Sunday, February 19, 2017

Just Breathe...

Every day we are now being assaulted with news...news that is frightening or untrue or crazy or worrisome...news that is overwhelming and disturbing. In the last four weeks, I have listened to more podcasts about politics, read more articles, listened to speeches. I am more politically active than I have ever been, but sometimes it is too much.

I have anxiety and there are often times when I am a ball of nerves inside. If you are looking at me, you may not even notice. I am, mostly, able to manage. The last four weeks, I have to admit, has rustled up more feeling of anxiety than I am used to dealing with. The issues at hand are hitting me from all sides making it, at times, more difficult to manage. I need to remember that this could be a long run.

In these times when there are so many mixed messages and so much information being thrown at me from all directions, I need to remember to breathe. I can't take it all on, I can't take it all in. If I do, my ability to manage will crumble. I don't have the luxury of living in a state of worry all the time. I did that a year ago after Javad's seizure and, frankly, I was no good to anyone.

I feel like I have finally been getting myself together and I refuse to be thrown off the rails. So I will keep telling myself...

Just breathe...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Soccer Church...

Tonight I went to a preseason Timbers Soccer game. It's interesting heading to the stadium and being around those who have been so supportive to me these last few years. I stood in Section 105 and looked across the pitch and felt myself breathe it in. For two hours I felt the stress melt away and just enjoyed the game.

Soccer has been a part of my life for years but after Javad's seizure it took on a different meaning. Soccer became the lifeline that kept me sane. Through Javad's healing, I have found solace in the people, most of who didn't know me before, coming to support me without question. Being a part of the community is a unique feeling, one that I can't really describe. All I can say is that it feels wonderful.

Most of my fellow Army friends refer to the stadium as "church." In many ways it is...it's a place to gather and celebrate something that is commonly loved. It's a place to feel uplifted and sometimes deal with sorrow. It is a place where "Share the Love" is a common phrase. Like a family, there are squabbles and disagreements, but there is support and love too.

One tradition that happens every game is that a group of scarves are placed on the log. These scarves are special and have been given to Timber Joey. He chooses which ones are there for everyone to see. Tonight, I looked down at the log and saw Javad's scarf. I felt so full with joy. This embodies the love and support I feel when I am here. The boy was there...
I am grateful for these people and the joy they have brought to my life these past few years. I am looking forward to heading down to Providence to attend Soccer Church this season...it really is one place where joy is found!

#ptfc #rctid #giraffestrong #standtall

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Taking Shifts...

Tonight on a Facebook thread, I was talking about how rough, on a personal level, the last few days have been. The confirmation of Betsy DeVos yesterday hit at a place that was unexpected. I (unfortunately) watched the  confirmation hearing yesterday and immediately began feeling such a sense of panic. I have spent twenty-five years in the field of Education. I am lifelong learner, having earned two Masters degrees and a variety of continuing education credits. At the end of the day, I came home and cried. I questioned whether the work I have done my entire adult life has been worth it.  Hard work just seems like it didn't matter. It was defeating.


Today, Congress confirmed Jeff Sessions, who had previously been denied a Federal Judgeship due to his history of racist remarks. Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, tried to read a letter aloud that had been written by Coretta Scott King and was quieted. Two male Senators, one from Oregon, picked up the letter and continued to read. This brings to the forefront two issues, one is that we just confirmed a man for the highest legal job in the land that has been known to be racist and the second is that a woman was not allowed to speak due to her gender and the belief that she was disparaging the nominee. Ironically, the two men who did read the letter were not treated the same. This is the one who is supposed to stand for equity for all. I am not sure how that might play out. Time will tell.

The blows just keep coming. I am struggling to see how people can see these confirmations as "good for America." I have never seen a time when I personally have been so blindsided on a daily basis by others opinions. Yes, I know others may have differing opinions than I do and I have tried to respect the opinions that I disagree with. What I am shocked about is that there are so many who have, what seems, a deep dislike for women, minorities, and speaking out for equality for all. It seems that the elderly and those with disabilities are also on the chopping block. We, as a society, are feeling justified in sweeping so many under the carpet and spewing hate.

Growing up, I think about how often we were told to follow the Golden Rule, Treat others as you would want to be treated. Where is that now? Do we want to be treated with hatred and intolerance, because that is how we are treating others. Refugees, that have spent years being vetted and living in treacherous circumstances, are now being told they are not welcome (there is a temporary stay in this order right now), the elderly are being told that their services may be cut, education is up for the highest bidder, children and adults with disabilities are in danger and now, the fox seems to be in the hen house. All of this while Twitter is blowing up by those in Trump-land, and his businesses are making a record profit due to assistance from us, the American taxpayer.

So, back to the conversation today...I am exhausted. Yes, this could partly be because it is finals week and I have nearly 200 students freaking out about their grades, but it's more. I am exhausted to the bone. Each day I am braced for what atrocities may come from Washington DC. I can't believe it hasn't even been three weeks. The news just is horrible and the people in charge have no flipping idea what they are doing. It's frightening. So, I need a plan, one that doesn't give me a daily migraine (like I've had all week) and feel like I have been run over by a truck. The plan is to employ more team work.

I know that I am not alone in how I am feeling. There are many of us that are feeling like we are barely making it. So, it's time to look at a new strategy and here it is...

In times where things are rough, we need to hold one another up but most of all, we need to find rest. Let's take shifts...that way the burden is not on one, rather, we share it together. It may be the only way that we survive this and that, my friends, is Priority #1!!

Monday, February 6, 2017

When you disagree...

This morning I saw a post on Facebook by a friend who talked about a political opinion that varies greatly from my own. I found myself thinking how to handle this...do I unfriend? Do I unfollow? Do I do nothing? This is one of those times when I really needed to examine how I feel about our current political situation and this impacts my feelings about people I know and respect.

Our current president has written executive orders that directly affect me in so many ways.  I teach many students that are refugees. These students often came from camps where they spent their entire lives or were possibly born there. These camps are tent cities or make-shift houses that are dirt floors and essentially four walls. There may not be running water. Their entire day is spent waiting in line to get staple foods that they may then share with their neighbors. They also stand in line for water and other important items. School may or may not happen for these students. These families have waited for years for their paperwork to be approved and often they cannot take everyone, especially if they have sons (or brothers) that are over 18. Those members of their families need to remain due to the "danger" they may present. Families from war torn countries are often separated with the hope that they can be reunited at some time.

Other students have literally fled during the night with the clothes on their backs. They have fled for their safety hoping that they will make it to the border and to a place that will provide them sanctuary. They often spend a year or two or more in a waiting place, a country where their paperwork needs to be vetted and checked. When they finally get the call they must gather their things and go with a day or two notice often missing the opportunity to say goodbye.

Members of my family are affected by the potential Green Card ban. Really? Even Green Cards? People who live in this country...legally, have a job and pay taxes. People who don't have the right to vote due to their lack of citizenship but still contribute to society. These people are being told that they too may be sent back to their country of origin...why? Because after all this time they may be dangerous? Ridiculous.

I have a son with a disability. We are being told that the Affordable Care Act may be retooled and potentially go away. There is no plan to replace it at this time. The ACA allows my son to stay at home, with nursing, and provides us with assistance on his medical care so we don't go bankrupt, although his is covered by our private insurance as well. Our potential Secretary of Education does not believe that students with disabilities should be federally protected so his school opportunities could decrease. Protecting our most vulnerable does not seem to be a priority.

There is more I could say, but it brings me back to the question from the beginning which is "Can I disagree and still remain friends?" This is a hard one because often the beliefs that are contrary to mine are ones I feel are so offensive and even oppressive. I keep hearing that those in Trump-land are "keeping us safe," but at what cost. When do we draw the line and say that we are not acting humanely and with love. When do we recognize that hate and intolerance is being spewed at the highest level? This is not about Democrats vs Republicans because frankly, in the big picture, I don't care.

What I do care about being able to look myself in the mirror and say to myself that I am kind and gracious and willing to help and care about others. I feel, as a country, we are walking this line. So, I am not sure what the answer to that question is...I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thoughts on Trump-land...

I've been doing a lot of thinking about our current political situation, our president and the repercussions of decisions being made. As each day goes by, I realize more and more that those in Trump-land honestly are way over their head. A group of people with no experience are trying to run the country as if it was a business. There is no ultimate boss here, there is a series of checks and balances that were put into place by our founding fathers so that a dictatorship can't happen. Apparently those in Trump-land have not studied much history, nor have a real understanding of the constitution or the way that government works.

In the two weeks since Trump-land has been in charge, I have seen wrinkles form on the face of a man who values his image. He looks tired. I think this job, one he desired because he felt it gave him ultimate power, is more than he expected. A week ago he signed a ban on immigrants and refugees entering the country, which caused a worldwide uproar. A judge ordered a temporary stay on the ban, which caused a slew of tweets from the account that states that he is the "real" Trump-land. A constant barrage of messages stating how this will be overturned, mssages about how he is in charge. The temporary ban was then confirmed by a more permanent ban from a federal judge. More tweets abut how the "so-called judge" didn't have this power and would be overturned. This didn't happen. A flurry of messages stating how this shouldn't happen and no our country is in danger continued to be sent. A message stating that if there is an attack, this judge would be responsible, is probably the most concerning. I believe that those in Trump-land would orchestrate such an attack to be right, to show that they are "acting in the country's best interest." I don't believe that is the case at all...this is about winning, about having one's ego stroked. It is frightening and sickening.

This is a scary time in our world. I don't care what some think. I realize that there are those in our land who feel that things are going well. I feel that they have blinders on and can't see what is really happening. I know there are those who feel that their voices haven't been heard and that they are finally having someone who is hearing them, but at what cost? How many need to be hurt? How many services taken away from those in need? Those who rely on Social Security are worried about having their funds cut, veterans benefits are being affected and those who rely on the ACA for medical care are looking to have that impacted as well.

My hope is that people will being to have the veil lifted from their eyes. Hopefully not too late. Those in Trump-land are being led by someone who is unstable and not fit to lead. He is over his head. My hope is that the actions that are being taken will not result in the instablility of our government. We cannot afford World War 3. We can't afford the chaos that is being inflicted within a few short weeks. The people are woke. The resistance has started and will not subside until things have changed. This isn't about fighting those in power just to fight...this is about fighting for the people who can't.

I know that I have lost friends over my opinions. It is sad but I can't stand by and watch as those I love are negatively impacted by strange "policies" that are intended to be power moves alone. The man in power is not used to being told "no." He is not used to having his directives questions. He is the one that is used to being the end-all giving orders and having others blindly follow. This is not the way a country with a democracy works. The president just doen't have the ultimate power that Trump-land desires. This seems to be a shock to his system, something he had not considered. The tantrums that have ensued are embarrassing and have made our country look weak and unorganized. People around the world are wondering how this could be happening. Only our enemies want to be friends and that is concerning.

It's hard to believe that this has happened in just two weeks. I can't even imagine how exhausted we will be if this lasts for four years. I am not sure that we will survive, frankly. Sadly...I think there may be a time when collectively the country says..."You're fired." I am not sure this can come soon enough.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A political break...time to talk about giraffes

This week there have been many things that have happened. I know that since yesterday much has happened in Trump-land...questioning a federal job and going on vacation. Tonight I decided to do something different...ignore the news. I am taking a break and focusing on something else...Javad, my little giraffe boy.

Many who read this blog know about my son, Javad. He is fifteen and is affected by a very rare musle disorder called Myotubular Myopathy. He is a gentle and wise soul, one who makes me a better person. It has been a long journey with him, spending a lot of time in the last fifteen years in the hospital, sometimes barely surviving. It has been a emotional challenge for all of us.

I am lucky that I have three other great children who, although the times were rough for them too, have loved their little brother unconditionally. It's hard to be a sibling of a chronically ill child...all the focus is on them much of the time. In many ways it is like living two lives, the "normal" life where you go to the movies and other activities, then the "medical fragile" life where so much  depends on nursing and Javad's health.

Almost two years ago, Javad had a massive seizure that almost took his life. It was the beginning of a new time. He was in a coma for almost six months. Since the seizure, he has lost almost all function in his hands and arms. We are now on the slow path to healing. When you have a medically fragile child, life is in moments not hours. It is an exhausting and challenging life. You are constantly on guard, waiting for the next event. You dodge PTSD due to all the life and death decisions that have to be made. In the last fifteen years, I have gained an incredible about of medical knowledge...more than I ever imagined. I can talk as equals with many in the medical field. It's a life I never planned for.

Maybe you know someone with a life threatening disease or someone who's child has been affected by some disease. I beg you to find it in your heart to be supportive. Find a way to support them because they often have nothing to give. Every ounce of their strength is being put toward the most basic needs of themselves or their child, leving nothing else for others, including themselves.

Life is often held together by a thread and that invisible thread is often holding things together. It doesn't take much to rock the boat. A small change can throw things into chaos. It is a balance that is easily toppled.  Patience and kindness goes a long way. Supporting those who can't ask is a gift of kindness and love.

Today I am not focusing on Trump-land but rather the sweet smile of a Giraffe boy who stole my heart more than fifteen years ago. Sometimes those who are the quietest are the ones who are the most powerful. My sweet boy has impacted so many and I feel lucky to be his mother. #giraffestrong

Friday, February 3, 2017

#DressLikeaWoman

As I sit here ready to write, I have so many feelings bubbling up. For most women, the insult "Like a Girl" has been thrown at them in many different ways. Watch the video...it gives great insight on what it means to be told that you do something "like a girl." For each one of us that identifies as a female, we have no choice but to "act like a girl..." because we are girls! We have no option to do something in a different way. We wake up in this body, we have the feelings we have, we are what we are...Who said that doing things "manly" means better? The insult is thrown at men too. "Quit acting like a girl..." The ultimate insult from one boy to another or even worse, from a girl to a boy. Why is this? LGBQT youth are told they are "like a girl" in a way push them down and make them feel less. It is the ultimate slam insult. Why is that? Who decided?

It should be that being "like a girl" means that you are powerful, strong. "Like a girl" means that you can stand for what you feel. Girls are the future. More than 50% of the US population is women. Women are the future. We should be looking at the young women of our day and encouraging them to reach the highest heights. These are the minds that we want to nourish not push down. As a teacher I want to encourage all of my students in the areas of math and science but open the lower the ceiling for my students that are young women. I teach math and have an affinity for science, careers that are underrepresented by women. These are the career paths that will grow the most, the ones where we need bright minds pushing the envelope.

This week in Trump-land, women were told to #DressLikeaWoman. This does not just mean to dress professionally but rather was intended to have deeper meaning. Women were told to wear dresses, skirts, heels and the like. Women were told that they should consider wearing the Trump-land brand of clothing to improve their clothing attire. Dress like a woman? What does that even mean? Women are ranchers, astronauts, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, pilots, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors, businesswomen, and more. I could go on and on. Each of these careers has it's own unique style, each appropriate for the job being done. Why were the instructions on how to dress only given to women? There is a historical opinion in Trump-land that women are incapable of making decisions for themselves, they need a man to guide them. This is the leader we have chosen. The one to guide us and show how to lead. This is who is laying the foundation for our future young men and women...showing acceptable behavior and telling them where the glass ceiling is. Frankly, as an educator, this is frightening...I don't want my students to see less...I want them to see more...more opportunities, more hope, more unity.

It is time to stand up to these statements as well as so many that are being said. Women need to unite and fight. Let's show what is means to #dresslikeawoman...it means a long line of badass women standing in whatever clothing they love and saying "enough is enough!"


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Come together...

I laugh each day when I think about writing my nightly blog..."Who knew I would write a political blog?" I often say. I never have really been deeply interested in politics until this election cycle. Don't get me wrong, where policies have affected Javad and his medical care, where policies are impacting immigrants and refugees, both due to my personal connection as well as my school connection, I have been interested, and of course, anything impacting education has been on my radar, but mostly I feel that I am fighting a battle in the trenches daily and don't have extra time to fight with battles that are happening across the country.

Sadly, those battles are now infringing on the areas that I am most passionate about, my job, my students, my family, my son's health. Now, they are poking the bear. Anyone who has ever dealt with me regarding these topics will tell you that my passion and willingness to fight is pretty strong. I am unwilling to back down from a fight for the things I care about. I stand strong. My mother, who had her own issues in the area of mental health, did raise a strong and outspoken daughter. My father and his wife, who I consider my mom, also encouraged me to speak for myself. I am not afraid and sometimes get myself in trouble because I have overstepped. I am a good wrinkle smoother, but I will work tirelessly to make sure wrongs are set right.

This is where I am now. It is clear that there is so much turmoil in Washington that I am not sure we even know what is happening. We are constantly dodging events, hoping that we will survive the day. I find it ironic that the tone of the political podcasts I listen to has to mention the caveat, "this was recorded at 3pm eastern. Things may have changed by the time you listen to this." Things may have changed...that is because there is a man who is wielding a pen like a sword to cut down all people and things that seem to have ever bothered him with no sense of thought at how it might impact the greater world.

The only way we are going to make it through this time is to band together. The political divide is great. Most republicans are "standing by their man" until I imagine his behavior is so irrational and erratic that even they can't stomach his actions. Most democrats are just hoping for defectors so that some of the craziness can be stopped. I realize that I have friends across the aisle and some may feel that my outspoken feelings about those in Trump-land are out of line, but frankly I am frightened. I have been concerned since the election and I never even imagined that in two weeks so much damage could been done.

Trump-land is filled with friends and cronies from the billionaire world. Friends and family are serving alongside a few others of the meager man variety. People that have virtually no experience but have donated a lot of money are being given powers beyond imagine. It is almost like all the rich have arrived at a party and instead of giving party bags, they are being given cabinet or other high ranking positions as their reward for attending. It doesn't seem to matter if they actually know what they are doing...as long as they receive the shiny medal and office saying that they're important.

Trump-land is teeming with family and friends. From a daughter that is serving as a surrogate First Lady, from a First Lady that has been essentially absent, a son-in-law that is the close advisor and let's not forget about the extreme right wing friend that is now a permanent member of the National Security Council. I mean...what could go wrong, right?

Sure it all seems on the up and up. Congress Democrats are preparing for a massive battle. Essentially we are in the fight for our democracy. It is a surreal and strange to me. I am not sure how many times people have said they feel like this is the twilight zone. I am not sure it will be rewired to bring us back to reality, but I know that we will have to do it together. We have woken up as a country and realized that we have been complacent. We can be complacent no more, but it will take more than one. It will take us all making a stand.

We need to come together...right now...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wearing the scarf....

Today was World Hijab Day, an event that is celebrated yearly at my school. It is an amazing day. Many of our Muslim students bring their own scarves from home to share with other students and staff. Many women on the staff don the scarf before school to wear the entire day while students can get a scarf at lunch. About ten girls proudly attended to students, wrapping their heads and pinning the scarves in place. Staff and students wore the beautiful scarves proudly throughout the day.

I always find it interesting on Hijab day, especially the reactions of the Muslim students. The girls smile and often comment about the scarf and how beautiful I look, while the boys often enter the room and their face breaks into a large smile. I liken it to it being the first time they have truly "seen" me. "Miss, you look so beautiful."

Sometimes when I look at the scarf, a symbol of modesty, I see into the eyes of these beautiful girls. Some of my students wear the Hijab while others don't, asymbol that the scarf is a choice. My students are proud to wear the scarf and, in no way did I feel awkward through the day. As a matter of fact, I forgot that I was wearing it, catching a glimpse occasionally and being reminded. One of my white students remarked, "It's only girls that wear it, right?" "Yes.." "I was thinking I might like it." brought a smile to my face. Breaking barriers one student at a time.

I used to have so many feelings about women wearing the Hijab, thinking that somehow they were being forced to wear it and that somehow wearing the scarf made them lesser in the eyes of others. SInce teaching at my school, I have met a plethora of strong and opinionated women who proudly wear the scarf. Young women who are bring the first in their family to atten colllege in the United States, young women whose families came to the US as an opportunity for their daughters.

Today was a beautiful symbol of cultural awareness and participation, one that is being punsihed throughout our land. Instead of opening our minds and hearts to a variety of cultural beliefs, we are somehow being railroaded into believing that only one faith and one way of living is acceptable, Christian and western. By having this narrow view we are robbing our children of rich cultural experiences that can enrich their future experiences. We should be striving to open our world for our children not close it. On days like this I am reminded that there is much work to be done, but the work we are doing is worthy. We are molding the minds of young people by exposing them to all faiths and cultures.

As I sit here writing and thinking about my day, I realize that the scarf did nothing to dampen my confidence all day. Was I aware that students could focus on my face more, yes. Was I aware that underneath the scarf nothing mattered, yes. One of the girls said I seemed meaner with the scarf (I laughed), but mostly I felt empowered and proud to represent the students I love.

As I sit here, after wearing the scard for 10 hours today, a strange sensation is on my head. The halo of the scarf seems to be there. It's odd but there..invisible. It's almost like I am still wearing the scarf.

#worldhijabday  #istand4hijab

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Educate Me...

Think about applying for a job...You spruce up your resume, write a mission statement, and prepare for the questions you may be asked.

Today I learned something new...when it comes to high ranking government jobs...none of these things matter. Money does.

Today a new secretary of education was confirmed. Betsy DeVos, a woman with virtually no education experienced was hired by the United States Government to lead educational policy. Let's be clear...I am NOT qualified for this job, but I believe, with a Bachelor degree in General Science and two Masters degrees, one in Education with a focus on SPecial Education and a second in Mathematics Education, I am far more qualified than she is. I have experience and desire to improve the quality of education and opportunties for our students...all of them regardless of their social standing, the color of their skin or their religion.

It seems tht we are moving into a new realm in education. Over time, teaching has become a career that is so much more than just teaching.  Teaching is about caring for the student who is hungry, the one who had a rough morning, making sure your students have eaten, calming a student who is stressed about school. Home visits, referrals, so many things besides teaching. Helping students critically think, look at technology in a way that is not just for checking Facebook, creting lifetime learners.

In this new time, a time where the Secretary of Education can be clueless about the differences between proficiency and growth, where IDEA, the federal law that protects students with disabilities, could be "managed by the states," and school choice funnels services and finances from the public schools, creating a bigger gap between those that have and those that don't.

Our new government has brought in people with billions of dollars and practically no experience. The next four years is crucial for education. We need someone who is focused on improving practical knowledge, looking at what we are using testing data for, and providing equal opportunities for all students. We need a Secretary of Education who sees themselves fundamental in providing high tech training opportunties for students, providing internships, as well a scholarship opportunities. A Secretary of Education who understands how to fund a college education, how to help students relieve their college debt, and the idea that service to your country in the areas of education can be life changing for the students.

Education is the most important gift that we can receive...I am concerned about who may be choosing the content delivered. So here I stand, for the students I have now, and those who I will have in the future. I stand for my son, who has a disability and his education and many others are being threatened but mostly I stand for the educational institution, one that I have committed my adult life working in, pouring my heart, sweat, and energy to. This is where I stand.

I am not sure where the institution is going with this latest blow to our core values so Educate Me!