Thoughts on educating our children

Earlier this month, I participated in a focus group with The Mission List about public education and the common issues and concerns centered around the public school system. Both of my boys attend public school, but the choice of the school was a well-researched and deliberate decision on my part. There are few things as important to me for my children than a good education. I have told them and continue to tell them that education is key for everything. A few people are fortunate to get by without a college education or even a high school diploma, but those that are successful are already self-made, ambitious, and determined to succeed. Obtaining a proper education and an advanced one at that is liken to gaining a powerful ally in your corner. My own background consisted of private schools, but the tuition these days is not something I really can afford. (Seriously, how did MY parents manage it with 4 kids??) When Phoenix was barely a toddler, I began researching schools. By the time kindergarten age arrived, we were living in a lovely neighborhood that had an abysmal public school in the district. I opted for private school for him, up through 3rd grade. By the middle of 3rd grade, we had found a rental in the neighborhood I coveted. The school ratings were consistently high year after year. What really sold me, and what makes the particular school district so good, was the involvement of the community in the school. I have never seen an entire community so invested in the education of their kids. Without the parents acting as advocates for their children, I don’t think the school district would be nearly as successful.

The move to the school was a good one. I feel like my kids have wonderful opportunities for them in this district. While other communities are losing funds for arts and other so-called “electives”, our community rallies for the funds to keep our programs safe. I found my experiences with my kids’ school and educators has not been the standard to other parents in the focus group, especially when it came to communication. Our school district has embraced social media and electronic communication, so updates are never farther than a Facebook post or email away. But again, I feel like this is due mainly in part to the parents pushing and advocating this system.

What about your experiences? Have you worked with your community and fellow parents to create change in the school or the district? Was it successful? What about communication between yourself and your child’s teachers or the school administrators? Do you find any kinks in the communication channels that you want fixed?

Please share your thoughts below in the comments!

Detoxing

I’m typing this about 10,000 feet up in the air, give or take. Wi-Fi is a wonderful thing. I’m heading back home after a combo work/fun trip in beautiful Colorado. I met some amazing people and filled my head with all sorts of knowledge and plans. I tacked on an extra day in my trip, not knowing during the time I booked it that it would be an almost necessary addition.
I desperately needed to set a reset button. I hate to use phrases like “drama” because, for starters, I am not 12 years old. More importantly, I think chalking things up as “dramaaaaa” attempts to excuse one from their own part in the bullshit permeating their life, but it also puts us in a passive role in our lives. We still maintain a level of control in terms of the type of people we associate with, what they add (or subtract) to our lives, and how we react to things. If you feel there is too much “drama” in your life, take a long hard look at yourself and your choices and figure out what the hell you are doing wrong to attractive, allow and cause what I otherwise call useless bullshit.
But yes, bullshit was around. And I am responsible for it affecting me. I required an emotional detox. Few things provide better perspective and clarity than distance and nature. Seriously. Go stand at the top of a mountain and then decide if bullshit is worth the effort. Mountains are cool like that.

The “fun” stage of my trip went beautifully. I drove from Denver to Estes Park to stay at the Stanley Hotel, because why the hell not?

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I had asked for a haunted room and that request was granted. I had done some research on the room I was assigned and was a little hesitant about what I was getting myself into. I found comfort from the Stanley’s resident psychic, Madame Vera. She mentioned that only the kid ghosts would “visit” me. More on that in a bit. Madame Vera was such an amazing person. I have never gone the psychic route but I figured I might as well. She knew so much and laid down some much needed true talk on my ass. Even if there is no truth to the “psychic” part, she has some sage wisdom. I will definitely be going back to her when time and the situation allows.
Now onto the “haunted” part of The Stanley. I’m not 100% sure of the validity of ghosts, but I did have some interesting experiences. The first happened during a ghost tour that I took. I was standing in this tunnel under the hotel with my back to this corner where we were told a ghost hugged someone to photo bomb them, essentially. The guide went on to talk about how the founder of the Stanley died of a “broken heart” months after his wife died. I got a tad emotional and that’s when I felt pressure in my back, like when someone puts a hand in the middle of your back. I leaned into the feeling, not remembering that I was on the trip alone. I jumped and looked behind me to see if someone was there perving out on me, but nope.
There was an incident with a ghost who likes to close doors, but I’m not convinced that this particular haunting isn’t more of an issue of an uneven floor. The good stuff happened in my room, after I went to bed. I woke up but didn’t open my eyes. I sat there in the darkness hearing the sounds of things moving in the room, plus with a few knocks here and there. As I started to think “eh, creaks from an old house”, I hear what I can only describe as pitter patter. It sounded like kids running around carpet. I laid in bed listening to the sound coming mere feet from me, trying to determine if I should be brave and open my eyes. I did not opt for bravery. The sounds went on for several hours and I finally drifted back to sleep for an hour or so.
The rest of my trip involved an escape into the mountains. I left early in the morning, hoping to see more wildlife. I didn’t get to see as much wildlife as I hoped, but it was fantastic trip, even with my rental car that had zero pickup to it. The auto trail goes into the tundra part of the mountains, which is amazing. And cold. Stupid cold. I was SO unprepared.
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Driving up the mountain was still worth it for the experience alone. The road hugged the edge of the mountain at times and the air was so crisp. I felt amazing. Maybe it was the altitude but I felt my head clear for the first time in weeks. And I became friends with all the marmots up there. They are cool little rodents.
Trip endings are always bittersweet, no matter what the circumstances. I miss my kids and pets, but we also don’t have mountains where I live. Or marmots! Also, unrelated, I’ve noticed this one truth in travel: it does matter what airport you are in; there will always be some dude in a cowboy hat.

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I’ve tossed this post around in my head, trying to figure out how to write it and trying to reign in any emotional overflow. It’s taken over a week and I think I’m finally at the point where I can tip-toe out and say this: I’m in the process of dissolving my marriage. It was not where I envisioned things would be after 10 years, but being out of my routine for a few weeks now, I can see where this is a much needed change. It’s hard to accept certain aspects of life and fake contentment for so long. I’m realizing that I don’t need to be complacent with my life. It’s easy to just shrug and say “these are the cards I’ve been dealt”, but at some point a person must recognize that choices have come into play. These choices are not always the best or smartest, but we’re not flying through our lives on the whim of a predestined fate.

I know, this sounds like vague mumbo-jumbo, but I’m not interested in listing all the gritty details in a public forum. My life is changing. It’s a good change, but I have and will have some rocky moments. I am keeping a list of all the awkward places I have started crying at. The weird part is I don’t know why I am crying. It’s like a grieving process, but I’m grieving what I thought I had, not what I actually did, if that makes sense. I’m looking forward to being out of the grieving stage, and as each day goes by that end seems closer. Most of all, I’m looking forward to beginning this new chapter of my life.

Helping the Locey Family

As a pet owner, there is one scenario that you never want to face.  Unfortunately, a dedicated volunteer of Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue and a wonderful photographer found herself in this devastating scenario.  On the morning of June 19, Carol left for work only to be notified that there had been a fire at her house. Out of her seven beloved pets,  all but one perished. As a friend of Carol, my heart is completely broken for her. Carol gives so selflessly of her time and talent to the rescue. I cannot imagine what she and her husband are going through. A fund has been set up to raise money for the Locey family to help them pick up the pieces and begin to recover from this loss. Please donate and share http://www.gofundme.com/ahw0bo.

In Regards to Freedom of Speech

If there’s one thing that irks me – and believe me, there’s not just one – it’s when people use the argument of “Freedom of Speech” as a catch-all card to justify whatever hateful speech they or someone else is spewing. My favorite is when someone says “I don’t agree with what he says, but hey, Free Speech!”

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Lucky, there’s a comic to explain in fewer, and far better words, what Freedom of Speech really entails:

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Bottom line is, if you say jerkface things in public, don’t be surprised if there are personal consequences from you saying jerkface things. It’s that simple.

Who Wore It Better – Grammys 2014 Version

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I don’t watch the Grammys, as evident when I first titled this and was utterly convinced this was the Emmys. I don’t watch those either. The Academy Awards, however, are an event in my house. So yeah, Grammys. Not sure what happened but I happened to see lovely ol’ Madge here and immediately thought TRUMAN CAPOTE.

On the left, we have the stylish, wonderful Truman Capote as Lionel Twain in 1976’s Murder By Death. The husband and I are completely opposites but we have this movie in common, which makes us one step away from a quirky love song, I suppose. It is wonderfully hilarious with a star-studded cast, if you can get past that fact Peter Sellers is playing a horribly stereotyped Asian detective. (Although it is not nearly as bad as Mickey Rooney in that movie that would have landed my husband and I squarely in quirky love song zone. A movie based on novella written by none other than Truman Capote. See, it all comes full circle.)

On the right, we have the never aging, always reinventing and always cooler than you Madonna. Can I just mention how weird it is that I listened to Madonna as a child and my kids are still able to hear new Madonna songs now? I have a hard time picking my favorite iteration of Madonna. I’d probably go with Ray of Light Madonna. Definitely not cowboy Madonna or whatever that moment in time was. Yeow.

Look, Madonna can get away with a lot, but I’m going to hand this one over to Truman Capote. Ditch the cane and hat, Madonna.

Soundtrack to web work – Of Monsters and Men

I’ve been working like a madwoman this week to get a last minute website designed, built and ready for launch by Monday. (Yes, seriously last minute.) This has coincided with my working from home while some reconstruction happens at the office. So I’ve been able to work with minimal interruptions, save for the cats who love to jump on the desk and sit in front of the monitor all “Wat doin?” Cats are incredibly nosey animals, but I do appreciate the company. I’ve had Rdio blasting all week and have been incredibly hooked on Of Monsters and Men’s “My Head is an Animal”. Every project seems to have a soundtrack for me, and this album has hands down been the one for this week. (There have been a few interruptions of Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and ilk, because when I get frustrated that is what happens. It’s odd. Not that I don’t enjoy their music, it’s just an odd transition but the mind needs what the mind needs.)

Anyway, after many evenings working into the wee hours, Of Monsters and Men have kept me audible company. I am particularly fond of the song “Dirty Paws”, which is a sort of folk tale but so catchy and full of energy.

Here is a performance from Quick Hits, a web series from the PBS show SOUND TRACKS. It is just as wonderful if not more so than the recorded version. (And how many artists can truly say that about their live performances?)

Watch Of Monsters and Men – “Dirty Paws” on PBS. See more from Sound Tracks.

Calling for a small revolution

I think everyone has that certain person in their life: that person who seems to have no concept of how to be a tactful, polite human being. You know the type. It’s the person others always excuse as “Well, that’s just how they are“. What I can’t figure out is why we continue to excuse their behavior? It is really ridiculous if you think about it. The person will say things that others would perceive as hurtful or insulting and we’re expected to just shrug it off like “That’s just how they are!” I am calling bullshit on all of this. Just because these people have managed to fail basic pre-school manners doesn’t mean they should get a pass on their crummy behavior. Asshole people need to learn how to function in a polite society. By excusing their behavior, we’re giving them a free pass to continue acting in an oblivious manner. Not to jump to the absolute extreme here (but I am), can you imagine people being so blasé about serial killers? “Meh…it’s just how they ARE.” No, we expect people to not kill. Crazy, I know. Is it so far-fetched to expect people to be decent human beings and not tactless jerks who say whatever inane thought pops into their head without utilizing an internal filter?

Eh. Maybe it is. Look, I’m not expecting kumbaya and unicorn hugs here. If you have one of those types of people in your life, stop excusing their behavior. Eventually (and hopefully), they will learn that it is better to not interact with people like an unsocialized neanderthal.