Waaaaay Too Long!

It has been along time! Lots has happened, but I will start with the first major item.

My lovely K was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome 2 years ago. Asperger’s is now included on the Autism Spectrum and is not a separate diagnosis. The following is the best explanation that I have seen. After 2 long years, she is finally considered “stable”. She still has her quirks, which I love, but the high and lows are less dramatic.

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Aspergers: The often hidden social disability

I think what neurotypical people (especially teachers and parents) need to realize is that part of the main reason why people on the spectrum have difficulty relating is the neurological differences. Our brains have strong neurological connections between the different brain centers that allow these centers to simultaneously communicate with each other. This is what allows us to process multiple information simultaneously, most of which is at a subconscious level, requiring minimal mental energy.

On the other hand, for people on the spectrum, the neurological pathways between the brain centers are not well developed, making it harder for the centers to communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to process multiple information simultaneously. Whereas we rapidly process this information, at a subconscious (intuitive) level, people on the spectrum have to process “sequentially”, a little at a time, at a conscious level. They have to think through what we do intuitively without thinking. They can eventually arrive at the same understanding, but it is going to take longer (delayed processing) and require a lot more mental energy (since they have to consciously process it).

This drastically effects interacting with others (relating). When we interact with someone we have to rapidly process multiple information simultaneously. When listening to the others we are processing the words they are saying, the context for which they are spoken, the tone and inflection in voice, facial expressions, physical gestures, and body language to understand what the person said and meant. We rapidly read all this information to understand the person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. At the same time that we are processing what the other person is saying, we are formulating how we think and feel about it, plus how we are going to respond back. At the same time we are replying back, we also are reading their nonverbal cues to see if they understand and are staying interested.

In order for us to focus on the topic of conversation, we have to process most of this “nonverbal‚ÄĚ information (facial expressions, body gestures, fluctuation in voice, etc) subconsciously, with minimal mental energy. This allows us to relate with others without much effort. However, for people on the spectrum, they have process bits of this information sequentially and at a conscious level; thinking it all through. Since they cannot process this information simultaneously the processing is delayed and often inadequate, making it difficult to read the “big picture.” To try and keep up with the conversation, they can process a small portion of this information, often missing much of the meaning. Sometimes by time the person has processed what was said and formulated a response to it, the interaction has moved on to different content. Consequently, between not getting all the information and having delayed processing, their responses are often out-of-sync with others. For the person on the spectrum, this can be very mentally and emotionally draining. This inability to rapidly process multiple information simultaneously is a major reason for many of the social struggles that people on the spectrum experience.

Although this is common for everyone on the spectrum, for children with aspergers this deficit can be difficult to read. They can be very bright but still have this processing problem. This is hard for people to understand. They assume that since the child is bright and very verbal, that they must “intentionally choose” to misinterpret instructions and act differently than others. Much of the aspergers is a hidden disability; masking their difficulties. That’s why awareness training for significant people in the child’s life can be important.

From Autism Discussion Page, Facebook

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I HATE politics!

So I know that it’s been a while, but if you have nothing good to say, it’s better to say nothing at all, right?  This entire election year is driving me nuts. I hate politics on a normal year, but this year, even more so.

I live in Washington, the state not the city (another issue all together, really DC?). We have major elections going on here besides the presidential one. We have a governor’s race, Senate, Congress, justices and Superintendent of Public Schools to vote on. I hate it all. Debates are just people arguing and calling each other names. The signs just blow around during our fall storms. Families argue and people lose friends over this crap. I hate it.

Washington state has another issue that people don’t realize. Our electoral votes do not have to follow the popular vote. We live in a state that has “faithless electors”. Basically this means that our elected officials can vote any way they like. They do not have to follow the popular vote. They are encouraged to vote the way the popular vote goes and always have, but they do not have to.  Of course, Washington is a blue state, has been since Regan.

Interestingly enough, that is when the Seattle area started to grow. Before 1984 the state of Washington did not have many urban areas. The area I lived in, 30 minutes outside of the city, was considered the boonies. We had farms and our town did not even have a stop light. In the past 30 years the area has grown and continues to grow. Microsoft, Nintendo, Boeing, and many more large companies have developed very quickly bringing in more people to the area. Thus the political body has shifted from rural areas, historically conservative, to urban, historically liberal.

I don’t care which side you are on. I really just wish we could all do the right thing and agree to disagree respectfully. Our current politicians mud slinging is shameful. I do not believe that our Founding Father’s would be proud of the current state of politics. When people talk politics, they are either extremely passionate, which is great; or they are completely disgusted, not so great.

My sister said it best, “I want to vote FOR someone, not just against someone else. I may not agree with everything that they stand for, but I need to find just one thing that I do agree on to vote FOR someone.” I agree. We need to vote FOR someone because we believe in their ability to lead or just that ONE issue, not just because it is against the other person. If you do not want to vote FOR someone, then don’t vote at all. Voting is a right that I believe every person should use, however, you need to believe in and be educated in what you are voting for even if it just that one issue.

Okay, rant over, on with your daily lives!

10 Tips for the Newbie Genealogist

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Over the last 30 years, I have learned a few things when it comes to genealogy. ¬†Some do’s and some don’ts. ¬†So, below are some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years.

1. ¬†Don’t assume anything! ¬†Just because someone’s death certificate states that their parent’s name was so and so, DO NOT ASSUME that it’s true! ¬†Death certificate information is given by the family and could be wrong. ¬†Always verify with other documentation, especially birth records which was filled out by the parents. ¬†Census records, church records, etc. are all good places to verify information.

2. ¬†Everyone gets excited when they see the shaking leaf. ¬†Unfortunately, many of those hints are from other people’s trees or the “Millennium File”. ¬†I never, ever trust these. ¬† I learned this the hard way when I followed one tree all the way back to Adam & Eve. ¬†Really? ¬†Many times, there are no sources. ¬†You can use these as a starting point if you are stuck, but ALWAYS verify the information with your own sources! ¬†I tend to just ignore all of these hints as I prefer to do my own work.

3.  I also tend to ignore the hints from Web: *.*.  These are hints from elsewhere on the web and are not actual records.  Very similar to the Millenium Files.  Unless it is an actual record or tombstone that I can see a picture of, I tend to ignore it.  Ditto for Family Data Collections.

4. ¬†Get or print a hard copy of your source! ¬†If you have everything on your computer, that is dangerous! ¬†You could lose everything at the drop of a hat. ¬†So, hard copies are still the best way to ensure that you don’t lose everything. ¬†Also, back up, back up, back up! ¬†I have had to start my family tree over twice. ¬†Thankfully, I did have hard copies of everything and was able to recreate it.

5. ¬†Organize! ¬†Everyone has their own way of organizing their records. ¬†Whether it be a filing cabinet or notebooks, start off with one system and continue. ¬†Just make sure that you can find something when you need it! ¬†I will explain my organizational system at another time. ¬†Make sure your sources use the same type of format in your computer family tree. ¬†Many times when you say “yes” to a hint, it will automatically download the source information. ¬†Make sure you go to that source on your tree and it is filed correctly and in the same format that you always use.

6.  Get a stand alone computer program.  Ancestry is great, but you have to be online to do all your work.  If you want to take your work with you, then a stand alone program is the way to go.  There are a lot of great programs out there.  I have looked at them all, but I always go back to Family Tree Maker.  I have been working on it for 20+ years, and I prefer it.

7. ¬†Take a break! ¬†I have been stuck on this one brick wall for 20+ years. ¬†I take a break, then come back to it. ¬†Get frustrated again, take a break, then come back to it. ¬†Genealogy is a process and is never-ending. ¬†I go in spurts; working on my tree for a month, then on my husbands. ¬†However, you will burn yourself out if you work until 3 am every single day. ¬†Take time out! ¬†Have other hobbies! ¬†Don’t spend every waking hour on your family tree!

8. ¬†Spend your money wisely! ¬†Don’t order every single record on every single family member. ¬†Honestly, I stick to my direct ancestors. ¬†I do not bother with siblings. ¬†Yes, I try to get information on them, but beyond, birth, life, and death records, I don’t care. ¬†I don’t care who they married or who their children are. ¬†They are not my line, so I don’t waste my time or money. ¬†When you do order records, make sure you order the entire record. ¬†If you are going to spend the money, don’t order the condensed version. ¬†Get the whole thing! ¬†You will be surprised what you can find on an original Social Security Application or in a Military Record.

9.  The more records you have for a person, the better!  Birth, Marriage, Death are the important ones, but Wills, newspaper articles, tax and land records, can all be interesting reads and can hold a wealth of information.  Take census records with a grain of salt.  Many census records were filled out by neighbors or the census taker as reading and writing were a novelty in the old days.  If they could not understand the person talking, they would just guess.

10. ¬†The most important tip that I can give, is have fun with it! ¬†If you don’t get excited when you find a new ancestor, then what is the point?

Hope these tips help and newbies that may be contemplating starting their family tree.  Have fun and research on!

Community. Family.

Once again, my small town has been rocked to it’s core. ¬†I have spoken before about my town. ¬†Settled in the early 1870’s, Bothell started out as a logging town because it was located on a slough. ¬†The logs were floated down stream, plucked out, processed and sent to market. ¬†The town was incorporated in 1909. ¬†To date many historical buildings still dot our town, some dating from as early as 1886. ¬†Main Street itself, is full of history.

So when a developer came to town and wanted to remodel the historic Mercantile Building on Main Street, there was blowback from the community.  Months went by and the developer finally agreed to keep the original facade of the building, while also developing upward to include apartments on top of shops.  Construction started and I felt optomistic every time I drove by because it seemed as if the contractor was keeping their word to make sure that the history of this building did not dissappear.

I woke this morning to devastating news. ¬†The Mercantile Building, which was in the process of adding it’s final floor at 5 or 6, don’t know which, had caught fire during the night. ¬†At 3 am it quickly turned into a 3 alarm fire.

 Firefighters did their best to keep the fire from spreading, to no avail.  The fire was so hot that it melted the construction crane as well as buildings across the street.

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The building in this picture was 5-6 stories high before today.  The building to the bottom of that is also a total loss.  Photo borrowed from Kiro 7 News Рhttp://www.kiro7.com/news/photos-bothell-building-under-construction-burns-in-3-alarm-fire/409311288

Buildings across the street and blocks away caught fire as well from embers.  Most downtown buildings flooded and have water damage.  As of this writing, 17 hours later, there are still hot spots all over downtown.  A tree caught fire just a little while ago.  The fire at the Mercantile Building is still an active hot spot with firefighters on duty there.

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Within 4 hours, with firefighters still activally engaged with the blaze, my community had already rallied. ¬†A Facebook page was created for people who wanted to assist in any way. ¬†Coffee and donuts were quickly delivered. ¬†The response was so great that the City actually had to formally request that people drop off donations to the operations center on the other side of town. ¬†Actually the response was so huge that by this afternoon the City said “No More!” ¬†I actually found that kind of funny.

Most downtown business closed for the day because early on the smoke was so thick that people were having trouble breathing.  As the day progressed, the press swarmed our small town.  Helicoptors were flying overhead and news trucks were all over downtown trying to get interviews.

A local business across the street from the Mercantile Building had a flooded basement and requested towels and a shop vac to get cleaned up.  They also had some roof damage and needed to patch it before it started to rain.  Within a couple of hours of the request, they were flooded with help.  They were able to get the roof patched up, the basement cleaned up and were open for business by the afternoon.  Amazing!

By 11 am local business had set up Fundraisers for the local businesses who had lost everything. ¬†Local salons were offering chairs for hairdressers that lost their’s in the salon that is a total loss. ¬†A local sign company offered to print up “We Are Open” signs for business that were closed today, but would be open tomorrow. ¬†One lady wanted to bake cookies for every company that showed up to help fight the fire.

That is us.  That is Bothell.  We are community.  We are family.

During a press conference, our little town’s Chief of Police and Mayor made a point of constantly stating that Bothell will survive and will rebuild. ¬†They encouraged everyone to support our local businesses when they reopen tomorrow. ¬†I, for one, will be doing just that!

#wearebothell #bothellstrong

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Photo borrowed from Bothell Community Facebook Group

Peaches, Peaches & More Peaches!

If you are anything like me, you have been caught a little off guard by the fruit being ready so early this year. ¬†Strawberries were in early June, not early July…blueberries were ready in late June, not July…raspberries are also late June, not July…even some apples are ready now and not in the fall! ¬†Therefore, I have been getting my family out to the u-pick farms to stock up! ¬†Since I am not quite ready to can just yet, I have been stemming, cleaning and freezing.

It is also the beginning of the season for peaches. ¬†We don’t have any u-pick peach farms close, therefore, I go to my local fruit market. ¬†I started off with once case of peaches this year which is roughly 30 lbs. ¬†Again, I am not quite ready to can, so I will be freezing these as well. ¬†How do I do that, you ask? ¬†It is actually really simple and is not as much work as you might think!

I start by boiling a big pot of water…I will leave the water boiling the entire time I am working, adding some more water every once in a while. ¬†Once my water is boiling, I add 6-7 whole peaches.

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I let the peaches boil for about 30 seconds.

Next, I remove the peaches from the boiling water with some big salad tongs (you know the ones, the cheap plastic ones!)  I then put the peaches in another big pot, or just the sink, full of cold water and ice.  You will need to replenish the ice after every batch of peaches to make sure that the water stays cold enough.

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The next step is quite genious!  You just rub the skins right off of the peach!  But be careful!  They become quite slippery without their skins!

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The skin comes off, no fuss, no muss!

Once you have your naked peach (shame on you!), cut the peach in half along the pit line.  I hold the peach in my hand while I do this, so be careful not to cut yourself!  Once you get a cut all the way around the peach, it will easily pull apart

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Extract the pit, and cut the peach any way you like!  I place my prepped peaches into ziploc bags all ready to freeze!

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All ready to freeze!

Now, if you are like me, you hate to not use all those pits, bad parts and skins for something!

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What to do with them all?

Guess what?  I use them too!  I use all of this to make peach juice which I will also freeze.  The peach juice will then be used to make peach jelly or syrup at a later time.  Below is my recipe to make peach juice.  Enjoy!

Peach Juice

Place peels, pits and bad spots into a large pot. ¬†(Don’t worry, bad parts of the peach actually add a little sweetness to the juice!) ¬†Cover with water by about 3-4″. ¬†Bring to a boil. ¬†Lower heat to a simmer and cook down for 30 minutes. ¬†Strain through a cheese cloth and you have peach juice! ¬†Place in jars or plastic containers and place in the freezer for storage.

Stay tuned for what I actually make with my peaches and juice!

Time to Unite, Not Divide

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only¬†LIGHT¬†can do that, hate cannot drive out hate; only¬†LOVE can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted.  Life has gotten busy with the end of the school year, start of my summer, and just life in general.  This past week, however, has been a week of upsets, therefore I feel the need to write about it.

I am a middle-aged middle class white woman. ¬†Some would call me privileged, however, that just shows me that they don’t know my story. ¬†I was raised by a single mom with very little help from a deadbeat dad. ¬†Back then, my mom received $250 a month in child support which she had to fight tooth and nail to receive. ¬†I learned very early on that when I asked for something and the answer was no, I just accepted it. ¬†I did not beg or whine to get my way. ¬†My mom kept the fact from me that for a while we were on food stamps, had no health insurance and were on the verge of losing our home on more than one occasion.

My kids have grown up under similar circumstances. ¬†However, instead of keeping it from them, I tell them when we are struggling. ¬†They have also learned that they must work hard for what they want and nothing is given freely. ¬†Unlike many in today’s world, my kids work for their privileges. ¬†They do not have that sense of entitlement like many of their classmates. ¬†They do not drive brand new cars, instead they have the one with the big dent in the front and leaks oil regularly. ¬†They also have an older tower computer that runs a little slow, but still does the job. ¬†They don’t have the latest and greatest, but still hold their heads high because they know that what they do have, they worked for.

I will not get into specifics about this week’s shootings and violence. ¬†Instead, I will say that everyone is human. ¬†Black, white, gay, straight, police officers, criminals, strange people, normal people, men, women…WE ARE ALL HUMAN. ¬†Therefore, as human beings, we all make mistakes. ¬†No one is perfect and judgement can be flawed. ¬†FORGIVENESS and LOVE is the only way that people will be able to live together. ¬†Negativity only begets negativity.

Therefore all these posts that I see about how everyone else, or guns for that matter, is to blame drive me crazy. ¬†As humans we are all responsible for our own actions. ¬†I take responsibility for my actions. ¬†My kids take responsibility for their actions. ¬†It’s time for everyone else to take responsibility for their actions. ¬†Quit passing the buck people! ¬†Grow up and teach your children to be responsible. ¬†Quit giving them everything that they ask for! ¬†Say “NO” once in a while! ¬†Hearing “NO” is a GOOD THING! ¬†It teaches them humility and responsibility! ¬†Your kids are flawed America! ¬†You are raising a bunch of spoiled brats!

I can’t count how many times I have had to call a parent about their kid being bad on the bus and the parent can’t believe that their “Angel” could ever do anything wrong! ¬†Until I show them the video of their daughter pretending to have sex with the bus seat and her flute. ¬†Or writing “rape me” on the bus window. ¬†Or using pot on the bus. ¬†The examples could go on…but i digress…

The fact is, people need to quit posting all the negative and need to focus on the positive! ¬†I am loving seeing all the positive posts regarding kind interactions between police officers and the public. ¬†HATE BEGETS HATE, LOVE BEGETS LOVE! ¬†It’s time to start loving more and hating less! ¬†I know that it is sometimes a hard thing to do, but why don’t we start with something small? ¬†How about just acknowledging each other instead of ignoring. ¬†It is a small step, but hopefully a significant one.

Thanks for reading my rants. ¬†If I just reach one person, I will be happy! ¬†ūüôā

#lovematters

Memorial Day

 

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On this Memorial Day 2016, I can’t help but remember the family that have served to help make, and keep, our county free. ¬†I have so many ancestors that have served that I feel very attached to every single conflict that our country has been involved in.

Going back in time, my father served in Laos during the Vietnam Conflict, both my grandfather’s served in World War II, ¬†my great grandfather served in World War I; numerous ancestors served in the Civil War, the War of 1812 and my 5x great grandfather was named the “Daddy of the Revolution” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Whenever I think of my grandfather, I think of a story that he used to tell about his time in the army.  Like most youngsters, he felt the need to sign up after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  On May 2, 1942 he enlisted.  Like many enlisted men, he had lied about something in order to be eligable for englistment.

You see, my grandfather had a degenerative eye disorder called retinous pigmentosa. ¬†RP basically takes your peripheral vision and dim light vision from you, making it so you can’t see to the side or see at night. ¬†You end up with only a pinpoint of clear vision. ¬†It is a progressive disease that starts off small and eventually completely blinds you. ¬†Basically, he was legally blind from the age of 18.

He was shipped out to basic training at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana.  He was young and like most young men, thought that he had the world at his fingertips.  Other than his eyesight, he was a very healthy young man.  To keep his commanders in the dark about his disability, he would follow the other young men in his company.  His commanders thought he was a good soldier until one day in July 1942.  You see, one day while on a run, he ran into a tree.

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Company “F”, 344th Engineer Regiment, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana – May, 1942

Later in life, he would laugh about it, saying that he almost knocked himself out! ¬†The base doctor’s were obviously concerned and did an eye exam, testing his peripheral vision and night vision. ¬†Obviously, he did not have the sight that would help him with being a soldier. ¬†He would not be able to keep an eye on his fellow soldiers or be able to see if they were in trouble.

So, on July 19, 1942 he was honorably discharged from the United States Army.  Even though he was only in the army for a few months, the army still took care of him.  He was a veteran.  Just like any other veteran, he was honored, and is still honored, every Memorial Day.  I am proud of my family roots on this Memorial Day, proud that I can say that my family helped make, and keep, this country free.  Enjoy your day off America, but remember that it was bought and paid for with many lives.

Love When David Wins!

I have a typical David vs. Goliath story for you today.  As our school district goes through huge changes in the next year there have been many questions that need answering.  Some of those questions are easy, some, not so much.  As we move from a junior high model to a middle school model, many district task forces have been formed to answer these questions.  I am actually on one of those reconfiguration task forces as a staff member, community member and parent.

Currently our junior high schools have a popular program called Self-Select Challenge.  The program allows students and parents to select more challenging classes in the core subjects.  The purpose, to be better prepared for AP/IB classes when they enter high school and to challenge those students who tend to get bored in regular classes.  The debate over the fate of the challenge program has erupted in our community over the last nine months, with passion on both sides of the issue.  Our wonderful school board gave the responsibility of a recommendation for this program to my task force.  We, in turn, created a sub-committee who could spend the in-depth time required to make such a decision.

As the school year continued, the sub-committee spent hours upon hours pouring over data provided to them by school district administrators.  Unfortunately, as I personally have found out, district administrators always have an agenda.  The provided data supported their desired outcome, to eliminate the challenge program and create heterogenous classrooms with the challenge curriculum.  The sub-committee presented four options to the task force and we voted on our level of support for each of the options.   Myself and one other task force member voted to keep the self-select challenge program.  The four options were then forwarded onto the school board with the votes from the task force.  The board deleted two of the options, leaving two options to choose from.

The first option was challenge classes for all students and the second was challenge classes for all 6th graders and self-select challenge for 7th/8th graders.  Over the last nine months, many people have testified before the school board regarding the challenge program.  I myself, sent a letter to the school board explaining my position.  Up until last night, I had abstained from testifying before the board.  However, as one of only two task force members to support keeping the program, I thought it was time.  Below is my speech standing up for what is right for all students, not just some.

 

“Good evening,

My name is Leah Williams.  I am a lifelong community member, district staff member, Middle School Task Force member and, most importantly, a parent.  I am here to address the decision on the challenge program.  I do not need to be here, however, as one of only two task force members to support keeping the challenge program, I felt it was important for me to speak.

I do not need facts, figures and studies to know that challenge for all would be a huge mistake. ¬†My own children have had struggles with regular classes; my son being forced into a remedial class because he failed the [state test] by a few points, my daughter forced to sit at the ‚Äúkitchen table‚ÄĚ during lunch at [her junior high] because she had a failing grade. ¬†In both instances, my children were humiliated by letting the entire school know that they were in trouble. ¬†By being in a remedial class, my son was only able to do one semester of an elective because he is a band student.

If challenge for all is selected, these remedial classes and interventions will grow with more and more students made to feel bad about their individual learning abilities.  I say individual, because that is how we should be looking at our students.  Grouping them together in an accelerated class will hold some students back and make more students struggle.

I also wanted to address a previous board meeting.  The disrespect that staff members showed towards students and parents made me ashamed to be a staff member.  Yes, I am only a bus driver, but up until that night, I was always proud to be a part of [our district].  I could not believe the callous behavior of our staff walking out and not listening to differing opinions especially from their own students.

This brings up another point. ¬†More staff than you know support keeping the challenge program, but they are afraid to speak out. ¬†They are afraid of retaliation from the [teacher’s union], other staff and administrators. ¬†I fully expect repercussions from my speaking tonight, whether it be getting kicked off the task force, or administration trying to find ways to fire the trouble maker. ¬†Retaliation is rampant in our district. ¬†I must say, however, that I don‚Äôt mind being called a trouble maker, I am just taking after my ancestors. ¬†Thank you.”

 

Of course, I was shaking the entire time that I was speaking and ended up with tears by the end.  Many people spoke before and after I did last night, mostly supporting keeping the challenge program.  Two students presented the board with personal surveys that they had taken of their fellow students.  What a concept?!?  Ask the students what they want!  No adult has asked the students what they want.  After the public speakers were finished the board took a short break as it had been about 2 hours of commentary.  During the break I had about a dozen people approach me and thank me for my words and bravery.  I must say, I did not feel brave, more scared to death!  However, I am passionate about doing what is right and not what is easy.

As the vote approached, the board members started explaining why they would vote the way they would. ¬†I could tell that four out of the five struggled with this decision. ¬†The one who did not struggle obviously did not listen to a word anyone said to him and had his mind already made up before the meeting even began, as he had a prepared speech. ¬†In the end, David, the community and students, won out against Goliath, the district administration and the teacher’s union. ¬†The board voted 3-2 to support keeping the challenge program. ¬†As scared as I was to speak in front of all those people, I am really glad I did. ¬†Congratulations David! ¬†I am so happy to support your victory over Goliath!

Rough Times

Bothell Strong

It’s been a rough week in our small town. ¬†I call our town small, but really it isn’t. ¬†Our town has grown much in the last 10 years, with large parcels of land being sold to developers and homes upon homes being built. ¬†However, I still consider us a small town. ¬†I grew up here when it was considered the boonies. ¬†We still have a parade on the 4th of July where people set up lawn chairs weeks in advance. ¬†Those chairs will sit on the parade route unmolested until the actual parade. ¬†When something happens, like a house fire, our community rallies behind that family immediately, helping replace anything that they may need. ¬†This is why I still consider us a small town.

On Thursday May 19, a teacher at our high school was senselessly beaten over the head and strangled while in his classroom after school was let out for the day. ¬†Luckily, he was able to stagger out of the classroom to be discovered by another staff member. ¬†The school went on lockdown for the next 3 hours while they searched for the suspect. ¬†Thankfully my son was home for the evening, but other kids and staff were not. ¬†Mercifully¬†the teacher’s injuries were not very serious and he was released from the hospital that evening.

Of course, in this day and age of social media and electronics, rumors began to fly about the attack before the lock down was even lifted.  Rumors of what was used to attack him and who may have done it abounded online and over texts.  Some students began to make a joke out of the situation.  Thankfully most students shamed those idiots and reported them to police.  If you have the balls to make fun of a situation like this, they may know something about the attacker and deserve to have the cops knock on your door.

Most of the students were in complete shock, as was our entire community. ¬†School was cancelled for Friday because that area of the school was considered an active crime scene. ¬†My son used it as a day of reflection and also a day to catch up on some homework. ¬†I kept asking him how he was doing, and he would reply “I’m fine.” ¬†He did not actually take any classes from the teacher that was assaulted, so I think it really didn’t hit him very hard. ¬†Those students who actually had classes with the teacher and the staff have been hit the hardest. ¬†The district brought in counselors for the staff on Friday so that they would be ready to support students when they returned to class today. ¬†I’m so glad they did!

Of course, the police have brought in the FBI to help with the investigation, but four days later, they still do not have a suspect. ¬†They have been poring over countless security tapes from the school and from buses that were at the school around the time of the attack, collecting evidence and conducting interviews. ¬†It all takes time, but I believe the community is chomping at the bit for information, to no avail. ¬†I myself have been trying to support the students that I drive as well as my own family through this horrific event. ¬†This kind of stuff doesn’t happen in our town, this kind of stuff happens in big cities. ¬†(Famous last words, right!?!) ¬†Personally, I am hoping that this was a random act of a crack head rather than a student or ex-student. ¬†I think it would just be better for the community and for our students if this was truly a indiscriminate¬†act.

Today, when I drove my bus into the BHS bus load zone, I saw extra police, security and teachers everywhere and lots and lots of BHS Blue.  All the teachers have shown exceptional poise throughout this entire process.  Even the teacher that was attacked has been very appropriate considering the circumstances.  He released a statement thanking the community for their support.  He appeared on the news tonight and I was so proud because he is refusing to become a victim.  He said he would be back at work as soon as they let him.  Makes me proud to live in our district and be a home town girl.  I refuse to become a victim and so has he.  What a great example for my kids.

Here’s hoping that they catch the person who did this horrible thing soon!

Trust Your Mama Bear Instincts!

Usually I let my kids fight their own battles. I tend to listen to their problems and then advise them on what I think they should do about it. Every once in a while, I feel the need to get involved such as the time that my daughter was bullied by a teacher.

Such was the case recently with my teenage son. My son is 16, so at this point I really hope that the lessons that I have taught him stick. I have always tried to teach my children that if you work hard, you will not necessarily get what you want, but you will get what you deserve.

A couple of bits of information first: our school district’s high schools are grades 10-12. My son is a music fanatic. It’s what he wants to do with his life. He wants to learn as many instruments as he can and become a brass expert. He’s not into girls (or guys, for that matter), or anything else that a typical teenager is into. He loves music. If he could practice 24 hours a day, he would. Now, the way Drum Major works at our high school is that Sophomores are allowed to try out to be Junior Drum Major for the next year. They are then automatically Senior Drum Major. Knowing all of this, my son has made it clear all year that he would be trying out for Drum Major in the spring. He spent hours practicing and filling out the questionaire, became section leader and spent as much time with the current drum major as he could.

When the 4 finalists for Junior Drum Major were announced my son was not among them. We were both shocked at this decision by the band director. The director had eliminated all brass players claiming that the section was weak. My son informed me that he honestly would not pick any of the 4 that were left to be drum major because they were either too meek and mild or just not leaders because they were not committed to band. My son and I sat on this information for about a week. I told him that if he wanted to fight for the position then he should and I would support him. He chose not to, but I could tell that it was continuing to bother him. That is when I decided to write the director an email. I wrote the following:

“Dear [Director],

Over the past several days I have struggled with the decision to march into your office or write this letter. After speaking with another parent last night at the Music Boosters meeting, I decided to write, so here goes.

Last Thursday, you crushed my son’s spirit completely. His faith in doing the right thing, working hard for what he wants, trust in his teachers have all been decimated. I have always tried to instill in him that if he works hard he will get what he deserves. Your decision to exclude all brass from the running for drum major is baffling to me. It is one student; one that will not make or break an entire band. However, a bad leader can break a band. If you were going to make that decision, then why let them get their hopes up in the first place? Why let them hope all year long? Why let them train with [current drum major]?

You know that this has been a goal of [my son]’s from the very beginning of the year. He has spent countless hours practicing what [current drum major] has taught as well as hours on the questionnaire. He has also spent countless hours outside of regular time with [current drum major], learning from him. In comparison, one of your finalists spent about 10 minutes on the questionnaire and barely practices on their instrument, let alone anything else. Isn’t a drum major supposed to be a strong leader and good example for the other students? [My son] has already proven his leadership skills as section leader is Jazz. Given how week and unreliable [junior drum major] is (I know this from S & E experience), I would think you would want a solid Junior drum major. I would also think that you would want someone who is fully committed to band, is one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave, who wants to make the band better.

It would be one thing if [my son] was put up against peers that were actually real contenders, but to be discounted just because he is a brass player is just wrong. Out of the four finalists, [my son] has said that he would not vote for any of them as they do not have the qualities that a drum major should have. He has also said that the position is basically a popularity contest. As a teacher, you should be above the popularity issue and really should not be letting the students run your program, which is the whole point of you having a veto.

[My son] wants this, wants to continue music after high school, wants to teach. Music is his passion, proven by the fact that he will be showing up for Jazz Band next year, even though he will not be officially enrolled in the class due to Running Start restrictions. This would have been a stepping stone for him to start on that path. You have now put those future plans in doubt as he is questioning why bother even trying for anything. I hope that you take all of this into account in the future and be aware of the feelings of your students rather than crushing their hopes and dreams.

Thank you”

As you can see, I was one pissed off mama bear. Seeing my 16 year old son cry over something that he has worked so hard to achieve will do that to me. I let my son know what I had done, but because he was so down about the situation, he had no hope that it would help.

Two days later I received and email from the director stating that my son and another brass player were going to get the chance to try out for Drum Major. I was not actually expecting anything to change, was actually expecting to be ignored completely, so was pleasantly surprised. For me, this was a giant mama bear victory. For my son, it was the best day of his life. I even got an “I love you” out of it!

I guess the purpose of this post is, if all your mama instincts are telling you to get involved, DO IT!