Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 recap

Despite my best intentions, I did not get caught up on blogging during school vacation week.  In hindsight I have to wonder,.. why on earth do I think I will get work done or caught up on things when everyone is home?  Chalk it up to good intentions.

I did spend the week thinking back over the previous year.  I'm not pessimistic, but it wasn't the best of years.  We lost my mom to cancer and spent most of our summer driving to visit her in hospitals and at her home.  The world lost some amazing artists and we saw friends posting about their struggles or losses.

But on other side of the coin there were a lot of good things that happened in 2016 as well.

I was able to chaperone the PHS Band trip to Disney with Becca.  Becca applied to college and we all watched the mail come in.  She was fortunate to receive scholarships to her top choice schools and we watched her graduate in June.  In August we brought her to school and she loves college.  She finished the semester with great grades and today I'm driving her back for her winter semester.

Micaela had a small exhibit of her artwork at our local library and I think was very surprised by the positive comments she received on her work.  She interned for a week at a local art camp and her work is impressive.  We've been to 2 college tours and she was really impressed at one of the schools.

We've bridged from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts this spring and Jacob attended Boy Scout overnight camp this summer.  It was his first time away and surprisingly enough I wasn't too worried about it.  I think those boys wore the same clothes all week and he came home covered in bug bites (because bug spray makes an excellent flame thrower apparently....) and super happy.  He had a great time!  This fall I was able to chaperone a 3-day hiking trip with his class and was super impressed with him.  He lead part of the hike and was encouraging the kids who really didn't want to be there.

I posted on Facebook a few months ago that I've been a scout mom, sports mom, and band mom, and I've now become a dance mom.  Sophia started ballet this fall.  She's asked a few times over the past year and I looked into it this fall.  I gave her a choice of soccer or ballet ... and she chose ballet.  She really enjoys it.  She also began playing the saxophone this fall.

Despite the craziness of our summer we managed to fit in a 3-week camp job and some family day trips.  For a family that never really traveled before, after last summer's college tour vacation we've begun doing more family adventures for which I am very thankful.  While we will all grumpily remember discovering that the city we wanted to visit was not within walking distance of the train station, we did get to find the quirky small museum that was nearby.  We had fun on public transportation and visited some great places.

We had ups, downs, and a whole lot of in-betweens.  I've been reflecting on these for this past week and am really looking forward to 2017.  It can only get better.  I write that not from a place that says we're mired in a low spot, but that we will continue to move forward to the adventure ahead.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post election thoughts

The thoughts expressed here are solely my own.  I feel the need to state that up front.  I'm striving for neutrality and fairness.

3 days ago we voted.  As in any election, only one candidate can win.  Unlike past elections, the response has been quite different this time.  This whole election cycle has been different than most, a large part of this I feel belongs to Facebook, Twitter, and social media.  Another part of this is how we perceive everything we see on a screen as truth.  Whether that screen be in our living room, on a desk, or in our hand.  This was not a clean campaign on either side.  And many non-candidate groups ran their own negative ads or portrayed the candidates out of context.  I personally found it hard to judge the positive merits of the candidates while being overwhelmed with the negatives.

More so in this campaign than in others I think we have made our decision and judgments based on the character we see of the candidate from words and actions that we have seen on a screen.  Possibly knowing (or not) that the presenters of that information only want us to see what they want us to see.  And this is what is making it harder for those whose candidates did not win.  Fear of the reality of many of the phobic or unkind (I'm not a fan of the word hateful, although it can apply) statements made by candidates is not being weak or unreasonable.  Unkind statements about the supporters of the candidates who did not win is not necessarily a move in the direction of a unified and supportive country either.  What we need though is a unified hope that the unkindness being shown currently and in the past will not be the reality in our future.

I've seen friends online who have been mad, happy, sad, gloating, despairing, or complaining about the others who do not feel as they do.  I think this is what upsets me the most.  I posted something similar to this on Facebook, and I don't think anyone has unfriended me yet.  But I'm purposefully not reading the posts of some of my friends because I don't think they realize how hurtful or despairing their words may seem or how out of character they seem to me as I read their posts.

Another thought is that we are often braver posting things online than we would say in front of a large group of people.

Maybe because I'm laying low today recovering from the flu, I looked up both candidates speeches after the election.

Donald Trump's acceptance speech posted on CNN

Hillary Clinton's concession speech posted on CNN

I could not find text of concession speeches for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.

After reading both speeches, reading one of Bernie Sander's post-election posts, and reflecting upon the past few months, I've decided on a few things.  And yes, I originally voted for Bernie Sanders.  However, that does not define who I voted for this past week.  I visited a few candidate review sites and took some online polls that showed me candidates whose platform matched my opinions on the issues.  It was pretty eye-opening for me.

Our country and our government is more than just our elected President.  We have a democracy with a systems of checks and balances.  It is not perfect, but it is not a dictatorship.  Laws and rules are discussed and voted upon in our Senate and House of Representatives.  Choosing our Senators and Representatives is as important a decision for us as is our vote for President.  If you are unhappy with something - contact your Senator or Representative.  Make your voice heard.  Complaining without taking action is like yelling into the wind.  No one is really going to hear you.  Same for regional or local concerns.  Have you attended a meeting in your community? Have you met your Selectperson, Town Counselor, Mayor, or Representative?  Have you volunteered in your community?  Complaining about something, or making negative posts on social media, is not solving anything.  Show up when your elected officials hold a meeting.  State your opinion, vote at local and regional elections.  Honestly I think one of the things that sometimes irritates me the most are the people who complain about things who refuse to get involved in anything that will bring about a solution to what they are complaining about.

Volunteer in your community.  Do something to make your immediate world a better place.  Okay, I know that sounds like a line from the Girl Scout Law, and you're right.  Make the world a better place is part of the Girl Scout Law.  I'm also a Girl Scout leader and I honestly believe that each and every one of us has the ability to make our communities great.  That's one of the reasons I volunteer with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, in my town and at my kids schools.  Step up, you'll be surprised at the new friendships you'll make and the differences you can make in your community and in other's lives.

Show empathy.  It's not that hard.  Being upset that your candidate did not win is not a result of 'everyone gets a trophy for participating' that I keep seeing on Facebook.  The difference this time is that not everyone was online as much in past elections as they were in this one   People are more willing to put their feelings out there, show empathy.  I'm trying to stay neutral here, but phobic, racial, and sexist statements hurt and are frightening.  Many of us know that, some folks just don't.  Using this type of language and actions are just inappropriate and can violate someone's rights.  The rights that we all enjoy and are reminded of today.  It's Veteran's Day and many fought to preserve our rights to free speech and our right to be upset or overjoyed.  Be respectful that my opinion is different than yours.  Show others the respect that you expect others to show you.

Respect and honor that each and everyone one of us is different.  I know I'm mentioning respect twice, but I think it needs to be said twice.  I am honored to consider so many diverse and wonderful people to be my friends.  I am also thrilled that we don't have the same opinions on everything.  Its our differences that make us beautifully unique.  We need to cherish, honor, and respect those differences and not try to destroy them.

Play nice in the sandbox.  Or more accurate - play nice on social media.  Stop bashing each other.  This goes for everyone, not supporters of one candidate over another.  Play nice in the real world as well.  Would you be so quick to make a rude political statement to someone in line at the supermarket as you would on Facebook?  Don't be so quick to judge someone's beliefs or opinions based on their gender or appearance. How I look does not always represent who I voted for or what I believe in.

So to recap:

  • Get involved.  Express your opinion in a positive forum for change.
  • Volunteer.  You can make your community a better place by volunteering and being involved.
  • Show empathy.  Respect others.
  • Respect and honor our unique differences.
  • Play nice. Don't judge others without knowing them.

I'm sure I can come up with more thoughts, but these are enough for now.  I'm saddened by the vitriolic comments I see online and hope we can all honor each others difference to move forward in a positive direction.

Peace, respect, honor, and cherish each other.     gailk

Monday, October 24, 2016

Teachers rock

Last night I saw a linked post a friend posted. And I read it. And it was awesome. So of course, I reposted it. Since I'm not feeling original this morning I'm sharing what I posted:

Honestly, I've discovered I love substitute teaching. However I will admit I would never would want to do it full time. Teachers put in hours of work outside of the school day. They leave me these detailed plans on how to run their classroom when they schedule a day off or are out sick. Could you imagine creating an entire plan for the day for someone to cover for you while you are ill? Teachers rock and they totally deserve our respect.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pawtuckaway North

A few weeks ago I did something I've never done before, I went hiking alone.  I've always had my kids with me, or gone with a friend.  This time I went alone.

It was the first day I was not scheduled to teach or work for someone.  I had a lot of work to do for my businesses, but I decided I really needed a mental health day.  I also had to be back to pick Jacob up from school to get him to New Heights, so I picked Pawtuckaway since it was close by.

It was a great hike!  The top of the North Mountain does not have stunning views, in fact I walked around a bit before I realized I was at the top.  There are a lot of trees, and Pawtuckaway is not a tall mountain.  Parts of the trail were pretty steep and I had to climb rocks.  Not what I was expecting, but it was a great hike.

Yes, I climbed up this.  And another slope that was all rock.

The view from the top.

I had a few reasons for trying solo hiking.  Mostly I needed time to think and recharge.  It was really cathartic to just focus on putting one foot in front of another and to figure out how to climb one of the rocky slopes.  It was relaxing to just sit at the top and do nothing but listen to the wind.  The only sounds I heard were chipmunks, a flying hawk, and my own breathing.  I only came across a few other hikers.  It was a completely different experience, and I really enjoyed it.

Next hike will be with others, I'm chaperoning Jacob's school trip to Mt. Cardigan and we'll be there for 3 days.  I doubt it will be quiet.  But it will be fun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Climbing out of a well

I was having an email conversation with a friend who was cautioning me not to be persuaded to do something for someone.  And suddenly all I could think of was that I was at the bottom of a well.  

I wrote:
I feel like I’m at the bottom of a well and trying to climb up wet sides.  I keep slipping backwards and am not making quick progress.

And honestly, that's what I feel like.  

I feel guilty saying I'm behind because my mom died.  And it's not completely that, it's almost 2 weeks of driving to a hospital out of state every other day.  It's 2 1/2 months of driving weekly 2 states away to visit.  It's the guilt I was feeling for not driving down more frequently.  It's the time spent in the car, 4-6 hours each trip, plus the time spent visiting.  During all that driving and all that visiting I wasn't getting any work done on my business or volunteer work.  I wasn't getting projects and housework done at home.  I wasn't doing fun summer things with my kids.  It's that phone call of 'come down now' and several days of just getting through the basics.  It's a lot of things that didn't get done.  And now they need to be completed and I haven't started them.

And suddenly I'm at the bottom of a well looking up.  And each stone is something that needs to be done so that I can get out of the well and onto level ground.  Except that there are so many things keeping me from climbing up each stone.  I have scheduled classes to teach, my kids need rides to their activities.  I have housework to do.  It's mid September and I've finally posted October classes, but not advertised them yet.  I have organizations emailing to schedule classes and I can't fit everyone in because I don't have the rest of my fall schedule on my calendar.  The stones are wet and slippery and there are just too many of them.

It's overwhelming.

I'm scattered.  And not doing well at keeping up and replying to everyone's needs.  I'm not drowning or treading water, I'm just standing at the bottom of the well looking up at all the myriad things that should have been done that are still waiting for me to reach out and tackle them.

I need several days of no scheduled activities to get caught up.  But my calendar is pretty booked.  I also need a day or two somewhere to just decompress and breathe.  Trying to pick which to do on a day I have a few hours open is my current challenge.  Do I get caught up and climb a bit out of the well or do I take a few hours away to re-energize?  Do I start to climb up the well or do I take a moment to regroup, focus my energies and spirit before beginning the climb?

I think I will go for a local hike, and return to begin the climb.