that lets you walk through their kitchen. I had never thought about this before, but the owner of Perona Farms, where we had our reception, invited us into the kitchen on a day when they were having a wedding.  In other words, it was cooking in action. It was not specially cleaned for our visit. The floors were not greasy, it was extremely clean and there were inspirational signs hanging above from the ceilings reminding the serves to smile and to treat their customers like they were family.   We were sold.

3. Let your bridesmaids choose the style of dress after you choose the color.   We’ve all been there as bridesmaids – feeling horrible uncomfortable in a dress that makes your butt look big or is totally not your style.  It makes for an uncomfortable day to say the least and it shows – in person and in all of the pictures you try and smile sweetly for.   I did not want that for my girls.  My girlfriends are incredible. They are from all different eras in my life and come from all different backgrounds.  My thought was – they are all different as people, so why couldn’t they be different as bridesmaids?  I chose a beautiful royal blue for my color and let the girls try on  different styles so they would be comfortable.  After all, I want them to have fun and feel good about themselves.  My only request was that their dresses were long and to the floor. The girls were very happy that they were able to choose the style and shape that fit their bodies. I also let them choose their shoes.  One of my girls does not ever wear heels and she was relieved when I told her that flats were fine, as long as they were silver.

4 Skip the bouquet and garter toss, especially if most of the crowd is older.  I will never forget my ex-sister-in-law telling me of a wedding she and my brother attended where a heavier, unattractive girl caught the bouquet and the DJ had to practically beg the single guys to come out and catch the garter.  I felt awful for her and I was not even there!  Once I heard that, it was out. No way someone was going to feel badly at my wedding.

5. Enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. My husband and I truly love and enjoy our family and friends and wanted to spend as much time as we could with them on our wedding day. We skipped the traditional cocktail hour with the bridal party and enjoyed it with our guests.  This also made it more comfortable for the dates of those in the bridal party who might not have known many other guests. We did get introduced before dinner which worked out great.

6.  Get the traditional dances out of the way first.   Right after you are announced, go right into the first dance and the dances with the father and mother.  It’s less painful for the guests and the dancing later on does not need to be interrupted.

7.  Play slow music when dinner is served.  There is nothing worse than when guests are asked to be seated for dinner and a great dance tune from the 80s gets played.  I am not going to lie, I have gotten right up from the table to go out and bust a move, much to the dismay of the waiters and waitresses who are trying to serve the food.  Make sure the DJ/band holds the best dance songs before or after the food is served.

8.  Dance! My husband and I enjoyed our wedding to the fullest. We were out dancing with everyone and did not go to the tables until towards the end of the night. Enjoy the party.  Dance to the songs you so meticulously chose! It’s your day!

9.  Step back a moment and take it all in.  This was a piece of advice given to me by several people before I got married and I am glad I took it! Take a minute and stop everything to look around at the people in the room. It is so amazing to see your guests smiling, laughing, dancing, drinking and enjoying themselves.  To know that they were all there for us made my heart swell.

10.  Know that something, inevitably, will not go as planned.  My florist forgot to put the three while calla lilies in my bouquet, there was a major screw up at my hairdresser and cocktail hour had to be held inside since the heat lamps were not working. Even the DJ played a song we specifically asked him not to play. Guess what?  Our day was still perfect for us and all of those little things were just that – little things.  They did not take away from or ruin our day by any means.  Do not let them ruin yours!

 

Should People Without Children Be Compensated For it at Work?

 

What? People who don’t have children should get something more?

Yes. And here’s why.

First, many jobs give paid days off to care for family members who are sick. I can only speak for education, but every district I have ever worked in gave at least five days for Family Illness.  The stipulation is that it had to be someone in your immediate family and/or in your household.  In my last district, we were allowed five Family Illness Days.  That is a full week’s worth of pay.  Many people with children end up taking these days because their children inevitably get sick.  I know numerous colleagues who would take at least three of these days for their children whether they were sick or not (i.e. – for doctor’s appointments or scheduling conflicts with snow days, spring break, to stay home and catch up on grading etc.)

In 20 years in education, I used two Family Illness Days.  I was single for the first 15 years of my career and lived alone.  I had/have no children. Now, I only live with my husband and dog.  Thank God our parents are relatively healthy and I have not had to use them.  But I certainly could have used a day or two off over the years and could not use a Family Illness Day to do so.   The way I figure it, I am owed about 19 weeks vacation or 19 weeks pay.

In addition, we can never use the reason of leaving work early or not staying late due to a child’s game, play, practice, etc.  Therefore, we end up working more and longer than those with children.  It’s just a fact. Here is an example.  A friend of mine  was working as a cashier in a grocery store and was always getting called to come in when others with children would call off or not be able to work a full shift due to illness, practice, lessons and whatnot. I remember her saying that it wasn’t fair that just because she didn’t have kids, it didn’t mean that she didn’t have a life.  I thought it was a bit harsh at first, but she was right.  Whether or not you are single or married, not having kids does not mean that all of your extra time should/could be devoted to work.

Listen, I have been saying for years that the Women’s Lib movement screwed us.  While it’s great we have more choices for careers and more rights, they unknowingly made it more difficult for us to not only raise the children and take care of the house, but also work a full day to survive in this world. Many women struggle with the balance of a  career and family and I truly feel for them.  I think it’s great that more and more companies allow parents to stay home with their children when they are sick. After all, who doesn’t want their mommy when they don’t feel well? But I also think it’s not fair that those of us who do not have children are kind of penalized for it.

We are the ones that get asked to stay late.

We are the ones that are asked to do extra work.

We are the ones they call to come in on the weekends.

We are the ones saving our companies money but not using these days offered to us.

We are the ones who end up complying and doing all of the things asked of us.

Yet we make the same amount as those who are allowed to leave early, stay home, work from home, etc because of their children.

Shouldn’t we somehow be compensated?

 

Go Past David Bowie and Make a Right

David-Bowie1-630x420

 

Like so many, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of David Bowie.  He was an icon in music and his unique sound and look was unforgettable.

I always liked his music, but honestly, I was not a fanatic.  I loved his “Dancing in the Streets” duet with Mick Jagger and thought he was kind of cute in that video so I started reading more about him (there was no internet back then!) When I saw his looks from the 70s, I was slightly taken aback.  I didn’t realize he was quite so… colorful in his early career.  I decided to block those images out and focus on how he looked in the 80’s. Even now, when I think of David Bowie, I think of him with short blond hair and a long trench coat on his long and lanky body.  That was sort of what he looked like when I saw him in New York City about 15 years ago.

My girlfriends and I were dining at our favorite Italian restaurant in Little Italy happily munching on some crusty Italian bread dipped in olive oil waiting for our Gnocchi Sorrentino when suddenly, my friend Theresa whispered loudly, “Oh my God! It’s David Bowie!” Our eyes widened and suddenly, the food was the last thing on our minds.  We attempted to nonchalantly turn around to see this legend in the flesh without looking too obvious.  Sure enough, there he was. Dressed in white pants and a white flowy shirt that was unbuttoned almost to his naval. He was carrying some shopping bags and appeared to be dining alone.  He looked just like he did in the “Dancing in the Streets” video – tall and slim with short blond hair- with a just a few more wrinkles than he had in the video that was, by then, almost 20 years old.  But he was still totally COOL.

My friends and I did not want to bother him and appear to be tourists (even though we were), so we took another look at him and then went back to our endless conversations about dating, teaching, traveling and all of the other things that single girls talk about. We also talked about celebrities walking around in public and how they must feel comfortable in New York since so many of them live there. We had seen several celebrities before, as has anyone who has spent any amount of time in New York City, can likely attest to.   I remember thinking of Elvis Presley. He could not go anywhere in public without being mobbed by fans, which led to him being quite reclusive in his later years.  We could not imagine living like that. It was pretty nice to see a star as huge as David Bowie shopping and eating lunch in the city, just like a regular person.

My friend had to go to the bathroom and got up to leave the table.  When she returned, I decided to go, and asked her where it was.  Her reply was “Go past David Bowie and make a right down the stairs.” We all started cracking up rather loudly and I got up and started to walk towards him. I didn’t want to be obnoxious but felt like I HAD to say something to him.  But what do you say to DAVID BOWIE?????  I took a deep breath and just as I was about to pass him, I smiled and said, “I don’t mean to bother you, but want you to know I am a big fan.” He looked up, flashed that huge boyish smile and thanked me.  As I walked down the steps to the bathroom, I felt all giddy inside. I talked to David Bowie!

As my friends and I were leaving, we glanced at Bowie, who was now about to also exit the restaurant. People were on their way in and he held the door for them as they entered.  The people looked up and thanked him and then realized just WHO was holding the door for them.  Their eyes widened and they began saying, “Oh man!  David Bowie!  Thank you!” He nodded and slowly walked out the door back onto the street, blending in with the crowd.  He had no body guards, no security guards. It was just him.  Enjoying a day of shopping and lunch in a city he loved. I wonder if he knew how much that city, or rather the people in it, loved him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie.  You gave the world music that will play forever and you gave a few single girls a memory that will always make us smile.

 

I Couldn’t Do It

Fourteen years ago today, I was teaching subjects and predicates to my 5th graders.  I was wearing navy capris and a peach colored short sleeve shirt. I don’t know why I remember that, but I remember certain things every single year on this date and that is one of them.

I was teaching in a trailer and shared it with another teacher named Adrienne. I remember walking around the room, looking over my students’ shoulders when Adrienne came into the trailer and called me over. “A plane hit one of the twin towers.”

I was shocked. “How?”

“They’re not sure. They think it was an accident. I’m going back into the teacher’s room to watch the news.”

I turned back to my class and remembered my father’s words from years ago saying that it was a miracle that no tall buildings in New York were ever hit being so close to Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.  Wow. I hope everyone is okay, I thought, mainly thinking of the people on the plane, not in the building.  Then I realized it was close to 9:00. People were in the buildings.  Questions started flooding my mind. Did the plane tip the building? Did it totally crash into  the building? What could have happened?  My logical mind was playing different scenarios in my head when suddenly, my colleague burst back into the room, her face white with terror.

“Another plane hit the other tower. It’s a terrorist attack.”

My stomach lurched. A feeling of panic engrossed my body. My mind raced. I gasped and again, turned back and looked at my 5th graders, their little heads down, pencils moving as they worked on the practice packet I had given them. I knew most of these kids would go home to an empty house.  What would they think? I assumed they would be very scared and not having an adult at home to comfort or explain things to them could be terrifying to a 10 year-old.  I slowly walked to the front of the room.

“Boys and girls. Put your pencils down.”

My new class looked at me and suddenly, I felt a rush of love for them and a need to protect them – these children I had known less  than two weeks were the future of America. What do I say to them? I did not know many details of what happened, but knew I had to address it.  I looked at their helpless faces, big eyes and told them that something bad had happened and that we were going to put the TV on and watch the news.

I turned on the TV and tried to quickly grasp what had happened.  Both towers had been hit at that point.  The news stations were not yet showing the second plane hitting, an image most of us now have burned in our minds. We saw the towers burning and black smoke coming out of the enormous buildings that were a fixture in New York City.  My students and I watched in silence until one of my boys asked, “What would someone do that?”

Just then, a news camera panned to people on the street who were covered in dust, some bloody, some crying and some with blank stares on their faces.  I thought that might be a little too tramatic for my students to see so I turned it off and attempted to answer the boy’s question.  I told the kids that some people hate Americans.  They hate our freedoms and our way of life. The kids could not understand why anyone would hate us.  We were Americans. We help everyone. Everyone wants to come to our country to live. I also told them about the terrorists’ attempts to knock down the towers. I drew a picture of the towers on the green chalkboard and we talked about how the terrorists were obviously trying to knock the buildings down. We talked about the word “terrorist” and one of the kids asked how many people died.  I honestly told them that I was not sure, but the number would be high. Then one of my girls asked, “Will they try and come to Philipsburg?” Other students seemed to have been wondering the same thing as they looked at me for my response. “No, they will not come here.  The town is way too small and the goal of a terrorist is to inflict fear in as many people as possible.  We are too small for that.” The kids and I seemed to breathe a little easier as that reality set in -we were safe in the school and in the town, but so many in New York and Washington D.C. were not.

The music teacher arrived pushing her cart into the trailer with a worried look on her face and as I gathered my things to go into the school, I told the students I would see them after their class. I remember almost running through the front door and going into the faculty room.  I had to see what was going on.  One of my colleagues looked up at me grimly. “They hit the Pentagon.”

That is when I felt a terror like nothing I have ever felt before or since. I did not know what to do. I ran into the ladies room  and burst into tears, sobbing.  I did not know anyone who worked at the WTC, but as an American, I felt for my people. For people in general. And for my country.  And damn it, I felt terror, exactly what those evil monsters wanted me to feel. I shook off that feeling, angry with myself, not wanting to let them win.

I quickly composed myself and went to the library.  Every teacher I passed knew. I could tell. No one was smiling. Everyone had a solemn look on his/her face. I called my parents who were on vacation in Maryland and also called my brother, who lived one town over from the school.  I had to hear their voices.  I knew they were safe. I knew they were not one of the persons trapped in the buildings or running for their lives, but I had to know they were okay. I teared up thinking many people would never hear the voices of their loved ones again after today. I thought of my three year old nephew and my three month old niece. What kind of world would they grow up in? I remember my father saying that the death toll would be in the thousands. He was right. I then went into the teacher’s room, eager to find out what was happening. I walked into a room full of teachers in dead silence and as I looked up, the first tower fell. We all shrieked and gasped. Some of us had tears in our eyes.  Some sat in silence. I, again, felt fear and then rage.  Pure rage. I watched the coverage until the bell rang and returned to my classroom. I remember  thinking, “What am I going to tell my students? How can I explain this? What the hell is happening?  Are they doing to hit Chicago? LA? Who is doing this? HOW could this have happened?”

I returned to the classroom the music teacher looked at me with sadness in her eyes. She asked me what was going on. I filled her in on what I knew – the Pentagon was hit and one of the towers had fallen. She looked at me as if I was lying.  She could not believe it. Connie slowly shook her head.  “God help us.”

I remember driving home in almost total silence that day.  The only sound was my own sobs and wails of sorrow. My heart hurt. My head hurt. I just wanted to get home.  But I was dog sitting at my parents’ house, so I made the 45 minute drive to Pennsylvania in silence. I could not listen to the radio. I looked up into the picturesque blue sky and could not imagine what the people on the planes went through. Or the people trapped in the towers. Or the people running for their lives.  Or the people jumping out the windows.

I could not listen to the radio for a week, even when the stations started playing music again. I remember all sporting events canceled.  I could not laugh. I could not smile. I could not imagine what the families were going through and felt I needed to do something to help. I had already donated water and food at my local grocery store, which was collecting donations and shipping them to Ground Zero for the workers trying to search for survivors and clean up the rubble left behind.

I felt the need to go to a Navy recruiting station. My father joined the Navy during Vietnam. I wanted to join during this war on terror. I went to the station and was signed up and had a physical scheduled. I then asked the recruiter (who ironically graduated high school with my brother) where she thought I would be placed. She told me that since I had a college degree, they would likely put me in intelligence to learn Arabic and possibly go to Afghanistan and immerse with the people. I couldn’t do it.  I wanted to get revenge for America. I wanted to kill those who wanted to kill Americans. But I wanted to do it from afar.  The thought of walking around in a middle eastern country with possible terrorists scared me.  I chickened out. I couldn’t do it.  I decided that the best thing for me to do was to educate my students, promote a sense of patriotism in my classroom and continue to do patriotic pride events in my school, which I had always done.

I regret my decision every day.  I wish I had the courage to fight for my country. But I didn’t. That is why I am in such awe of veterans and have the utmost respect for all of those who have fought and are still fighting for our great country. Our men and women are still fighting. We cannot and should not forget them while they are overseas or when they come home.  It takes a special person to risk his/her life so that each of us can live the way we do.

Now, 14 years later, my husband and I do what we can to support the military, police, firemen and first responders. But we can never do enough.  Never forget 9/11.  And don’t forget all of those who protect us each and every day. May God bless them all and may God bless America.

I Don’t Know What to Say…

CaringBridge.org

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Today’s post is a little depressing – just warning you. If you live in the Northeast, my mood right now is reflective of the gloomy weather we have been having. Almost a full week of rain is enough to make anyone a little sad. But the sun is coming out in two more days.  Or so the weathermen say…

Have you heard of Caring Bridge?

It’s an online journal for cancer patients so that their families can keep friends and family updated on their loved one’s progress. I have two friends who have Caring Bridge Journals set up for them. Both of them are younger than me. Both are in their 30’s. One was in her 20’s when she was diagnosed. Both now have cancer ravaging through their bodies despite years of chemo, radiation and other medications that are wearing their bodies down. However, these girls have a strength and determination that is unwavering. They are amazing and I admire their strength and courage.

Last night, I was telling my mom about one of my friends and she said, “It’s just not fair.” And it’s not. Cancer is terrible at any age, but when someone who is younger than you gets it, it really hits your heart. My heart is aching for my friends and their families.

Cancer has touched all of us in one way or another. I have lost several family members and friends’ mothers to cancer. My grandfather died of lung cancer at 53. My grandmother died of complications due to Hodgkin’s disease at 59. My dad’s cousin died of lung cancer that spread to her brain. She was 52. Three of my very close friends’ mothers are gone due to this rotten disease. Unfortunately, I could go on and on and on about how cancer has touched me personally.

My sister-in-law had thyroid cancer, but is now considered a “survivor” after almost 10 years of treatments, two surgeries and medication. I know there are more survivors and hope my friends will be added to that list one day.

When I hear that people have cancer, I am sometimes unsure what to say to them and their families. I usually tell them that they are in my thoughts and prayers (which is true) and that seems to be good thing to say, but sometimes I want to say more and am not sure how to do or say it. So I say nothing.  And then I feel guilty.

One of my uncle’s favorite sayings is, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I keep that in mind when I read the updates on their conditions. And I pray the right words will come out of my mouth to show them my support, love and concern.  Words can mean a lot.  I just need to find the right ones.