Back to School NYC – Got Pencils?

Supplies

Donations go along way! Right now Staples has great deals on pens, pencils, crayons and more. When you do your school shopping this week, consider picking up a few extra composition books for $0.50 each and donate it to a local school. Kids have it tough as it is with  all the bad funding decisions adults are making. Children want to learn and shouldn’t have to suffer. Schools also often ask for Clorox wipes ($2 at Staples), tissue boxes ($2 at Staples), and hand sanitizer ($3 at Staples).

Uniforms

I hate those yellow and blue shirts because one drop of chocolate milk stains it for life. There’s no coming back! There goes $8 down the drain. When I was a kid, $8 bought 4 gallons, yes GALLONS, of milk plus chocolate syrup. Now, those same $8 buys one gallon of milk and add $2 for the chocolate syrup. Parents are stocking up on those shirts right now. Target has some deals on decent brand uniform shirts.

Clothing is such a huge expense for parents. Consider donating a few uniforms to your local school.

Volunteer

It is no easy job to work in a school. School staff are responsible for the education, safety, AND well-being of little ones. Not just 2 or 3, but 2-300 students. Everyone feels under paid and over worked. Giving back WILL make you feel better. You’ll know how much you helped someone and you will look back and feel proud. If you can, sign up to volunteer at a local school. There’s a process you have to go through before you can volunteer but you’ll soon get to make those kids smile. Some don’t get the attention at home and would love for you to play kick ball or hide and seek with them. Kids also need us adults to teach them all about socializing and how important they are individually. Didn’t you want that as a kid?

 

Kids the are the future – cliché but true. Let’s give ‘em all we got!

Racism, Violence, and Ferguson, MO

Though I did not want to post about the incident, I feel compelled to. Like others, I feel ashamed to be a part of this country in times like these. The United States was founded on great principles that diminish. At the same time, this country whites enslaved and abused the Native American Indians, the Africans and the Carribean people (probably among others) in order to sustain this country. It’s clear history that people ignore. It is becoming harder and harder, since 2008 and the election of President Obama, to ignore racism in the United States.

This country does not belong to whites. It belongs to immigrants and minorities alike. As such, inequalities are in the spotlight and the People of this country are upset.

Race

A friend of mine found a great article addressing White privilege and the fact that Whites ignore the problem. From this article I take away a few things, here are my comments:

  1. Dress Code – no such thing. Whites wear hoodies as much as anyone. You cannot blame clothing to justify violence, crime, nor inequality.
  2. The Alien – the phrase “you people” is “othering”. What happened to “The United States”? Are we not all human beings, Homo sapien, American, we are all 99.9% genetically coded the same. Are we from different planets? Where’s humanity?
  3. The n – word……let’s not go there. But we can go back to history class, say 9th grade? Or we can take an English class to brush up on and expand your vocabulary.
  4. White privilege – real. You can silently bask in the privilege or you can support minorities. White privilege is economic, it is social, it is found in education.

I hear and see the comments that refer to behaviors in minority communities. It might be fair to say it’s a cultural thing but culture can be changed. If young people are taught to read and write, they will. If they are taught to support and nurture each, they will. If they are taught that their lives are worth less than a cop, they will think so. If they are taught, they are the inferior race, they will believe so. If they are taught to abuse drugs they will.

You can make a difference. We all can. Why not mentor a young person. Take a young boy or young girl out and show them your culture. Tell them about what life is like outside of the hell hole they live in. Children do not have the choice to be born or where they live or their economic status in society. By seeing different places and different people, we can learn about each other and maybe we can stop talking about race and talk about class.

Violent Whites and Police Officers

Constables (Police) in the United Kingdom don’t carry weapons. For 184 years, constables have handled crime without deadly force. They are unique in their approach to dealing with crime and they have a good hand on it. According to BBC News Magazine online (2012), says Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies stated, “There’s a general recognition that if the police are walking around with guns it changes things,”. It would change the way people felt about the state. Rather than feel protected, people would feel….policed. Writer, Jon Kelly (BBC News Magazine, 2012) said, the dynamic that would be affected is “the notion that the force owes its primary duty to the public, rather than to the state, as in other countries”.

The United States is a “model” for so many things in the world; in this case, the U.S. should follow the lead in the U.K. with regard to policing. It obviously can’t be done in one day but it’s a process that can happen. Since September 11th, there has been heightened security in the U.K. just as it has here in the U.S. but constables still do not carry firearms; trained military professionals carry firearms.

To avoid further incidents of violence against young men of color, take guns away from the police. How do we get guns off the streets? Take them away from the police. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and countless others would still be alive today if police officers didn’t have guns.

As for the second amendment right to bear arms. The larger conversation is for another blog, but the simple answer is that it has nothing to do with police officers being armed.

One cannot simply attribute violence to a certain skin color. It’s not an issue of race. It is an issue of class and economic inequality.

Darkness

Depression is a monster. Thank you for the nods in agreement. You understand where I’m about to go. The passing of the late, great comedian, Robin Williams overwhelmed me with emotion. Some think it’s as simple as cheering yourself up, looking to the future, getting past the moment, or thinking highly of the self. Friends, it is NOT easily said nor done. If it were that easy, we’d all be happy every day without a care in the world. Depression is a real chemical imbalance that requires treatment. It also requires a support system in place. Not everyone has that latter.

 

Robin Williams and Michael Jackson were human beings. They felt just as you and I do. The difference is that I care much less about what the world has to say about me, well, because the world does not trend my name, my resume is not public, people don’t steal my photos. Depression with a mix of paparazzi, name calling, and defamation of character can be deadly. Unfortunately, Robin Williams was overtaken.

 

While talking with a friend, we talked about depression and she shared with me her take on depression. She suffered from depression over the past 3 years and is still learning how to manage it. It’s an everyday thing for her; it does not turn off.

 

I thank her for sharing her story.

 

“I hate my parents and they hate me equally. They also hate each other. Don’t give me crap about the word hate. I’m a writer. I’m looking at the word and I understand its meaning. There’s no hiding the awful relationship I had with my parents and as a result, my siblings and I also have terrible relationships. When people ask me if I have family nearby, I say no. When in tight situations, I’m asked if my family is helping me and I say no. They’re unreliable, sketchy, and unhelpful.

 

It’s tough not having family. It’s even tougher not having anyone to talk to or relate to. I’ve healed from the pain my family caused me and I have been able to move on and do well. Not everyone is able to do that. I luckily have someone in my life that I can turn to in crazy situations where I need to vent or just need to know that she is close by. She’s a savior to me. Even if we haven’t spoken in a while, I can always text her.

 

There was a time in which I did not feel that I had anyone. It was a cold and dark world. Between caring for the children, work, and school, I wanted to drop. I had just separated from my husband 6 months prior, lost my apartment, and the bills were piling high. No one knew what was going on because I hid my problems, tended to keep my private life private, and trusted no one.

 

Soon, I was trying to share my misery; I began to snap at people at work and turn my nose up at others. Little did I know that I was hurting myself. I didn’t go out or socialize and started drinking heavily. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the children with other people so I could get wasted and not have to get up in the morning.

 

Then I mixed oxycodone with ibuprofen and drank until I passed out….

I’ll never forget the gasp of breathe that filled my lungs when I was awakened by a knock at the door. I almost died. I didn’t want to die, I just needed help. I didn’t know where to get it.”

 

She went into the hospital and was lucky to find a treatment that is working well for her. But it is not that simple for everyone. Not everyone responds the same. Not everyone has a support system. Though Robin Williams was loved bu millions around the world, he may have still felt alone. We’ll never know. If you know someone who might be going through something, be there as much as you can. You could save a life. Refer them to a professional. You could save a life.

Be kind to others, you never know what they are going through and you don’t know how short life is until the end.

All the best!

America Hates Children

We were all children once upon a time. Would you dare say you hated yourself as a child? What if you knew all the adults hated you? No shock, some of you may already know exactly what I’m talking about. America Hates Children.

Let’s start with the lack of funding for enrichment programs. Soccer practice, piano lessons, and music class are luxuries that schools increasingly can’t afford. After school activities are too expensive for the average family and leaves children without access to the arts. Why would America want children to be creative? Ha! Never. Some of the first programs to have cuts are those aimed at helping nurture children.

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Good quality child care is hard to find. Head Start programs are only for families making under $20k and most programs are low quality any way. Seventy percent of applicants for nanny/sitter jobs are misspelling words in their application or their grammar is off. What makes me nervous is the application notes teaching reading comprehension as a skill. Somehow my faith lacks.

When children in school misbehave, rather than seeking to understand what might be going on at home and assist the family in finding resources, the child is kicked out. Teens increasingly drop out of school because they are not receiving help and naturally they don’t know how or who to ask. Children are labeled with disabilities but emotional or learning disabilities are less tolerated. We increasingly give out of school detention over in school detention. “Let’s just get rid of them so we don’t have to look at those troublemakers!” we say. Children with too much energy are given pills to make them silent so the teacher can continue their boring lessons rather than trying to create challenging lesson plans to challenge energetic minds. We adults have not time or energy to work with children. We only took these jobs to pay off college debts. Don’t these parents understand?!

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As you can see, America clearly hates children. We don’t want to help children flourish. Only rich, well off parents can afford to send their children to boarding school and pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for those teachers to tolerate their children. No matter how much trouble they make, their children will not be kicked out because the parents will just pay them off as long as they stay there and don’t have to come home.

Why not just stop making children?

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I am not convinced that all of America hates children. There are so many good people in the world. Perhaps, I’m just fed up with lazy teachers, people who fail to understand our youth, who fail to pay attention to our youth, and who make life difficult for parents. Why do you think kids are pulling all of these daring challenges to burn themselves and what not?

We’d have a much smarter America if we nurture the children. We need more votes and more voices to advocate for programs and funding for children and parents need to speak up to hold educators and caregivers responsible for the care of our children.

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Thanks for reading my rant.

Save the Future from Idiots

Sounds kinda harsh but I’m seriously worried about future generations. Living in New York City is a unique experience. You probably hear that often but it really is like no other place. That being said, I’m sure not every young person lacks courtesy, respect and motivation. I started riding the train about a year ago and the young people I was coming in contact with were scary! Foul mouths, disrespectful, un-classy young ladies and, Oh, the conversations I heard…

In 2010, I started working with teens and I found great conversations. I enjoyed hearing their perspectives, concerns, and found my second youth in spirit. I know they’re not all damned; at the same time, I’m seeing more and more young people becoming rude, disrespectful, and lazy.

Why, when I was a young girl…ok, I won’t go that route but we have to do something. Whitney knew the children were the future and how important it was to teach them well.

Can I completely place blame on parents. Yes and no. I as a parent constantly remind my children to use kind words, be respectful to adults, say excuse me even if others are rude. I also tell them no often. It gives them a healthy balance. They are sometimes annoyed at my favorite saying “sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no”. So much that they often rolls their eyes and finish the sentence before I get it out. They’ve learned to just deal with it. my daughter also picked up a great line (I wish I knew who to credit) “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. Plain and simple phrases.

At parent teacher conference, I asked how she was getting along with the other children. My concern was that she often plays alone. The teacher said that other girls are catty and she chooses not to participate. I was glad and worried. Why are other girls being catty in 1st grade? I always tell my daughter it’s important to make others feel good not feel bad. Wasn’t there an anti-bullying movement going around? What happened?

Teenagers. Whenever we get on the bus, the children roll their eyes when they see teenagers. My children are well aware that the amount of profanity they use is ridiculous and their noise level is out of control. We all make the best effort to catch the earlier bus to avoid them. Where is the parenting? Yes, I’m ranting and blaming parents and I feel I can do so since I am a parent. I am always on my children’s back about making sure they are aware of how others are feeling. No one wants to hear loud teenagers cursing about a notebook early in the morning. Literally every other word is profane.

I’m positive that young people would be less lazy and more motivated if there were more outlets for them. Why do we have to pay $800 for ten karate lessons? Is it necessary to charge $1500 for piano lessons? Back in the day…I know I said I wouldn’t go there but why not make comparisons. Kids were taught arts for less or for free. Look how well rounded those generations turned out. If you have class to the mix, the underserved are the low income. Big surprise! Right?

So, what can we do about? Nothing…. I started mentoring young people after being involved with a great non-profit. When I stopped mentoring with them, I kept finding young people to spend time with. Young people need adults to be role models.

You can be a Big Brother or Big Sister. There are tons of other organizations that you can link up with or knock on your neighbor’s door. Why not?

3 Ways to Get Organized

If the kitchen is a mess, I refuse to cook anything. There’s just no way I can cook well with piles of dishes or spillage on the counters. That’s a whole other ballgame, though. Some label me (though labeling is a good thing to be organized, pun intended) with medical diagnoses that I won’t list in order to be slightly politically correct. I just prefer things to be in order. It’s the 21st century and we live busy lives these days. Two page “To Do” lists, longer work days and we just need to squeeze entertainment somewhere in there.

At home, you can probably get away with dis-organization. At work, it’s way more important. You need to find the contract for billing, you need to find the payments you made to a vendor, etc. Filing to not fun and it can sometimes be time consuming (and of course, time is money). Here are 3 ways to get organized. Keep in mind that the setup is the most important and will likely take the most effort and time. However, in the long run, it will saves time, money, and energy.

Group
What are things you pay attention to versus things you look at and ignore?
What are items that you need to pay attention to, items you can drag on and items that can go filed away/stored away/trashed?

At home, you might want to have two boxes, one (Box A) for items that you use every day and another (Box X) for items you barely look at. As you are sorting, be honest with yourself about what you don’t use. When putting it items into Box X, don’t feel as though you can’t properly store them in a neat, tucked away place. The idea is to have items in Box A, neatly in front of you so you can address them while putting non-essentials away neatly for you to take out as needed. (Kind of like telling kids to put their toys away and only keeping the two or three toys they’re playing with at the moment – am I the only one?).

At work, same concept. What you work on daily versus items that you use less frequently. If you have a desk job, it’s best to get up from your desk often to exercise. It also helps to group according to daily tasks, items that can be completed at any point during the week, and items that are monthly. Items that are on your desk, should be items that need your attention. The less you have on top of your desk, the more you will be able to focus on what tasks need action.

Trashing things…
We don’t have to use words like pack rat or anything. That article on remodeling bathrooms was the best by far and it’s perfectly logical to want to keep all receipts for payments ever. Here are a few ways to tuck away and throw away.

1. The age of digital storage – That great magazine article, newspaper article, or other important paperwork can be scanned and saved to your server. There are several other digital storage options such as One Drive, Google Drive, and Dropbox.

2. Replaceable items – If you can order it easily, find it online, or it is common, just go for it – Throw It Away! You save room and will have less clutter. If you’re not referring to it monthly, weekly, or daily, it’s likely not worth keeping.

3. Storage – Keepsakes are great! I have tons. I box them and label them and store them in a closet and I have a storage as well. If you can find space to keep your memorabilia then go for it. After your clean up and organizing, you should have plenty of space. You can decorate with your keepsakes. Otherwise, tuck it away the way a dog buries precious bones. (I’m thinking of Jacque from Lady and the Tramp).

Label
Color Coding
The colors help quickly locate and identify things. Someone once showed me their library and you could easily see that yellow labels were for fiction, red labels were thrillers, blue labels were non-fiction, and so on.

Label Makers
Have you seen Mrs. Doubtfire? Miranda had labels on items in her cupboard. I thought it was great! You can adopt a similar strategy. In an office, it’s common to label office supplies and you can do the same at your desk.

Contain
Putting items in containers, drawers, or in files is a good way to locate things later. You won’t have to go rummaging through piles of papers and wondering where you left that post it. The container store has wonderful solutions to get you organized. From plastic totes to pencil cases, the container store is great! Containing the problem give you so much control. No more tables with paper clips falling on the floor and hidden post its with the phone number to the VIP who will plug you into other profitable connections.

You can do it, I know you can! If you have other awesome solutions to get organized, please share in comments.

What happened to good, old fashioned detention?

When I was in elementary and middle school, there was in-school detention and out-of-school suspension. I’m sure there were proper terms for these behavior modification techniques but I remember them differently. Before my time, there was simply detention. If you broke school rules or misbehaved, you were given detention. That meant staying after school to help the teacher clean up or you were given extra school work to pass the time. The consequence was not being able to leave school with friends and play before dinner time.

Think about Bart Simpson.

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Sure, he was still a mischievous kid (cartoon character) but children are children. The important thing to remember is that when you teach a child right and lead them down the right path, when they are adults they will continue that path and respect those who led him. Children love it when they mess up over and over but caregivers still love them and believe in them. It forms trust and creates a bond.

(No, I’m not getting mushy! I’m heading towards a point here)

There are tons of kids in poverty (etc, etc) and they need guidance (etc, etc) but kicking them out of school, I guarantee, will not work. You can’t constantly push someone away and still expect them to love you and respect you. The signal being sent is “You’re a throw away”.

So, what happened to good, old fashioned detention? (I hear grumbling in the background) Teachers work hard, need raises, need more free time. Yes, educators are commendable for the amazing work they do. They teach our children! I appreciate teachers. They move the future. They are crazy important to society!

At the same time, you have to go the distance. No matter what your job is, it’s hard. No matter what your role is, you are important.

I tell my children all the time how important the sanitation workers are and how much I appreciate janitors. Someone has to do the job and they take pride in their work. If no one did their job, we’d all be miserable! My boss told me that janitors are important and you probably won’t think so until you’re in the stall and there’s not toilet paper. (Just saying…)

I digressed…not really though.

If you are going to take on the responsibility of caring and educating my child, why on earth would you kick him or her out of school. Oh, there was a temper tantrum? A fight? Refusal to do class work? All of these seem to indicate a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. Maybe something is going on at home, maybe the child (or teen, etc) is being bullied, maybe he or she is not understand the classwork and needs a little more help grasping the concept(s) being taught.

I say, if you give up on a child (Child = Anyone Under 18), you are giving up on yourself.

Hypothesis: If children are given in school detention as a consequence for negative behavior, then they will (1) develop a positive relationship with educators, (2) receive more attention on classwork concepts, and (3) do better in school overall with grades and building healthy relationship. (Yes, that is a challenge, please feel free to try the experiment and accept or reject my hypothesis).

Under-staffing cannot be used as an excuse. As a community, everyone can do their part. Meaning, take turns (that is what we teach our little ones).

Pay it forward. (That was a cute movie by the way).

Cheers, to the future!