Monthly Archives: February 2014

Choose

choose

Another Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker.  Today’s word is CHOOSE

I actually thought this word was easy.  I have to make choices everyday. We all do.  What to wear in the morning, what to make for breakfast, what to bring for lunch…easy choices.  Choices that don’t require a lot of thought.  But what about the big things we have to choose.  Until recently, I didn’t have to make a lot of those.  When we had to choose whether we should take my mom off of life support nearly a year ago, it was the hardest choice I had to make in my life.  I am grateful that it was a choice my family made together because if I had to do it alone, I don’t know if I could have done it.

Last year, Dave and I chose to get both of our boys classified.  Now, nearly one year later, it was the best choice we could have made for them.  Drew is having the best year of his entire “school career” and loving every minute of sixth grade. DJ is doing better as well and my only regret is that we did not make the choice sooner.  Over the next year, DJ will have to choose where he will go to college.  He will have us to help him and guide him in the right direction so it is not a choice that he will have to make on his own.

From such trivial things that we have to choose everyday, to the big important issues that we are faced with now and then, we just have to hope that the choices we make are the right ones…or at least steer us in the right direction.

Rare Disease Day

rare disease day

Tomorrow, February 28th is International Rare Disease Day.  The objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.  It is held the last day of February every year.  It was started in 2008 – a leap year, (a rare occurrence.)  Every year has a different theme.  This year’s theme is CARE, “Let’s join together for better care!”    A disease or disorder is defined as rare in the USA when it affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time.  

Patients, families, friends, caregivers, scientists, physicians, researchers and health care providers come together to help raise awareness for rare diseases and improve access to treatments and medical representation for individuals with rare and genetic diseases and their families all across the world.

My nephew Mikey suffers from one of these rare diseases.  His is called, Mitochondrial Disease.  Tonight my sister is with some friends that she has met through this organization.  They are out spreading the word about Rare Diseases.

According to The National Institute of Health,

There are about 7000 rare diseases identified in the United States. About 80 percent of rare diseases are genetic in origin and it is estimated that about half of all rare diseases affect children. Rare diseases can be chronic, progressive, debilitating, disabling, severe and life-threatening. Information is often scarce and research is usually insufficient. People affected face challenges such as delays in obtaining a diagnosis, misdiagnosis, psychological burden and lack of support services for the patient and family. The goals remain for rare disease patients to obtain the highest attainable standard of health and to be provided the resources required to overcome common obstacles in their lives.

I am sure that every bit of recognition is a step in the right direction – so share and help to spread the awareness.

Witnessing History

hatred Nelson Mandela

As I sit and listen to all this nonsense, (in my opinion) about “allowing” homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  I mentioned to my sons today that I feel like we are witnessing history as it is happening.  We are living in a time that years from now, people will be writing about and saying, “I can’t believe that ever happened.”  When I teach my students about segregation and about amazing people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges they look at me with amazement because they can’t imagine not being in a school with children of all races and ethnicities.

Maybe in a few years down the road, it will be the same regarding same sex couples .  How wonderful would it be if children can grow up in a world where they can think, “I can’t believe that every happened…”

I have written several times about the amazing town that I live in.  Maplewood, NJ is a special place.  Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, once called Maplewood, “the ‘peak’ of the state’s most gay-friendly residential ‘corridor,’ stretching through a swath of western Essex County.”  Here in Maplewood, we are already on the right path.  With such diversity in our town, our students don’t even realize there is anything unusual about each another.  It is just the norm – and that is the way it should be.

College…Are we ready?

dr seuss places you'll go

It is happening….

The emails and brochures have been arriving for college.  DJ is a junior and it is Spring.  I knew it was coming, but how did it happen so fast?  Is he ready? Are we ready?  Wasn’t he just starting Kindergarten yesterday??  Wow that time went fast!

When he was a little boy, he told us he would only go to college in New Jersey so that he’d be close to home and to us!  Now, I don’t think a NJ school is even on his radar…unless of course he takes our suggestion of a year of community college before committing to a four year school.   He has barely talked to us about it until very recently.  Our questions were always answered with a, “I don’t know,” or “I am not sure,” when we asked what he was interested in.  Now he is opening up and talking more about it.  He seems to want a small liberal arts type school and maybe study Business or Communications, but of course that could all change.

The SAT’s are in a few weeks.  Then, I am sure he will start pursuing the college search more.  My father of course keeps pushing American University.  He went there and so did three of his four children, (me included.)  I am not sure if that is the right fit for DJ.   Whatever he decides on, it is going to be a big change for all of us.  I will look towards my friends who have gone through this before me for direction!!   As for now, I found this bit of advice from College Admission: From Application to Acceptance

In the end, our job as parents is to leave them with both the right size sheets and a sense that they are well equipped for this next, independent stage of life.  The challenges are no greater or lesser than when they arrived eighteen years ago.

Inspire Others

doing good feels good

Our annual 100th Day Food Drive was a success!

Our students and teachers had been collecting food since the beginning of February.  Today, we gathered it and lined it all up in the hallway outside of my classroom.  I lost count but there were close to 2000 items.  It makes me so proud to live and work in such a great community.

Our school is a K-5 school and I know that the older students understand why we do these food drives, but when my five and six year old students see that number of bags and the amount of food, the looks on their face is priceless.  The best part is that they realize why we are doing this.  We talk about how there are people in our own neighborhoods who cannot afford things as simple as food and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a difference.  Even at such a young age, they are demonstrating a social responsibility and helping others.

The bags I purchased yesterday worked out even better than I thought they would.  We stuffed them as much as we could.  At the end of the day, close to 150 bags and boxes of food were packed and ready to go.  I am so grateful to the teachers, students and parents who helped to pack up cars and deliver the food.  It would  have never have gotten done without their help. I am especially grateful to one former dad, Chris, who still comes back and helps us out every year even though his daughters no longer attend our school and to my husband Dave who comes and helps with all of my “projects” all of the time.

I don’t do these projects to get praise and accolades from others.  I do it to raise awareness.  If we, as parents and teachers, can begin to instil empathy in children at a young age, perhaps we can inspire them to continue to make contributions to society as they grow.

FOOD for thought…

feed the hungry

Tomorrow is our school’s annual 100th Day Food Drive.  We challenge every class to collect 100 items of food by The 100th day and we donate it to two local food pantries.  Last year brought in a lot of food and it is our hope that this year does the same.  Unfortunately with so many snow days and the winter break, collection has been a bit slower than it has in the past.  We are hoping for one big push tomorrow to get the classes to their goal.

In the past we have used large bins for collecting but after a few years of the collections, we have dwindled down to just a few bins and unfortunately those bins are snowed into our garage.  Today, Drew and I went to a convenience store in town to try to buy recyclable shopping bags so that I could give s bunch to each classroom.   I am hoping that they will be stronger and more durable for transporting the food than paper or plastic ones.  I was hoping to get a good deal on them since they were for a community service project.  No such luck at the first store.  They had some but weren’t willing to sell them for less than a dollar and I needed over 100 of them so that wasn’t going to work!

We headed over to the local Pathmark.  I was hoping that if I could speak to a manager, perhaps we’d get lucky.  As we walked in the front door, we passed a bin FILLED to the top with them.  They had Superbowl XLVIII on them and since the Superbowl is over, they were all on clearance!  Twenty cents each.  I brought one to customer service hoping that there was no limit and there wasn’t so Drew and I scooped up all 115 that we needed for only $25!  (I love a bargain!)

Tomorrow is collection day.  I have arranged for volunteers to meet me after school to help transport the food.  I don’t know if we will reach our goal of 100 items per class, but no matter how much we get, it will be a success and I am grateful to everyone who makes this day possible every year.

Respect

love thy neighbor

Today, Dave and I were out with the boys.  We were driving in the car down a narrow road, made more narrow by all of the piles of snow.  In front of us was a group of 7 boys.  They were probably about Drew’s age, maybe in middle school, although  two of them looked much younger, maybe eight or nine years old.  They were walking in a line across the road.  As we pulled behind them, expecting them to move, two of the boys stepped aside and I waved and mouthed them a thank you.  The other five looked back and deliberately kept walking slowly down the street not allowing us to pass.   The littlest one kept looking back at us and then up at the older boys, as if looking for their approval.  It made me sad to see that these young boys were seeking acceptance from the boys who were obviously being disrespectful rather than from the two who made the obvious right choice.

When we finally got to the end of the street and could pass them, I looked at them and just shook my head.  Dave, opened his window and yelled out, “are you proud of yourselves?” They yelled back, “hey, how ya doin’?  I was glad my kids were there to witness it because it led to a conversation about respect.  We are so fortunate to have raised boys who are respectful – at least from what we have seen.  We can only hope and trust that they know right from wrong and demonstrate these actions all of the time.

It was very fitting that we went to mass tonight. The intention for tonight’s mass was for my mom.  It was a perfect mass after what happened today, but also a perfect mass for her because tonight’s readings were all about loving your neighbor as yourself.   There are many readings that make me cringe when I go to church and make me question going, but these are the ones that I love to hear and I hope that my boys are listening to and taking in.  I don’t often get religious in my blog, but tonight seemed very fitting. The first reading was from Leviticus and this is a part of it:

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And the gospel, from Mark was this:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So fitting.  Not just because of what we witnessed ourselves today, but because my mom never held a grudge.  She saw the good in everyone and made sure we knew it.  I was angry about those boys for a good part of the afternoon, but I was also very sad.  Sad because of the look I kept seeing that little boy giving the older ones.  I wanted so badly to reach out and ask him what he was doing!!  I could actually see him struggling with the choice of moving aside or following them. I wished that I could have let him know that those first two boys who moved out of the way immediately were the ones who they should be emulating but unfortunately he chose wrong.