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Category Archives: back to school

Update on burning bridges

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I ended up resigning from the PTA shortly after joining, and that some of the frustrations I had boiled to a head last week.   I was MAD.  Like wicked, ragey mad.  And, if I’m honest, I was hurt and sad too.   I had to step away from it all, and I didn’t end up going to the drive.  Do I wish I had gone a bit?  Perhaps.  But sometimes, you just have to step away and cool off a bit, so that’s what I did.  We had my niece’s birthday that day anyway, so I was busy with her.

The problem I was left with, aside from conflicted feelings about what had happened, was that I now had a stack of money I had collected all summer.  It wasn’t a huge stack, but I had a couple of hundred dollars.  The money had to go to the school or the PTA, but I was struggling with the decision on what to do with it.  Part of me felt I should give it to the PTA, but part of me also recognized that I was in a unique position to help kids without being tied to any PTA rules.

You have to understand that the reason I signed up for the PTA in the first place was because our school got redistricted (I’ll use that instead of what is probably the more appropriate word, segregated.  Needless to say, I have a great amount of frustration with a town who moves backwards instead of forewards).  At the end of the day, our school would have several lower income families joining, and I wanted to do the drive to include them.  Hell, even I am short on cash the first month of school, so anything that allows me to contribute without pouring money I don’t have in is a help.  I joined because honestly, I like fundraising, I’m decent at it, and I wanted to help kids and teachers who didn’t have the funds they needed.  I’d hate to have a child miss out on a field trip because the family just doesn’t have the funds.  Things like that REALLY bother me  If I can raise money so that child can have a learning experience like their classmates, I’m willing to do it. Sometimes the PTA doesn’t have the ability to help those kids financially.

I put the money in the car this morning while I did school drop off, and was mulling over how best to donate it.  Do I give it to the PTA? Do I find another way to help the kids like I had first set out to do?  I drove around the block after drop off, debating the issue back and forth in my head.  Part of me felt I should just give it to the PTA.  I wasn’t really angry anymore, just sad at how things had all gone down. That being said, I knew that I might have a unique opportunity I could use purely because I had raised the money while NOT part of the PTA, and had done all the work for it myself (one of the benefits of not getting help from anyone meant I had earned it myself).

Just then, I saw the principal standing by the crosswalk, greeting students walking in and wishing them a wonderful day.  It felt a little like a sign.  I asked if I could speak to her, parked the car, and followed her inside.

I explained a little of my reasoning for raising the money, that I had joined to help kids that really needed help, and my dilemma.  I ended up donating the money to the “principle’s fund.”  This fund, run by the principle of the school, usually gets funds from a soda machine, school pictures, and other small items.  While there’s not a lot of money there, the principle uses it for the very reasons I wanted to donate….to help a kid attend a trip if the parents can’t afford it, if a teacher needs supplies for something for their class and can’t afford them, etc.

It seemed a perfect match.   It lined up with everything I set out to do, and I immediately felt at peace with my decision.

I did message one of the lovely ladies on the PTA, and explained what I had done, and my reasons for it.  I explained that at the end of the day, my goal was and always had been to help those who needed it most. I wanted to make sure any funds raised went directly to kids.  The PTA has to fund a lot of things, but doing things this way had given me a great sense of comfort and peace.

Now that I know about the fund, I may try to contribute again in the future.  Who knows, maybe more personal bottle drives are in my future. If I can help one child step up and get an experience, then I have done my job.

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Burning Bridges, One by One.

bridge

Today, I crossed a hypothetical bridge, lit a match, and poured some gasoline on it.

Let me preface the story I am about to tell by saying that I am a boots on the ground kind of helper.  There are a few things in life that touch my cold little heart and make it all melty.  In a world where everyone wants to talk politics, where everyone believes they are always right, and never wrong, and nobody wants to meet in the middle, I cringe.  I hate that people drop casual racism without either knowing how racist the comments are or even caring.  I hate the refusal to hear other sides, to meet in the middle, and I hate the hypocrisy of it all.  The world gets me down a lot these days.  I am an idealist at heart, and optimist.  I am a defender of the little guy, the underdog, or those who need a voice to be heard on their behalf.  I put up with horrible people far longer than I should, and I make excuses for them, always wanting to believe people are inherently good and not the jerks they really are. Kids though, I hate to see a kid go without.  I hate to see a child suffer because their parents can’t provide something.  We all have our own struggles, but kids struggles shape who they will become.  I hate seeing a child go without. Kids, elderly, people struggling, I just want to make the world a bit better for them.

The past two years, I helped provide Christmas for a family in need when both parents lost their jobs.  I did so by organizing, reaching out to family and friends, and making do with what I had, and I’ll tell you I was proud of what I had accomplished in a very short time with limited resources.   A few years ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit, I took clothes, supplies and medicine to a family stuck on LBI.  I was one of the only people allowed on the island.  If you ever wanted to know what it looks like if the human race disappeared, that was it.  The streets were empty, traffic lights swaying in the wind, and boats littering the roads where cars should have been.  I have given food to the homeless (only to have them tell me the food didn’t suit their dietary needs) and toured town looking for a homeless man my son met and who he wanted to donate stuff to.  After ages of hunting for said man armed with socks I had bought for someone for Christmas and gift cards I had received as gifts, we were unsuccessful.  I am the one that will mow my single mom friend’s yard which is HUUUUUGE with a push mower because her mower broke and I know she had a bad week.  Look, I’m not an asshole (all the time) and I’ll jump in when I see someone struggling.  I have learned through these deeds, that sometimes things go amazingly right, sometimes just ok, and sometimes, no good deed goes unpunished.  Sometimes, you give to someone who doesn’t appreciate it, really need it, and sometimes you try to assist a blind person across an incredibly busy parking lot only to almost get hit by two cars.  Life doesn’t go as planned, sometimes it throws a wrench, and sometimes, people turn out to be kind of shitty.  My husband grew up helping the homeless, and he often gives them money.  I asked him one day how he reconciled giving money to panhandlers or people begging when the fact is that many aren’t really homeless.  He summed it up for me “I give with my heart.  What they do with what I gave them is on them.”  For him, it is about the intent of giving. I liked that, and it’s how I try to reconcile when giving goes wrong.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know for a hot minute I joined the PTA.  I joined after the BOE redistricted our town, ripped our school apart, and stripped all of the current families out save a few.  We had a strong community at our school, and we were all devastated.  We also lost all of our PTA members except one.  Somehow, my name got thrown in the hat, and surprisingly, I got voted in.  I saw the PTA as a way to do a good deed, help kids, and make a positive difference in our school.  My husband, who is the cynic of the family, told me it’s often a place where people who just want to be in charge of something congregate. I shushed his negativity and jumped in with both feet.  We had an economic shift in our school, and fundraising, which I am usually pretty good at, seemed like a challenge I could excel at.  I started brainstorming ways to fundraise but also ways to make lower income families feel included and welcome in the process.  A lot of my ideas got shot down, and it felt honestly like they just wanted to do what they had done before.  I explained that with all of the changes in the district, I truly felt that we needed to change tactics and bring families together in new ways, rather than make people feel guilty when they couldn’t donate cash.  I came up with the idea of a bottle drive.  It’s not like it’s a new idea, or was never done before, but I wanted to incorporate it.  They didn’t seem excited, but let me move forward.  I took it on as a project over the summer.

Over the summer months, I started looking for bottles and cans from friends, family, and coworkers.  I arranged pick ups and started returning the cans and bottles.  I found the most accurate method was to do them by hand, so I did all except for two bags or so by hand, those two were done in bulk at the recycling center.  It became a second job.  I coordinated pick ups, drop offs and all the redemptions were done by me or me and the kids.  They soon grew bored of it.

As I was working on this after a few weeks, one of the other members started putting hands on the project.  Not the physical work or effort, mind you, but she changed the hours of the actual drive in the fall.  She created a flyer and posted in online.  She offered me up to do pick ups.  Now, here’s my thing.  I hate being micromanaged.  My rule of thumb with volunteerism is, if you’re not doing the work keep your hands off it.  Either contribute or let the workers lead the plan.  Volunteering my time over the summer should come from ME, not her.  This irked me to no end.  It felt disrespectful.  The feeling of disrespect lingered, and it bothered me.  Excuses were made, shoulders were shrugged, but it bothered the hell out of me.  Combined with that was the realization that this whole pta thing seemed micromanaged at the top, but completely unorganized at the bottom started me thinking it wasn’t for me.  My grandfather wasn’t doing well, I was busy with work, the kids, and keeping all the proverbial balls in the air…it was suffocating.  I took stock of things, and made a choice….I needed to quit the PTA.  I just wasn’t happy.  Every idea I gave was almost immediately shot down, I was getting texts from 7 am to 11 pm, holidays, weekends, and it was CHAOS.  It felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I have a full time job and I am a full time mom.  PTA was another 12 hour onslaught of messages and demands I couldn’t handle. Also, I looked at the other member’s personal FB pages, and not one message was done about the bottle drive.  Not one bottle collected.  not one bottle dropped to me.  They were ok volunteering my hard work but wouldn’t contribute to the fundraising they so desperately needed.  That was the final nail in the coffin for me. I left.

Quitting left me feeling horribly guilty.  I don’t like to set the tone of being a quitter for the kids.  I believe in being a team player, and helping your teammates out.  I just couldn’t stomach the constant barrage of texts, demands, questions, and people making changes to an event they weren’t even involved with.  Pretty soon though, the guilt quickly faded one day while I was driving 2 towns over to pick up a shopping bag of about 10 cans.  The miles, the hard work, the sweat, the stickiness….this can stuff was dirty business and a lot of work.  Nobody had offered to help me or spoke to me about it.

They asked if I would go, I said yes.  I was told the president (time change/flyer poster) was now in charge of the event.  Ok.  Strangely, I never heard anything about it, but assumed I would show up.  I had concerns.  Did they have sorters? redeemers? volunteers to transport?  What was the plan?  I asked and was told nobody knew except the president.   Huh.

Today, my friend on the board, the one who brought me on to begin with, messaged and asked me when I would be at the drive.  I said “Morning” and she wanted something more specific.  This puzzled me because she had been adamant the day before she had NOTHING to do with the drive.  She said the board had been talking and wanted to know if I was going to be there, and when.  When I pressed her on this she denied any knowledge of the event and said the president was in charge and pointed me to her. At this point, I was pretty pissed.  Why should I be chasing down someone to ask them I how I could further volunteer when I had already spent an entire summer busting me ass while the rest of the board was vacationing?  I made this clear, and word travels fast because I got a message from the president.

Apparently, for all their posting on facebook with flyers etc, nobody is in charge of the event.  Apparently, they think I am in charge.  Me, who has no access to the PTSA mailers, emails, flyers, volunteer sign up sheets….nothing.  I’m not a member, but apparently I am supposed to Skywalker it and use the Force to pull together a fundraising event for 700 students. They had 1, count them, 1 volunteer parent who nobody had bothered to call.

Let that sink in.

Hours upon hours, miles upon hours, bottles upon cans and my car smelling like a bar at closing time….and they couldn’t look at a sign up sheet and make a call. Hell, two on the board weren’t even going to be there AT ALL.  When I asked what their plan was, they had none, aside from the three remaining people were each going to work it for 2 hours.  What?

Not one post on their own pages.  Not one bottle handed over. Not a plan, not a phone call to volunteers, hell, not even GETTING volunteers. They had done…..NOTHING.  Everything was “not their problem, not their event, not their wheelhouse”.

And now they expected me to pull it all together and make magic.

In all my anger, I paused for just a second to ponder if I could pull it off.  After all, that’s what I do.  I take the undoable, and I make it done.  I help people.  I knew some basic concepts that needed doing to make the fundraiser work.  It would be a great lesson to my kids.  Take lemons and make lemonade. I work well under pressure, although I’ll collapse after.  My husband told me to drop the cans and money and bail after what had been done.  He knows horseshit when he sees it.

But there was one sentence that was said that handed me the match.

The president reminded me how she had so kindly said she would work the morning shift, (a whopping 2 hours!) she wouldn’t be there after all, she said she had someone else filling in for her to “fulfill her obligation” and “I feel content with that”.

Strike.

When I asked what the plan was she said there was none.  They had done fuck all and expected me to show up and run a PTA event with little to no PTA assistance, effort or work, just to earn them money.

Grab the gas.

And if I didn’t show, they’d just figure it out on the day.

Burn.

I have redeemed over 5000 cans and bottles.  Put miles on my car, sweated it out in hot grocery store bottle rooms, dealt with drunks harassing me while doing it.  My new car smells like an old bar at closing time.  I gave up valuable time of my own.  $250 may not seem like a lot of work, but it sure is when it’s earned at $.05 at a time.  That’s a lot of nickels. They wanted me to do every ounce of work and step back and earn the credit for it.  I did it so that hopefully no child would miss out on a learning experience because their parents couldn’t afford it.  I did it so that a kid who might not have a shot at doing something because of funds would get some help so they could participate.  I did it so a teacher could have supplies without having to dig further into pockets that we as a society don’t fill enough.

Let me blow on those flames.

Tomorrow, I will deliver those funds, because I promised every person who donated that every penny would go to the school.  I will first try to donate them directly to the principal, if they can accept them.  Because I left the PTA, the office drive is in two days, and I did all the work, not to mention all the bottles came from my family, friends and coworkers, I’d like to hand the money directly to the school.  If I can’t the funds will then go to a member of the PTA.  But make no mistake, the envelope will say:

“$250.  Raised by myself, family, friends and coworkers.  To be used for students.  I will not be at the bottle drive. The pres will have a plan.  Oh, and I am content with that.”

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown

Yesterday I got a notification my son’s school was in a lock down situation due to police activity.  Apparently a woman called police and said her partner was incoherent, armed, and had barricaded himself in the home near two schools.  Police descended on the residence and was eventually able to remove the man safely.  The school communicated well, and at no point were the kids in danger.  That being said, no mama wants to hear her kid is locked in a building because of crazy nearby, especially armed crazy.  I felt anxious for much of the day.  What’s worse is that this wasn’t the first time the kids have been in lockdown.

Last year my kids ended up in lockdowns in two school districts in one week.  One was at their school, and the other one occurred when they accompanied my SIL to pick up my nephew from school.  A man had grabbed a gun and run into the woods at a park near the school.  Police descended on the area and eventually used a drone to determine the man had committed suicide.  During this time, my sister in law and my kids were yanked into the building and had to stay there for a few hours until the situation was resolved. Also last year, I was on a break at work, glanced at Facebook, and saw there was a shooting down the street from my kids’ schools.  I took off running went to go get the kids from the afterschool program at the schools.  I called the after school program to advise the director to lock the doors and not let anyone they didn’t know in.  She knew nothing about the shooting and told me she’d probably know before I would.  I saw RED and told her that she could debate that with me the next day, but at that moment I would EXPECT her to err on the side of caution and safety for the kids and lock the damned doors.  I arrived to find my children’s schools (the two buildings are next to each other) surrounded by police in bulletproof vests and canines.  They fortunately allowed me to collect my children and head home.  We actually saw them arrest the shooter while we drove home.  For the record, I live in a pretty decent suburb, filled with children and families. I don’t live in a high crime area or a major city.  Nobody is really safe these days.

When I grew up, my parents dropped me at school and considered me safe for the rest of the day.  I never concerned myself with anything except doing my schoolwork, hanging with my friends, and playing outside at recess.  I certainly never worried about being gunned down in my classroom.  I practiced fire drills.  I didn’t not practice drills in case a gunman entered the school.  The fact my children have to do this breaks me.   My step-aunt is a teacher and she explained her fears about her classroom location.  It’s the first one when you enter the school, and she has to have certain features in her classroom such as black out curtains and doors that lock from the inside.  She said she is at the ground zero of the school, the first place that would likely have a problem, and she has to constantly have a plan for her students in case the unthinkable happens.

We are failing our children. I don’t purport to know the answers, and I have friends on all sides of the gun debate. Regardless of whatever side you fall on, know that kids are dying and we are failing them as a society.  Other counties aren’t suffering these tragedies.  What are they doing better than us?

When Sandy Hook happened, I sat and my desk shaking and crying the second I heard the news.  The proximity to me (I live within about 20 minutes of there), the fact I had a first grader, it was all too close to home, too easily could have been our school.  I knew what a first grader sounded like, smelled like, giggled like.  I knew what a first grader’s fears and dreams were.  I knew that brussel sprouts worry some first graders, but that they don’t normally fear getting blown apart. Even thinking about that day now brings me to a flood of tears.  I struggle seeing the road signs for Sandy Hook.  I can’t imagine the pain of every family at that school, especially of the children who were killed.

Somehow, some way, we need to all come together to find a solution.  If we can’t come together to save our own children, we have bigger issues than we think.

 

 

 

 

 

Bratty kid

littleaholes

School starts tomorrow, and I felt pretty confident that I had gotten all the supplies, and for once, was ready and fairly stress free.  I know….amazing.  I was just as surprised as you.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I run in chaos. If you’re knew, well you learned that on the very first post you read, so you’re also ahead of the game!  In all my glory, I picked up my son’s backpack that he said he’d re-use from last year, and saw it was almost threadbare.  Since he’s 12, I figure he’d notice such things, but alas, I was mistaken. At 8 PM the night before school, I went on the hunt to find the perfect backpack that would make him happy and not break the bank.

I made my first stop at Marshalls, which may seem like a weird place to begin such a search, but I’d remembered they had a TON of backpacks last week, so I started there.  They had about…15 left.  They did, however, have a unicorn….a backpack at the very first place that I KNEW my son would love and it was great quality at a good price.  I snagged it and hit the mall nearby looking for something I wanted for my daughter.  I headed into Justice.  Now, if you don’t have kids yet, don’t want kids, or have littles, you should know that Justice is the place all us grown women WISH we had open when we were kids.  It has sparkles on everything, it’s all rainbows, unicorns, sequins, leopard, camo, mermaids, emojis and owls.  It has kitties, and puppies, and is every pre-teen to early teen’s dream.  I walked in the first time and felt overwhelmingly sad that such a store had not existed when I was a kid.  My mom dressed me in brown pants and a green sweater….she dressed me like a damned TREE.  I am still horrified by some of the pictures.

As I walked into the store, by the cashiers, I saw a mom paying for a bunch of clothes for her daughter.  The daughter asked her for something, the mom said no, and the daughter got IRATE.  Then she started demanding things.  Then she shouted “you are so MEAN! God!  You’re EVIL!  Such a JERK!” and it went on and on. I physically stiffened and turned to look.  The girl was probably about my son’s age.  She was sulking, yelling and stomping.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was a little asshole in the wild.

Now before you get mad, and chastise me that all children are special little flowers and no child could ever act like an asshole….that’s a damned lie.  Some kids are very simply put, little assholes.

The mom started saying “oh look everyone, I’m evil, I’m so evil I’m buying her over $100 worth of clothes!”.  That’s when I tried REALLY hard to keep my mouth shut, and just leave the store.

My mouth decided today was not the day, and tomorrow didn’t look good either.

“If I were you….” I said, (while my brain was yelling “STOP!  Not your circus, not your monkeys!”) “I would take all those beautiful clothes, leave them on the counter,leave the store and head home.”  Now, this may sound harsh, but it’s 100% true.   She looked at her daughter and said “I should!…so if you don’t stop soon, I may just leave the clothes and go!”  I knew well and good she was going to hand over her credit card and buy her daughter those clothes. You know what? She just taught her kid a lesson that she should be an asshole again when it suits her.

People have told me I’m strict, sometimes very strict.  Sometimes, I guess I am.  Sure, sometimes I am just too tired to fight, and sometimes the kids get away with a bit more than they should.  Sometimes my little one is so tired and miserable that I know I will have to suck up the bad behavior in the moment, but there will certainly be a discussion and correction of the behavior once she has gotten some sleep.  In other words, sometimes you have know know when to fold, but you make sure the lesson is learned even if it comes the next day. The end result is that my kids are mostly very well behaved.  People have gone out of their way to compliment me on their behavior at school, at programs and at sports.  I take that compliment very, very seriously, and I always make sure to let them know that someone noticed their great behavior and commented on it.  I make sure they too are proud when people notice and comment on it.  They also know, however, that people don’t want to hang out with unpleasant, rude, bratty or entitled kids, so it is important they be mindful of behavior.  Do they falter occasionally like any other kids? Sure, but on the whole, I get great reports on behavior.

We’ve all seen a kid who just acts entitled, bratty, rude, or unpleasant.  Look, I try REAL hard not to judge.  Sometimes a kid has special needs, is having a bad day, has parents getting divorced, suffered a loss, or something to trigger them.  I don’t judge that.  We ALL have bad days.  But when a kid is standing there with such CONFIDENCE saying such nasty things to their own MOM, well, chances are that this sure isn’t the first time.  It was clear by the mom’s reaction it won’t be the last, either, because she effectively reinforced the behavior.  The fact is, we have to raise kids who will fit into society.  People don’t want to be around assholes. Let me rephrase that.  Good, kind, generous and loving people won’t want to be around entitled, rude, unpleasant, ungrateful people.  So let’s all try our best not to raise kids like that, shall we?

I felt REALLY bad for that mom tonight.  I felt bad her daughter spoke to her that way, when clearly the mom was trying to do something nice.  I felt bad because she looked tired and she probably didn’t need any of the shit her daughter was giving her.  I felt bad because she had to take that kid home and she was probably pretty fed up with her. I felt bad because deep down, she might have been embarrassed.  That being said…teach your children that behavior is not ok.

Summer Wind Down

Well, summer is finally finding down.  I can’t say that I’m sad about it, per say.  The Northeast has been unbearably hot and muggy this year.  The humidity is the worst. It’s also been tough because we have been saving for our trip, so we haven’t taken many vacations this summer.  As summer winds down, we have an upcoming trip to look forward to, and then we’ll dive into a new school year.

Personally, I am a creature of habit.  I like to know what’s coming down the pike and to have a plan.  I’m not super structured, I’m not very organized in my out of work life, but I get it done.  The school year is easier to manage than summer often is.  This year we as a family have toned down the obligations.  We’re not a Pop Warner football family this year.  That has freed up a TON of time this fall.  Also, my stint on the PTA was short lived.  I enjoyed the position initially, but I quickly saw it seemed to be type A people being in charge of something.  My phone was beeping with messages from 7 am to 11PM, even on holidays.  No.  Just…No.  I found it overwhelming and could tell immediately there was no way I’d want that kind of situation for the next two years.  I took a hard look at what I have to do, what help I have to do it, and I made cutbacks accordingly.  Within moments, I felt a huge surge of relief.  Women often think the more they overload themselves the better of a mom they will be.  That’s the great lie. I’m at my best when I am not trying to do too much.

Currently, I am learning the life of a middle school parent, and am excited to see my son start a new adventure.  I am watching my daughter start at a new school too.  New beginnings.  I’m trying to hammer through some obligations I made earlier this year.  I feel pretty peaceful.  There will always be plenty to do, but I’m making a concerted effort to not take on extra.  I’m happier for it.

You know, I started this post a couple of weeks ago.  Camp had ended, the kids were home bored, and I think everyone is eager to get back to a routine.  That being said, I think I am far more nervous about the beginning of school tomorrow than the kids are.  There are book-bags to be packed, lunches to be made, and a new routines to follow.  There is the addition of taking a bus for one child, and navigating that system for the first time.  We have two new schools.  The oldest goes to middle school and the youngest moves to the school next door.  Our BOE redistricted the schools this year, demagnetizing a school, and, effectively, segregated children racially and socio-economically.  Many families were ripped out of our school against their wishes, including many of my daughter’s closest friends. I am furious about going backwards rather than forwards.  Add to that other issues with the board, and I am left feeling very distrustful of them and their handling of my childrens’ education.  That being said, the kids take their leads from me, and I need to snap into school year mom mode from summer mom mode and get everyone ready.  I should start by making sure everyone’s first day outfits are selected.  After all, that’s one of the things kids really concern themselves with, and I know I put great thought into it when I was a kid.

I am very happy to have released myself from some obligations, and aside from a few, can enter the fall feeling relatively happy and relaxed.  I’ve cleared the calendar save for a few fun things like trips or parties. I just need to get myself used to a strict schedule again.

The school has already called a half day for tomorrow, because of the heat.  Even my best intentions for a well scheduled, put together day have been toppled a bit.  Even still, I’m ready to let this summer go.