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Don’t Complain. Especially If You Are A Part Of The 80%.

I recently saw a Facebook post written by a teacher where she described two different interactions with parents regarding school supplies.

It’s a post from last year, but now that it’s that time of year again, the post is resurfacing.

In a nutshell, one parent was complaining about how much money she had to spend on school supplies for her kid, and the other parent was completely supportive and understanding about the whole thing.

As a parent, I get it. With five kids in the public school system this year, we will spend between $100 – $200 getting everything on the school lists for our first, second, third, sixth, and seventh graders.

As a former teacher, I also get it.

When I first started teaching, there was money in the budget for most supplies.

We got paper and pencils and crayons and scissors and tissues and almost everything we would need for our students. And then, as budgets were cut, those things were some of the first to go. And gradually, students were responsible for more and more supplies until eventually, they were responsible for pretty much all of them.

It’s not a fun position to be in as a teacher or as a parent.

But here is the thing…

Parents.

You do have some say and some influence in this department.

But it’s not by complaining to the teacher. It’s not by complaining to the principal, either.

Your influence comes at the times that most parents choose to be ignorant and oblivious.

Every year there is a vote on our town’s school budget.

The first five or six years we lived here, I was completely uninvolved politically. I was as clueless as you could possibly be.

If there was a budget vote, I couldn’t even tell you when it was.

Ignorance was bliss.

Until my kids entered school and I saw the f*&@ing supply lists.

HOLY SHIT.

They were massive!

How many goddamned glue sticks does one kid need?

It took me a few years to educate myself with respect to local politics.

And I don’t have the exact numbers. Not even close.

But here is what I have learned:  the percentage of people with children who vote on school budgets and who attend Board of Ed and PTA meetings is embarrassingly low.

And I know it’s not just my town. It’s every town.

It’s something like less than 20% of parents who vote.

But it’s 100% of parents who complain about how much money needs to be spent on school supplies.

You know where your influence is? It’s at the polls. It’s at the Board of Ed meetings.

But you have to be involved. You have to speak up.

And you also have to approve budgets.

The last time one of our budget increases for the school was shot down, the increase in taxes per family was something like $38.

Thirty eight dollars.

A year!

You could be involved, know what’s in your town’s budget, speak up regarding what you are unhappy about, and approve a $40/family increase that could pay for a lot of those supplies you complain about having to buy, or you can remain completely uninvolved, bury your ignorant head in the sand, and shell out two or three or four times the amount of a proposed tax increase at the beginning of the school year depending on how many kids you have in the school system.

Those school supplies you are paying for? They aren’t the teachers’ faults.

They are the parents’. The 80% of the parents who don’t want to be bothered participating in the decisions that will affect their kids in school in the years to come.

And waiting until your kids are in school is not early enough! But the time they are in kindergarten, there are decisions that have been put into place that could take several years to reverse.

You need to get involved well before your kids are ready for kindergarten!!! You need to get involved as soon as you are a taxpayer!

So before you complain this year about how much money you have to shell out for your kids’s school supplies, first you might want to consider a few things.

Did you vote on your last school budget?

Did you vote in your last local election?

Are you even registered to vote?

If not, you really have no right to complain about anything.

And instead of spending time bashing school systems and teachers in an angry Facebook post about how much shit you have to buy, maybe you should focus your energy on being a responsible citizen, filling out a voter registration card, and educating yourself on what is going on in your town.

 

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With Love and Kindness

When I first started writing this blog, I would occasionally get comments from people who would reprimand me or criticize me or just completely go off on me for any number of reasons.

And back then, being inexperienced and new to blogging, I had thin skin. I also didn’t know what trolls were, so I would very often fire back with a scathing post to shut them down, and then I would ban them from the Facebook page or delete their comments on the blog.

And sometimes I would take it a little bit too far.

A few years ago, I posted a picture of one of the kids who was doing something stupid in the kitchen and he or she (I can’t even remember who it was or what the hell was going on) had a plastic bag on her head.

And a reader commented something along the lines of “Take that off, PLEASE!!!”

It wasn’t even an out of line comment, I don’t think.

But I got super defensive, and then a back and forth between the two of us started, and some other people chimed in in my defense, and then people started to kind of gang up on the woman who left the comment.

And I didn’t like the direction it was taking.

And for whatever reason, I was able to take a step back and look at myself and look at the comment and realize that it didn’t really come from a “troll-y” or judgmental place.

It came out from genuine concern.

And so off the page, privately, I messaged this woman. And I apologized to her.

I think I apologized to her, anyway.

And what happened from there is that we became Facebook friends.

That was about four years ago.

Her name is Beth.

And Beth has been a big supporter of mine ever since then.

I don’t know Beth extremely well.

But I know she is a breast cancer survivor.

And I know that her perspective has been shaped by that.

I know she is positive and supportive and kind and empathetic.

And even though we aren’t super close, there have been many times when I’ve taken a step back and thought to myself, I bet Beth would think this is a pretty stupid thing to be getting all worked up over. 

And then there are random times where I have written a post and Beth has sent me a message letting me know she’s noticed a change in me. For the better.

I often get messages from people telling me that I’ve helped them or reassured them or inspired them.

But what I don’t think everyone realizes is that I am very often helped and inspired and reassured by you.

And Beth has really helped me on many occasions to do some serious self reflecting. She has helped me to grow.

She supported the GofundMe campaign that was started for me by a group of my friends when we were in the midst of our financial crisis.

She supported the GoFundMe campaign we started for Patty.

She has supported me in my triathlons and marathons and donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on my behalf.

She is the most supportive and generous person I know (who I have never actually met).

If there has been an instance where I have asked for people to vote for or support anything, Beth has done it.

And you know what else?

She signs all of her correspondences like this:

With love and kindness,

Beth

And it’s not a cheesy thing. She genuinely wishes that for everyone.

Love and kindness.

So since she has been around here from the beginning, since she has always supported me, since she has (often unbeknownst to her) helped me to take a step back so many times and think about whether something is really worth getting worked up over or not, since she has helped me to focus on what’s important in the big picture, I’m asking for you to help me support her.

It won’t cost you anything, and it will take you less than fifteen seconds…

Beth and her family are highly involved in mentoring, and Beth has been mentoring a nineteen-year-old named David for the last 15  years since he was six years old.

And she’s been nominated for a once in a lifetime opportunity because of her dedication and support and work as a mentor.

In the words of  David’s mom,

“Beth has given so much, time, energy, guidance and most importantly love to David, there aren’t enough thank yous in the world to send her. Helping get votes for this amazing honor has been the first big thing, so if you can please help me thank Beth I would appreciate it very much.”

Basically, Beth is one of the most selfless people out there. And because of that, she is one of four people from across the country who has been nominated to win a cruise from the National Mentoring Partnership.

And it would really mean a lot to me if I could use this blog to help her win.

Because she has really helped me.

All you have to do is CLICK RIGHT HERE and vote for Beth T. It’s not one  of those things where you can vote every day. It’s just a one time thing (although you can vote once from every device you have).

Ten seconds of your day can help give Beth the trip of a lifetime.

Ten seconds!

We all have ten seconds.

It can be your random act of love and kindness.

Click right here.

Beth totally deserves it.

 

Check out Betsy Boo’s Boutique — SUPER CUTE STUFF —  my favorite  place to shop online!

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Don’t Be A Dumbass

I have made quite a few mistakes in my life.

If I had to do it all over again though, I’m not sure I’d change too many things.

Most of the questionable decisions I’ve made in the past forty five years have taught me quite a bit about the kind of person I hope to be and have helped to shape me as a parent.

Regrets?

I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.

Except for one. One really big one.

Our family moved to Brookfield six years ago. At the time, we had five children.

Since moving here, we have added two more to the mix, and next year we will have one child in each of the schools in the district.

But the school district we moved here for and the school district that exists now are nowhere near the same.

And it’s getting worse.

The “gentlemen” running this town do not care about the quality of your children’s education. They do not have children of their own in any of our schools. Our First Selectman does not even own a home in Brookfield.

But these men who have no skin in the game (and no home in the town) are making all the decisions for those of us who do.

They are not striving for academic excellence. They do not care whether or not your children receive the best education possible.

No. The fact of the matter is the majority of the members of the Board of Finance believe that if you want a quality education for your children you should pay for it yourself.

They will keep your taxes as low as they can. But they have no problem telling you to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a private school so your kid can get a decent education.

And as much as I’d like to say that the embarrassing state of our town and the deterioration of our school systems rest on the shoulders of the handful of men who have managed to obtain most of the decision making power in Brookfield, well, that just wouldn’t be true.

They are not the only problem.

By being unaware and uninformed and uninvolved, I have been a part of the problem.

And if you are uninvolved and turning a blind eye, then you are a big part of the problem, too.

Believe me, I get it. We have a lot of kids. We have baseball and swim team and concerts and homework and a billion other things to do every night.

Going to PTO meetings and Board of Ed meetings and town meetings is not my idea of a great time. It’s boring. It’s not fun.

But you know what is even less fun?

Seeing the opportunities your children have for growth and development slowly being stripped away.

Paying for your kids to play a high school sport? That sucks.

Yes. For those of you who have little kids who are not yet in the public schools, those middle school and high school sports teams you played on for free when you were a kid?

You have to pay for that now because the BOF cut so much money from the education budget.

Sure, they will save you $40 in taxes next year.

But in return, you’re gonna have to shell out 150 bucks for your kid to play high school basketball.

You can do the math.

But your kids might not be able to by the time they get into school. Because by then who knows how many teachers will be left in the district.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Programs are being cut. Teachers are being cut. The Board of Finance is not giving our schools even the minimum amount of money necessary to meet our children’s basic needs.

It sucks.

And if you do not involve yourselves in what is going on in Brookfield, if you don’t register to vote, inform yourself, and then actually get your butt to the polls, things are going to suck even worse.

My children are all going to miss out on opportunities because I chose to be ignorant and lazy.

And I regret that.

Don’t be a dumbass like me.

Get informed. And get your butt to the polls and vote on the town budget tomorrow (TUESDAY, MAY 19th), and even more importantly, in November when you will have the opportunity to elect people into office who truly care about your children.

Don’t know who to vote for?

Ask questions. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s not as overwhelming as you might think.

It’s certainly eye-opening.

And once your eyes have been opened, once you have educated yourself, you will want to make your voice heard.

It’s not too late to make a difference.

Whether you vote yes or no, get your ass out and vote.

Get involved. Now.

Your kids are depending on you.

Our teachers are depending on you.

And the Brookfield that we all moved here for is definitely depending on you, too.

 

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Don’t be a loser. Vote.

Today I voted for the first time ever in a town vote.

It took me 44 years, but I did it.

That’s all I got for you today.

But I think that’s enough.

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