Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Promise

It has been a little over a month since the Sandy Hook shootings and not a day goes by that I don't think about the 26 lives lost that day. Each day as I step foot into my workplace, my mind almost immediately goes to Connecticut, and I think of that horrible day.

Unusual, you may ask?  Not if you find out that my workplace is an elementary school.   I am a "special area" teacher at a local elementary school and spend my weekdays teaching students in  grades K-5, working with close to 150 different kids in one day.  Thirty of the kids I see each day are first graders, the same age as the 20 sweet children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Just days before that dreadful day in Newtown, CT,  our school had a safety drill. For the protection and safety of our students, I cannot and will not give details on the actual drill or procedures, but I will tell you that every time we have this drill, at least one student asks why we have it.  My answer is almost always something like, "to practice being safe" or to "help keep you safe."  Many times students will discuss among themselves before or after the drill that we have it to practice "hiding from the bad guys" or to "lock the bad guys out."  Many times I've had first graders or kindergarten students during one of these drills, and I always have a few that are scared, even though they know it isn't real.   I've always reassured them that they are safe, that we do the drills to help to protect them and that they are in one of the safest places they could ever possibly be.

When I've had to review procedures for the drill, I've seen and felt the wide eyes staring back at at me, filled with either fear or wonder.  I know they are thinking, "What could be so bad in school that we would need to hide in the first place?"  I know some have to be imagining what the "bad guy" looks like or what he might do to us.

I've even likely said to a few of them "nothing bad would ever happen here." Or other similar words.  I know I've thought many times in the past that this type of thing would never even happen at elementary school. It isn't likely or common for elementary students to bring guns to school to shoot other students, right?   And who else would want to shoot a bunch of elementary school kids anyway?   *sigh*

I can't help but think that the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary had those same thoughts and uttered those same words whenever they had to reassure children during their school safety drills.  I can't even let myself go to the place they might have been mentally on December 14, 2012,  when "all hell broke loose."  Whenever I even start to think of what that must have been like I just about lose it.  I know I am not the only teacher in my building who thinks this way.

I also know I will be thinking of them next time (and the next time, and the time after that. . .) we have one of our school safety drills.  How could I not?  And I know I won't be the only one. 

And then I think, "How did we get here?"

How did we get to the point where those types of drills are even needed in the first place?  Why is it that we have to teach our children to hide from "bad guys" in one of the places they should feel safest?  The "real world" can be a scary one to elementary school students.   Heck the real world can be scary for students of all ages! That "big scary world" isn't supposed to invade their schools, playgrounds or homes!  They should always feel safe at home as well as to go play outside or go hang with friends at the local mall.  And children most certainly should feel safe when they go to school every day. 

I remember being in elementary school (it was just yesterday after all, right?) and the only drills we ever had to practice were the ones to protect us if the school should catch fire or a bad storm were to develop in the area.  I never ever once worried about someone coming into school to hurt me or my friends or teachers.  Sure there were times when walking home I looked around and made sure no "bad guys" were following me, wanting to kidnap or hurt me.  But then even that was rare and typically only after we'd had seen a "stranger danger" program at school.   And I know I didn't think twice when walking into any school building about being safe.  The only time I was probably ever scared while at school is if we had a tornado warning and had to take cover,  yet I was always confident my teachers and principal would keep me safe.

What has become of our society that children now have to worry about being safe at school in addition to all of the other scary "real world" places? What has become of our society that when parents have to kiss their kids goodbye in the mornings,  before putting them on the bus or dropping them off at the school door, they have to hope and pray they will have the chance to kiss them again at the end of the day?

I am just in disbelief that we have so failed as a society that many of our children can no longer truly feel safe anywhere anymore.  That thanks to some crazy people, our children have to worry about this happening at their school, the movie theatre, or the mall.

I thought about making this post about gun control,  because all of the "latest talk" has gotten me really thinking about all of this again today. However,   I am not writing this to start a debate. Guns after all, are just part of the problem.  I just want to make people stop and think, to stop arguing and to listen.  Is that too much to ask? 

Yet I will say, we have failed as a society when we care more about our rights to own guns and stockpiles of ammunition,  than we do about keeping our children safe, giving them proper health care or keeping them warm at night.  I reeeaaaalllly don't want to make this post about gun control, but I don't think I will ever understand why so many people are so against having tougher laws when it comes to buying and owning guns? So many times I've heard, "What about knife or rope control?  Those things can kill people too. What about that?"  Well, the last time I checked, knives and ropes are tools that were designed and are MAINLY used for a different purpose.  Unfortunately they are also used by a some people to kill sometimes.    However, a gun is a WEAPON, not a tool, that most people use to hunt for food or for sport, but unfortunately too often are used to KILL PEOPLE.  Big difference.  And what about those special guns that kill bunches of people all in a matter of minutes? Do we really need to own those? Really??

I don't want to hear the argument or the saying that "guns don't kill people, people do" ever again.  It is true, guns don't kill people all by themselves.  However SOME of the people operating the guns USE the guns to kill people WAY TOO OFTEN.  And many of those that use the guns to kill people are mentally ill or just plain bad and evil and hey,  they can buy guns at Walmart or on the internet (without anyone ever checking to see who they are)!  Yes, we as a society have failed them too.

And again, I don't want to make this about gun control, because like I said, guns are only PART of the problem.  We have failed as a society when we care more about ourselves than each other and don't want to take the time to look more closely,  to take our noses away from our computers, video games,  smart phones (guilty as charged) and other devices to notice the people around us.

When is the last time you really got to know all (well most) of your neighbors?  I think I have people on my block that have lived near me for over 10 years that I've never talked to, not even once.  FAIL.

How many of us would even recognize a nearby neighbor if we saw them in the grocery store?   That is not how it was when I was growing up.  Granted, I know we didn't know everyone, but we knew most of our close neighbors, had block parties and other get-togethers, and ran around outside for hours with our friends.  It is not like that anymore.

And don't get me started on how we really fail as a society when it comes to helping each other.  Sure we are great at helping in times of disaster or sickness, but what about all of the time?  So many of us don't want to help the poor, the homeless, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly,  or our children - I could go on and on - not if it means giving up some of our hard earned money. We are too selfish.
This goes beyond gun control. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves, stop being such a selfish "all about me" society and start caring more about each other, just like we did in the "olden" days.  Not just in times of need, but all of the time.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, I loved hearing about how so many people across the country and the world, were participating in "26 Acts" of kindness,  to honor the memory of those 20 children and 6 adults taken from us way too soon.  I even did some of those "kind things" myself.  But I couldn't help but thinking how great it would be if we could act this way all of the time.  That maybe if we were a kinder, more caring society, that we wouldn't have as much of this "bad stuff" happening.  That our children would feel safe to go to school again and no parent would ever have to worry that when they kissed their precious little ones goodbye in the morning, it would be for the last time.
 And that if there were someone thinking of hurting our children (or hurting any human being for that manner) that we'd recognize right away that something was wrong, we'd know the "warning signs," that something wasn't quite right, get that person help right away, and maybe even prevent anything bad from happening!  Wow, what a thought! You mean if we care about each other and take care of each other, of EVERYONE, we might actually stop something bad from happening?

Don't get me wrong, I am lucky enough to live in a community where I see a lot of kind acts going on around me all of the time.  I know so many caring and giving people,  I am proud to live where I do. But I also know we could do more.

I know I am going to make a promise to myself and to my community.  As a teacher, I owe it to my students to do what I can to help keep them safe both in school and in our community. To start with,   I recently made a special promise, in honor of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims AND survivors, and I'd love to see you do the same.  Please click here for more info and please help spread the word.  This is the least you can do. We all have to work together to stop this sort of thing from ever happening again. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


I am not 43.

I do not have an 11 year old who will be in middle school next year.

She will not be driving in only 5 more years.

She is not almost as tall as I am.
No way.

My baby is not 9 already.

She will not be a 4th grader next year.
I will not have two teenagers in just a few short years.

My nephew is not 18.

He does not graduate in a few days.
He is not going to be in college this Fall.

No way can any of this be possible!

I'm in denial.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Wish and a Prayer

I am a big believer in community and that we should help and support each other as often as possible.  I see and hear about so much selfishness in our country these days it makes me sad. There are so many people (politicians come to mind)  doing all they can to help themselves and not enough people doing more to help each other.

Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to live in a community full of giving people.  I witness almost on a daily basis, so many random (and not so random) acts of kindness that I am proud to call this community my home.

Several years ago our community rallied to help a local teenager needing expensive cancer treatment.  Just a few days after the news broke about his illness and the insurance company's refusal to cover the treatment, people in our town raised more than enough money to cover the treatment and related expenses.  Such kindness is what makes it hard to imagine ever living anywhere else.

I've also seen the Internet community rally and help people in need. When there have been international disasters, such as the Japanese Tsunami or the earthquakes in Chile, people have spread the word, sent donations via text, etc. I've also seen the Internet band together here locally for tragedies such as the Indiana State Fair stage collapse and more recently, the Southern Indiana Tornadoes.  The kindness and outpouring of support is always so heartwarming and just shows me that no matter how far apart we are, we are all one big community.

Now it is my turn to reach out to my local and Internet friends for help, not for me, but for my friend Mike and his family.  Mike has been sick for years now, with a condition yet to be diagnosed.  Now his son, a freshman in high school, has been stricken with a similar illness and one of his daughters has been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The medical bills are mounting and it is getting more and more difficult for the family to cover those everyday expenses.  Due to his illness, Mike hasn't been able to work much and even though his wife is working, it is just not enough anymore.

I can't possibly do their story justice on my blog so I am posting a link (below) to a website Mike's sister started for their family.  At this point, every donation will help no matter how big or small.   

I am also a big believer in the power of prayer and positive thinking, so If you can't help out financially, please send your positive thoughts and prayers his way.  I'd also love for anyone who reads this to share this with your friends and family as well as sharing the story on Twitter or Facebook.

We may not all live in one city or town, but we are all a part of a community called the Internet and we have this wonderful tool called Technology.  So let's put our computers, smartphones, tablets and social media to work and do something good for a wonderful family who needs us now more than ever.

Click here to learn more about Mike's story and how you can help:

 Indiana Jones Family Wish Page

Thank you!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A True Gem

I have lived in the Indy area for about 13 1/2 years, moving here just a few months after Bill and I married, and the same year as Peyton Manning's rookie season with the Colts.  I remember that football season well, even though we didn't move here until November of '98, well into the football season.  Peyton's name was all over the news, so it was hard not to notice him.  Peyton had a great 1st season, despite the Colts' losing record of 3-13, setting all kinds of rookie records and winning the hearts of people all over the Indy area, including mine. 

Peyton's humble, boyish charm (along with his amazing athletic skill) quickly won Indy fans like me over that first year. I was never a huge football fan, especially not when it came to the NFL, until Peyton Manning came along.  Watching him play was so much fun, that as soon as one game was over, I was already anticipating the next one. Even when he had a bad week, I could never be mad or frustrated with him.  After all, no one is perfect.

I've never known Indy without Peyton, so the thought of living here without him feels sorta like a best friend suddenly moving away - getting an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach, not knowing when you might see him again. Except that we will likely see him again, wearing another team's uniform, winning over a new set of fans. Next fall, no matter where he might end up, I am sure to have a bad case of fan envy, jealous that another city has him as their own.  

Peyton Manning (center) warming up at Colts Training Camp, August 2009

 My girls are sad too. Peyton was their favorite and the only Colts quarterback the girls have ever known.  They don't understand why he's leaving, and why would they? No matter how many times we explain that he is a professional, that playing football is what he is paid to do, that the NFL and the Colts are a business, they just don't get it.  They see football only as a sport, something to do for fun and to entertain fans, not for a way for someone to make money.  One of Kiki's favorite toys when she was little was "football bear, which was a Peyton Manning Beanie Baby that she carried around everywhere.  Ah, memories. *Sniff*

I am not normally one to put celebrities or sports figures high up on a pedestal.  I think in general professional athletes are overpaid and so many of them parade around like they are so much better than everyone else. Often you hear of a football players getting arrested, beating girlfriends or wives, or driving drunk and making a fools out of themselves. But not Peyton.  

 One of the reasons he is so popular with so many different people is because he is so humble and down to Earth.  After a big play, he might flash a quick smile after completing one of his spectacular touchdown passes, occasionally patting a few guys on the back on his way to the sidelines. But then he gets right back to work, talking with his coaches and fellow teammates, plotting out his next play. No dancing around or running to high five fans in the end zone.  No spiking the football or jumping all around chest bumping other players.  And he doesn't throw fits when he doesn't play well. Sure, you might see a grimace or shake of the head when a play went horribly wrong. But then he'd get right back to work, trying to see how he could fix his mistake.

Peyton meant so much more to Indy, to his fans, than just football. He was a fantastic role model for thousands of boys and girls. He gives much of his earnings to charity, including making a huge donation to a local children's hospital, which is now named after him. Not only did he donate his money, but he invested many hours off of the field and off season to help so many in need. Whether it was coaching or mentoring kids, participating in a fundraiser, hosting a football game for HS students or visiting sick kids in the hospital, Peyton was always dedicated to helping people in our community. Not only did the city and Colts fans embrace Peyton, he embraced us as well.  He always made sure we knew he was part of this city, that he wasn't just here to play a game.  I wish there were more like him in sports and in life.  He is a true gem.  

Peyton Manning accepting a community service award, August 2009

So life goes on in Indy, for the Colts, without Peyton.  I am still a Colts fan and won't jump off any bandwagons just because he is gone. I know he was out all of this season with a neck injury, but it will still be awfully strange when football season starts next fall, to see the number 18 jersey hanging from the rafters and not on the back of a player I was used to seeing on the field every Sunday.

 Thanks for a fantastic 14 years, Peyton. You may be gone from Indy now, but you will always have a place in our hearts.  

Girls at Colts training camp August 2009

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Broken Record

I haven't written a post since October, which is probably one of the longest dry spells I've had since I've started my blog.  I really hate that I don't post more often now, but life has just zapped about every ounce of creative energy I have left.  Motherhood, work, taxiing the girls to and from activities, house work. . . rinse and repeat. . .

I have plenty of inspiration and reasons to write, but when I do manage to find the time, I find I can't even write a sentence.  I feel like a broken record, as I know I've said this same thing, on this very same blog, so many times before in the past two years.

I know probably should give up and quit this blog, but I just don't want to let it go.  I don't even know if I have any readers left, but my purpose for starting the blog in the first place was to have to have an outlet to share my experiences as a mother, not reach out to an audience.  Connecting with readers and meeting and tweeting with other bloggers has just been a wonderful perk.   I don't even know if "Momexperience" is an appropriate title anymore, since so much of what I want goes way beyond being a mother.  Yet I don't know what name really fits my blog (I am, however, open to appropriate suggestions). 

 Kiki scolded me the other day because I haven't written a post about her in a really long time.  She said she loved reading what I wrote about her, so now I am feeling quite guilty.  It is not that I haven't tried. A few months back, I had an entire post written all about her and how she's grown up so much, only to have it disappear into Internetland.  I tried to recreate it, but since so much of my writing is "in the moment, " it just wasn't happening. 

Here's to hoping I can get started writing again. . I do have a few posts in the works right now, (including one about a recently departed, beloved sports figure here in Indy).  Maybe if I'm lucky, I will  have one of them up before the record skips again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One More Thing

 Upon hearing the news of the death of former Apple CEO,  Steve Jobs, suddenly I felt old.  He has been an American icon 3/4 of my life, and I am having a hard time accepting he is gone. I never thought his death would impact me this way, that I would feel so sad. But it has.

I grew up in an "Apple" family. We got our first Apple when I was a 'tween, and I knew nothing different when it came to computers, until I married my husband, a "Windows PC" guy. I still owned an Apple when we got married, but he dragged me over to the dark side when it was time for us to get a new computer.  Even though I was resistant at first,  I eventually accepted Apple's rival device and learned how to use it with very little trouble.  But this new Windows computer's  operating system was modeled to be like an Apple, so it really wasn't that much harder to learn.

But I always had that longing. Every time I'd see an Apple ad on TV or in a magazine, I'd wish I still had one. Then for a while, when Apple wasn't doing so hot, I figured I was better off knowing how to use a Windows PC.

My parents, however, both still owned Apple computers and pretty much swore they'd never buy anything else (my brother drifted to the dark side well before me). My mom worked for a university and was surrounded by Apple products, so she wouldn't have dreamed of owning anything else.

My dad was more or less the same way. He was loyal to the brand, despite being forced to use Windows products when he was at work. And when the iPod first came out,  he was forever hooked. You see, my dad has a ginormous CD collection and so when iTunes and the iPod came along, it was as if they were made just for him. He eventually imported every CD and LP he owned, to his Mac computer. He was able to easily make endless mixed playlists, something he loved to do, and take them with him on his iPod everywhere he went.

Fast forward a few more years.  I was using a laptop with Windows software,  but getting very frustrated with its constant crashing and other annoying issues.  We'd had it a while and I was more than ready for a new one but that was just not in the budget.  Knowing this, my mom gave me her aging laptop (she was upgrading and buying a new one) and I got a chance to experience the "new" Apple firsthand.  I wasn't sure at first, afraid they would have changed their product so much it would take me months to figure everything out. But using an Apple is like riding a bike - once you learn how, you never forget.

I eventually got another, "newer" Apple laptop (thanks, Mom) and found my way back from "the dark side."  Now I work at a local elementary school teaching technology to students in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade. My job is to help to integrate the technology with the curriculum the students are learning in their classrooms. And of course, no surprise here. . . the students use iMacs and many of the teachers use iPod touches to teach their students lessons in the classroom. Our school also just got a set of iPads and are slowly, but surely, moving our way to being a "21st century school."  I also teach the students about the technology they use and help them become familiar with some of the well known "Tech Wizzes" like Steve Jobs, who passed away just one day after I discussed him with my students. He was my "tech wiz" of the month this past September.

I feel like I've come full circle.  I strayed for a bit, but found my way back to Apple products.  Not only do I use Apple products at school (my work laptop is also an Apple),  but we have a house full of products displaying that now famous logo.  My husband was the first in our family of four to get an iPod and now he has an iPod touch.  We bought my daughter, Kiki, who is almost 11 years old, an iPod Nano for Christmas last year.  I have an iPod, iPad and a Mac Mini, which was a birthday present from my husband for the girls and I (since we all use Macs at work and school). We have an Apple TV, my anniversary gift from my PC guy husband, who also just pre-ordered my very first iPhone (the 4s!!). 

Apple products have become part of our everyday lifestyle.  I rarely go one day without using something that was once just an idea in Steve Jobs' brain.  I am typically not one to spend more than an an hour or two mourning the loss of a celebrity, but this is different.  Steve Jobs became famous for helping to create some of the worlds most used and beloved products.  He had the idea to create a computer that the average person could use, no matter their skill or knowledge.  Whether you use Apple products or not, in some way or some fashion something you use everyday (or quite often) was created to be just like it, or even better, may have even been designed or created on or by a person using an Apple product.  Steve Jobs' wasn't just the Apple CEO, he was an innovative genius and I can truly say he changed my life. I have no doubt he changed America.  He certainly belongs in the same category as those other famous "game changers" like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell.

I will not spend my days mourning him, but I will honor him the best way I know how - to continue to use the products he loved so much and wanted to share with the world.  To continue to teach and hopefully inspire the students I work with everyday, and my own children, to work hard,  to learn, and to never give up on their dreams.

Steve Jobs said it best with this now famous quote, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for never letting anyone "drown out" your inner voice, for believing in yourself even when others did not, and for giving us that "one more thing."  RIP, Steve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Light a Candle

Like so many others, I was shocked and saddened when I heard the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial. Since I read about the verdict, I've seen all kinds of people wanting to light candles, leave their porch lights on, etc., for Caylee. I've read all of the cries of outrage on Facebook and Twitter. I even expressed my own shock when I first heard the news.

However, I want people to remember that there are thousands of cases of abused and neglected children in this country every year;  hundreds more are murdered. Sadly, many of their perpetrators never spend a day behind bars because the laws related to crimes against children just aren't strict enough. And when people are convicted of these crimes, they often receive a slap on the wrist, and are not punished severely enough. 

The media coverage of this trial was complete overkill.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of others stand trial (or are waiting to) for doing unspeakable things to children, yet their cases never make the news. I don't know if I will ever understand why the media was so fascinated by this particular case, and why people let themselves get sucked right into the coverage of the trial. Sure I read about it, wondering how someone could ever hurt a child this way, yet I know this is just one of so many other cases like this.  

So many people fail to see this type of thing happens in their own neighborhood,  sometimes practically right in front of their eyes.  Maybe the circumstances aren't the same, but that doesn't make any one of those children less important, or any of those perpetrators less evil. I'm not saying that Caylee isn't important, but just hoping people realize she is just one of many children who suffer at the hands of some sick and cruel individuals.  

 If you want to do something for Caylee, turn off your T.V.'s, computers, and put away your cell phones for a while.  But before you do, post a Tweet or Facebook Status, and share this message. Invite your friends to join together and leave a porch light on (or light a candle) not just for Caylee, but for all of the abused, neglected and murdered children who so badly need our attention.    

We can best honor Caylee by speaking out against child abuse and other crimes against children, and demand tougher punishments for their perpetrators. The news media can honor Caylee by turning off their microphones and cameras and finally let poor Caylee rest in peace.