Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Tragedy of Ferguson

I am a white Missouri girl that has spent the last ten years teaching mostly America's minority students. As the events from Ferguson unfolded last night, I was left with my own conflicting emotions. As my newsfeed would fill with everything from compassionate posts to racial posts, I could feel my emotional response to the events simmering. Just as my students need time to process this, I gave myself a little time and here's what I've come up with so far.

The tragedy of Ferguson is so much more than black and white; it's so much more than right and wrong. There are so many shades of gray; so many blurred lines. And so many hurt people. I'm not even go to discuss whether I think the jury's decision was the right or wrong one because I feel that the media did such a poor job of reporting on this and manipulated things to play up the emotional dramatic appeal to the people.

There were victims in this tragedy. So many victims. White victims, black victims, human victims of all races and colors. Here's what I have come to learn. We do have a fight on our hands. But the fight shouldn't be about black vs white. It's about education verse ignorance. Here's what I've learned from our youth- they feel imprisoned by the stereotypes our society has placed on them. Every human in this country fights the injustice of these stereotypes in some way. Every white person is not a racist; every black kid is not a gangster or criminal; every Muslim is not a terrorist; every Hispanic is not an illegal immigrant here to mooch off the system. But too many buy into these stereotypes and pass judgment before they ever allow themselves to stop and think about learning and experiencing any kind of truth to who a person or even a culture really is.

The only way to overcome this I truly believe is through education. I'm not just speaking of the education we can get in the classroom either. I'm talking about the kind where you step outside your comfort zone, you stop and listen, you open your eyes without the blinders of stereotypes and judgments blinding you to truths and realities, and open your heart to learning this thing called perspective and acceptance. We have to start to teach love and not hate. Nothing will change until we do.

We've been studying the Declaration of Independence in my classes this past week. The founding belief of our country can be found in this one line: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." I asked my students to focus on this idea of equality. It's been over 238 years since the Declaration of Independence and as we can all clearly see this is a continued work in progress. The toughest question I asked them and you now too is "Is this idea of true equality a reality we can one day see?"

I believe one of the first things we have to accept is we are not born into equal situations, but we are all born with free will and choice. We all have the choice whether to be a victim of our circumstances or not. The thing I have learned from my students and whether it's the discriminated against immigrant, the poor "white" trash kid, the "black" boy from the hood, the kid of a teenage mother and no father is they made a choice to rise above their circumstances. Along the way they had to break free of those stereotypes and low expectations. But let me tell you they do it every day. I see them.
What I hate to see for these students I've come to admire over the years is sometimes no matter how hard they work to prove themselves, to educate themselves, to pursue this wonderful idea of freedom, opportunity, and equality, is that they are still shackled at times like this by the stereotypes and judgments that are placed on them by society due to the inconsiderate and wrongful acts of some. Some will spend their whole lives fighting these labels to get people to accept them for who they truly are. It is that judgment and the hate that results from these ignorant judgments that will keep us from reaching a reality of equality, and these are the victims I mourn for at times like this.

 The holidays are coming. Be sure to check out Gymboree, Crazy 8, Little Passports, and Shutterfly for holiday shopping deals.  Also Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas  is on sale for $8 through the holidays.   The book is also now available on the Amazon kindle for $3.99 and the Barnes and Noble Nook for $4.99. All sales through the holidays are going to a project for a child in need this holiday season.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The War Within Me at the Fork in the Road

Some of us come to those fork in the roads more than others. I use to think I was one of those that would encounter limited forks in the road because I'm such a planner. My dad and husband like to joke that I probably have the next ten years planned out on my calendar. They're being just a little facetious. One of the things opposite myself I've come to appreciate from my husband is the leap first, think later. And as we've aged fortunately or maybe even a little unfortunately (who ever really wants to grow up) my husband has become more responsible and calculated with his decisions.

As I mentioned months ago in Adult Decisions are Hard we chose a path years ago that I think gives us the opportunity to encounter more forks than I initially imagined for myself. If I had never left home there wouldn't be any question where I'd spend the rest of the my life. But when I stood at that fork in the road the first time I chose to leave, to take the path that would present more forks later down the road, and ten years later I still do not regret that decision. Are there things I miss that I would have experienced on the other path? Of course. Sacrifices had to be made but sacrifices would have been made too if I made the other choice.

Nate and I both grew up in small towns, and there is a lot to be said about growing up in a small town. Not only do we take our children back as often as we can to see the family that is there but because the roots those towns gave us are roots I want my children to understand. In many ways those roots may be more prevalent in their adulthood than where they're actually raised. For some people there is never any choice. They stay and build their families and careers there. I admire that as much as I admire the ones who choose to leave. I'd lie if I say I didn't wonder at times about that path for myself.

After I had my mommy meltdown moment a few weeks ago a reader, who happens to also be someone who knew me personally as a child and teenager, sent me this beautiful long message. In it she understood so much about this feeling of being divided, about this war you sometimes wage within yourself to conform to everyone else's needs and wants or to be true to yourself.  Oddly, it was shortly after this message from her that I heard from Dad, who dropped this hint, that I had recently said something about a five year plan that possibly involved moving back home. Again I find myself divided- do the expected and what others want from me or be true to myself and who I want to be? I find it interesting that her #7 note (remember 3-7-11 are those special numbers to us) of inspiration to me was this; "Never forget who you are or where you came from or what you want to do with your life."  I think this says so much about this fork in the road where we find ourselves.

At the end of last school year Nate started looking for jobs out of state, but he didn't push it too hard because I think we were both uncertain about such a quick decision. As we approached this school year we wanted to use this year to first, get in our tenth year of teaching in Maryland. Second, get a clearer understanding on some things we weren't sure about in regards to either of our jobs before we made rash decisions, and third complete our family before we made any big changes. With all of that complete we said we would feel better about making a more informed decision about what we really want.

Maybe the failure of the third one is a sign. As planned we did become pregnant at the end of the summer and were looking at an April due date. Unfortunately, though we miscarried. We haven't tried again since. Sometimes I wonder is it a sign we shouldn't have three or is it a sign it's not time to make that decision about staying or leaving yet. With some of the things we're considering having a baby at the same time as making that change is not a good idea. This year has helped Nate to see that his goal of promotion is possibly going to happen sooner rather than the later he was told at the end of last school year. There are some positives but also a few negative realities I've concluded from this school year, and either way due to my horrible commute my job situation will change within in the next year or so. I know what I want in a teaching situation now though, and if I can't get that I've also found a career change I'd like to pursue that puts my Masters degree in counseling to work, but again that's a huge fork in the road by itself.

Then there's the question of staying or moving.  I've come to have a great appreciation for experiences. Putting yourself in different situations presents amazing learning experiences and offers invaluable perspective. Settling down finally in one area, one job, one situation for the rest of our lives is enticing in many ways after so many years of change, but I always come back to there's only one life to live. Only so much time to live it. If we moved think of all the new things we could experience. All the new things we would learn from that experience. In one ear I have the voice (all those that want to put down our ideas) telling me that the girls need to be in one place to grow up, but then in the other ear I hear me and Nate saying think of the learning experiences the girls will gain that goes way beyond anything they'll learn in the classroom.

Being the adventurer that my husband is he's started to look into short term opportunities. I know some in our lives that will call us crazy; while others would tell us to go for it. In some ways I think it's the right answer. We could leave for a year or two experience some amazing things and when we're finished there maybe we'll know if we want to stay in Maryland, go home to Missouri or Pennsylvania, or maybe it will be somewhere else altogether. It offers us a whole new career experience, cultural experience, traveling experiences, and probably even more experiences I can't even imagine yet.

Choose the safe path and settle, try for the third baby and give it another year to decide (probably what will happen), or be adventurous and apply now and what happens happens. I also think an opportunity like the ones we're looking at would possibly even be better for the girls when they're a little older for it to have an even more profound influence on them.

Either way the road is smooth right now right where we're standing, and when we're ready I'm sure it'll be an adventurous ride down whichever road we take.


 The holidays are coming. Be sure to check out Gymboree, Crazy 8, Little Passports, and Shutterfly for holiday shopping deals.  Also Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas  is on sale for $8 through the holidays.   The book is also now available on the Amazon kindle for $3.99 and the Barnes and Noble Nook for $4.99. All sales through the holidays are going to a project for a child in need this holiday season.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meet Our Village

Sometimes people wonder how we do it so far from home and family. Our mothers will often tell us they either wish they were closer so they could help or bug us to move close to home so they can help us out some.

It definitely has its hard moments. We've definitely considered packing up and moving back home for those extra pair of hands. Lucky or not lucky for us I guess we've never experienced any other way than raising our daughters so far from family so we truly don't know how much easier or harder one way is verse the other.

Even though we do miss our families and nobody could ever replace them, we are not alone out here. In fact, we've found ourselves a third family we'd hate to leave behind. We have many great, close friends here and back home, but sometimes you have friends that are just more than friends. As anyone hopefully  knows we all have many friends  but even so they all have their own particular role in our lives.

As the years have gone by, we just continue to grow closer to these friends. We tend to spend at least one, if not two or three, weekends a month together. We celebrate our birthdays and even holidays together. We've taken trips together through the years, and in many ways they've become our family too.

These people have come to mean so much to us. The girls love them and think of them as family too.
Our family consists of our dear friends, Dave and Jess and their two kids, Benjamin and Gemma. As I tell Jess they're so much like family anymore I don't even feel need to play hostess anymore when they come to our house it's like having one of our siblings over. And Benjamin. Well, the girls love their Ben. The three of them have grown up together, and it always so much entertainment to watch the three of them together. It's the same with Sarah, who again is like having another sister around. She's so much like an aunt to the girls as they look forward to Sarah time when she takes them occasionally for us, and she nor us think nothing of her correcting or disciplining the girls. Then there's Aunt Jo Ellen who even though she moved three hours away for now (we think she may come back :) ) she's like the fun aunt that thinks conformity and following rules is way overrated and buys them cool stuff.

Then in Virginia we have our two friends that we unfortunately don't get to see as much as we like but over the years have spent a couple weekends a year together. That's Uncle Mike and Daphne and Tony and Sandia with Little T and now Mikayla. Again, these are people the girls, as well as us, look forward to weekends with as often as we can.

These are friends that over the years have become like family to us. We are not here alone. These people know the real us and accept and love us despite all our flaws and craziness. They aren't a replacement for the families we have back in Missouri and Pennsylvania, but we love them like family. So we're okay; we still have our village. I'd say we have a pretty damn good village. Our village expands from Maryland to Virginia to Pennsylvania to Missouri so I'd say that makes us pretty lucky.

Couldn't find many pics of us adults but here are some of the girls with T and Ben.

The holidays are coming. Be sure to check out Gymboree, Crazy 8, Little Passports, and Shutterfly for holiday shopping deals.  Also Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas  is on sale for $8 through the holidays.   The book is also now available on the Amazon kindle for $3.99 and the Barnes and Noble Nook for $4.99. All sales through the holidays are going to a project for a child in need this holiday season.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let's Be Us Again

In my previous post Marriage and Money, I mentioned our biggest struggle as a couple and in adulthood has been financially. As much as this has stressed us out and brought us down, I firmly know there are worse problems in life to have. Either way there have been times I've seriously wondered how we escaped financial disaster.

I've shared many stories about when my husband and I first met, but because maybe he was just a boy or they didn't see him enough or he because he was laid off work our first year of dating, my parents weren't big fans of him at first (they love him now so we all laugh at this now) so somehow with my parents quiet dislike of him, him with no job, and then the open rejection of my parents towards  me and my decision to move halfway across the country with him we were in over our heads and just relying on fate shortly after we met. It was eleven years ago this month that the story of us began.

So many posts I've written have covered the story before but as the story goes both our cars broke down within the first month we moved here, our truck we bought because we had no working cars was stolen within a month the day before we started our new jobs in Maryland. We had nothing besides a TV and microwave so we had to finance everything for an apartment. But we were young and didn't know any better.

Those first couple of years out here we had a blast, hanging out with friends in DC and Baltimore and traveling in the summer to wineries, beaches, and other places in the country. Nate is the fly by the seat of his pants, adventurer, act first think later one. I am the financially responsible, cautious, let me overanalyze everything one. Sometimes I think we met in the middle. I like to think we did. We somehow stayed financially a float, have kept steady jobs, and made time for friends, family, traveling, and fun.

We bought our house in '06 before the housing market crashed. In 2008 when we found out we were expecting our first daughter, the housing market had crashed and on our babymoon trip to the west coast gas had reached $5.00 a gallon. As everyone knows luckily we don't pay $5.00 a gallon still but $3.50 is still a big financial punch when you have two people commuting around 30 miles a day. Shortly after that a vehicle of our left us stranded again. This time for two days three hours from home, and we were in trouble with a $5000 car repair for a car that was only worth about $5000 when we owed over $10,000 on it. We tried to maneuver our way out of that one by trading it in for a car that left us with twice the payment because it was at least newer and bigger but also had to carry all that negative equity from the broken car. On top of that we had the added expense of daycare.

In 2013, Forbes stated that 2008-2013 was the worst five years since the Great Depression. This time was a tough hit to many people, and we definitely felt it. Different people are taught that different things are of higher value and importance than others. To some it's punctuality, some it's work ethic, some it's honesty. All of these things are important, but in the family I was raised in a financial responsibility was one of those top character traits. So financially things got tough and tight at times after we added children.

As our second kid came and the first approached kindergarten we knew we had to move. Again you know that story.  It got tighter than ever. We were able to rent our other house, sold our truck for a down payment, bought a house in a community we could raise the girls, but then had to add back another car payment to replace the paid off truck. We've paid bills late before, but we went a stretch where we could barely make the mortgage. Between the two houses one of them was late every month for six months. The stress that comes when you have more money going out than you have coming in can be consuming. It can suck all your energy, motivation, positivity right out of  you and down that unhappy road you go. It's dark and you're lost and you're not sure what to do to find the light at the end again. As anyone knows, money struggle is not good on a relationship. You place blame, what turns in to just wanting to vent to your spouse results in arguments, and it all just mentally and physically drains you.

We live in a society today where the give up method is acceptable. People give up on their marriages, give up on their financial responsibilities, give up on other relationships or interests. And this may be me someday but I'm not a go down without a fight kind of person. We were drowning and some of it was our own fault because besides the ridiculous gas prices and crashed housing market that plagued so many of us, we also had built up a decent amount of credit card debt from all that living life fun we were having (I wouldn't change this though because living and enjoying life is more important than money).

The financial strain was very real to not just us but probably so many of you as well. For us, we were just going to have to suck it up and get out of this. So the part time work on top of the full time job began. The graduate classes to reach our Masters +30 for higher pay (also the benefit of learning too of course) was on top of that at times too. It was not pretty at times. We were overwhelmed, stressed, mentally defeated at times, and just physically exhausted, and I know we took it out on each other at times, which then added more stress because our relationship was strained at times too. As we stretched ourselves thin there were times the quality of our work sucked, things around the house suffered, we worried if the girls were getting enough of our time and attention, but in the end we both knew the other was working hard for each other and this life that was ours.

I know this is not just our story. I see it in my friends and family who pick up overtime, side jobs, and consulting businesses on the side on top of putting themselves through school. In a time where so many things about people today are criticized, there are some people in today's society that are seriously busting their ass to show that they're not going to let the greatest recession since the Great Depression beat them down.

Have we made our way out of this hole? No way but I feel that our heads are finally above water a little more securely. Recently we hit a crazy peak where our full time job were hectic, we were working our part time jobs at the college on the side, Nate was finishing the very last class for his MA +30, and we are in the process of switching tenants on our rental house in the city. But the dust is settling and our feet are a little more firmly on the ground. We're not living as paycheck to paycheck these days (the fall is always tough after summer) with even some fun money around even during this usually tight time of the year, we have an emergency fund that is hard to access but there if we are ever in a very dire situation, our house we live in has equity (!), and our other house is still slightly under water but within two years should start to have equity as well and in the meantime we make a little bit of money monthly off of it, and through the years we've continued to raise and maintain our credit scores into the solid good range. In a little more time with a little more debt paid off we'll hopefully find ourselves solidly in the excellent range.  We are surviving just as so many others that I see are.

We just kept pushing on and we survived. Eleven years ago we were just Nate & Ang, but over the years we've become Mr. and Mrs. Glenn, Mom and Dad, and at times a few other roles along the way. We wouldn't trade any of that but as I imagine most couples know the demands of life can just sweep you away and before you know it you've lost a little bit of yourself along the way.

After a hectic October of high demands at work, working part time at the college for both of us, and working on renting our rental house back out, I decided something else needed to be a priority for a change. That priority is us. So for a night here later in November as part of his birthday present, we are leaving the girls overnight with family for the first time since they were too little to know any different, for a night away to just be that Nate & Ang that we were eleven years ago. It has not always been easy, but we survived, and we survived it together.

I talk about marriage more in my book, Moms, Monsters, Media & Margaritas, It's avaliable in print for $10. The book is also now available on the Amazon kindle for $3.99 and the Barnes and Noble Nook for $4.99.