Monday, October 29, 2012

For Good - Wicked

That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew youI have been changed for good
 It well may be
That we will never meet againIn this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...
One of the things the STOYs did in NYC was go see Wicked.  I hadn't cried the whole weekend, which I considered miraculous, and then I went to this play.  It was the final song in the show and as I listened to the words tears streamed down my face.  I tried to keep it to a trickle, but the more I thought about it, the uglier the crying got and I couldn't stop.  By the time I got outside, the mascara was gone, but the sentiment remained. 

I ended my last blog posting reflecting on the journey of how I got here.  As a historian, I have a need to know why and the how of everything,  not just the what.  It's difficult when you feel like life is happening to you, to step beyond and begin to process the enormity of it all. I had to let go of a lot of the preconceived notions of what I thought my life would become, and I felt like a balloon floating aimlessly for a while.  The lesson I've learned is that I am a work in progress, and I hope to continue that growth in whatever direction it takes me.  I had not realized how stunted my growth had become. 

My STOY peeps have been instrumental in my growth in the last year, but they are not the only ones.  I can't tell you how many times my Mom has come over while I was out and about and I came home to find my cats fed, homemade cupcakes on the cupboard, or that the sink full of dirty dishes had been cleaned.  When I call, or come over for dinner, she just lets me ramble and get it all out of my system even if she doesn't know what the heck I am talking about.  My brother has been my date to events on several occasions and can speak truth to me like only a family member can do and get away with.

Jane, my humanities guru, keeps me grounded and always reminds me of the bigger issues in education including, social justice, civic engagement, and finding that which brings us together rather than tears us apart.  She has been instrumental in keeping me sane and helping me keep my eye on what is important.

Katherine, the unflappable matriarch of the NJSTOY program, whose patience and wisdom, not to mention excellent fashion sense, has provided guidance and a model to look up to.   I am in awe of her for many reasons, but most of all am inspired by her kindness. Without knowing me very well, she answered my distress call, reached down to offer a hand,  pulled me up and showed me a set of new possibilities I never thought possible.

Mary, my DKG Eta sister and friend, who listens and asks thoughtful questions.  Not only has her positive encouragement helped me to focus, but realizing this journey is more than mental growth, she likes to feed me and remind me to take off my roller skates every once in a while to enjoy the rest of life.

Lastly, I lost my last grandparent this past week to Alzheimers.  I got the news the night before the big Forum, but had to tuck it away until later so that I could deal with it.  Grandma Lola and I didn't become family until later in life, but our bond was instant.  She was thrilled she had grandchildren, even though my brother and I were grown, and I was happy to have such a wonderful lady as my Grandmother.  We climbed mountains together, talked about boys and life, and she made one mean pecan pie.  I used to visit often, and it was about six years ago that I noticed something was wrong and alerted the rest of the family.  She declined quickly.   Alzheimer's is a cruel disease to those that have it, but it is just as cruel to those who are the caregivers and love the victim as they are erased from memory.  I have been missing her for a while as she lost who she was, but death brings a new level of mourning.    

I could not be where I am without all the people who have supported me and fed me body, mind and soul.  I am eternally grateful and will do my best to pay it forward and help others like you have helped me.     

Now to continue with the news......

I returned from my last conference with my STOYs and hit the ground running, not that I ever really stopped.  The NJ Council for the Humanities was having its 40th anniversary and I got to introduce the new Humanities TOY.  I also got to talk to Assemblyman Troy Singleton, who not only grew up in Willingboro in the same park at the same time I did, but he also was at my high school!  Small world. 

That weekend I got to give the keynote address at the NJ School Counselors Conference.  It was a beautiful morning down the shore, and in the light of the current hurricane raging outside, may be a scene we don't see again.  My keynote for the conference was a little different from my usual talk.  I dove head first into brain research and hormone levels of adolescents in my keynote.  Not exactly a pithy title, but aren't you curious?  I had lots of positive feedback and several counselors I need to get back to.  One thing I noticed was although there are few teachers involved in task forces, advisory committees, and panels, there are NO school counselors.  This has to change.  They are such an integral part of the school climate and culture and often know more about our students lives than we do.  We need them involved in our discussions about education.   
Later that night, a tradition was upheld.  We veteran NJSTOYs had a dinner for Lauren Marrocco, the 2012-2013 NJSTOY.  It was time to welcome her to the family and give her some helpful hints to get through the year.  She is an excellent 4th grade teacher from Perth Amboy and I have the utmost faith that she will do an excellent job representing the teachers of NJ.  She has all of us behind her as a support network, and she will find that she can't fail with such a strong net ready to catch her.   
The rest of the week was filled with planning, meetings and preparing more speeches because the upcoming weeks would be crazed.
On the 22nd, I was asked to speak at the Delta Kappa Gamma dinner for Pi chapter down in Gloucester County.  The topic was Women Working in a Man's World.  I got an article from the Atlantic, called Why Women Still Can't Have It All and was both fascinated and  disturbed, by what I read. Kind of like when I watch Mad Men.   Of the 190 heads of state only 9 are women.  Of all the Parliaments in the world, only 13% are women.  Of all the Boards of Directors for corporations, only 15% are women.  Why such small numbers? Inflexible scheduling is part of the reason, but another has to do with what we value.  When women say that they are leaving their job to take care of their family, they are seen as failures.  This flies directly in the face of the family values that we seem to care so much about.  Why is it that when men sacrifice their family lives, they are hailed as heroes because they are working for the greater good?  Why do we applaud leaders who promote family values, but don't actually value them personally?  Seems a bit off. 
I was agitated after reading the article to I reached out for some other info and was directed to the book Tripping the Prom Queen; The Truth About Women and Rivalry.  It was brilliant, and explained what I have described in the past as Mean Girl Syndrome.  We know that women don't fight fair; it is never just about the job, but also how their kids are doing, what their man is like and how they look from hair to shoes.  We women have a problem with rivalry, and it needs to stop. Loving movies as I do, I immediately thought of one of my favorites, Working Girl with Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver.  Weaver has Queen Bee Syndrome, she is a woman that has made it through connections and privilege, and does not want to compete against other women.  She is content with being the only woman at the top.   If you haven't seen this oldie but goodie, do so immediately.  Not too much has changed since the 1980s.  It was a good speech, and I admit I laid into the ladies a bit, but much of the time we hold ourselves back.  Studies show that when women compete for a job, they don't compete against the men at the top of the profession, they compete against the other women for the few slots they believe are allotted to women in top echelons. 
Wednesday, I spoke at Rider University.  The president of the student teacher organization on campus asked me to address the students, my favorite group,  but she had already heard me twice!  I had to write a new speech for that one too, but it was received well. The more I talk to college preservice students, the more I want to work with them.  Hmm....

 The rest of the week deserves its own entry, so that will be forthcoming.  Let's just say that it was AMAZING!   


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