Monthly Archives: March 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge- perspective

Half full?

half empty?

Black and white?


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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Weekly photo challenge


TEACHERS… time to stand up and speak out


Since Judah was born and he started public school I’ve learned a lot more about our Georgia educational system. I wouldn’t call it eye opening per say but it is certainly a sad state of affairs that makes me extremely angry. The one thing I was surprised to see was how similar it is to corporate America. You know…those who kiss ass the most and can play a mean game of “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” … move up the pay scale and position ladder. And for those who question the system, make others accountable and/ or expect to be compensated for their hard work are given the scarlet letter. Those who stand up against the injustices are the ones who are ostracized when they speak out. It’s interesting… The way teachers are being treated is no different than living with an abusive spouse or parent. What do I mean? Well, think of it like this. In the case of domestic violence it’s common for the abuser to physically and mentally beat their victim down to a level that allows the abuser to maintain control over them. And in the case where the victim may gain the courage to defend themselves, the abuser will twist the situation to justify their abuse… in the eye of the abuser it is never their fault and always the victims fault. Now take that mentality and lets look at our educational system where our teachers are the victims. I’ll let you figure out who our abusers are in this scenario.

OK, so lets look at this scenario of abuse. Now, I’m going to do a more cursory overview. Of course there are many finer details I am leaving out but it’s the overall point I’m trying to make that I feel is important. First, lets go back twenty plus years ago. Back then a teacher was responsible for taking a clear defined curriculum (that didn’t change quarterly due to the direction of the wind) and to teach that material to their students. They worked a 40 hour week (give or take). They were given actual planning time during the day so they could have time to put their teaching first. It was understood the teacher could only do so much and then it was the responsibility of the student. The teacher had the power to make the student accountable and the administration supported their teachers. Teachers were compensated for working extra hours (when they took on extra responsibilities). They received a pension or at the very least a good retirement plan. Hell, teachers back then even had time to sit in the “teacher’s lounge”. Remember those? They were private spaces where teachers could let off steam… talk to other teachers to get ideas…AND get this…TO RELAX and take a breather.

Now, fast forward to teaching today. Damn, where should I start? Well, first of all teachers are expected to work beyond their 40 hours a week. Often they have to take hours of paperwork home to do until late at night and over the weekends. And the paperwork being done is not usually directly related to their teaching or their classroom. Oh no. It is usually something the higher ups want done to prove the teacher has been teaching. So, this then requires the teacher to stop teaching and frequently give a certain generic test that is state approved and said to be a good evaluation on how students are learning. The irony here is how many grammatical and spelling mistakes are in those tests. Thank goodness the makers of those tests aren’t hired and fired based on their “performance”. Back to the tests, though… they don’t take in account the disabilities of many of the children: emotional or intellectually. The tests are a one size fits all (and hopefully your child fits it). Want to know the best part? Yes, there is one. These tests have to be given in multiple subjects and given multiple times a year. AND teachers are graded on their teaching? Doesn’t that require them to have actual time to teach? Oh, I’m sorry…that’s just too logical. Silly me to point out the teachers are spending more classroom time administering these state required tests than they are actually teaching the students. Oh and the logic gets even better. Even though the teachers are given less classroom time to teach, they are directly responsible for each of their (up to 30) students to learn and comprehend that year’s required curriculum regardless of their disability. A child of a parent who did drugs while pregnant and that child clearly has brain damage…never mind…put them on the college bound track. Even when that child has a low IQ and it’s proven she will never rise above because of the damage her mother did to her while pregnant, gosh that doesn’t matter either. Haven’t teachers heard of “No child left behind?” AND never mind that same child struggles to understand a simple story read to her and can’t keep up with her assignments because the curriculum is already way over head in the fourth grade…don’t you know the only reason the child is struggling is because the teacher is not doing her job? Really…that is what they are told.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you out there who feel the success of the student does lay directly on the teacher. Sure in theory that sounds good. Hell, that’s how corporate America works so why not carry over some of those same work ethics into the teaching arena? And you’d be correct except for a few little points. I don’t see an employee of a top Fortune 500 company taking on that kind of accountability and then accepting a minimum wage salary… I also don’t see an employee at a top Fortune 500 company accepting being told they have to work for two weeks out of the year without getting paid for it. After all shouldn’t they do it for free simply because they love what they do? I don’t see a top Fortune 500 company employee working in an office that leaks when it rains (resulting in mold) and buying their 30 employees (under them) all of their office supplies for a 9 month period. Yeah, I don’t see that happening. Most employees of major companies are given rights. Rights that include expense reimbursement…getting paid for the hours they’ve worked and quality working environment. However for some reason we don’t see that our teachers (let alone our own children) deserve those same rights. Excuse my language but what the fuck people?

Folks, I must ask. At what point is this abuse enough? Let me recap here. Our teachers are working at least 50 hours a week…they are being told they are lucky to have jobs and therefor should accept their bad working conditions. They should want to give back to their communities by accepting their low salaries. Having the title of “teacher” should be enough and they should be obliged when they have to work for free. AND they should understand and accept that even if a student doesn’t have the capability to learn it is still the fault of the teacher. OK, am I the ONLY one here who sees this as abuse? And yet, our teachers continue to take it. Why? Why do they accept it? Why aren’t our administrators standing in solidarity with our teachers and stopping this in it’s tracks? Why aren’t our teachers standing up in solidarity with each other and demanding this to stop?

Listen, I think back to the times of segregation. It was a time where many also became complacent about what was happening. After all, there wasn’t anything they could do, right? And if there was it would have only brought possible danger to them and their families. So what was the point? Isn’t it best to just keep quiet and accept what is happening even if it’s wrong? It’s certainly easier for the ones who aren’t being abused to go home, shut their front door and pretend it isn’t happening. But what about those who are being mistreated? How do they pretend? How do they just keep quiet and accept their fate of being less than the others? Well, during that time of segregation, many did. Even those who were being abused and knew it was wrong found themselves more afraid to stand up to the injustices. The uncertainty of what could happen if they stood up stifled them. Understandable. I get it. HOWEVER, thank G-d for those who were willing to take those risks. Thank G-d many thought better of themselves, believed they deserved more and were willing to spit in the eye of their abusers. AND most of all thank G-d for those who chose to stand up so those generations after them wouldn’t have to walk in their same shoes.

And so, what is it about teachers? What kind of person decides to go into that field?Hell, it isn’t as if they are appreciated. Well, I know the answer. They are intelligent, selfless people who tend to put their needs last. They don’t get joy from their paycheck (alone) but joy from that child who finally understands that math problem or finally works to their potential. Teachers do their job because they get satisfaction from helping our children grow. For them it IS ALL ABOUT the love of their students. Their students always come first. Teachers want nothing more than to have our children achieve their highest potential. I think too often we forget they are on our team. I’ve got to tell you folks, our teachers work as hard as (if not more than) any corporate America employee. I am so grateful that in spite of the conditions our teachers have to work they return day after day to inspire our beautiful children. To me that speaks volumes to the character of our teachers and the true love they have for their jobs. I think in many ways this is why teachers become good targets to beat down and abuse. We know they will always return and most of all we know they will never stand up and speak out. It’s not because they have become complacent. Hell no. It’s because they actually have their priorities straight by always thinking how it will effect their students. Again, they put themselves aside regardless of the conditions they have to work and make the students their focus. I’ve got to say, folks, I don’t know many who could work under the same conditions and still keep committed to the reason they chose to teach. That alone is commendable and deserves a gold medal.

HOWEVER…yes, there is a however. No teacher should ever have to work under the conditions many of them are having to work under. It’s insane…it’s cruel…and bottom line it’s abusive. I understand standing up for themselves goes against who they are as teachers but it’s time this crap stopped…it’s time our beloved teachers joined forces and showed “they system” they are valuable and they will no longer be knocked down. Come on, folks, how many more years are you going to allow others to mistreat you? Haven’t you had enough of this bullshit? How much are you willing to take before you will stand up? Or is it you’d rather walk away defeated allowing the abusers to continue their behavior to those who come after you? Listen, I understand standing up for oneself comes at a cost. I’ve been there and I have paid the price. It wasn’t easy but I wouldn’t have done it any other way because I know I deserved better. Our teachers deserve better. In my situation, though, I was the only one who stood up. The others around me were too afraid and weren’t willing to pay that price in exchange for a better future. Yes, I was disappointed and no, I didn’t get as much accomplished as I could have with more standing by my side, BUT I did what I knew was right for the sake of my future.

Folks, I believe standing up and protesting against how we are being treated does make a difference. Hell, our history books are filled with pages exemplifying that point. BUT in order for that change to happen it must come from those very people who are being mistreated. It must be their voices we hear yelling out. Of course it helps to have others stand in solidarity but the wheel must be held by the very people who will benefit from that change…they must be the driving force.

As much as I love and respect teachers I realize this is their fight. I know it is at the cost to our own children but that is the price we all pay for not standing up sooner. It’s time we STOP focusing on “fixing” our teachers. Hell, they don’t need fixing. Instead, it’s time we look hard at our educational system and those who are at the root of the real problems. I say who better to dig deep and get to the bottom of it than those who are on our front lines…our teachers.

To all of the teachers out there… I ask, “How much longer are you willing to sit at the back of the school bus? When will you stop making excuses? AND, finally, when will you realize you have the right to demand what you deserve… that seat at the front of the school bus?


Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Weekly photo challenge


SEVENTEEN YEARS but who’s counting?

Holy shit, people! How do you leave a place you’ve lived in for 17 years? So many memories! For years friends and family had been telling us we needed a bigger place but it was perfect for us. Well perfect until our son got older and bigger and his friends did too. Perfect until Carol could no longer stand the very small kitchen that has became an exercise in patience when we each of us are making our own separate meals.

Listen, even though those things have become the reason we are moving, it’s still so hard to leave. Our town home may only be 1100 sq ft but every single inch of it is full of many rich memories…the pass through from the dining room to the kitchen…once Kaitlin (Carol’s daughter) tripped while carrying a bowl of soup. It was not only on the walls but also on the ceiling. Do you know how many years it was we kept finding little pieces of noodles hidden in an assortment of crevices we didn’t knew existed? Our staircase that Kaitlin stormed down in the middle of the night when she was in high school. She demanded Carol let her go outside to pee. It was our first experience with her sleepwalking. Then there are the memories of Kaitlin, Carol and Judah wrestling on the living room floor. Oh, the laughter was contagious. And those mornings Judah and I danced to an array of music in the living room before his naps. Then there is Judah’s bedroom door he wrote all over. He thought it would be really neat to decorate it. Oh gosh, then there’s the door frame of the bathroom that has Judah’s growth chart from the time he was two until now (10 years old). Then there are the pets we had during this time and all of the funny memorable things they did. The gatherings we had here with friends and family…Golly! So many beautiful and wonderful memories contained in this small space.

Aside from the memories inside these walls there are as many right outside of them. Our patio, our pool area and our courtyard. We had many of Kaitlin’s birthday parties at the pool. Once she had a luau party and I spent hours decorating the pool area. There was Judah’s first birthday on the back patio just in case he made a mess with his cake. And I can’t forget our dogs, Elisheva and Doobie who would always find something to eat in our postage stamp backyard. Once Doobie escaped out of our backyard and went into the courtyard area. When he tired of that he tried to escape out of the iron gates that surround the property. Well in Doobie fashion he got stuck in the gate while trying to get out. And the part of him that got stuck was his middle. It was the funniest site. And once Elisheva escaped into the courtyard area and found something good to eat. Someone had dumped their evening meal over the water crates outside which she found delish. One problem though. When she stepped on the grate to grab what was in the middle of it, one of her toenails got stuck in the meshing of the crate. Yes, a toenail. That was harder than it was to get Doobie out of the gate! And speaking about the courtyard…I would remiss if I didn’t talk about Judah playing through out that area. He’d dress up in his army attire and with two of his friends who lived in the complex, they’d do maneuvers, run from the enemy and yell army stuff at each other. Carol and I often stopped to listen and watch them because we knew as he got older those would be fond memories. OMG! Then there is my garden that I have worked in and developed over the last 6 years. Carol gave me my first potted plant which we displayed on our front stoop. From that one plant it grew to many more and even a vegetable garden. From someone like me who confessed to having a black thumb I was so proud of my garden and all I was able to accomplish in it.

Now there is no way I can forget to mention our many town home neighbors…some still here and others who have come and gone. And of course many of them we gave special names. There was the cat lady who lived up front. She was a sweet elderly lady who would spend all of her money on caring for the cats she acquired than on herself. She was rail thin and had jet black hair. We would discover she was JB White’s Department store’s first graphic artist and she was sent all over to train others. Her son was an actor in Police Academy which we thought was cool. She fell ill suddenly and soon after died. She was one neat lady. Then, there was Grandma Laura who lived in A1. She and her husband were the very first tenants. They were Jewish and from NY so you can imagine what characters they were. Her husband sadly died just a couple of years after we moved here and that was when we got very close to Laura. We looked out for her…she became family. In fact when our son was born we partly named him after her husband. She referred to herself (when talking to our son) as Grandma Laura and so the name stuck. We were sad to see her go into an assisted living facility up north 6 years ago. We think of her often and miss her. Then there was Paco’s father…Paco was a black French bulldog and his human dad was a very sweet young guy from South America. We also had the “Brazilian guys!” Oy voy voy! We loved the Brazilian guys. Over the weekends they’d often do a little drinking which always lead to them sitting on their back patio playing guitar and singing. It was awesome to sit on our patio underneath the stars and listen to them. Our very own private concert. On the corner apartment “the two guys” lived. They were the ones who thought our orange tabby was a stray so they kept feeding him tuna fish (which our cat, Boaz, loved). Boaz would visit them every afternoon at 3. And in fact he made himself very much at home. He’d meow for them to open their door and then he’d invite himself inside. The two guys had a beagle who did not like it one bit. In fact he was known to attack cats but I suppose Boaz was so confidence (or that dumb), the dog never bothered him. Then there was “Volvo lady” who lived a few doors down from us. She was a closeted alcoholic who’d make her liquor store run several times a day. She drove an old blue Volvo that make a distinct clacking noise. We heard her each and every time she came and went. In the next row of apartments there lived “Libby the nurse”. She was young and a bit of a partier. She had bleached blonde hair and a 5 year old son named Stefan. “Libby the nurse” was a beautiful girl who always put her kid first even if she enjoyed having fun. Stefan was a chunky kid who loved to sing as he played in the courtyard. And folks, that boy could sing. His voice was angelic. After they lived here for about 5 years “Libby the nurse” fell in love with a wonderful man. She and Stefan moved in with him. Married only 2 weeks “Libby the nurse” was heading to work via I-20 and was struck head on by a semi truck. She died instantly. Only then did we discover she had been a nurse at the local burn hospital. Many of her colleagues and some patients came to pay their respects to a wonderful woman.

Gosh, but, I’m not done with our many neighbors…in the front on the corner lived a woman who had a golden retriever named Caroline. Caroline’s mom and I became good friend’s. We’d take our dogs to the park across the street so they could play. Well one day I stopped by to see if they wanted to join us at the park. Caroline’s mom answered the door and what I saw had me rolling on the floor with laughter. Caroline was wearing a pair of women’s underwear (with a hole cut out for her tail). They were pink and had frillies on the tush part. I couldn’t imagine why she was wearing them so I asked. Well, folks, Caroline had gone into heat and her human mom had no choice (so she thought) but to grab her own underwear and make do. On the corner apartment after “the two boys” moved out there was a young couple who moved in. They were medical students. At first they got the nickname, “the tall good looking medical students.” As you could guess they were tall. But also, they really were beautiful people…inside and out. I missed them when they moved out but thank G-d for Facebook to keep me up on how they’re doing. On the other side in the front corner we had “the German lady”. We quickly became friendly with her and her significant other so we were able to give her a name fairly quickly. We loved schmoozing with her and hearing about her trips back to Germany. We shared the same politics as we did with the “the tall good looking medical students” (who by the way we learned their names quickly too). And last but not least there was the resident who lived in our town homes the longest. We called her “Mrs. Kravitz”. For those who have seen the 1960’s TV series “Bewitched” you’ll know why we gave her that name. No matter how private you thought you were being that tenant would know your business. She knew everything. You’d even find her hidden in the bushes listening to someone’s conversation. She really was a real life “Mrs. Kravitz.

Thinking about all of the people who came and left, I could see where the storyline to soap opera’s originated. Meanwhile, I didn’t even tell you about the colorful array of on site managers we’ve had. Listen, I suppose you could say we had our own Patten Place right here at Hickman Arms and we loved it.

OK, so enough about our other tenants. One of the other reason we loved living here was our neighborhood. The countless walks Judah and I would take to the library up the street for story time… The long walks to his school and the Saturday jaunts we would all take while taking photos. We would always run into neighbors and often stop to chat. Carol and I became known as “the girls” of the neighborhood. Even though we said it bothered us initially we grew to enjoy that title. We would take a 5 mile walk and we’d know many who lived in the houses we passed. It was nice and on occasion very helpful. Once while on a walk with Judah it started to storm. Judah got scared, so there was no way he’d walk home. No problem, though. We hopped onto the porch of someone we knew and we waited for Carol to pick us up. There were even occasions when I’d walk and get some very unexpected gifts. Once just after Judah was born neighbor after neighbor would stop me to look at my new baby. Of course I enjoyed showing him off. The thing was they had stopped me because they had gifts for us (to congratulate us). I couldn’t believe it. I was given cash, a stroller, balloons, baby clothes and more. I’m not kidding. By the time I arrived home I could barely open our front door with all of the stuff I was carrying. Oh yeah and that included Judah too. The look on Carol’s face was priceless when I showed her all of the gifts I received. I’ll never forget a walk I took before Judah was born. I was 7 months pregnant and must have been giving off some kind of smell. I say that because by the time I arrived back home, I had 6 stray dogs (all different sizes) with me. I kid you not! Thank G-d Carol’s daughter, Kaitlin, was home to be my witness because I’m not sure anyone would have believed me. And in fact Kaitlin called Carol because she was afraid I was going to bring all of the dogs inside. I’ll never forget Carol talking to me on the phone saying very sternly, “MaLea, do NOT let those dogs inside our house.” Would you believe one of the bigger dogs kept peeking inside the window and even knocked on the door when I was on the phone with Carol? It went against every grain in my body to keep from opening the door but didn’t.

Wow, as I sit here thinking about those 17 years I am overwhelmed with the rush of memories… there are also the things you just enjoy and get used to while living in the same place for so long. I’ll miss the full moons I’ll see perfectly from my bedroom window. The amazing sunrises too. I’ll miss the squirrel who would visit often and sit on our fence (while the cats and dogs were inside) teasing them. I’ll miss her burying her nuts in my garden in the strangest places. And of course I’ll miss my many lizards I have loved photographing. Memories, memories, memories.

Over the years Carol and I knew it would be best to live in a bigger place for the sake of our kids. But, it just wasn’t something feasible for us at the time. And the fear of the upkeep just kept us away from buying. But, those were the days we were barely paying our bills and able to feed our family. Owning a home would have been crazy. But as things got better we started toying with the idea. After all we liked being able to simply pick up the phone and call our manager when we had a problem. For 17 years we’ve never had to do one repair. Over the 17 years we never had to worry how something was going to be fixed if we needed. It always got done and never at our expense. That was nice. And after listening to friends and family dealing with the headaches of home ownership we felt glad to not be in their shoes. Even with are our worries of owning, it didn’t stop us from wanting our own space…a space we could make into our dream home. There were times we’d even go to open houses and do a bit of looking around to see if there was a home out there for us. BUT, we never could bring ourselves to commit. Here’s the thing. Carol and I have always said if it is meant to be, it will happen. We have learned to let it go and to allow bashert to take over. And I suppose it took 17 years for our bashert to come around. Timing is everything. Well to be truthful with you, it did help that our rent had been increasing a good bit every year for several years now. As we started to reach an amount that could be put into a mortgage (even with the worries of upkeep) it did get harder to justify renting. We began thinking about our retirement and having some security. The truth is you never get all of the money you put into your house back. But, we knew we needed to see buying (a house) as a way to create security for us. And the other side of this? Carol and I have always wanted something of ours. We wanted something that would reflect us as a couple. It’s funny. Carol and I disagree on a lot of things but when it came to what kind of home we wanted, we have always had the same dream. And so, with our rent increasing and with the new opportunities we had financially, we figured we’d see if us buying a home was meant to be this go round.

Carol and I were shocked with how everything fell into place when we started our process of buying a home. That had never happened in the past. OMG! Did that mean this was our time? Did that mean it was bashert? It was scary to think it was. I don’t know why that was our first emotion. I suppose we’re weird that way. It was just that when our loan was approved and then we found a really awesome realtor, we just couldn’t believe things were rolling along so easily. It had never been that easy the last several times we tried. Now, I’ve got to stop here and talk about our realtor for a minute (or two). I just can’t say enough good things about him. He has made our experience easier than I ever thought it could be. I can’t stress enough how much we appreciated his ability to go with the flow (our flow which can be wacky) and encouraging. He never once pushed us to look at or buy a home we didn’t. When we were contemplating about putting a bid on one he backed away and let us talk it over. When we asked for his opinion he simply said, “Buying (a home) is a commitment. You want to make sure this is the house for you. It’s better to go home and think it over than to rush into making an offer. You need to feel comfortable about it.” He never once made us feel pressed to make a decision and an offer because someone else may come behind us and snatch it. And lastly, when we were discouraged, he encouraged us. During a short period of time we were a little frustrated we couldn’t find anything we wanted and we were thinking about possibly settling for a house that was really too small for us. And that was when he made us feel better by saying, “Don’t rush into buying something because you think there’s nothing out there. There may not be right now. But new houses are listed every week. You have time…there is a house out there for you.” And only two weeks later we found that house. He was absolutely correct and in less than an hour we will be at our closing on the house that was meant for us. Bashert.

Listen as sad as I am to be leaving a home I’ve lived in and loved for 17 years, I am excited to create new memories with my family. I am looking forward to sitting in our new large den with Carol drinking our coffee all while looking out our big picture window watching Judah plays ball in the backyard. I can’t wait to hear Judah complain about putting the garbage can on the curb on garbage day and for him to get pissed when he has to pick up the gum balls in the yard. I can’t wait to hear Carol whine about having to cut the grass or her fussing at me to stop nagging her about fixing something. I am excited about all of those things.

To Carol- babe, please don’t worry. Try to take comfort in the fact this was bashert and we will be OK (just as we always have been). We have people around us who love us and are there for us. We aren’t alone. We’ll be OK and we will do just fine. I promise. And in the words of your Mom, “You girls always come out smelling like a rose.” We’ve come a far way together: the good, the bad, the ugly and the oh so beautiful. Once all of our things are moved to our new place and when we close the door to 17 years at Apt. E-1, I know we will shed many tears. It’s hard to say good bye and especially to a place that holds so many years of wonderful memories. But you know us. We will create many new memories in our new place. Your going to love your new, large kitchen. Judah will love his new room where part of it isn’t our storage. Then there’s our backyard that he has wanted (as he says, “forever”). I’ll get to create a garden with all of my quirky things in it (even though it seems overwhelming). And if I want to do an art project I will have more space to take over. My joke. Hopefully not.

Lastly, I know life will be different for a while and it will take time for us to adjust. But, I am confident in due time we are sure to find a grandma Laura, a Mrs. Kravitz, a cat lady and everyone else in between in our new neighborhood. I’m even sure it won’t take long before we’re known as “the girls” who live in “that” house. All of which will make us feel right at home in no time at all.

And so, how do we leave a place we’ve lived in for 17 wonderful, memorable years? Well, first… we take those 17 precious years of memories, place them in our front pocket to pull out at anytime and we always remember them. Then, we take hold of each other’s hands (really tightly), wipe away each other’s tears (as often as we need) and we take that leap (together) into the next chapter of our lives. After all Bashert says it’s so.

Our house! copy

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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Weekly photo challenge


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