In Memory of My Mom, Donna Lee Mormur

My mom

The best person I’ve ever known passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014. It’s her words I speak when parenting my own children, it’s her thinking that drags me to work even when I’m sick, and it’s her advice that still guides me now, at 50 years old.

My mom was raised in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a stay at home mom and a father who worked his way up from mailman to postmaster with two younger brothers, Bob and Jeffrey. Her dad was one of 13 and her mother was one of 3 so family was absolutely everything in her life. Her aunts, including Linda Sue who was a year younger than my mom and never let her forget it, were a source of great love and joy to her throughout her life–her dinners with the aunts were treasured.

To this day I think my mother’s natural class and grace, something our beautiful daughter Bryna inherited, came from her Grandma Houston who immigrated from England. Unfortunately I think Bryna also inherited her germophobia from my mother, who was known to carry two combs in high school-one to loan and one to use.

At about the age of 17, my mom went to a dance. Undoubtedly she was with her friends Alice and Susie and it’s there that she met my dad. There’s no one on this earth that my mother loved more than her own father, except my father. He was trouble in every imaginable way including dragging her across the country when I was only one month old so that he could work in the mines in Montana. It wasn’t long and my mom came home to live with her parents. My dad followed shortly afterwards—setting up house with all of the other hooligans on Francis Road in Plum Borough, until we moved to Renton where there were, of course, more hooligans.

Now if you knew my mom and if you know my dad, then you know that two more opposite people have probably never married. In exasperation, (because my dad could do that to me) I asked my mom, “WHY did YOU marry HIM?” to which she always replied, “I just knew I had so much love in my life and I could give that to your dad.”

Well he definitely returned that love. It took him a while to grow up and to learn how to show it but no one could have loved my mom more or taken better care of her over these last ten years, and especially the last two. Thank you Dad. The last words I heard her speak, in the throes of her last hours, were to my dad, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”Dad and Mom and Me

So what lessons did I learn from my mom? While listed in my mom’s vernacular, if you think about them–they’re not a bad guide to a happy and healthy life.

  1. Avoid public restrooms at all costs.
  2. If someone is picking you up, you’d better be standing at the door when they arrive because they’re doing you a favor.
  3. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
  4. Get a grip!
  5. Good friends make life much better.
  6. Don’t EVER lie (and that was delivered with a smack on the bum at the age of 5, I remember it to this day.)
  7. When mad at my husband, she’d listen to me complain and when I got all done she’d say, “it’s not really worth it Kim, just go give him a kiss and tell him you’re sorry.”(I would think, “did she listen to a word I just said?!”)
  8. Don’t put your kid on a pedestal cause it’s a long way to fall.
  9. No one is perfect, don’t expect your kids to be.
  10. And most important of all, that I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to–my mom is the one person who throughout my entire life believed in me, thought the best of me and loved all of me, even the ugly parts. And no matter what happened, or how hard I fell, her constant response to anything was, “you’re fine!

My mom was loving and caring and thoughtful. She was NOT, however, a patient woman. At Jendoco, where she worked most of her life, I pity anyone she ever trained on anything because GIRL, you better get it the first time! And she told me of a time when her colleague Scott was walking by her office on a Monday and my mother, always polite to a fault, said, “good morning Scott, how was your weekend?” When Scott walked in and sat down to tell her, my mom SAID, “wait a minute! I don’t have time to actually hear about it!”

My children got to witness this infamous LACK of patience when they were little. We got into her car in a parking lot and when she looked to back up she saw someone and said, “oh it’s okay, she’s got a walker.” It wasn’t a five count later when she turned around and said, as only my mom could, “what the hell is she doing back there?!” And yes, they learned the Pittsburgh word “jag off” while riding in the car with their Mimi. See, no one is perfect. 🙂

I can honestly say that the one person my mom had enormous patience with was my brother Ziggy,  “the Prince”. And that’s just because he wore her down, day after day. It was an amazing thing to me as he did one thing after the other that I wouldn’t have dared to do and yet she just loved that kid without fail. Her only regret was being too ill to play on the floor with his 6 year old daughter Kaylee as she did with my two kids. She loved her three grandkids for everything that they are, just as they are.

Even in the midst of my mom’s debilitating and heartless illness, she was looking for a lesson to be learned or someone she could help. She always wanted to be of some use. I found 9 or 10 notebooks in which she’d journaled over the course of her sixties, a decade dominated by her litany of auto-immune disorders. In August, 2011 she posed a question to herself, “In ten years, what do you want to be known for?” Her answer, “being a child of God and raising two great kids.” Next she asked, “What kind of personality do you want to be known for? giving and loving”. And finally, “What three things would you change about your life right now if you could? To stop worrying, not to have this disease, and to just relax and enjoy life”. Always working on herself while accepting us exactly as we are—except for our son Tallon. Her last lecture to me two weeks before her death was in regard to him. She said that people needed to stop telling him he’s handsome because that’s not going to sustain him—it’s what’s on the inside that’s important. She said “don’t get me wrong, I love him and I see how handsome he is, but that’s just not important in life.” Duly noted Mom.

My mom was a beautiful example of class and grace and kindness and love. She inspires me still to try to be a better person. And at the same time, I know she loves me just as I am, ugly parts and all. We were all lucky to have known her

Continuous Improvement at 49

I suppose it could be the advent of the new year. Or maybe the fact that it’s very quiet here at school this morning. Or it may even be turning 50 in another week. But something’s definitely got me thinking about the big picture, life in general and where I go from here. Yeah, it’s probably that 50 thing. And no Dad, I’m not finally having the mid-life crisis you’ve been waiting for since I turned 40.

What I am having is a look at my life, both personal and professional. As my mom has always encouraged me to do, let’s look at the pros and cons, the good and the bad of life at this juncture of turning the big 5-0.

Plus Side/Pros/Assets/Strengths

1. Two great kids.

a. Bryna. Married to another great kid, Cory. Both with solid jobs making good money, house and property (in the Randolph school district–bonus when they finally get around to giving us a couple of grandkids), they’re devoted to each other and obviously in love.
b. Tallon. Graduating from St. Bonaventure with above a 3.0, Deans List a couple of semesters, treats his mama with respect and love, does anything his dad asks him to, headed in all the right directions.

2. Derek. Husband of 26+ years. Still loves me, puts up with whatever I manage to throw at him and I still look forward to seeing him at the end of a long day. Collaborator, partner, friend, love.

3. Family. Derek and I have our parents to talk to, to love, to drive us crazy. My brother and Derek’s sister have beautiful families with terrific spouses and great kids. We all seem to like each other very much.

4. Friends. I, simply stated, have the most incredible friends imaginable. They are fun and funny and they are there for me and love me even when my ugly shows. Took me a very long time to learn this but I understand it now. Friends don’t have to love us but they seem to manage it anyway. Thank you.

5. Career. (Notice how I’ve got my priorities straight–career didn’t come first. And yes, took me a long time to learn this too and I may not be honest here but I know it should be this way, that’s a start.) I love my work, the day to day, the people, the KIDS, the challenges. Not everyone can say that either. I’ve got great coworkers, an incredible BOE, and really good friends among my superintendent colleagues.  I like coming here every day and genuinely appreciate all that I have in my professional life.

Minus Side/Cons/Liabilities/Areas in Need of Improvement

1. Longevity. I don’t want this life to end. It’s big and beautiful and messy and I hate thinking I’ve got maybe 20-30 years left. Or one, who knows. So I’m going to try to put this out of my mind–no control here anyway. Make the most of every day and all that.

2. Health. Why is it that we work all of our lives to do our best, to improve, to take care of ourselves, to make a difference and in later life we may be riddled with physical illness, difficulties, indignities. I don’t like this, it’s not fair, it makes me angry and sad. As my mom says, life’s not fair and we just have to suck it up. Life doesn’t owe us anything. I do wish it would go a bit easier on her, my mom, though.

3. Career Success. I want to do a better job here at Randolph. This week. Next week. And for the next however many years but at least six. The Winter Break always pushes me to consider all of the things I can do better like reaching out to every employee and listening, giving positive feedback and praise when due, visiting more classrooms, writing and communicating more effectively with our entire school community, knowing more of our students and parents, putting together a smart, necessary capital project that’s good for our students and community, attending more events here at school—and—continuously improving my own work performance and the performance of our entire school community. Always looking to those areas in need of improvement.

4. Exercise, taking care of myself. Yeah, yeah. Need to exercise more, eat less, eat healthier. I’m trying!!!

5. Being a better friend. Making my friends a priority, especially those I seldom see like Lisa. Lisa is my college roomie and we now meet once per year in Chicago, for St. Patrick’s Day, and I look forward to it all year. No matter how busy life gets, I know we prioritize each other and our life-long friendship that weekend.

And my resolution for 2014, the same one I seem to have made for the past 30 years–to stop swearing. I’m a smart enough woman to use better words than those so if you hear me messing up on this one, call me out please. Have a wonderful and happy new year and when you see this old lady at 50? Be gentle.

Remembering Larry Wells and the PVCS Class of 1996

I learned of the death of Larry Wells, a young man who I had the great privilege of teaching at Pine Valley in the 1990’s, via the local news and social media. Later this afternoon, I will attend his wake at a Forestville funeral home. I’m writing today to remember him as I knew him, not as the victim of a violent crime as has been widely reported.  Larry Wells 8th grade

When I was a young, first year teacher at Pine Valley Central School in 1990, Larry Wells was a member of my seventh grade class. As a Spanish teacher in a small district, I then taught that incredible class for four years to follow. If you’ve never attended or taught in a small rural school district, I’m guessing it may be hard to imagine what it’s like.

The students know each other, and all of us as the adults working with them, extremely well. I remember entering those classes with my teaching materials on a cart as I taught in various classrooms and had hardly a clue as to what I was doing. Clutching my college notebook, I greeted my seventh graders with the best that I knew–and it wasn’t enough. They were an energetic, close knit handful and I didn’t yet have the skills to teach them well. Luckily, I attended some excellent staff development training early on where I learned cooperative learning techniques. I returned to school the next day, took each class out into the hallway and said to them, “what I’ve been doing wasn’t good enough. From this day forward we’re going to re-enter that classroom and try something new”. They became accustomed to my efforts through four years of classes with me (what a privilege to teach them for four solid years!) and would often remark, “oh no, she’s been to another conference, here we go!”

This was quite a crew, heavy on boys who couldn’t have cared less about learning Spanish. They were all about football from long before I taught them in seventh grade and eventually the boys went on to win the Class D, Section Six Championship. Larry Wells was an integral part of this class and that team. When considering my teaching strategies, I tried anything I could think of to connect my content to football–including elaborate peer tutoring ‘games’ for review that I linked to football.

Larry Wells was one of the best of the bunch. And his wife, then girlfriend Jill Lucas, was too. Larry and Jill were bright, friendly, caring and involved in everything. They were never in trouble, the class couple, devoted to one another. Mostly they joined me in laughing along at the antics of their classmates. Who could resist the humor of Richie, Max, MJ, Michael, Brent, Shawn, Justin or Tim?! Josh Roth and Larry Wells were never at the center of it, but they certainly enjoyed the fun as much as I did. And Jill was blessed with a great group of girls in that class too–girls who were about the only thing that kept that bunch sane.

Larry and Jill

I miss that class. I’ve never known a group of students better or hoped more for them. In my mind’s eye, they’re all just the same as they were ‘back in the day’ at Pine Valley. And something like what happened to Larry should never have happened. Not to him. Not to any of them.

Working in education for 24 years now, I’ve suffered the tragedy of losing students. The loss of Larry Wells to his family, to his coworkers, and to his friends is devastating. For the family that we were as a faculty and the Class of 1996, we grieve too.

All of my love, thoughts and prayers to Jill Lucas Wells and Larry’s loved ones. You are not alone, we stand with you in honoring and remembering one of the best kids I’ve ever known, Larry Wells.

A Little Time May Go A Long Way

Perhaps it was turning another year older yesterday on my birthday or maybe it’s just that we’re all thinking more about how much we value our family and friends after what happened last month in CT–but I’m thinking a lot these days about how families support one another. Often times without knowing it, the little ways in which we interact have a big impact. I see it here at school. The ways in which teachers and administrators and support staff will make an extra call to check in on someone that’s in need or do a fund drive on a casual Friday for one of our families or just spend an extra few minutes listening to a student who’s in trouble or staying after school.

When I was a kid, I grew up in a small coal mining town–you know the type, Oak Street followed by Maple Street followed by Pine Street with alleys in between, a little store, a fire hall and the elementary school. The coal mine was at the bottom of the hill and just about everyone’s father worked there. You could walk around the whole town in 20 minutes.

My very best friend lived across the alley from my house. I was on Oak Street and she was on Maple Street. I practically lived at her house. It was so different from my own home which had a working father, a working mother, me and my little brother (who I wanted to strangle 99% of the time). Monica had sisters! She lived in a two bedroom house with her dad and brother sharing one bedroom, while she and her sisters Mickey, Ilona, Darice, and Corinne shared four bunk beds with her. And at least one or two nights of the week, the neighbor kid, Kimmy, spent the night too. Why they allowed me to stay over so often in a home already crowded with siblings, I’ve no idea. But I’m grateful that they did so. I had a sense of family there that was different than my own and I found them to be fascinating.

If Monica and I had a fight, as adolescent girls often did, I felt no judgment. They didn’t get involved. They just waited for us to work it out. As my own mother did. They let us be kids, to make snacks in the middle of the night and sleep out on the porch and watch terrifying movies. And the older sisters were role models to me. Ilona was a middle school English teacher at our school, Darice taught me how to drive, and Corinne was a little sister to me.

And then there was Mickey, the oldest sister who was a nurse. She was so glamorous to my young eyes. Working different shifts, helping people in ways I couldn’t imagine, and DATING! I watched the older girls come and go as they went to work, dated, fell in love and got married. It gave me a sense of what life would bring some day. I learned by watching and I’m sure I was just the kid from across the alley to them–never giving a thought to the impact they were having on me. Where my parents seemed so strict and unyielding, they listened and understood. When my father forbid me to go somewhere, I went to their house which was always allowed. I’m so grateful for the time that they gave me.

As Mickey nears retirement, I want them to know how very much I appreciate every trip to Vince’s pizza, every time they carted me along to one of their apartments as they began to move out on their own, and every way in which they included me in their family. Monica was a best friend through my growing up years, as solid and true as a friend could be. I was the older of the two of us and so I left first, followed by my family moving away. As these things sometimes go, we lost touch after that as we went off to college and changed–evolving into different people as adults. But I’ve never forgotten the Tresco girls and all that they taught me about changing from a girl to a young woman.

As we interact with the young people in our own communities, as we allow our children’s friends to spend one more night or stay for dinner yet again—realize what a big difference you may actually be making in the kid’s life. Without even knowing it. Families aren’t just the ones we’re born into, they’re the friends we hold dear too.

More Than Geography: Wayne German

Sometimes a teacher is so much more than the man at the front of the classroom. I had many good teachers throughout my education, but one man stands out. We lost that man this morning when Wayne German passed away. I’d like to tell you about Mr. German and how he affected my life.

Wayne and his wife Marilyn lived about ten houses away from ours on Oak Street in Renton, a little coal mining town. Wayne was about the only man I remember living there who wasn’t a coal miner.  I remember the day I started seventh grade at Plum Junior High School. Wayne was the 8th grade Geography teacher and he sent for me in whatever classroom I was in. Having no idea why I was called to his room coupled with the fact that I was a bit terrified anyway in the new school, I was relieved that Mr. German just wanted to make sure I knew that he’d be keeping his eye on me and that he’d be sure to share any information he gathered with my dad.

I remember little of the geography Wayne taught us in 8th grade, but I remember other things he told our class. Expressions like “no boys are going to buy the cow if they can get the milk for free, girls” and “you better get a good look at the girl’s mother before you marry her because that’s what you’re getting into” have a way of sticking with you. Wayne was the wrestling and football coach. He used to take me along to wrestling meets to keep stats. Let me tell you, in Pennsylvania, wrestling is a BIG DEAL–and by being with Mr. German, I got to be a part of that. I felt like somebody at an age when I had no idea who I was or what I would ever be good at in life.

Wayne and Marilyn have two beautiful daughters, Nicolle and Kimmy. Wayne always said he named her after me. 😉 They asked me to babysit often and Wayne always drove me home afterward, even though it would have been an easy walk. He and Marilyn were friends with my parents. Marilyn and her twin sister Marlene were part of my mom’s “Card Club”, the group of women who taught me the most about adult female friendships and how invaluable they are. They were the grown ups of my childhood, those who began to teach me what adulthood would look like.

Years later Wayne came to visit me in Gowanda, to meet my family and to see where I landed. He brought along his teenage nephew, Cory German, and we had a nice lunch.  We remembered the days in Renton and then Wayne told me something I’ve never forgotten. He acknowledged that my dad had been hard on me during those years and then he said that it must have been worth it since I’d turned out as well as I did. I thought I had the strictest father on the planet and by most standards I did—to hear Wayne acknowledge it just made me feel a little bit better about it.

Wayne German had a way of seeing the best in everyone and in me. At a time in my life when I didn’t think much of myself, this tough, rough talking neighbor, teacher and friend showed me that I was worth having around. No big talks, no self esteem boosting strategies—-he just gave me the gift of his time and attention. Included me. Made a difference in my life.

I’ll be traveling to Pittsburgh for the funeral this week and I’m sure the place will be packed with other former students who were taught, coached, mentored and cared about by Wayne German. I’m so honored to be one of them. Love you Wayne, you dwell forever in my heart and in my own actions with students. I hope God’s got a coaching job all lined up for you and that you get to walk and run and dance again. Rest in Peace Coach.

Doctoral Degree?

I am completely undecided about something. Indecision isn’t common for me. If you’ve got a thought on this one, could you please consider helping me out with a comment or two?  Here’s the decision:

I’ve been seriously considering starting my doctoral work for almost a year. Where to do the work? I’ve researched a couple of options nearby and a few on-line opportunities. What? I’ve done some extensive research on the difference between PhD programs and the EdD programs. I think I’ve narrowed down the where, when and what of the decision. What I’m stuck on is the why and to what end?

The cost of the doctoral degree is significant. I’m looking at $38,000 to $70,000, depending upon the detail of the decision. Even given the lower number of $38,000, I won’t recoup that in career advancement. I’m in exactly the career and the district that I want to be in so I’m not looking to do this as a way to improve my employability and I don’t need it for certification or licensure.

Why am I considering it? A couple of reasons. It’s the next goal for me, the next thing to achieve and as a life long “climber”, I’m always looking for my next challenge. I also think that starting my doctoral degree will help me to remain in Randolph–that it will give me that challenge that I always seem to need, without moving to a larger, tougher, different district to get it. I love the idea of completing my degree via an on-line university so that I could experience on line learning first hand and better understand it. I also wonder if it will afford me a structure for my thinking as I work to accomplish another goal of writing that first book. I’m excited by the idea of the coursework, I love researching, analyzing and writing.

Why do I hesitate? That’s a huge chunk of change for something that’s not really going to take me anywhere in my career. I know, I know, it might some day, you never know where life will take you–but it might not. I’ve worked hard every step of the way, on my own, to accomplish what I have–and education has been one key component that opened those doors. But now I’m here, can’t I just be satisfied with where I am? What return will I get on this investment? Is it worth it?

Fifty And A Lifetime

I’m scarcely able to complete a thought lately, what with budget season at school and our only daughter getting married in eight days. Add to that my husband’s birthday tomorrow–and it’s a BIG ONE–and I’m about at my limit of events and details to consider.

In the few hours between school and the Chorus Concert the other night, I ran to the local pharmacy to pick up his birthday card. I stood in the card department at Inkley’s Pharmacy, looking at the “age” cards.

What I felt is hard  to describe. I stared at the cards with the big number 50 emblazoned on the front and I thought, “how is this possible that I’m buying this card for my husband?” Seriously, how did this happen? Didn’t we just have my mom’s surprise fiftieth birthday party last week? I know all of the cliches about time flying and gone in the blink of an eye and best time of your life–but REALLY? FIFTY?!

When I look at my husband, I don’t see fifty. I see the boy who took me to 10 Minute Oil Change or through the car lots and then to dinner on a date. I see the man I’ve traveled and camped and boated with for almost thirty years. I see the man who held our beautiful babies and raced to the ER with me every time one of them (Tallon!) injured something  and I see the man who was a better parent than me from day #1. I see the man who has absolutely, unconditionally loved me every moment of our marriage.  I see the man who patiently answers every off the wall question I throw at him and who, maybe second only to my mom, sees the very best in me despite my numerous faults and mistakes. I see a guy who is fiercely loyal to his family and friends and who never backs down from a fight. I see the partner who encouraged me to try a million different things including skiing and water skiing, wake boarding, snowmobiling and roller blading and all the time saying, “you’re not that uncoordinated”. And inside I still feel like the same girl he met when I was 18 and he was 21 and we were just two kids at college.

I know I’m not the first person to feel or write about these things. I know what I’m feeling is normal and inevitable. I’m not regretting getting older. Heck, life has just gotten better and better with every year so how could I regret all that’s brought us to where we are now? I just can’t help remarking on it all–this incredible, wonderful, big, beautiful life we’ve had together. I want it to go on and on.

FIFTY?! Never been better Derek. In my head and heart, I  see the same man, the one I’ve loved for a thousand years. Happy Birthday!

Plum Mustang to Randolph Cardinal

A fellow alum on Facebook passed along this YouTube video created by students at my alma mater, Plum Senior High School. I love the enthusiasm and excitement shown by these students. And come on, the Buffalo Sabres or the Pittsburgh Penguins? Black and Gold all the way!

I can’t help remembering what an amazing experience high school was for me. Look I know it’s not that for everyone, my kid brother included, but it was for me. School was a place where I started to figure out who I was and what I was good at–which was often to my own surprise.  Perhaps my experiences as a Plum Mustang influenced my later decision to go into education, who knows?What I do know is that I have a first hand picture in my head of an outstanding high school experience–one which afforded us with lots of different opportunities to succeed and to become involved. A place where I felt safe and where the adults cared about me. Frankly, a school where we learned what we needed to know and had a lot of fun at the same time.

I’m certain it shapes my thinking of what school looks like to this day. I’m grateful that I landed in a superintendency in a district like Plum, one that includes community support, extreme enthusiasm for our kids and all of their successes, and opportunities for our students. Now when are our Randolph students going to produce a YouTube video of their best from the Randolph Rumble? I’m laying down a challenge Cardinals. . . 😉

The Shriver Report

Maria Shriver’s report, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, was published on October 16, 2009 and is down-loadable for free. I’m still not sure what I think about the full report–read it for yourself– but there are a couple of things that I just can’t leave alone.

The premise of the report is that it describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. Chapters include among others: The New Breadwinners, Family Friendly for All Families: Workers and caregivers need government policies that reflect today’s realities, Sick and Tired: Working women and their health, Better Educating Our New Breadwinners: Creating opportunities for all women to succeed in the workforce.

I’ve not expressed my opinions on working women/mothers often. Largely I’ve been quiet because I don’t want to generalize or take away from someone else’s struggle, which may be real. So here’s my disclaimer, loud and clear, I am NOT generalizing or speaking of any other woman’s experience but my own. This is my personal experience with the topic at hand.

I don’t want anyone “creating opportunities for women”. I have thirty years in the workforce. Thirty, started when I was fifteen and have worked as everything from a sales clerk to a 7/11 manager to a secretary and then on to teaching and now administration. Throughout my education and in my professional life, I have never once been discriminated against, left out, eliminated or treated differently because I am a woman. Never. I worked hard and with ambition. I have gone after every job I’ve ever wanted, competed against men and women, and succeeded. Because of who I am as an employee/leader/thinker/problem solver–NOT because of my gender nor despite it.

Any talk of equalizing the opportunities for women is galling.  I’m proud to know that I can now sit at the school superintendents’ table as an equal without ever having been given a hand up. I have succeeded on my own merit and would compete against any male or female superintendent who I know for a position, without hesitation.

Next, I’ve succeeded while raising two kids along side my working husband. We’ve done it together as a team, we sought out and hired excellent caregivers when our children were small and we’ve shared responsibilities. I can remember feeling guilty for leaving my kids at the same time that my sister in law got to feel guilty for staying home and not providing an income. Hogwash. It’s a personal choice that a family makes and neither is right nor wrong. How we work out the details is what makes the difference.

“Sick and Tired?” As far as my health goes, I would challenge that my involvement in the work force, my commitment to learning, my ability to set and achieve goals are the same qualities that get me out of bed at 5:10 am to get on the treadmill, exercise, eat right and make healthy choices. I also maintain friendships with other working and non-working women who all do the same things. We support and encourage one another.

“Workers and caregivers need government policies that reflect today’s realities.” And here’s what really has me furiously writing this post–the conclusion of Shriver’s report is, get this:

The academic research, anecdotal evidence, personal reflections, and poll results that make up this unique report all confirm that recognizing women now constitute half of the workers in the United States is only the first step. The second is identifying what we need to do to reshape the institutions around us. We can then begin to take the necessary actions to readjust our policies and practices.

Yep, that’s just what successful hard working women like me have been waiting for all of these years–GOVERNMENT policies and practices to help us figure it out because goodness knows we can’t do it on our own. ARGH! Perhaps our government should just mind their own business, something that could sorely use their attention.

Parenting a Driver

Practically every time my son or nephew drive somewhere, I can be heard reciting my mantra, “be careful, don’t speed, pay attention”. I’m sure they don’t even hear me anymore. I also want to know specifically where they are at all times. I’m sure there are times when they resent it and think it’s because we don’t trust them, but I wish they could realize they’re doing this for me, for my sanity, my sense of well being. Why? Because the biggest fear I have as a parent is that one of them won’t think, won’t be careful enough, or will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s little I can do to control the situation and keep them safe so I become maniacal about reminding them to be vigilant themselves. If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with our closest friends, Tina and Ed, at ECMC as their son Jacob was in critical care ICU. Same thing as above, Tina knew where he was and where he was going, and instead of the text from Jacob that he had arrived at Hallie’s, she received the phone call from a classmate that there had been an accident. Jake dumped his motorcycle, landed on his chest, collapsed his lungs and broke a couple of ribs. Our dearest friends got to see their boy on the side of the road and then wait for Star Flight to take him to ECMC. No control, nothing they could do to make it better, nothing they could have done differently to keep him safe short of locking him in the house and preventing all freedom (which doesn’t work either). Just watch their son suffer. Luckily Jacob will survive this. He will go through many hours, days and weeks of recovery but thank God, will survive.

This is what we most fear when our kids leave each time. I wish every teenager could see the anguish that Tina and Ed have to endure. And I wish they would think of it every time they leave the house, take a risk and feel invincible. The reason we’re so terrified as parents is because we know you’re NOT invincible and we remember thinking we were too. And we’re old enough to have helped friends and family through the pain of losing someone so precious.

Jacob wasn’t the only one to crash this past week. Our own Mary Rockey’s son was in a similar accident last weekend, complete with helicopter ride. In both cases, the boys will recover. But read Mary’s words she sent in an email to me (repeated with her permission) and then read this to your teenagers to help them understand–they are everything to us and even when they think they’re invincible, remind them that we’re not and it’s more than any parent should have to endure.

Mary writes of her son Michael after his accident,

Thank you for your understanding. I certainly hope we never go through anything like this again. He is like glue at my side, his choice as well as mine. He sat most of today with his head in my lap watching the boob tube. His brother is being so kind and loving that all of my concerns about them killing each other has passed 🙂

Later we rode up to see the spot of the accident, found one of his shoes and some clothes in the ditch and a few pieces of car. We also found his IPOD in a large puddle of gas and oil. It still works. The phone is gone so I will get him a new one.

Then we went to see the car. He had gotten some presents from his aunt and uncle who are visiting this week (thank God my brother in law drove me to ECMC last night because I don’t know if I could have done it). He was quite happy that his Penguins Stanley Cup shirt was unscathed. We couldn’t get the glove box open. The car is totaled but its strength and his seat belt saved him. I can’t tell you what it is like watching the helicopter fly overhead and know you are over an hour away from your child, unsure of his condition, where he is injured. No one needs it. He told me last night on our way home that he felt God’s arms around him in the car as it rolled. Surely it is true.