call it hello again

DSC_1003It is quiet outside this evening and the air is cool, but has that end of summer richness to it.  As I write, my house sleeps and I am alone with my thoughts. Not unpleasant ones, don’t worry.

The thing about social media that is cool and uncool at the same time is it reconnects you to people you wonder about.  Mind you sometimes the wondering ends up being “What was I thinking?”, but this evening it ends up “Wow, kind of cool”.

Yes one can say I committed a random act of childhood past.

So recently I wrote about junior high age experiences in a post called now we learn our ABCs.  After I wrote that post it got me thinking and wondering where a couple of people had ended up.  One of those people was a girl who I was friends with back then named Aleen.

I used to think of her once in a while in my old neighborhood in Haverford because her mother lived in this crazy house sized “pre-war” (as in pre World War II) apartment on the Lancaster Avenue side of my old neighborhood when her parents split.

I thought of her again today when I saw an article in Main Line Times about a burglary on a road called Centennial Road in Penn Valley. That was her street before her parents divorced.

So today I thought what the heck and plugged her name into Facebook and Google….and there she was….after all these years. 35 to be exact.

I sent her a Facebook friend request and a message.  And like I expected, she was as cool as the girl I remembered.  “What sparked a memory?” she asked. So I told her.

She laughed when she read the post and the description of some of these girls we went to Welsh Valley with. And she shared similar memories.  She mentioned our lunch table. I remembered she was the person who taught me how to drink loose tea – she was making her own blends in 8th grade if I recall correctly.

Life took her to Arizona with her dad the summer before 10th grade.  That I do remember because I remember running into her somewhere before she left.  I also think we tried the pen pal thing too when she first moved.  But then life took over and she became for me the occasional memory of a friend I really enjoyed as a young teen.  As she said to me this evening, those years, that age, is so hard sometimes. And it is.  It is fun, but it is hard. (Which of course if I told my almost 14-year-old stepson he probably wouldn’t believe me.)

I have been fortunate, no blessed in my life to know some really cool people. Aleen was one of them.  And now thanks to a few clicks on a keyboard, I have the opportunity to get to know the adult who once was the girl.

She sent me a link to her blog.  Called Journey to Badwater . She is an unltramarathoner and an oncology nurse…and an artist. That is one of her paintings below. I swiped it from her painting blog. I hope she doesn’t mind.

Yes I know, I am just one of those people. I keep connected to my favorite teachers who have become dear friends as an adult, and I occasionally look up childhood friends when enough signs point me at them.  But I figure, life is short.  Why have regrets?

paintbrushstorm1

no this isn’t a made for lifetime tv movie…

dollsPeople always shake their head in amazement and skepticism at made for TV movies on Lifetime based on real stories and say  “How can things in real life be that horrible?” The short answer is you would be amazed.

In December, 2010 a really dear friend of mine from high school got engaged.  I was so very happy for him.  I did not know much about his intended other than a rather rocky past and quite a few children, but figured she looked nice enough even if she seemed to have a hard time in photos smiling and my friend Scott, well, he was so over the moon happy with this woman.

We’re not teenagers any more and this woman brought kids into her relationship with my friend.  My friend Scott is a very emotionally generous person and had been doing the single dude thing for so long I thought it was terrific.  And I knew those kids were lucky to get someone like Scott in their lives. After all, some people don’t want to be step-parents to the children of others.

Now Scott and I grew up minutes from each other and he went to one of the private schools many of my friends came from.  But for years now he had been out on the west coast.  So a lot of our communication over the years was by phone, e-mail, letters, and Facebook. So I had watched from afar as my friend fell in love with this woman.  He was so happy.  They were creating their own family unit and he loved her kids. Then came the news she was expecting.

Scott was going to be a father.  He was, quite simply put, over the moon.  Then on Tuesday, June 28th his daughter was born in sunny Petaluma, CA.  Scott was a dad.

Scott took to fatherhood like a duck to water.  We  as his friends shared their joys and Baby Girl’s every step. Baby Girl is a magically beautiful child and there is no doubt whose genes were dominant – she is a mini me to her devoted dad.  The only thing at this point that gave me pause was the fact this woman seemed to be dragging my friend deeper and deeper into this church which seemed a little too California cult-like to me.  Sorry, but I am who I am and I come from a traditional religion.

Time passed and this past September Scott’s friends received the jolt of a lifetime: he was out of the house and this woman was trying to get a restraining order out on him to keep him that way.   He was barred from seeing his daughter, the now ex  had all his stuff, and there he was wondering why he just got run over by an 18 wheeler.

Skeptics out there might say he must have done something wrong, and to them I say he might be many things but my friend Scott is not an abuser of anything or anyone.  He is not perfect, he is human complete with all the dents life gives you by your late 40s but he is honorable.

Besides, this is ironically the third case I know about where exes (women) are using the legal system to their advantage. For example,  I know another man in NJ who dates one of my very close friends and he  is going through a version of this.  His case is even stranger because his now soon to be ex wife wanted the divorce. He acquiesced and became accustomed to the idea and started to move on with his life with someone else (my friend), and whammo, all of a sudden he is an abuser. He has been fighting these charges brought on by his soon to be ex-wife for months and in his case  his soon to be ex-wife continues to contact him when she should be speaking through her lawyers (After all one would expect a woman in fear for her safety would not seek constant, direct contact for minutia the attorneys are supposed to handle, right?)

I have a HUGE problem with women who work the system like this.   I have zero respect for women who work the system to merely keep a home court advantage. It’s like women who cry rape and later it is proven rape did not occur.  Women who work the system to their own selfish ends make it that much harder for women actually in need.  After all it takes two to make a relationship, get pregnant, and break a relationship.

So now my friend Scott  has to scramble to pick up the pieces of his life.  He has not seen his daughter in over 110 days by my count.  I mean what kind of judicial system is it that doesn’t allow a father to see his daughter on Christmas or puts a dad who was the primary caregiver for more than a year in the position where he can only see his child two hours a week?  And because of the bogus restraining order it kind of makes it hard and down right dangerous for Scott to even attempt court supervised visits.  Why?  Because this woman has already exercised the order on him for coincidentally somehow being in a store too close to her in the same SMALL town they were both living in until recently….and isn’t that crazy?  He wasn’t attempting to see her and was getting a cup of coffee or something innocuous and whammo he gets a police visit?

What is wrong with the judicial system in California?  I am kind of surprised that a state that is often more forward thinking because of its Trendy Wendyiness for lack of a better description wouldn’t be more fair.  What happened to a father’s rights?

Nowhere have I heard my friend speak of taking primary physical custody, let alone taking his daughter anywhere.  He just wants his parental rights.  He was not some anonymous sperm donor and he’s not some impregnating baby daddy who bolts at conception and/or birth. He wanted this child, he loves this child, he wants to see and spend time with his child. Real time, not pizza time.

Of course now that this is all unfolding there are many sad details of his ex-fiancee’s life coming to light.  I will spare my readers the details as I think this is a woman with deep-seeded issues and we’ll leave it at that.  But I am of the opinion that the California legal system needs to take off the protect-the-woman- at- all- costs blinders and look to this woman’s life before she was in Scott’s life. And then these esteeemed professionals in California’s system have to ask is this the first time she has worked the system?  Is it possible for one woman to have so many issues with her multiple prior baby daddies  or is there something else not being seen clearly or fairly?

And a little shout out to this “church” that this woman dragged my friend into.  You see, when this all began, like a good Christian my friend went to their pastor and kind of said “what do I do?” I hear this pastor person gave some solid counsel at the outset. But soon the tides turned. Behind the scenes, and inspired by his ex fiancee, church members traded accusations — one of them went so far as to threaten Scott with physical violence on his Facebook page. Right there in black and white for all to see. Whoa. There’s Christianity at its best, right?  So why is it all these good Christians have turned their back on him?  It was all ducky and peach preserves until someone cried wolf, so what up with that? To these God-fearing hypocrites I suggest they brush up on their Matthew – Judge not, that ye be not judged.

A little shout out to Scott’s ex: I spared writing about a lot of details his friends and family are privy to.  I did that not for your delicate sensibilities, but for Scott and his daughter.  Which is also why I did not name you or her by name.  What you are doing is wrong, and you know it is wrong. Am I wrong in thinking you have a very destructive pattern?  Am I wrong in thinking you need to stop popping out kids from different baby daddies and get to the root of your issues? Girl, you need a shrink and birth control. Relationships end, but fathers have rights too. Moving from man to man and leaving a litter of children with various fathers isn’t going to fix what is wrong, is it?

I am so sad about this. I might never get to meet my friend’s daughter.  And the thing that makes me the most sad is somewhere there is a little girl not quite old enough to get what is going on, but old enough to miss and ask where her daddy is.  And Baby Girl is a daddy’s girl so I know she’s asking.

Lifetime TV?  If you need story ideas, here’s your next moment of truth movie.  It is all very sad, and all very true.

school days: what happened to age appropriate?

I am going to wade into something some parents and people in general might take issue with, but I am going to do it, anyway. I think it is a conversation that parents everywhere need to have with educators.

I am not a prude.  I don’t believe in treating children as a collective of village idiots.  But I do believe there are topics that are age-appropriate.

A few years ago a friend told me about a program a private school was running with elementary/middle-school aged kids about being gay.  At that age, most kids have no inclination of what that means even if they have same-sex parents. Anyway, my friend told me of the confusion and upset it caused the children.  Not the parents – the kids.  At the time I wondered aloud to my friend why they did this with kids so young and naive.  Basically kids who hadn’t even had any sex ed classes, either.

Now I am asking the same question of schools preparing for mock elections: what is age appropriate and when does it cross a line and make people fear there is another political agenda? (And I will note that I have a BIG problem with educators who bring personal politics of ANY kind into a classroom – it is not right – they are supposed to teach and be apolitical, educational Switzerland. Not put forth political agendas.)

What has got me on this topic?  Things I am hearing from parents all over whose kids are getting ready for mock elections at school.  Some schools require kids to have specific homework projects on it.

I have no problem with mock elections, I participated in my first one in 7th or 8th grade (when Jimmy Carter ran and became president).

What I have a problem with are some teachers are not only asking kids to do this but include as age appropriate topics for the NOT upper levels of high school set: abortion and gay marriage. These kids are elementary and middle schoolers. Not even high schoolers.

That truly bothers me.  What life experience and complex emotional capability do 10 – 14 year olds have to discuss gay marriage and abortion?  This is a complex subject, and to me it is something to be discussed at home….when they are older, or basically when the PARENTS decide. And truthfully, I don’t think the lower end of high schoolers (9th and 10th grades) should have this shoved at them as appropriate discussion either.

I am not even sure the average middle schooler can comprehend and articulate on the topic of gun control either for that matter. I mean is it really necessary?

And let me be clear, I might be a Republican, but I am decidedly pro-choice which is why I am also a ticket splitter half the time.  And I believe that a woman should have a right to choose and it is also a personal matter.  It is not for political platforms, courts, or pulpits.

As for gay marriage. Really?  Who does it hurt? Can you see it from your window? I have friends who have kids in their kids’ classes with same-sex parents.  Everyone gets along just fine. No one feels the need to wave a flag. It just is. The kids and the parents are accepted.

I just feel that these are very complicated topics that adults can’t even discuss pleasantly for the most part.  So why do middle schoolers and elementary schoolers have to?

I just do not see it as appropriate, and I question the underlying motives of any teacher that does this and school that promotes or allows this.

There is enough to learn about the electoral process, the issues, and individual politicians without having to explain to kids who haven’t even had sex ed in a lot of cases what abortion is.  Or to give them a pre-disposition towards gay marriage.

We do need to teach our children well.  But certain topics? Best saved for another discussion…and to an extent, I feel that there are certain  conversations which should occur at home when parents decide the time is right.

Seriously, I think it is bad enough when parents dress their kids like mini-me versions of themselves and schedule them so hard they don’t really know what it is to just be a kid, but to weigh them down with topics they are not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle?  Just not right.

phoenixville school district bans halloween

In Phoenixville, Scrooge has a new name: Phoenixville Area School District Superintendent Alan Fegley.  You see, Superintendent Alan Fegley is banning Halloween in Phoenixville schools, citing among other things  “controversy surrounding the religious connotations of Halloween.”

Bull twaddle. What a dope. Guess Santa Claus is next, huh? Oh wait, that is why so many schools across the country celebrate Halloween because it saves them from attacks by the political correctness police who whitewash everything into Happy Holidays Hell, right?

Seriously, somewhere Charlie Brown is screaming as another attempt is made to dumb down a childhood and American tradition.  We all are still Americans, right? Or has that become politically incorrect overnight too in Phoenixville?

Halloween is a universal kid loved time no matter the gender, ethnicity, religion.  As a matter of fact Halloween is so religion neutral across the country it is partially why it gets so much attention.

The History of Halloween is actually interesting:

History of Halloween

Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31.  The word Halloween is a shortening of All  Hallows Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve.
Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting “haunted houses” and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture.

We are as a country, and certainly as an area, an ethnic melting pot.  So many cultures celebrate Halloween that I do not see what the big deal is?  Now from the costumey end of it, it is a holiday in major metropolitan areas like New York City that is very attractive to those of alternative lifestyles, so I have to ask, is Phoenixville Area School District riding the discrimination bus on this?

Kids love Halloween, and these  teachers and this school district needed to get creative, not kill the holiday.

Thrift stores this time of year are LOADED to the gills with gently used costumes, so why couldn’t the Phoenixville Area School District put out a plea to ask people to donate gently used costumes?  And the kids would dress up IN school instead of coming to school in costume? That is one way to deal in a sensitive manner with the kids who can’t afford costumes.  School districts all over the country do this for prom (as in they have little events with gently used prom dresses, so those who might not be able to afford to go CAN, so why not Halloween?

Another thing they could have done was make the costumes that were acceptable kid created only and put a price on say whomever could design the best costume for under $10 dollars.  Again, the school district could have put it out there that they were accepting clean and gently used donations towards Halloween costumes.

Or they could limit the costumes to “best mask”, and they could make the masks in class.  A parade of masks and  pumpkin decorating (and again, they could put it out there to local farms and businesses to donate pumpkins and gourds to donate.)

Halloween is not only a fun childhood tradition, it is a way for children to express themselves artistically and creatively.  Often the reality of life is difficult enough for small children, so who does it hurt to let them escape reality for a few hours and just be kids dressing up?

Phoenixville is all wet  and wrong on this one.

If I had kids in this school district I would dress up and protest in front of the school district administration building on a public sidewalk and protest this decision.  Or in front of the post office (or any place that is a public sidewalk where they can’t arrest you for demonstrating.)

If I was a farmer or business owner in the area I would be delivering mounds of pumpkins to the steps of the Phoenixville Area School District building and to the front steps of the home of Superintendent Alan Fegley.

The Phoenixville Area School District Building is located at 386 City Line Avenue, Phoenixville, PA 19460. Phone number: 484-927-5000. Dr. Alan Fegley, 484-927-5010, fegleya@pasd.k12.pa.us

Is Fegley worth the $205,000 per year another blogger reports he earns? Maybe if the school district paid more realistic salaries considering the econony, it might have a couple bucks to give elementary school kids Halloween back?

And Fegley?  Dressing up for Halloween doesn’t cause sexting (you know that other issue you dealt so well with?)

Seriously, Phoenixville?  You need Operation Pumpkin Drop.  Prove this school district wrong and give the kids Halloween back.  Kids deserve to just be kids once in a while.

 

By Frank Otto fotto@journalregister.com 10/23/12

PHOENIXVILLE — Elementary school students in the Phoenixville Area School District will be celebrating a fall theme day as opposed to Halloween-centric events this year and Superintendent Alan Fegley explained why at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

Fegley said the announcement was made in the elementary school student “package” from the district in August, but he explained the district’s decision to move away from Halloween fully at the meeting.

According to Fegley, a number of the elementary schools’ principals came to him with their concerns regarding Halloween celebrations for Oct. 31.

“I approved the change for a fall-themed activity for a number of reasons,” Fegley said…“There was unhealthy competition for the costumes and treats that were being provided,” Fegley said. “I’m a competitive person, don’t get me wrong. But when it’s sitting there and making other students not feel good because they can’t afford the costume or can’t have it made, that’s something that’s just something the district just thought was not worth having to go through.”

Additionally, with the costumes and despite warnings from the school, children continued to bring in costume weapons in violation of the school’s weapons policy.

Finally, the district wanted to “honor the diverse background” of its students and open up the celebration to fall-themed events rather than Halloween because of the “controversy surrounding the religious connotations of Halloween.”