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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Quest for Better Education Leads to a Mom behind bars

A parents job is to nurture, protect, do and give the best we can for our children, is it not? I am baffled by the recent events that occurred in Akron, OH.  For those that haven’t heard, a mom by the name of Kelley Williams-Bolar was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail for “falsifying documents” allowing her daughters to attend a school in a better neighborhood.  Let it be known, that the children’s grandfather resides in the neighborhood where this “better school” is located.

They say that Justice is Blind…in this case I believe justice was Blind, Deaf and Mute!  Now I am not advocating that everyone go breaking laws just to suit their needs, but really, a 10 day jail sentence and charged with multiple felony counts? Really? Really?  What was this judge thinking? There are better ways to make an example of someone, not to mention better ways to spend tax dollars for the citizens of Akron, OH.  While we are on the topic of tax dollars, let’s examine the school board’s response to the outrage once this story broke out; the school board cited that the reason for their investigation, yes you read this correctly, their investigation (how much of Akron’s tax dollars went into this, is yet to be made public), was because the residents of this affluent neighborhood pay taxes to support the schools in the area.  This has got to win the award for one of the weakest, explanations for targeting the under privileged I have heard to date.  Tax dollars? In case I missed something here, tax dollars were spent to prosecute a mother seeking to give her kids an opportunity to succeed, excel in a school where resources flow freely for educational tools, where her children can go to school without having to worry about the atmosphere and troubles in their assigned school zone.

So let’s say for arguments sake, we go along with the “tax dollar” excuse, need the school board be reminded that the grandfather of these children lives in the neighborhood and has been paying taxes that support this school.  This grandfather has been paying taxes for school children to be educated with the best possible chance of success in his neighborhood and he has no young children that even attend the school.  Why would it be so horrible if his hard earned tax dollars, which he is already paying mind you, go towards the education of his grandchildren?  Does anyone else see the “big hole” in the school board’s story? Or is it just me?

Now many are accusing the school board of racism, but I’ll go further and say that it may not only be that but separation of class or economic status (as is more “pc” to say today) as well.  Are only the affluent worthy of a top-notch education? Should anyone be denied the same opportunities because their families may not be able to afford the big houses and fancy cars that go along with the ritzy neighborhoods? Are families in the inner-cities to be valued less? Is the message here, if you earn less you’re worth less? (Pun intended). I think not!

What does this whole situation say about the sad state of affairs our nation’s educational system is in? To me, it speaks VOLUMES.  To say that “the world isn’t fair” in this case is nothing but a “cop-out”, it’s the equivalent to burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the issue.  People will argue that what this mother did was wrong, that she is showing her children how to circumvent the system; what I see here is an act of selflessness, a parent willing to do whatever it takes to give her children a chance at a future just as bright as any of those other children in that neighborhood.  I’ve heard comments made that “running” from these troubled schools and enrolling children in “good schools” isn’t the answer. “Fight or flight” this case shows it’s one and the same, fighting for a better education and fleeing to a better school. Perhaps, more parents should do this, leave our troubled, severely budget deprived local schools, “invade” and overcrowd the “good schools”. Perhaps this is the only way school boards across the nation will “get the hint” and finally realize what it’s like to have overcrowded classrooms, budgets spread so thinly that copy paper, pencils, textbooks and other learning tools become “hot commodities”; maybe then, they will understand what those “troubled” schools have to contend with in order to educate “the less fortunate”. 

This poses the question: Why aren’t all schools “good” schools? Why aren’t all schools provided the resources to provide a world class education?

There are lessons to be learned here:

1.      Break the law and there are consequences, but PLEASE let the “punishment fit the crime”. If they wanted to “make an example” out of this mom for falsifying documents and not paying the taxes owed, they could have set up community service in that very school district; a price I’m sure this mother and any other caring parent would be willing to pay. (I know that I’m not above cleaning classrooms or toilets, if it meant my children could attend a better school)

2.      Children deserve to be afforded great opportunities in order to achieve greatness. There is no excuse for separation of economic status when it comes to education, it’s not right and we cannot turn a blind eye any longer.

3.      “Fight or Flight”, “fight the good fight”, our children need us, not just our biological children, but children across this nation need us. It’s not someone else’s problem, it’s our problem and we had better put on our thinking caps, stop drawing lines in the sand and own up to it.

If we don’t work together to show our kids they are valued, then the future and its consequences due to our lack of action is more than I can bear. We need to make intelligent choices, if not, what’s next, death row sentence for making our kids eat their vegetables?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Society needs GPS, we've certainly lost direction.

In light of recent events in Tucson, AZ once again I take time in my busy life to truly count my Blessings.  Yet again, it was “just another ordinary day” for many people in that city.  Let me start by saying that my prayers go out to the families that were directly affected.  I cannot even imagine the pain and hurt Christina Taylor Green’s family (the 9yr old girl who died that day) is going through and all the healing that will need to take place in the years or even decades to come.

I am always happy to hear the updates on the progress Rep. Gabby Giffords is making.  She was there amongst “the people”, reaching out to the community, meet and greets, answering concerns of the people she represents.

I am even saddened by the pain the family of shooter must be feeling. They also must be going through the “why did this happen?” as most of us are wondering as well.

How is it that the greatest nation in the world cannot seem to disagree without violence? Now I’m not sitting here with “rose-colored glasses”, I know that throughout history there have been turbulent times, marches that turn into riots when protestors get out of hand, cowards who prey on the unsuspecting public, it seems never ending but it still does not make sense to me. 

We’ve all had a “heated” discussion or disagreement but does it ever need to escalate to such a level where innocents lose their lives? No, it does not.

Another question that continues to come up is whether or not if “the average Joe” would have received the same media attention and superb medical treatment as Rep. Gabby Giffords.  Again, I am overjoyed at the progress of her healing, but I just can’t help but wonder…if that was my neighbor, your neighbor, a paycheck to paycheck citizen, a homeless person caught in the cross-fire, would all the same resources be available? The very fact that this question even has to be asked is embarrassing and troubling to me. (And I don’t doubt that somewhere out there someone else was probably asking themselves this very question) In a “perfect” world, this wouldn’t even exist, but then again, this world is far from perfect these days. 

Another thing I just cannot comprehend is how or why we as individuals, a nation tend to focus so intently on the negativity around us.  I don’t proclaim to be the poster child for positive thinking all day, every day, but I try daily to get myself in that mind frame and more and more want to believe that there is more good than bad in the world. Does that make me foolish or optimistic?  I struggle, just like most, but there has to be a way to “agree to disagree” to “hear out” others around us without shutting out possibilities for change, for improvement, without killing each other.

There will always be disagreements, neighbor vs. neighbor, students & teachers, parents & children, Republicans & Democrats. How can we look our children in the face, preach to them to “work it out”, “get along” when adults have such a bad track record at this? 

How do we begin to “get there from here”? These events bring forth more questions than answers, but can we turn this into an opportunity to be open to working towards bettering ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation and God willing our world?...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Organic vs. Preservatives & Pesticides

It’s all the rage these days…you hear it everywhere – Organic or Preservatives & pesticides?

How about we go a step further and ask ourselves this question…NOT about our foods, but about our lives.

Are we living “organically” or are we filling up our lives with useless time consuming “preservatives” making everything last longer than it should & look pretty on the outside? Are we using excuses like “pesticides” and telling ourselves it’s for our own good?

Think about it for a minute, how many of us are truly living life as we should? Are we truly happy?  Do we just exist in “obligation mode” doing one thing after another just because it has to get done? What the hell kind of living is that?  Now, I’m not advocating to release yourself of all your responsibilities like caring for your needs or that of your family…no, you should still work or go to school and pay your rent / mortgage, because Lord knows, YOU’RE not staying here with me without a J-O-B.  (LOL). So all my friends and family better keep their jobs and stay in their OWN houses…(LOL)

What I’m wondering is how many of us, really get to know ourselves before diving head first into other relationships or the labels society (and sometimes we do it too) places on us, like parent, child, student, employee, wife, mother, etc. Did we take time to cultivate our talents, our curiosities? Is there a time when people just give up, and why?

Is it ok to dream the impossible dream in adulthood? Remember that grand imagination and the “nothing can get in my way” attitude we had in our youth? Dreaming is great if it doesn’t get in the way of life, right? But can you really live a life without a dream? 

You always hear about being true to yourself (organic); doing what you love, but what if you love SO many things? How do you narrow that down & if you do, are you cheating yourself out of something potentially great? I often ask myself how many other people feel like there are not enough lifetimes to get it all done. Does anyone else out there “go with the flow”, “go through the motions” just because its easier than having that “check & balance” conversation with yourself and laying it all out there? Those are the “preservatives” I’m talking about, the “let me just do this” to make the peace, the “I’d better just go” because I have to.  How many of us hide behind our excuses? Ok, fine, I’ll say it…I’ve done it more than once. How about you? You can get through it for a while and if you have a shred of “sense of self” that nagging feeling comes to haunt you like a pimple coming to the surface on school picture day; its big, its there, staring you right in the face and like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction it “won’t be ignored”!!!

I can speak for myself, right now if there was such a thing as “career-oriented” ADD, I’d be the one to have it. Seriously, I’ve made lists, I’ve talked to people, I’ve prayed and prayed some more, I’ve cried, I’ve gotten angry at my jobs, at my bosses and at myself.  I guess putting it nicely and as comically as I can, my list of things I have done would have some peoples head spinning, it’s like following a road map with 97 loopdy-loops.

So I will wake up another day, take a long hard look at myself and ask…who are you? What have you learned from what you’ve done thus far? And where do we go from here?...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Celebration Tree

It’s January 16, 2011 and yes, my Christmas tree is STILL up. Yes, I know...It’s the middle of January and my tree is still up.
It’s an artificial tree but the emotions derived from its presence are anything but.
It was my first white tree, much like a blank canvas, I suppose that is the spark that started it all in the first place. The creative soul in me just had to have it; so up it went, the lights, like the sparkling stars in a beautiful night’s sky, the shiny bulbs reflecting the light and all the little extras that made it “just right”.
Now I know the tree has become the symbol of the Christmas season, the birth of Christ, the good in mankind, the hope for better days. My question to you is … “why stop there?”…just because the calendar says so? …No, not for me. I like the way it makes me feel and I’m not ready to “take it all down and put it away in a box”; to be contained until someone deems it proper to bring out again.
It’s become more than a “Christmas tree” to me this year. It’s a reminder to celebrate, to reflect, and to take a moment to enjoy the glow.
Listen, life can be hard, this simple little tree is a big reminder that I am not alone in life’s struggles, in its twists and turns and unexpected moments.
Whatever you believe…in God, the Universe, in Mother Earth, the knowing, and the blind faith that something, someone much bigger than us can help us through is of great comfort to me.
Right now, it’s not a Christmas tree, it’s become my “Celebration tree”, it’s been there while we brought in the New Year, and it will still be up throughout the month of January as we celebrate both of my lovely daughters’ birthdays. Perhaps, I’ll hang Valentines and cupids on it in February or President’s Day momentos my little one makes at school.  We’ll have shamrocks and leprechuans in March along with spring flowers and Easter eggs as we go into April.
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll celebrate the most random or “everyday” things, like finishing all the homework or getting dinner on the table on time and no one complaining, or even rejoice in the fact that the dog didn’t steal a piece of chicken from anyone’s plate.
Who says that the calendar has to dictate what, when and how I choose to celebrate, acknowledge and experience the moments in MY life …in my family’s life.
No, it’s “not normal”, it’s not conventional, but then again, anyone who REALLY knows me knows how I struggle with the whole “fitting into the norm” thing…who wants that? A world full of all the same, no quirky differences; So there it is, that simple little tree in the corner shining bright in the darkness of the room, the flood of emotions that fill me as I gaze upon it…the peace, the glowing lights, the sheer joy brings forth hope, excitement and anticipation of a new day--- a new beginning.
The great reminder of how I felt all those years ago, as a small child on Christmas morning.  I want that--- I need that… to greet each day with the same hopes and excitement as a child greets the long awaited Christmas morning.
So there my tree stands, to remind me of my Blessings, to remind me to greet each day with joy and eagerness, to be open to what God lays before me, to rejoice in whatever brings a smile to my face, to fully experience this life of mine, to take the good with the bad, ride the highs and hang tight through the lows.
So I sit here in the room enjoying the glowing lights on this tree—our “Celebration tree” , with a renewed spirit and determination to enjoy the life I’ve been given, be who I am, have the fearlessness and wonder of a child--- ready to do more than merely exist, to experience and be engaged in the moments of my life.
Yes, it’s January 16, 2011 and my tree is still up.