49 vs. 17, perimenopause vs. teenage testosterone.

It’s been a “Ben” kind of morning. I haven’t been up more than an hour and a half, maybe, and already, I feel in need of prayers for patience and coffee for endurance. I have two teenage sons both are bright, witty and joyfully challenging but right now, I swear the eldest is trying to fit more “first time for everything” experiences in these last remaining 40+ days of high school. The one final push to my pull, a battle of wills. The youngest clearly understands the principles of survival. He quietly falls into the background watching and documenting for himself, Mama’s hot buttons.

Both of my boys are outstanding young men, but there are those times when they are hormonal driven teenagers battling against Mama’s perimenopause. This is not a good mix for the eldest who at times displays “my mini me” in temperament. Thank heavens, his disposition is diluted with his Dad’s personality as well because that little bit is what saves him on some days. 

Basically, I’m saying, I can’t stand myself as a 17-year-old boy. Never having been a boy, I just don’t get him sometimes and honestly, his Dad was a boy but firmly remains clueless. I am lost and aggravated. It’s convenient, how the one guy in my household with prior experience in all things boy, claims senility. Or maybe, my husband’s practicing survival instincts and playing dead, because he’s experienced a “hell hath no fury like a scorned woman”. Yes, scorned by the teenager because he taunts me with heaping tons of disdainful mockery and eye rolling and Daddy’s no fool. Disrespect is my hot button. Incendiary, to be accurate.

There’s no reasoning with me when I am past the point of understanding teenage boys. Two of the men in my life retreat to safe distances but that 17 years old, young man, keeps coming…must have the last word. Push, push, push and the volcano erupts into a fiery passion of world’s colliding.  He thinks he’s entitled to express his thoughts, whether or not, I am ready.

I’m the immovable mountain, lava’s going to flow and he’s going to get burned.  Oh, the naive wonder of youth.

I consciously understand, Ben and I are like tectonic plates shifting and moving. He’s trying fit into his vision of the world. I’m trying to soften some of those rough shifts, as so, he doesn’t encounter those volcanic reactions from the outside world because he is seismically moody, while still an arrogant male teenager. Family is the training ground readying you for life. We practice boundaries, push and pulls, we teach consequences, while the world takes no excuses and second chances are rarely given.

He is a very successful student, very thoughtful to the world at large, he never displays less than ideal traits. Great kid all around and I’m proud to call him mine. Although, there are times, I think my own Mother cursed me harshly with the “I hope you get a child just like you are now, just a thousand times worse!” Sigh.  I have called my Mum begging her to rescind the ancient curse of Motherhood  and release me from the pain!   She cackled and  chuckled, saying, “You’ll survive.” Notice, she didn’t rescind the curse. Mean Mother, just mean. So, onward I arm myself with ancient remedies that seemingly pays dividends in the future with an endless supply of joy to the cursing parent in their later years. Who said, revenge isn’t sweet? Pfft. Not my Mother, she’s laughing all the way, at my expense.

I know I created the boy, his strong will is all mine but nevertheless, his personality growth spurts are painful. Swear to the high heavens, he saves it for me as a test. As like a “crash dummy” victim, in the aftermath, measuring the results. I know I said, family is the training ground for teenagers. The safety net, if you will, for a soft place to land while free-falling through those testosterone driven crash tests. BUT when does the ride end? When does the warning light switch on inside this boy’s head? No longer, flickering like a transformer about to blow but a steady power to use and control? 

I guess, that’s the conundrum of being a teenager, successful steps forward and a few faulty steps backwards, a constant flickering until the light inside them glows strong and steady. The shock of it, burns us both at times. So, while he’s figuring it out, I’m applying the curse all Mothers scream out to their children in vexation. I said, I would never do the things my Mother did to me. Unfortunately, we carry our Mothers in our soul’s history books as reference, pulling from those sage old teachers to guide us with our own children. Proof, we survived our childhood so, it worked for her, it will work for me; I mixed my Mother’s curse with a little extra sting, uttering his prophecy:

“I hope YOU (Ben) have all girls. I hope you understand the frustration I feel. I hope all your girls start their menstrual cycles while your wife begins perimenopause!”

Yes, I did. I went there. I cursed my child.

I managed to stump him into silence and scatter the rest of my men under the weight of that uttered statement. My 14-year-old, flew behind my back into his room, muttering, “Oh, my, you are done for Ben. Just stop. Shut up and run, Ben.” My husband eyes went wide and he patted Ben’s shoulder saying, “oh man, you are screwed.” He got between us and said, I think his exact words were “Don’t eat your young, honey, he’s really clueless.” My husband gently squeezed my shoulders, to remind me, I love this child.

I do. I love this young man.

It scares me. In 40 plus days, this young man graduates high school, begins prepping for college while he still walks around in a vacuum. My husband said, he’ll be fine, after all, I walked around in a vacuum. This is a minor comfort to me as my husband still walks in a vacuum at times. Granted, my husband, Dominick partners a successful family, leading a very active community presence and diligently successful work life. My husband is a wonderful role model for our sons.

It’s those hiccup moments, which lift my eyebrows in disbelief during Dominick’s referenced”vacuum moments.” My husband, Dominick at times makes me wonder if I’ll be “Driving, Miss Daisy” aka.. “Driving, Mr. Dominick”…insert his name in the Daisy field as Morgan Freeman and I swap driving roles. We actually joke about this movie moment quite frequently as our future life. Gulp, chuckle and a knotted stomach…yes, Ben will find his way like Dad.

He will be fine.

Someday, he’ll be the 49 vs. 17, and if, I did my job well my time will arrive full circle. I’ll just wait my turn to answer the phone and laugh myself silly like my Mom. And like my Mother, I will not remove the curse, because I owe it to my future grandchildren. Ben’s time will come and like me, he will be fine, too.

Saboteurs, bullies and weight loss: Mean girls

I am not surprised by women’s abilities to be saboteurs. Many have not matured since their glory days in middle school, high school, or college. They have not learned life’s lessons, not one iota.

Bullying? What? Saboteurs? Who? Undermining others? How?

Yes. Some women are still bullying, undermining and sabotaging others, mainly other women.

Let’s identify the easiest of these women, the bully sabotaging person:

The co-worker, the family member, the lunch buddy, the casual acquaintance, the cousin, the friend or the lady at church, those within your everyday environment, who feel justified in pulling you aside and remarking on your personal changes.

Most of these socially encountered types will offer comments in a passive aggressive manner that leaves you wondering or standing there stupefied by their audacious behavior.

We’ve all been there….”Oh that dress is lovely. I’m not sure I could pull off a look like that.”

“You overslept this morning. I see you didn’t have time for make up. You look a little washed out.” (No, really I’m not. I choose not to put on makeup to come down here to pull weeds at the community garden. I’m strange that way, dressing for the job.)

“Is this a new look?
It’s such a trendy haircut. Your other haircut was so much better for your age but this looks good for something different. It helps make you look fresher.”
(I didn’t realize I had a best by date on my forehead.)

“You’re looking run down, is this project more than you can handle?” (No, really I’m not. I choose not to overtax myself micromanaging the team of women, but hey, if, you want to run the show, have at it. )

“Are you trying to fit in with younger Moms?” (Oh heck, No! You couldn’t pay me to go backwards and surrender all this accumulated knowledge, no, thank you.)

You’re going to make me look fat.” (Let’s fix that now, go stand over there.)

“You need a good steak, girl.” (Well, don’t we all need a good tasting meal?)

“Have a little cheesecake, come on, you know you want to” OR while at a table filled with guests, “What’s the matter with my cooking, oh, now that your dieting, you need to watch the calories. Oh, I am so sorry, I would have made a salad.” (Yep, Aunt Grace isn’t a fan of portion control and “hell hath no fury” like an unused plate surface in an Italian household. This is an insult of the highest kind.)

“Are you trying to get in shape to look younger now that you’re getting older?”
(No. I’m trying to get back to healthy because my annual blood report was starting to look as scary like that girl in the mirror.)

My favorite most astonishing comment to date, offered in a seemingly commiserating hushed whisper:
“Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight. Is it THE CANCER? Noooo!? Ohhhhh, GOOD, I’m glad, I didn’t miss praying, if you needed me.”
Me: Both my eyebrows winged to the heavens, a drooped mouth omitted a disbelieving choke of shock followed by a chuckle of relief, that thankfully, she stopped talking. After gathering my senses, I was able to say: “Thank heavens, I’m glad you missed the opportunity.” (Geesh, with well-meaning folks like her, who needs enemies?)

Dear “Well-meaning Ladies“,

My weight loss is not a fast, or medically induced arrival, fad diet, power shakes or promotional weight loss gimmick, or middle life crisis. It is a lifestyle choice. MY lifestyle choice. I never gave you or anyone else a thought when I ventured to correct my poor choices so I could improve my health. Nope. Not one thought. I didn’t even post a picture on line via social media for support.

I am presently, no less than I weighed 8 years ago, a number well within the CDCP, guidelines for height, frame and age. I was actually never over the highest range, but I was very, very close. I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t feel well physically or emotionally.

I didn’t strive for a dress size to annoy you for bragging rights. I didn’t go get stylish new clothes to impress you. Nope. I did not. I went upstairs into my attic pulling down those clothes which I tucked away many years ago. I impressed myself.

I danced my little happy dance of joy.  Yes, I DID!

Thank God, NO ONE but Dominick saw that!  I never once thought of you, as I figuratively high 5’d myself. No. Not. At. All.  I did not run outside to strike a pose and snap a selfie. I did not upload to twitter,  Facebook or Instagram, my proud moment of look at me.

I did shriek internally with joy when my annual physical presented improved blood work results. I am healthier because I lost weight. I sleep more soundly because I exercise. I impressed myself by building stamina through walking without inducing an asthma attack or triggering high pulse rates.
I did not once think, “Oh hey, she’s going to notice I hack/wheeze a lot less when I quickly walk uphill.” Nope. Because I am not convinced I matter all that much to anyone but those who matter to me. Yep. I did not think to include you in my journey.

The dietitian in my insurance provider’s workshop, advised not to explain my goals.
Historically, they’ve found others will be supportive and most will not, there by derailing you from achieving your fitness.  In retrospect, this was apt advice. I’ve encountered the unsolicited concern, overtly snide remarks, platitudes and passive aggressive compliments.

The “helpful friend” who wants every waiter to know, I am dieting because I’m not eating as I once consumed. But stick close because she’s gonna indulge in dessert. (Yes, indeed,  I am. Because I choose wisely and I choose not to put unlimited useless calories in my body wasting precious stomach “real estate”.)

I had a “concerned friend” point out “A lady OF my age (49) doesn’t look good as a rail thin as a teenager.”
Ummm, excuse me, even when I was a teenager, I didn’t think I looked good as a rail thin teenager. So, no. I wasn’t enamoured of the wasted waif look.

No one was happier than me to gain pregnancy weight and keep a pound or two. I WAS always “rail thin” until 32. I’ve got the wedding pictures at 24 to cringe over. Now, I’m going for healthy and happy.

I’ve experienced the “lunch buddy’s” shocked tone and scrunched up face, followed with outraged snip, “Is that ALL your going to eat? Ohhhhhh. Well, now that you lost the fat, I guess you can eat normally, within reason.”
(Yep, you knew the snipe was coming out of her mouth.)

I’ve had the “casual volunteer acquaintance,” ask me, “Do you THINK you LOOK good…………..so thin? You should know, at some point you need to stop or you’ll need a doctor because too thin isn’t healthy.”

A quietly said, “You’ve lost your curves…was that smart?” Complete with grandiose gestures to the chest. “You do want men to notice your smart figure?  Don’t you?” Nope.

Never knew I carried my brains in my bra. GOD knows if that were the case, I would be simple-minded, right? The correlation being size equals intelligence? If sizes were the markers of “smart” than thank God, the good Lord gave me hips and a bottom for carrying my big brain for so long, since my “brain” was so small.  Now, I’ll just buy a big purse and shove them inside….makes about the same sense as the other. Nope. Nada. None.  Absolutely, no sense at all. Smart?!!? Good Lord, folks.

Just, wow. I’m so very glad my husband, my sons and a very few select friends were part of my support group.  Otherwise, I would still be in the “smart category, with big numbers, health-wise,” pleasing those so-called caring, well-meaning friends, who think a preconceived size equals healthy and strong.

And, those who really don’t care at all, except for looking better than you, at all times.

Fat, thin, slightly overweight or out of shape people are not indicators of strong, healthy bodies and minds. Good choices, healthy mindset, aka… feeding your emotional needs, in tune with your body’s natural hunger levels, combined with fit lifestyles for strength to carry the aging process through the years are markers of good health. Science, not tailored advertising, should dictate sound nutrition. Coupled with supportive networks will take anyone further than the latest fad, gimmick or gym.

It’s NOT a dress size, it is not a predetermined amount of food, a plate size or starving.

Nope. Not once did I do it for you concerned, everyday acquaintance. I did not do it for your compliments or attention. I did it in spite of the voice of society’s ideals. I did it for me. I matter to me and my guys. I don’t care if you understand or agree. I/Our family choose to embrace changing my/our choices and living well. It is a slow process to unlearn poor choices and choose to go forward in a new direction.

My family is supportive of our family becoming healthier people.  It’s a choice of lifestyle, what we can control, it’s emotional and physical, large or small efforts, one smile of encouragement at a time with subtle adjustments that became our new normal.

Now you have my facts, YOU can continue on with your “caring efforts & vast health knowledge” with someone else.

I. AM. OK.

In hindsight “your truthful wisdom” has made me laugh, it feeds my emotional need for humor. EVERYONE knows laughter is good for the soul and body. You are feeding my soul with laughter NOT harming myself esteem with your inane comments.

I like being “Naturally Slim” as like I was naturally back then, when I was younger. The difference now: I’m not ashamed to be slim, I’m proud of myself physically and emotionally. It was a whole health effort in every aspect of my body and mind. I am prepared to live my choice and understand why you cannot. Someone’s insecurities cannot and will not undermine mine because this slimming down taught me skills and gave me choices. Connected together how those choices effect all areas of a person.

Reading is fundamental, please stop “dumbing down” your kids.

And so, it begins again, we are nearing the end of another school year and the parents are gathering arms over summer reading.

It astounds me when parents are flabbergasted and combative over book reading requirements. I cannot fathom why a parent would denounce reading enrichment. I can only surmise it interferes with something planned or as the parent, you don’t want to put forth any efforts at home. Always complaining, stirring trouble at Parent teacher conferences and ranting to any one who has an ear to bend. Teaching your child the bare minimums is acceptable and coasting through with the least efforts will produce results. Oh my.

This is not the case. Ask anyone, who had a head start in reading, they will extol the benefits reading has provided in giving them the leg up over their peers in school and in business. They will concur, reading is fundamental to those advantages presently and towards later achievements.

I grew up in Pennsylvania with a successful educational program entitled RIF, the acronym for reading is fundamental. This is currently, a successful 50-year-old program geared towards children living in poverty. The principles of RIF, believe bringing quality books to kids will enrich their world, enhancing their imagination towards unlocking their potential. Access to free books is essential to ending illiteracy in America by reaching children known to be at risk by the very nature of poverty preventing access.

My parents qualified for free books by the very nature of birthing and supporting six children with a stay-at-home Mom on my Father’s mechanic’s income. I never felt as if we were “poor” as we had the essentials for food, shelter and clothes.
Toys and books were a luxury but I never felt slighted. We shared our toys and the books among us.

I had access to books. I was blessed to have easy access to a  library within walking distance from my house and a free library card.
My entertainment opportunities were contained within the walls of the neighborhood branch of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Libraries but my world of possibilities was boundless. All because a book opened windows to my soul and sparked my imagination. Stirring a need to learn all I could image shelved and listed within that card catalog, if I so choose to explore.

So, I love to read. I advocate reading.
Early in my children’s lives, I brought the joy of words to my sons by reading every evening and making weekly trips to libraries. The wherewithal to purchase books as easily as buying groceries. There were constant gifts of books. I still buy books at every opportunity for them and me. I actively support those who teach reading and the requirement towards a successful education. It’s a “no brainer” for me when reading is part of a curriculum as important to educational advancement.

Our school district has the Bingo cards concept as part of the school year English curriculum. A reading bingo card filled with different reading genres in each square. The goal is to fill 4 squares of your choice along with the class novel in the center free space. It has a point value assigned with each passing Accelerated Reading book quiz to gain a completed square. A completed row is a required nine week grade, with assigned letter grades. The purpose of this program is to engage students in an exciting motivating way over the summer and through the year. Many teachers spend the first month of school re-teaching basic comprehensive skills needed to support children’s analytical and cognitive skills.

Reading is essential to the fundamental basics of everything students learn and how they learn. If children learn to read, they will begin to expand their horizons.

Reading empowers students to extract information; they learn to think rationally/logically/cognitively/analytically and abstractly. Developing and parlaying these skills into a very powerful writing ability. Once they link these skill sets together they will apply this knowledge across every subject.

Comprehensive reading enables students to extract equations from word problems, this is essential in basic math. A skill set which becomes the framework of advanced mathematics and sciences. For example, in science, they will read to extrapolate analytical data and apply it to a scientific method. By deriving words in mathematics to solve equations by following the logically framework contained within the word problem.

The applications of reading across all the educational subjects is vast and varied in it’s entirety, but remains the same, necessary and key to understanding the principles comes from literacy. It’s essential to develop and expand the biggest, best tool we all carry on the top of our shoulders, our brain. It’s purpose is for navigating life and maintaining good health.

The benefits derived from improved memory alone are astounding to good health and successful academics.
Each new bit of information forges new brain connections, ie..synapses. This improves and maintains existing areas of the brain, aiding in the betterment of short and long-term memory. You all know the phrase as we age: Use it or lose it.

Learning the essentials necessary to become articulate and well written is the formula to successful interactions and contributions on a daily basis in all avenues of our lives. Further developing these tools will enable a person to hold intelligent conversation with anyone, communicating with vendors, customers or management teams is an enormous boost to your self-esteem and adds to your credibility.

This dual combination of self-assurance and confidence will aid in furthering your career advancement. It is well documented, those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly than persons whom are not well read on a multitude of subjects and hold lesser vocabularies in their conversational cache.

As an avid reader myself, time spent reading provides me ample stress reduction. It allows me to travel across the globe from my chair via my vivid imagination. A mini vacation all compliments of my local library or Kindle application library. I have all genres accessible for my education at any moment, anywhere I can open a book or reading app. Endless education readily available at my finger tips, all because I can and will read. Pleasure reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a useful life skill in our daily living. I believe reading takes us further than any other skill acquired in life.

I wholeheartedly, believe my abilities aren’t limited because reading opens me to assorted opinions, ideas, ideals and cultures beyond my limited zip code. It empowers me. I can and will hold my own with anyone in conversation. All because reading has built within me the self-esteem from comprehending a broader horizon with an appreciation for new ideas. Boosting my confidence to discuss those differences in a tactful well spoken interchange of ideas or expressing dissent without loosing my self-respect.

Now back to the  local board of education requiring reading supplements in my local junior high school: every child was given the same advantages when they leave our local middle school regarding the assigned over summer reading bingo sheet.

Opportunity to attend the summer reading lab every Monday in June to bank up to 4 books in any genres. If utilizing the summer reading lab wasn’t convenient to the parents schedule that’s on them, there were other options. Those who complain because they have a mouth and a voice with no excuses, well….These ladies (teachers) were there EVERY MONDAY FROM 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on their own time for all students.

Those other options for students with limited transportation, they were given opportunities to sign out books over the summer on the last day of school in 6th grade through the 11th grade. EVERY STUDENT IS ASSIGNED A PREREQUISITE BOOK ASSIGNMENT. They are all handed school copies of the assigned book with worksheets due the first few days of the new school session.

My eldest son has been through this same reading system, he was given the very same foundations for his educational success. It served him very well. My eldest son is highly motivated to succeed in a very competitive Advanced Placement program as a result of his endeavors, he is a National Honor Society senior in high school. He is confident and assured in all his academics because, he knows he can puzzle out any situation through researching and reading the discovery.

Reading is essential in education. It is THE KEY to my eldest son’s success. I want that same foundation for my youngest son as well. It matters not how the school district packages the program, it matters the program underscores the value of reading and its essential place in education.

Yet, as we near end of the school year, parents become up in arms about the required summer reading assignment. Unhappy with the time commitment their child must devote to this project, when after all, school’s out of session. Infuriated, their kid must read on the beach, or surrender the gaming console for a few hours a day or limit how late they can sleep in on a summer morning.

Oh, Come on. Really?

Didn’t I see your Facebook post capturing your beach legs and lap holding a book while balancing a drink in your hand?

Did I see that? Yes. I. Did. So, what’s the problem with a bit of structured time?

I guarantee, the efforts your child puts forth now will pay off in school and later in life. Sleeping late over summer is not a resume enhancement, in fact, it will guarantee doubts to their reliability. A great vacation at the beach picture, a golden tan and gaming dexterity are not the first steps to success, at least not for the majority, who are not planning to model for Hawaiian Tropics tanning lotions or becoming the gaming YouTube sensation.

I’ll grant there may be the few, rare off-chance kids, who will need those skills, IF they are angling for those jobs. I still believe they will need to read and understand the wording in their contracts, understand their gaming channels blogs and read the manuals of their camera to be successful.

So, I ask parents to get with it and embrace the concepts. Otherwise, you are short-changing your children’s abilities to thrive in a competitive world and strive under pressure. Learning from their failures, discovering their strengths, so they may realize their talents and capabilities. Cementing their self-confidence and their determination to succeed; it will unlock doors and open possibilities. Reading is Fundamental, it is essential to their successful start and along the path through all aspects in their life.

Please stop complaining about education lacking in producing skillful and knowledgeable students, if you are going to throw up the roadblocks by “dumbing down” the kids through tying teacher’s hands and prompting young minds to rebel at hard work.

Give your child the golden key to success, teach them to read and you will open up their world.



Do us all a favor, read the fine print & stop whining.

Folks, it does not matter where you live or where your children attend school…extra curricular activities require sacrifice on someone’s time. Somewhere, someone must give up some thing for this to occur. Whether, this time sacrifice comes from the child, their parents, their siblings, the volunteer or school sponsor, there are only so many hours in a given day.

We all have those unforseen emergencies in life and work which will interfere with everyone’s schedule, THAT is not preventable. It the choices you make when given the opportunity to choose which has a place value at that given moment of luxury.

Sometimes commitment of any kind carries over into dedicated family days. If this is inconvenient, I would think, this was considered in your discussions weighing the obligations to the activity just as expectations are assessed to meet job performance or school efforts. Weighed and balanced against family lifestyles, before YOU, the parent granted approval to commit your child’s participation.

I retiterate, WE ALL have those unforseen emergencies in life and work which will interfere with everyone’s schedule THAT is not preventable. If you didn’t fully consider these obligations, please don’t expect my child to give up valuable classroom instruction to accommodate your family’s weekend or nightly lifestyle. Just so you can go to the game, movies, or fishing.

Which means do not ask my child’s teacher to shorten a school lesson or NOT ASSIGN HOMEWORK which you perceive as interfering with your weekend fun.

Please do not tell your child, it’s OK to miss practice or skip a game, leaving his team short or ill prepared. Please don’t expect my child to understand.  It’s irresponsible and selfish to rationalize your needs as more important than others.

I do not care, if you are going out-of-town to shop. It’s not my concern whether you just don’t feel up to attending because little Johnny’s uniform is dirty or you just want to kick back with a book, a few beers or drop the kids off at their grandparents, so you can head out with the honey.  I do not care, if your child was invited to the must attend sleep over party by popular Patty. I just don’t care. I do not want your excuses nor do I want to be subjected to your endless social whining.

You are letting someone down by breaking your promise to be responsible.

The team/group participants are counting on your child’s presence and your child has an important part on the team. Numbers matter in rule books, bodies matter to dance groups and competitive academic endeavors need collective brain power. Your child’s presence is necessary in group activities no matter where they occur, on the field or in the classroom.

After all, some groups are limited to specific numbers to compete or fill a lesson. Signing the permission sheet committing to be involved meant someone else was denied, your joining was assenting to the time allotment necessary to the activity.

So, when coaches, teachers or tutors say it’s not acceptable to miss practice, games or deny your child to a chance to reschedule a test or project because she just had to miss school to attend a non school sponsored activity; please do not berate the teachers, sponsors and the other kids parents, they too, have other responsibilities. They manage to meet the expectations.

The schools and club sponsors have responsibilities to meet educational requirements or complete so many games required in the season’s participation in order for many competitions to advance the final rounds.

Surely, you read the rules and conditions when enrolling your child for school or that extracurricular activity?!

If you didn’t, please stop complaining on social media that teacher X, Y and Z gives too much reading or homework because little Suzy has dance competition every other weekend or Timmy has a baseball tourney and they just can’t meet school deadlines.

So what.

Just stop whining. Please, do us all a favor and read the fine print. We all see those printed words above the parent signature line granting consent, they’re not there for decoration. Read before you become frustrated and torture every one else.

Because, I know from experience you will be the first parent to march to school to complain when poor grades are marked on your child’s tests. Shooting off your mouth to all and sundry, while waiting in the school pick up line, how unfair it all is to your child. What a great inconvenience it is to your family to meet school deadlines. How you didn’t know your child had a test or project due.

You are always so shocked. I’m not.

I am being facetious when I say, I wonder, why, little Suzy has bad marks? Did she not pay attention in class? Was she too tired traveling back home from her latest pageant or softball game to do the work?  Tongue in cheek, I wonder why?

Any parent should know, Little Suzy’s dance recital interfered with required after school tutoring which became necessary since Little Suzy didn’t do her homework along the way BECAUSE she has too many after school activities.

It enrages me, yes, it down right infuriates me to hear parents grump and complain extracurricular activities are more important than school BECAUSE the parent PAYS FOR extracurricular activity.

You PAY for school in your taxes, folks!
Good Lord! Are you really so shortsighted?! Yes, it appears from your latest Facebook rant that, indeed, you are clueless and self-centered.

So, you want someone to sacrifice something but not you or yours.
My child and our family refuse to pay your dues, pay your responsibilities yourself. Balance your own checkbook of rewards against the deposits of time you are willing to invest. It’s not our job to sacrifice for your shortsighted planning.

It’s called scheduling around the commitment during the season or event. It’s called dedication and honoring responsibilities, two very important lessons of follow through every child should learn well.

For example, baseball or dance lessons are not required educational commitments, this is your child’s choice of EXTRACURRICULAR enrichment, just as either of my sons swim team meet or boy scout camping trips are not your child’s choice of activity. They must choose to get it all done accordingly or sacrifice somewhere.

I would never expect my child’s activity to encroach on learning and I expect my child to be prepared at school as well. He is part of a group learning in a classroom of peers. His preparations allow everything to progress smoothly for the entire class as a whole, anything less holds them back to play catch up. He is required by law to learn and I expect him to meet this commitment to assure his future.

School hours are for advancing education, preparing children onwards to become functioning knowledgeable and skilled adults. On some days or nights, there will be homework involved to enrich or support that endeavor, just as important as those extracurricular activities provide enrichment to round out their skill sets.

These extracurricular activity lessons may occur nightly after school or have practices which carry over into the weekend as like school during the day carries over into homework at night or on the weekend. It’s called juggling the priorities and balancing the responsibilities. Many kids manage to do both well. They are called scholar athletes or well-rounded children because teacher, volunteer and parent work together to give them these opportunities and hold them accountable to each essential part of the broad spectrum.

These dedicated teachers strive to educate your child for a successful future as like volunteers, who donate their time and efforts BECAUSE they have placed value on these extracurricular activities. These teachers are spending weekends preparing lesson plans to meet grade requirements. Volunteers are sacrificing their own weekend or evening hours to enrich kids sports, academic competitions, theater, music or pageantry.

So, it annoys and galls me into irrational anger when a careless selfish parent and child whines about school work or practices.
Many children commit to rigorous schedules in sports, education, league activities, etc….with the support of their parents, grandparents, and their siblings. They gain from the benevolence of those volunteers, gaining much more than the activity, but the message they matter.

I am thankful to those who donate their time for mine and others. They bring lessons to learn and lead by example, the right volunteer instills values and purpose. Sometimes these people bridge gaps in children’s lives as mentors. They can be unsung hero’s to many parents and children.

I am frustrated when parents and kids do not value the efforts and the commitment of the team as a whole. They are truly short-changing everyone with their self-centered and callous disregard.

I am grateful to send my child to school. I am very pleased my child has an opportunity for an education leading towards a fruitful future.
I do not apologize for valuing education over your dedicated weekend fun. It annoys me, when you do not wholly commit your family to the educational process or the extracurricular activity taking away value from my child’s participation.

Let’s work together on all the fronts to provide our children the same opportunities and experiences in those activities when we participate together. Everything has value and its place in importance. Please don’t ask me to sacrifice my child’s commitment to compensate your lack of importance and value.

Teamwork is priceless. Singular participation which measures achievement against your own efforts is incredibly valuable. Self esteem and pride acquired through extracurricular activities or participation at school can not be weighed by monetary value. Successful and purposeful participation is measured by committed engagement as a whole in order to harvest the benefits of a program. Money can not buy these lessons, they are intangible and irrefutable.

Those benefits gleaned from all those various types of lessons strengthen the foundations of a successful adult. Please do not interfere in my child’s goals by short-changing your child’s success and hampering my child’s opportunity.

Do us all a favor, read the fine print and stop whining.

~Joanne Roth Marino

Oh my word! They’re hearing aids, folks.

Sitting here sipping coffee, while watching a scenario similar to one I experienced two years ago, it was a case of de’ja vu. Let me explain with my facebook rant from April 2014:

Oh my word!
The devices in both of my ears are HEARING AIDS.
Obviously, I have an impairment. However, wearing hearing aids does not mean, I cannot understand language and I must be simple-minded.

So, imagine my surprise when a complete stranger approached gesturing, moving her mouth in exaggerated efforts and blasting loud enough to burst my eardrums. Oh the irony, cue eye roll and elevated eye brow….allow me to share the moment.

You, “Ms. Speaker” felt the need to phonetically enunciate each syllable loudly and illustrate with hand gestures. Personally, I enjoyed the show of grand gestures to “reach me” in front of your coffee group. I heard that by the way. 😉 I am hearing impaired not deaf and mute.
I am, ALSO highly intelligent, well read and educated. I can honestly say, No, that wasn’t the American sign language for coffee, cream or thank you.

It was arrogance and stupidity. Your arrogance. Your idiocy.
Or quite possibly, an undiagnosed seizure condition which causes you to gesture wildly, to which, if this is the case, I apologize. I wouldn’t want to make unqualified assumptions based on my vast television show medical knowledge, which would make a donkey out of you and me.

But, I digress, forgive me.

I, SO appreciated the “socially responsible empathy” you granted to me in front of your group by demonstrating patience with “my unfortunate accent”. My accented speech is truly a speech impediment due to hearing loss. A by-product cultured through years of speech and hearing therapy blended with residencies in Pennsylvania/Indiana/Tennessee/Southern Louisiana/North Texas and here, in Southern Arkansas.

“Ms. Speaker” as you stated clearly to anyone listening, you are “truly astute in your knowledge of special needs people”.
Allow me to commend your intelligence by awarding you my commentary about hearing aids and hearing impaired people.

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify sound. It can help restore many of the sounds that hearing impaired people are lacking.

Hearing aid correction, means you, as the listener are relieved of the need to shout, yell or project a voice worthy of an opera performer. It also means, you the speaker will not need to channel your inner Italian grandmother with grandiose hand gestures, and this is the same for the listener. It does not mean I am feeble-minded in need of exaggerated illustration to engage and exist.

In my case, I do not need you to read a coffee menu….they’re hearing aids not eyeglasses.
In your rush to aid me, talking over my interjections, showcasing your humanity to your friends, my resigned tolerant silence must have seemed like assent.

Although, I’m at a lost as to why you saw me as visually impaired. I can only surmise, it must have been those highly visible Ray Orbison style contacts?!
It must be my age, yep, I’m 48 and squinting at small print.

Thank you, “Ms. Speaker” for educating your friends of your “ability to bridge the barrier, it really is all based on keen perceptions and intelligence.”

I recognized that you are sorely lacking in both, as well as understanding and character. Presumptuous, narcissistic and arrogant, all thoughts running through my head. “Silence is golden and a useful tool”, said my Mum. “Think before you speak”, she said. So, I cannot yell, shout or gesture the idiocy of it any louder than you already did!

Lord have mercy, be grateful, I didn’t unleash my 28 years + of Northern Yankee upbringing tempered with 20+ years of Southern living on your tolerant ASSumptions.

Allow me to buy you a coffee, because down here we don’t hide our crazy friends, we dress them up in Sunday finest, set them on the porch with a drink. All the while Blessing their hearts and turning a deaf ear.


(Rant over)

Two years later, this still nettles me, the willful ignorance of people.

I am nearly 50 years old. In every aspect of life, I’ve experienced school bullies, impatient employers, careless public assumptions and the disinterested passerby.

On average, I am not singled out as different or special because my hearing aids caught attention, mostly, I am the everyday face in a crowd.

Hearing aids, no longer carry the stigmas associated with people because they must wear a corrective device….it is now common place. I have observed most people carry on with hearing aids, eye glasses or corrective devices as normal in the make up of daily attire.

The out-of-place prosthetics will garner attention, good and bad. Most people will exercise a passing glance and the unsaid, “oh my!” will filter in their mind as they continue onward. Some will stop, stare and point out in a hushed conversation, the missing hand, arm, leg or bulky wheelchair. Some view these as denoting illness, injury or birth defects all which are perceived as grave impairments not only of the limb but surely, the mind. This lack of understanding leads to broad misconceptions.

We are uncomfortable with something not easy to ignore. It draws wonder as to their suffering. Raising questions in ourselves, we rather not address as to why?

In crossing paths with people, if, we take opportunity to observe others, assessing the need of each individual, we may alter a rush to assumption, a habit born from ignorance. We are becoming complacent. We should halt our self-centered rush through this world, we are too busy, too arrogant to be bothered to practice humility by exercising awareness and understanding.

Personally, I practice a wait and see approach to aid, purely and simply, because manners dictate civilized behavior. If, at anytime, my efforts are ill received or I have made an error in judgment, I will sincerely apologize and move on.

Unfortunately, I find the new problematic person is simply more egocentric in nature. These people garner accolades through a pattern of narcissistic behaviors. It’s a no win situation.

Occasionally, I come across a “Ms. Speaker” who wears a mask of caring and compassion. In truth, she seeks the light of approval gathered from friends as they observe her selfless benevolence towards lesser able-bodied people. Condescending and lacking in sincerity, “Ms. Speaker” types hoard garnered pats on the back from good deeds. They wallow in the commiseration offered by friends, if rebuffed for their attention to poor souls.

We have created this environment of narcissism. When we should be raising grounded, decently centered, self-assured children, who practice understanding and acceptance of others without constant “attaboys”. Society has rushed to praise each other for practicing basic and decent behaviors as extraordinary. When in fact these behaviors are fundamentals of common decency not heroics.

Sure, we should step up when called upon to assist. I am not promoting callous disregard, I am advocating compassionate empathy and consideration, with the caveat, we should exercise respectful boundaries; wait and observe, access and react, by practicing these principles, we will respond with dignity to them and ourselves.

We should not seek to gain attention and approval for ourselves as like: “look at her, she helped that crippled man, isn’t she just so helpful and good” or “Oh my, isn’t he wonderful for allowing that woman in a wheelchair to use the bigger table!” When in fact the bigger table was set aside to accommodate the arms of a wheelchair. There is nothing grand in surrendering a table meant for the minority with accessiblity concerns.

This is not altruistic, this is careless disregard for decency.
I have to wonder why, on lookers and companions, will heap praise on “the helper” by making a spectacle of their benevolence, when it was laziness, compounding further insult on the other person as inconveniencing “us” by accommodating their needs. Ridiculous.

A combination of dictionary explanations defines altruism and generosity as qualities of being kind, understanding and not self centered, the willingness to give to others without benefitting yourself.

I believe narcissistic personalities are more challenged than physically handicapped bodies.

In hindsight, there simply wasn’t a way to bridge the divide between me and “Ms. Speaker.” I don’t mean my hearing impairment but “Ms. Speaker’s” personality impairment. Ingrained poor habits like, “Ms. Speaker’s” personality flaws are rooted deep in her upbringing, no amount of effort on my part will change that core framework.

Narcissistic behaviors don’t respond to criticisms, they feed off attention. After all, any attention is the same to them, all about them, one way or the other, good or bad. Although, I wanted to educate her, hopeful to shed light on her poor habits and assumptions. I wasn’t a permanent influence for change, I was a moment’s entertainment.

Some battles will never win the war and it wasn’t really my war, I got caught in the squirmishes of patterns. I’ll be the change I want to see in this world. My influence starts at home in how I rear my children towards adulthood and how I carry myself at large.

So, I’ll continue to sip my coffee, while quietly watching people and ponder the woes of life, contemplating the next ordinary event worthy of change. Or I’ll go run errands, as if, there’s nothing to see here folks, just the everyday occurrence in my life just like yours, the opportunity to change, one small lesson at a time. 

~Joanne Roth Marino

I realized “sucky girls and crappy days” won’t last in the light of awesome sons. ♡

I’m feeling nostalgic, this is my first child’s last few months of high school before he transitions to college in the Fall. I am re-reading those last few years of entries reflecting on those significant moments in our relationship. I’m preparing myself for the next transition, the phase of parenting an adult. Sigh.

October 2014:

My eldest son amazes me in some way, every single day. His compassion when it manages to surface through the craziness of 16 and “clueless male fog” makes me very proud. 

Today, while picking him up from swim practice,  Ben noticed, I’m not quite on par today. He said, “What’s up, Mama? Talk to me.”

After listening quietly, Ben offered this insight: “Mama, in about 35 years, after getting in touch with “my inner husband and father” all you shared with me will make more sense. BUT still, even now, Mama, I know this NOW: Girls of any age suck at times & will be crappy. You will get through these awful hurt feelings. You’ll be ok. You are worth more than a thousand moody girls.” (He meant to say, mean, spiteful women.)

I squeezed him really tight in my arms, sniffled, smacked his cheek with a big kiss and told him, “Ben, you’ll be an awesome boyfriend/husband someday.♡♡♡”

I realized “sucky girls and crappy days” won’t last in the light of awesome sons. ♡

–Joanne Roth Marino

The trials at 15 years old form the character of a 17 year old senior.

The wisdom of 15 years old.

My son, Ben: “Mum, I’m ready for school to be over. Learning shouldn’t be so hard.
I’m so tired of teacher X. I’m tired of battling student bias. I absolutely hate that class. She belittles me for asking so many questions then turns around answering everyone’s but mine.
All I want is a better explanation. I’m listening but she mumbles while rushing through problems. She said, I’m lazy and I have no focus.
I’m rethinking being a doctor because of teacher X.”

ME: “Ben, there will many “teacher X’s” in life. You’ll encounter people like “teacher X” as neighbors, in church or through employment. These people are checking boxes in life until the next thing to do. Sometimes, they perceive others as in their way and they react negatively. Sometimes, people have no excuse for being less than encouraging and motivating. The fault is in themselves, tearing people down is usually a sign of poor self-esteem or plain meanness on their part.
You’ll need to learn how to manage yourself in the presence of people like “Teacher X”.
Don’t allow those kinds of personalities to change your goals and derail your dreams. Find a way to persevere, so you’ll move through your time with them, with as little frustrations possible. Figure out what you need to do to succeed in this class, while keeping your head down, out of target range.”

BEN: “So, disarm her?”

ME: ” Figuratively speaking, yes. Retreat, assess your plan, pick your battles to achieve the goal.”

BEN: “Be the doctor, find the cure?”
Hmmmmm, “So, what you’re really saying is later, when I’m a doctor, I can choose to be an out of network doctor and not accept teacher x’s insurance or charge them a fortune because their taking up my time and knowledge? I could be spitefully biased too or are you saying, I could succeed despite them.”

ME: “Yes, to the first, No, to the middle part and YES! to the very last part. No spite, Ben, succeed in spite of their negativity…don’t plan a grudge.”
Singing, “Let it go, let it go, let go, go gooooo!”

BEN: “Really?! Ugh, stop already.” Sigh. “It was simpler in grade school. These life lessons take the fun out of a being a kid.”. Making faces while rolling his eyes. ” Yeah, I know, I know, welcome to your world.”

At the time of this conversation, two years ago, my son was 15, he was figuring out where to go and how to get there.  He was holding 14th place in GPA ranking out of 321 students in his class. He had the smarts and was learning the people skills to navigate the high school pressures.

March 2016 Update: The 17 year old senior.

Since two years ago, those setbacks did not alter his course, he has not lost his focus or concentration at all. Currently, he is a senior, holding 10th ranking out of 286, with a weighted GPA over 4.12, proving his focus and willful determination to succeed.

In his junior year planning conference, he opted to load his final senior year with 4 Advanced Placement courses. He would have scheduled more if, he hadn’t doubled up in previous years, whittling down his remaining choices. He was looking forward to stack the college resume in his favor to earn scholarships.

He strives to do his personal best, it’s that competitive nature he sports.

Just like he’s always looking to improve his swim times, latest Cross Fit lift records, GPA ranking….never bragging but proud to prove himself better than his last effort.

He is constantly moving, seeking and changing.

Focus and determined. He’s charted lists, plotted and measured his must do’s to achieve his goals. He got up early at predawn mornings, to attend his Cross Fit gym before volunteering a few weeks here and there at a local non profit. He’s a strategic planner. He doesn’t sit idle at any point, because there’s always an opportunity to do something, make money, become stronger mind and body, be a better student.

My son has climbed through the  rigors of Advanced placement courses meeting or exceeding teacher expectations, finding mentors to guide his way. This kid doesn’t have quit in his mind, anywhere.

This boy took the ACT test, a total of 5 times.

After accessing each result, he was determined to advance the score, register ing yet again! After devoting 2 weeks, this previous Summer in ACT academy workshops, his score remained stagnant after his 4th attempt. The 5th AND final time met his satisfaction allowing him to move on.

When my son’s college acceptance letter came earlier this year, in October, unlike some kids who breathe a little easier once the acceptance letter arrives, not him. Ben hasn’t changed his academic ethic because college scholarships were assured based on his previous years academic history and ACT scores.

Nope. He isn’t coasting through this senior year, secure in the knowledge he achieved verified early college admission and scholarships. He’s still navigating these final few months, diligently studying for those AP classes. All while juggling his  volunteer hours for National Honor society, serving church and his youth group, alongside completing in his final season as a lettering 4th year swim athlete.

Because, as he tells me: “What else am I going to do?”

He’s banking good habits towards a solid future.

As for “Teachers X, Y and Z”, many parents tell me, they are still instructing classes with their perceptions of students eschewed by gender, sport or popularity. Sadly, it happens everywhere, to someone at one point or another in their lives…. Blatant unfairness. And yet, looking backwards, my son has managed to succeed despite their perceptions and treatments.


It was 50/50. Him and Us.
Partly, because we imparted the tools and freedom to puzzle through it himself. He was confident in the knowledge, we were on the peripheral to guide him. Secure in himself to withstand failures as he worked though frustrations and obstacles.

Ben was determined to focus on the big picture, keeping sight of his long range goals. Waving obstacles is tantamount to daring him in a competition, no one will determine his course but him. Whether this determination was innately there or cultivated, he uses this strength to confront obstacles instead of allowing them to whittle away at his self esteem. He knows, it’s ok, to fail, as long as he put forth his best to change the outcome.

Those painful observations at 15 years old, served him well. He persevered, learning lessons about human nature which will pay him dividends in the future.  Life doesn’t come with a parachute. Sometimes, you need to save yourself in order to land safely, brushing yourself off to begin again, secure in knowing you can lead yourself forward in times of struggle.

He discovered himself and what a wonderful find, he is.


-Joanne Roth Marino, Ben’s Mom.