Dear Parents of graduating seniors

Dear Parents of the Class of 2017,

One year ago, I stood where you stand in the count down to high school graduation. I teared up at key events, smiled through the rest with deeply exhaled sighs and nervously contemplated the college drop off day!

Those significant events of graduation, college preparation, packing & leaving my first-born son behind at college was agony at times.
How was I going to survive this next step? I worried my anxieties were going to spoil his summer and aggravate him to the point of causing him worries. Toss in my husband’s concerns, well, we were a pair of anxious parents.

Ladies and gentlemen! We did it. I did it! Kudos to me, my husband and our son! Believe it or not, YOU will do it too!

In a matter of days, my eldest child arrives home from completing his first three-quarters of his first year of college! 30 credits hours completed towards his degree and a paid Summer internship.

He went South just an hour away to attend college out-of-state but he did not make it a suitcase college!

He didn’t come home on the weekends. He didn’t remain in his room watching ESPN 24/7 & playing Clash of Clans on his computer!
Not that I thought he would, but….you could have knocked me over with a feather when he said, “Mom, I’m rushing fraternities!” Wait, WHAT?! My independent son, a friend in all circles but not adhered to any one particular group of friends was going to WHAT? Woah.

So, my child joined a fraternity, two chapter sub-committees, e.g. risk management and the scholarship committee, which he chairs, two professional fraternities, one leadership organization and one service organization. He participated in SGA and continued his love of working out at Lambright Wellness and aquatic center. He played tennis, football and baseball with friends and fraternity brothers while successfully balancing a full course load. He built a life away from home.

In his day job of academics, my son discovered Engineering wasn’t his life choice and switched into the college of Applied Sciences in the pre-med track with focus on the biology and chemistry. STEM is his thing.
My son sought advisors, friends, and department heads in different colleges to explore while weighing his options. Congratulations to him for puzzling through this conundrum to shape his future with a path suitable to his strengths and personality.

He survived and thrived through the “make or break it” classes at Louisiana Tech. Hence, the discovery that engineering is monotonous, boring and not his type of pursuit. Duly noted, STEM is his strength but the tedium of engineering was not. He survived the first quarter engineering classes with his normal take no prisoners attitude intact as he smoothly transitioned into his preferred degree with no detriment to his grades/GPA.

He managed a visit or two, appointments to the health center for minor sinus/chest colds, washed endless laundry, cleaned his apartment countless times, balanced his budget/checking account and he lived through many blurry eyed late night study sessions. As I’m sure his butt print, as many before him, is permanently imprinted in Tolliver from study sessions.

A 1:10 am phone call in the middle of a torrential rainstorm here and down there will invoke terror in your parental hearts but you will be amazed at the calm God gives you to listen and guide. God has your back. Our son suffered a minor fender bender, navigated the police report and insurance process with a forthright approach and calm.

Self assurance and confidence aided our son to adapt to his 3 randomly assigned roommates as they co-existed in their campus apartment without any skirmishes. He learned much about roommate personalities and common space cleanliness. He managed to eat meals and get himself to class. He formed study partners, gained friends, a lovely girlfriend, too. In all this transition, he discovered his next year’s campus apartment mates through those circles of friends. He managed his business.

At no point did we have passwords, or sign on information to any of his college accounts or grades, nor did we ask. We honored his privacy and new-found responsibilities.

Our son scheduled his courses, procured his housing and paid his bill without Mom and Dad holding his hand. This young man of ours managed his own college expenses through his first year with scholarships, monies supplemented from years of odd jobs diligently saved with no student loans and very minor parental supplement.

We savored his chats through texts, calls or visits to discuss or hash out his concerns. Our son included us as he felt inclined and he honestly answered questions we as posed them. He gained so much wisdom through soaring solo as needed. I am sure he felt secure knowing we stood ready to share a meal, give him a quiet place to rest, lend our ears to listen and guide when invited. We watched him continue to grow. He taught us much about himself, the man he’s becoming everyday at college and when he visits home.

So, will you survive this new phase in your child’s life? Yes. Just like those baby to toddler to teenage years. Yes. Only as much as you let go will you gain in return from the fruits of your efforts.

Your child will be fine. You will be fine.

Life continues on and it all works out. I promise this isn’t the end of your relationship, but the very beginning of the new improved chapter! Embrace the new chapter in your child’s life story. Those new discoveries are so very thrilling and thought-provoking, if you hang on loosely with respect.

Hang in there and call us seasoned veterans for sorting out the necessary from the junk. Like those parents before me, we have your back with ears and heart.

Much love and empathy,


Choices Matter.

Growing up, I would to worry about my eldest brother, when he deployed while in the Marines, first to Vietnam and many places further a field. When my brother’s sons aged into men, my concerns included his eldest son, who followed in his father’s foot steps and my second cousin, Vinnie Paul, also joining in the family legacy of Marines.

Everywhere, I looked and went time seemingly expanded to include my ever-growing and consuming concern for friends from ccollege. Men and women, who were serving their ROTC commitment from Penn State at a time which started this nightmare of aggression for my generation in mid 1990’s.

I remember being newly married, freshly relocated from Pennsylvania to North Western Indiana watching the first Gulf War, Desert Storm explode…I remember the troops who died in the terrorism barracks explosion. Those kids were from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania, one was an acquaintance/classmate from college.
I watched in horror as I realized my newly enlisted 18-year-old nephew was going to be part of this event. A job he loved as like his Dad.

Then the day before my child’s 3rd birthday, I was nearly 9 months pregnant watching those planes hit the towers, staring in horror as more terror unfolded on the news. Hearing another plane went done in Somerset, PA not far from my husband’s neck of the woods. Wondering where my eldest retired Marine brother now a government employee was in his flight intenary for travels at that moment in time. Frantic calls between sister to my sister-in-law.

I remember hearing within days my eldest nephew, that Marine mentioned, was deploying with the 26 MEU within days of 9/11 renewed start of terrorism.
I remember being stressed as those victims names were released from the multiple terrorism events of 9/11. Early labor was no longer able to be held off. Hello, Nathanael, welcome to this world.

I remember the world was never the same for my generation as like my Mother’s generation of WWll, or for my 4 eldest brothers’ generation of Vietnam. The Vietnam war affected most the eldest and second brothers who were in the Marines and Army respectively. The eldest made a career in the Marines, early career spent tours in Vietnam.
The second did not remain in the service and made a civilian life suited to him. We will just skip rehashing the demonstrations, protests, etc…the shame of Americans disrespecting servicemen and women from that event.

I remember telling my best friend, the reality tv trash out of Hollywood is undermining our culture. I remember thinking those who were valued were living lives of questionable action but were being held in high regard. Directing political consciousness, an irony to me as they made money from questionable films, sitcoms, etc.
Suddenly, media said, we couldn’t this or that in our homes with how we raised our children without facing shame and sanctions from Parenting magazines perpetuated by the development of those soon to become “the helicopter Moms” preaching a new kind of rearing.

Schools could no longer expect the parents to step up when Johnny and Suzy were brats, bullies or classroom terrors. Parent’s are raising feel good at all times, everyone’s a winner and gets a trophy kids; because goodness gracious, why should Johnny or Suzy feel disappointment and learn to adapt and adjust accordingly.
Suddenly, classroom time was being devoted to raising those kids, disciplining those kids or putting concessions in place to balance the scales so their behaviors were tolerated at the expense of curriculum.
Not surprisingly, Mrs Johnny’s mom doesn’t understand why her son isn’t making a certain grade…it must be that teacher’s fault. Oh, hello.

Hello, Helicopter parents. Hello discipline issues. Hello dumbing down a another generation because no one wants to step and stop the insanity.
So, I remember as a school volunteer wasting my time catching little Johnny’s on the playground and redirecting HIS bad behavior with no repercussions laid. All this and a recent few past generations of parents tied the hands of educators, police and I remember thinking: I am afraid for my sons’ future. Schools are getting soft on discipline because of stupid feel good laws and rules brought about by my generation’s of peer equal parents’ questionable ideals. (I am not the age of my typical peer parent. I am much older.)

I remember thinking this country is going backwards because those in this current generation, who they revere are those dictating political correctness. Masses of people are following those who have an agenda to look good for movies, plays, sports contracts, sitcoms and advertisers but they don’t live the life they preach?! Are they truly living a life of a hard, admirable work ethic with unimpeachable values? And those who do? They are being held in contemptuous scorn by trash digging media and society.  Media outlets seeking to undermine and discredit their values because it doesn’t fit the agenda of terror and civil unrest which is news worthy. It doesn’t fit in the platform for politicians to advance their agendas. Both of these perpetrators of “truth” have an agenda, funded by their supporters or advertisers with their agendas for financial gain.

A new domestic terror of our own making. I remember it spiraling out of control, spreading to our neighbors, schools, churches, social groups, just spreading like a disease. No one really gets how insidious it really has become and no one can tell you where it started and how?! Really?

I challenge you. Go backwards to your parents, or further to your grandparents, in my case, my mother is equal in age to my current parenting peers’ grandparents generation. Remember their values think about those rules, the freedom without media perpetuating fears, the constant stimulation from on demand information guiding your thoughts, controlling your reactions and changing your behaviors.

Think about the freedoms from worry, think about the accountability, think about the truth of where we are now in family relationships to where “we were” then. Think how far off course, we have become in this path we all walk now….think about those men and women who advocated change with dignity and respect. Many paid the price with their lives and the world was still a place of wrongs needing righted but the wrongs need accountability not mass hysteria.

Stop listening to media, movie stars, leaders of agendas INSTEAD listen to your church, the kind neighbor, the parents of children worth emulating, grandparents with lives of regard. Stop the segregationist in their agenda by separating us and them by color, religion, race, ethnicity or groups…it comes down to you to stop the insanity.

Everyone matters. CHOICE MATTERS in conscious decision-making, be the author of your own ideas, THINKING FOR YOURSELF MATTERS. Exercise respectful actions, CHOOSING to think, react, and execute actions for each and all is the only thing which MATTERS in stopping a runaway freight train of disregard.


Joanne Roth Marino

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

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.

Today was a hard day.

Today was a hard day.
The day, where character lessons are tested and parenting for the future over the indignity of the moment is crucial.

Where you want to rage over someone’s ineptitude because it cost your son his opportunity to shine.

Watching the shock of it wash over your son’s face as the unfairness settles in the pit of his stomach. While squeezing his heart into anxiety, at the reality, this chance denied at someone else’s hand is irrevocable.

Punished for someone else’s mistake.

Wondering, why, and whether he should have challenged the request but didn’t, instead trusting the authority.
Following the rules and being denied fairness.

This moment becomes the joy of years of hard work. The pivotal moment in his youth, where he shines. Watching your child’s character lead his response and actions.

He owns this moment as one hard lesson in life, sharing his part in the collapse, taking responsibility, then placing it in those internal boxes of lessons learned and stored.

As friends gather towards him commiserating, he tells them, its OK, lets focus on you. It’s over, nothing will change the outcome, I won’t be miserable, it will not gain me anything.

As he gathers his character like a badge of honor moving forward to support his friends as their moment is yet to arrive, with grace and dignity.
When in reality, he’s disappointed, upset over disappointing his parents, school, friends and self.

Changing and adapting into the coach not the singular athlete.
The determination to stand among them, encouraging them to reach for their moment, cheering them on with the outward appearance of calm and happiness.

Internalizing this moment for future campaigns. Cementing his determination, reorganizing his approach to prevent any one from derailing his goals by owning the responsibility: it ultimately lies with him, accepting failures with out bitterness.

Vulnerable, yet determined.
Respectful, yet responsible.
Stronger, yet humble.
Triumphant over disappointment.

This day, where character lessons were forged.
The day, where parenting for his future has persevered over the indignity of the moment.
This day, when he has shown his character is crucial to his success and he doesn’t compromise his dignity or self respect.

This day, where parenting is triumphant.


~ Joanne Roth Marino

Little boys blue

A Tom Mom, I am not.
However, I am fully entrenched in all aspects blue for boy and so far away from my girly pink upbringing that I feel blended into purple.
My word, I am.
I am Wildcat Purple.

This assimilation into the cultural world of Boys and sports is a gradual insidious brain washing. I am stunned. It’s a shocking realization, how unaware that I have become engaged in any sport currently viewed on our television, regardless of my understanding or genuine interest. It’s there, just beyond my conscious consent. I am at least peripherally aware and tracking the plays. It’s subliminal like music in the ears while reading a book,,except THIS listening against my will. UGH.
I have lost control of the remote.

Beware Boys.
Mama has a game plan, a new kind of family time: The Hallmark Channel.
Hallmark’s new winter line up premiere’s new movies EVERY Saturday Night in January.
Maybe, I am not so far lost that I can’t exact a glimmer of pink torture.

IF, all else fails, I’m cranking up the stereo system and going through our entire 175 CD collection, starting with Barry Manilow and ending with all things 80’s.

Yep, like Barry sings, “I write the songs that make the young girls cry”….well…this Mama WILL sing that song to make teen boys weep!

Maybe, hmmm, a even little dancing to Chaka Kahn, yes indeed, the possibilities are twirling and gyrating in Pink.
Get your game on boys, I’m ready to play and I have the remote.

Thank heavens, there’s still a strong glimmer of girly pink. Phew. 😆

(*The Wildcats are the mascots for our school district.)

-Joanne Roth Marino

Life in a testosterone fish tank

Some Moms have tea parties, I have Mine craft farts.

Life in a testosterone fish tank:

“KILL, KILL, no LEFT, my Left dork, GO, go, Awe, Dude, YOU KILLED ME, What the HECK!”  frustrated son #1, gaming on line via the Xbox, while, simultaneously, in the family room on the laptop with his cell acting as a Kinect, son #2:
“No, No, A-man, KEEP PUNCHING!  Aidan, seriously, FOCUS!!! Lord oh mighty, did you just Fart!?  Sorry, Dude, my bad, Oh. My. God!  go, GO!! CHOP!  Run, kill the sheep. A-man,  you need more dexterity DUDE, oh my gosh, just passed virtual Gas, it kills them everytime!”

Yep, no dolls here. Just those alien XY’s.

-Joanne Roth Marino


Easter grass, Glitter and Legos

A few of life’s truths, which I’ve found to be right on the money in accuracy.

1. Easter Basket grass will show up somewhere in your house months and even years after the basket has been emptied.
2. There’s alway that one elusive Easter egg no one finds from the hunt.
3. Christmas glitter lasts forever like that strand of Easter basket grass.
4. A parent can walk around barefoot finding that ONE missing Lego piece invisible to the human eye. Sometimes, even years after the little builders are teenagers AND presumably, all Lego’s were donated to Good Will.
5. Nothing, absolutely nothing hurts worse than stepping on that Lego piece in the dead of night.

Joanne Roth Marino