“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

Continue reading ““Other” Families”

American Hero, American Sniper

Tomorrow is a sad day for America.  Yes,  February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day.  But more importantly, it is the anniversary of the death of a true American hero, Chris Kyle.

I remember the day I heard about his killing on television.  I had just finished reading his book a few days earlier and asked my husband, “Did they just say Chris Kyle was killed? I just finished reading his book!”  I was in complete disbelief.  How could this highly skilled sniper, who survived four tours in Iraq be dead? And how the heck could he have been killed on American soil?

We later learned that Kyle’s death, along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, was a result of a mentally disturbed veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Chris Kyle was an amazing and extraordinary human being.  First, he was a US Navy SEAL. The best of the best. The most elite force we have in our military. He survived four tours in Iraq.  He was highly effective at his job as a sniper.  While he struggled between devoting his life to his country and his family, Chris Kyle was able to keep his marriage in tact.  He was able to form strong bonds with his children. He overcame PTSD after his return and he was able to pull himself and his family out of bankruptcy.  He was constantly helping fellow veterans and knew the healing power of the outdoors. These are all major accomplishments and are an inspiration to veterans and non-veterans.

In his book and in the movie based on the book, American Sniper, we are reminded that there is a war going on and that civilians must help and support our veterans. He asks us in his book to give back to our soldiers who give, and give up, so much to preserve our way of life. He only lost two men during his tours and wanted all of the proceeds from his book to go to their families.  While he saved thousands of men, the two he lost constantly tugged at his heart.

From what I have read and heard, Chris Kyle was an amazing human being.  While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I have read and reread his book several times. I have seen how humble he was during interviews and how passionate he was about supporting his fellow veterans.  I read his Facebook posts, many of which are quite humorous! This was a man who devoted his entire life to helping and protecting others.  He was a true hero.

So, tomorrow, I am asking that you take a little time to say a prayer for Chris, his family and all of our veterans. They are still out there. They are still fighting and we cannot ever forget them.

Want to help honor Chris Kyle and all of our veterans?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Go sign up at a local United Services Organization (USO).
  2. Find out of there is a local veterans hospital in your area and see if you can visit.
  3.  Have your children or students make cards thanking soldiers for their service. Look for events honoring veterans and attend and participate in them.
  4. Fly your American flag high each and every day.
  5. Get a green light for your porch and shine it all the time.  A green light signals your support for our troops.     www.greenlightavet.com
  6. Write to your state senators and demand better treatment for our veterans at VA hospitals.

 

John 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Focus on the Good

This is what I have had to tell myself for the past few months.  It has nothing to do with my family or marriage or career. They are all already good, thank God. I am talking about my beloved country and what is happening all around us.

It is very easy to get depressed and disheartened with what has happened in America over the past year or so. I will not go into specifics, for that will feed into all the misery, angst and disappointment I have been feeling.  Instead, I am going to start to focus on the good because we cannot let other people’s poor choices, despicable actions and vile words steal our personal joy!  Life is too short to get wrapped up in the anger and negativity that is all around us.

We must focus on the good.

These are a few good things I am focusing on right now. I hope you can too!

  1. Family and friends – God has blessed me with some of the most wonderful people in my own family and in my husband’s family. I am thankful for them each and every day.
  2. The American flag – As I proudly hang my flag outside my door each day, it makes me think of all the heroes that have fought and sacrificed for our country.  When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I do not take it lightly and mean every word. I am proud to be the granddaughter of two World War II veterans and the daughter of a Navy veteran.
  3. Flowers – Who does not enjoy looking at the vibrant colors of roses, poinsettias, daisies and daffodils? They inspire me to see the beauty in all things and make me thankful that I have been blessed with the gift of sight.
  4. Dogs – Some of the greatest creatures given to man!  They are great companions, loyal family members and provide hours of entertainment!
  5. Laughter – I especially love hearing the unabated laughter of children.  They laugh from their bellies; something more adults should do! I especially love the contagious laughs of my Aunt Jill and Uncle Frank.  They are hysterical and unique and I cannot help but join in!
  6. Music – It is medicine for the soul. It can fire you up during a workout, make you cry or laugh and inspire you to do great things. It can even make you ponder life and all that we go through.  I love music and cannot imagine life without it!
  7. Books – To me, they are the best way to escape reality and be transported to another time, setting, and situation. When I get wrapped up in a book, there are not distractions.
  8. Animals – While dogs are my personal favorite, I love to watch and listen to the birds and other wildlife.  We can learn a lot from animals.  There is a quote from Elvis Presley who said, “Animals don’t hate and we are supposed to be smarter than they are.” So true.
  9. The beach – The soft sand, the rolling waves, the salt in the air… it is definitely a place that makes me smile and realize the incredible power of nature.  I have nothing but good memories at the beach from being there with my family or friends to walking on the beach by myself in the early mornings.  It is paradise to me.
  10. God – I saved the best for last. God is good! Always and everywhere and in all things.  I truly do believe that God is on our side and that means there are good things for all of us. We just have to notice all the good around us and focus on them.  If we do this, it will bring a happiness to our hearts and peace to our minds.

Make your own list and see how you feel afterwards. I hope you feel as good as I do now.  Focus on the good!!

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every morning, I read a devotional to help inspire me and guide me to be a better person.  I do not think today’s devotion was a coincidence since today is the day Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America.

“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17

Today and for the past few months, we have not seen “respect for everyone” because of the hatred for OUR new president. There used to be a respect for elders, teachers, police officers, the military and the President of the United States. That is gone and we should all be very alarmed by this.

These pathetic celebrities who are STILL protesting are not promoting peace. They are demonstrating hatred, intolerance and defiance; the very things they accuse Trump of being/doing.

Let’s not forget one very important thing. The world is watching. A divided country will not stand. Terrorists love to see discord in America. And for those who are hoping for Trump’s assassination, SHAME ON YOU the most! The assassination of a president or other leader makes the country look weak and with all of terrorist groups out there, we cannot afford that.

Finally, and most importantly, our children are watching. Kids today are already a handful because of our warped, entitled society and now they are seeing people refuse to accept this new president because they wanted someone else. That is the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum! Stop, already! Show your children how to act if you do not get what you want. Show your children that we should give people a chance and please teach them to “respect everyone.”

May God bless America today and every day!

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!

 

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?

 

50 Years of Being Together!

50th Anniversary Picture

Last weekend, we threw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws.  As I was planning for the centerpieces and decorations, I found that most craft and party stores had very little for a 50th anniversary party. There were a lot of things for a 25th, but not a 50th.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, but especially to be with the same person every single day of your life.  Every marriage has ups and downs, but it seems that the key is going through life together.  Together, they endured hardships and pain.  Together, they shared the joys of raising two sons and working hard to make a good life for their family. Together, they created many happy memories with families and friends and together, they have remained.  For fifty years!

I got to thinking…how many people in my generation will get the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage? Let’s face it. Once a couple marries, there are only two ways to not remain married – divorce or death.

As far as divorce goes, most people in our parents’ generation have stayed married (sometimes for the wrong reasons). The divorce rate is very high in our country and many of the people who are divorced are of my generation.  But I have hope.  I really believe that the fact that many people are getting married when they’re a little older may lead to more lasting marriages. People can get the partying and carousing out early and not want to do it once they are already married.

Getting married in my 30’s was right for me.  No way I was ready to settle down in my 20’s, and I don’t think my husband would have been either. I think you know yourself better as you get older and have a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty.  Many of my friends also got married in their 30’s and their marriages are also going strong.  That is not to say that if you marry young, it will not last, but with everything going on in today’s world, I think people really need to know themselves first and know what they truly want out of life before making a lifetime commitment to another person.

As for the “death” part – luckily, we are living longer and longer which also makes me think that celebrating 50 years is more feasible. With new medical technology and early detection, illnesses are being identified early and cures are more possible.

So, to all the craft and party stores that currently do not have supplies for 50th anniversaries – better get those shelves stocked!  A new generation of golden anniversaries will be coming in the next few decades!!  Get ready!

Snow Days!

Okay, if you live in the Northeast, you might be sick of those two words.  In fact, you might resist the urge to even say them since we have had so many so quickly.  And it’s only February!

On Wednesday, while I was working from home (now that I am a consultant, there are no more real snow days), I saw on the news that parents and kids were going stir-crazy and that parents were walking or driving out to places where kids could play.  That made me stop and think.  Was I ever bored as a child when it snowed? Did my mom have to take my brother and I somewhere to be entertained? The answer is unequivocally – NO.  In fact, I rarely ever remember being bored when I was younger and especially not in winter!

When my mom would let my brother and I know that we had a snow day, it was a a cause for celebration!  Vince and I savored an extra day off because we used to PLAY.  All day. If it was really nasty out and we ran out of pretend games like Batman and Batgirl or having stormtroopers invade the family in my doll house, we would break out board games.  My personal favorites were Monopoly, Parcheesi, and Pokeno.  We also played card games such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War and Spades.  My mom would join in with those games as well, which was great!  When we were able to go outside (which we both preferred), our imaginations ran wild.  If we were not running from the abominable snowman, we were trapped on Plant Hoth (I was always Princess Lea, he was Luke Skywalker and our neighbor was Han Solo). We also went sledding, held running contests in the snow, made snowmen and snow forts and had snowball fights.  And, yes, we also helped shovel the driveway. In fact, my parents got us each our own red shovel.  Hmm. Now that I think back, I guess that was smart parenting move.  No excuses for EVERYONE not to help out!  But we just loved being in the snow and having fun!

Bored?  A need for entertainment?  My mother having to take us some place to be entertained on a SNOW DAY? Not for us!  Our house (inside and out), our imaginations and our games were all we ever needed.

Teaching – A Most Underrated Profession…

It’s been a long time since I had a few minutes to share my thoughts. Not that I have not been writing every day.  My new job requires me to write reflections of my classroom observations along with writing reactions to professional readings. It’s been a huge change going from a classroom teacher to an educational consultant, but I absolutely love it! I cannot believe how much has changed in the year and three months I was out of the classroom from new standards to evaluations systems to standardized tests to all of the wonderful technology available!

I decided to write a few Top Five Lists to kind of sum up what I’ve seen in the past four weeks…

Top Five Things About Being Back to Work

1.  Getting back into a routine.

2.  Being intellectually stimulated again from collaborating with others in the education field.

3.  Getting a steady paycheck!

4.  Having something more to share in conversations.

5.  Being back in the world of education.

Top Five Things in the Corporate World that Differ from Teaching:

1.  People can go to the bathroom whenever they need to in the office world, but certainly not in teaching!

2.  If a person is thirsty or hungry, they are permitted to eat while working. Or take a break to sip some tea.

3.  The day is not run by a strict schedule. While there are scheduled meetings and such, the day is not written minute by minute like it is in a school.

4.  Most people get an hour for lunch. And you can leave the building to run errands at that time…

5.  When you leave the office, there is some work, but not nearly as much as teachers have – especially fellow language arts teachers who are always grading some sort of writing piece…

Top Five Things I Feel Badly About…

1.  Neglecting my cooking, cleaning, shopping and writing.

2.  Not talking to or seeing my friends as much.

3.  Not being able to go to my niece’s softball games because I get out too late and live too far away.

4.  Not having started a regular workout routine (my hours vary depending on whether or not I am in the office or going to a school). This is not an excuse, but it seems to me that I will have to shift from my morning workouts to afternoon ones.  Thankfully, the weather has been nice to do this!

5.  Not reading for pleasure as much as I used to since I am always reading educational books (which is fine, but since summer is quickly approaching, I like my cheesy and smutty beach books!)

Top Five Reasons I Admire Teachers (even more so now that I am the one looking into classrooms)

1.  They have thick skins.  Teachers are blamed for everything that goes wrong in a child’s education. Are all teachers great? Of course not, but the vast majority are dedicated professionals who continuously questioned, verbally abused and criticized by those who have no background in educational strategies and structures and simply want their children to get A’s, even if it means that they did not earn (or learn) it.

2.  They are not acknowledged or appreciated nearly enough. Most societies, including those who score the highest worldwide, value and admire their teachers, who are considered to be pillars of society.  Teachers are amazing people educating, shaping and forming the next leaders of the world.

3.  Teachers do not get paid overtime, yet end up spending numerous hours  a week outside of the classroom.

4.  Teachers are dealing with more external factors than ever before.  They have always had to play the role of a parent to some students along with being a counselor to many and disciplinarians to all, but they are now having to deal with bullying, drugs and alcohol, texting, sexting, sexual assault issues, large numbers of non-English speaking students, parents who think they know more (or better than) the teacher, terrorism, safety, etc.  No one should make the mistake of thinking that all teachers do is teach.  It is so much more and people need to realize this.

5.  In addition to planning lessons, making phone calls, helping students, attending professional development classes, etc, they are responsible for keeping up with all of of the new technology that is coming out, often times without being trained. It’s more of a…”we got these iPads. Figure out how to use them or what apps are free).  Or, they do not have technology and have to figure out a way to incorporate it into their lessons since it’s part of the Common Core State Standards(CCSS).  How can they accomplish this with computers that do not work??

It has been a very eye-opening experience to observe teachers and make recommendations to make learning better for their students and help them meet the new evaluation guidelines that many states have required.   I have always been proud to be a teacher and admired my colleagues.  That admiration is now deeper than ever and I will do my best to help the teachers help their students and prepare them for the real world. I just wish other people would realize how important teachers are to our children, communities, society and our entire world.

On the Same Step!

Last weekend, I went shopping with two of my favorite people in the world – my mom and my niece. We love to shop and do lunch together and starting “picking dates” to do just that several years ago when my niece was about six or seven years old.  She shares my mother’s and my love for clothing, shoes, make up and hair accessories.  One thing that my niece liked to do was ride the escalator in pretty much every store.  The first time we got on the escalator, my mom got on the first step and my niece and I stood on the step behind her.  As we started moving up, my niece suddenly said, “No! On the same step! With me in the middle.”  So, my mom took a step down and got on her right side, as I stood on her left.  All on the same step.  We smiled as we looked at ourselves in the mirror gliding down to the bottom floor.  I thought it was the cutest thing that she wanted her aunt and grandmother on the same step as her.

My niece is now 11 (going on 25) and we continue to ride the escalators together when we shop. Even though she is older and much taller, we still ride on the same step.  I wonder how long we will do this. I hope it is forever, but I know that is likely not the case, for one day, she will not want to ride on the same step as my mom and me.  But for now, I will enjoy it every single time in every single store.  My mom, my niece and I…all on the same step.