“It was inevitable, Mom.”

Those were the words said by my 16-year old daughter three hours after a shooter entered our local Kroger, killed one woman and shot 13 others, before taking his own life.

Just a few hours after the shocking tragedy rocked our little suburb, she was sad, but matter-of-fact about it. As we sat in her car, waiting the necessary 30 minutes after her allergy shot, I started the conversation by asking her how she felt.

“It was inevitable, Mom. We knew it would happen.”

When I said, “You never think it really will.”…

…. she said, “Well, we do, kids my age do… You grew up in a time when mass shootings were unheard of, or at least rare. We have never known a world without mass shootings happening all the time. We assume it will happen close to us in our lifetimes.”

I slowly shook my head, knowing what she said was so true and feeling an unbelievable sadness that she and her little sister lived this reality.

When we got home, I asked her sister how she felt. She first said it was so sad, but then shrugged and said, “If leaders aren’t going to do something about guns, then what should we expect? We have always had mass shootings, and nothing happens.”

We are living in this sad reality, stuck holding on to an archaic translation of a line in the Constitution, watching people take deadly weapons into crowded places, taking some lives, shattering others, and yet, we do nothing meaningful.

While my daughters spoke the sad truth, our governor responded to questions about the recently enacted “permitless carry” law that went into affect in our state July 1st, with these words:

“[The] constitutional carry bill applies to law-abiding citizens. What happened yesterday was criminal activity, violent criminal gun activity, and those are separate issues.”

I read this to my 14-year old child. Even she saw the problem with this statement.

I want to be clear that we don’t yet know if this new law helped the shooter in the Kroger shooting. We do know it didn’t hurt him.

I’m not sure when real action will be taken to keep people safe. I’m not going to claim to know all the answers.

I do know that when my 14-year old and I went to a different grocery store in a different town, she walked out with a confession:

“That was harder than I thought it was going to be. I was nervous it would happen in there.”

Schools, stores, venues… it can happen anywhere.

Doing nothing, or making it easier to get deadly weapons, does not seem to move us in a safer direction.

For those wanting their 2nd amendment rights to protect yourself, you know that you could get a permit legally and get a gun. You know looser gun laws are not necessary for you law-abiding citizens.

Most people I know that want changes to gun laws do not want gun rights taken away. We want training, universal background checks, waiting periods… we want mental health to be addressed… we want to DO SOMETHING.

I hope that my children’s generation will be able to come together and figure out real solutions. I hope they can find a way to take care of the mentally ill… of those who need mental health support… and also make deadly weapons harder to get.

However, I hate that I’m putting my hope on them. It seems we are leaving a lot for them to clean up.

And, in the meantime, they will continue to shrug off something that we all find shocking… because their reality is:

This happens all the time and our leaders do nothing about it.

It’s inevitable.

Two Paths, Both Well-Traveled

Do you ever have regrets?

Not the “I wish I wouldn’t have eaten that brownie.” type. I mean the big ones.

  • The one that got away
  • The house you sold for a bigger one
  • The job you passed up

I work pretty hard to avoid regrets. I’m not saying I’ve always made the correct decisions in life. What I mean is when I make that decision, I tell myself I have thought it out and I am making the best one for the time.

This summer, I came up to a fork in the road. At almost the same time, I was offered a chance to teach or to go back to my first love.

No, not him

Broadcast news

So I came to a fork in the road, with both paths well-traveled.

The stars aligned. All the signs popped up to go back home.

  • My mentor was close to the TV boss’s boss.
  • A former boss of mine worked in the same company and swung the door to this television station wide open for me.
  • The general manager and I were supposed to meet for a half hour, hour tops. We met for 2 hours and could have kept going.
  • The woman who would be my boss and I had similar philosophies, common people.

I was ready to do it! My daughters and husband were supporting the move.

It was going to be tough. I was not going to be home much. I would go back to giving up days off, vacations, weekends. It was no teaching schedule. I would start missing out on my kids’ lives again.

However, I was feeling this incredible pull.

When the News Director asked me to review a show, I didn’t limit myself to that… I reviewed an entire day! I gave feedback on 2 shows. A lot of worked needed to be done. A lot It didn’t scare me away. In fact, I wanted it more.

I shared my feedback on the shows with my mentor.

“Am I crazy to do this?” I asked.

“You and me, Kim. We run to the fire.” He replied.

Yes. For people like us, the challenge is life. This station was rebuilding and I wanted to help put up the structure. I was getting excited.

As I started to consider actually jumping back in, a huge announcement came.

My boss at the middle school was leaving. Then, my other supervisor was leaving.

The signs all said, “Go back to news. You belong there.”

I do. I do belong there. I love the raw energy of a newsroom. The drive to win and watching it all unfold on a night of pure craziness.

Decisions made in seconds.

But then…

The signs started to change.

I truly can’t describe the shift, but it happened quite suddenly.

  • The new boss at school reached out … to every single one of us… individually.
  • A teacher I adore said she was going to be teaching with me.
  • Things weren’t going quickly enough with the news job and I didn’t want to leave the school in a difficult position.

I started to imagine life in the new classroom. The interaction with the students, watching them light up when they learn something cool and roll their eyes when I make an incredibly funny joke (haha!).

I saw myself back in the halls with my colleagues sharing the successes and helping each other out when we struggle.

In many ways, the buzz of a school leaves me just as pumped up as a newsroom.

  • I love the feeling at class change.
  • I like that moment just after morning announcements, when the day is just about to begin.
  • I love when a student wears a shirt because of a conversation you all had one day last week.
  • I love when students interrupt because they understood what you said and they want to compare it to something else.
  • I love when a student brings in a picture of a sandwich you talked about last week, because he and his family decided to try it.

The signs toward staying at school were growing bigger. I was feeling a pull to stay put, to build another year of memories with students.

Most importantly, my girls kept needing me for things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do if I went back home to television. I am not ready to not be there for them.

If anyone reading this is in broadcast news, a police officer, EMT, fire fighter, emergency nurse or doctor… any job that can call you 24/7/365… well, you know.

You can’t always pick when you are there for your kids and family.

I may belong in a newsroom, but for so many reasons, I also belong in a classroom.

I don’t think I will have regrets, because I love being in a classroom so very much… but… I may have regrets.

However, just like when I walked away from The Weather Channel, I know I will rather regret walking away from news than regret not being there for my girls when they need me.

That is not a regret with which I can live.

Jurors: Do your duty!

Updated to add: This was written before the acquittal of Donald J. Trump.

As an American, I have done my duty to serve as a juror twice. For me, serving changed my perspective forever. I no longer see it as a punishment or hassle. It is one of the most important things we can do as a citizen of the U.S.

A trial by jury can give people a chance to have people like them see their point if view.

Don’t get me wrong, our jury system is not even close to perfect.. biases and prejudices and racism seep into the system. However, sometimes the selection of jurors can give defendents a better chance than just having a judge decide.

So, back to my point about serving as a juror.

Twice now, in the U.S. Senate, jurors have decided the outcome of a trial before it has began. First, they decided not to hear the first impeachment case. Now, with the second impeachment trial, 45 out of the 100 Senators, aka jurors, have said they have decided before the end of the end of the trial.

That goes against our oaths as jurors. You listen, impartially, until the end. Then, you carefully analyze evidence with respect to the charges.

As I said, twice now I have served as a juror.

The first trial was an attempted murder, kidnapping case with two pages of charges. After a week, both sides had presented their cases and we went to the jury room.

I, as foreperson, called for an initial written/anonymous vote to see from where we were starting.

Everyone voted guilty.

I then said it was our duty to make sure it was beyond a reasonable doubt.

Two men started screaming at me. They wanted to go home. However, four people said they were wondering about the blood evidence. That led to more questions. I had three boxes of evidence delivered.

My new jury friends helped by writing questions on a white board and we went back through the evidence. We all saw that the evidence was overwhelming. We voted again.

All guilty.

I got the officer and they called everyone back to the courtroom. We felt like we had deliberated a long time.

Once we were back in the courtroom, the judge explained they were a bit unorganized because they didn’t expect us back so quickly.

We had deliberated an hour and a half.

He got 120 years in prison.

I think carefully considering any doubts was worth an hour and a half of our time, considering he was spending the rest of his life in prison.

That is how jurors behave.

The second trial I served was a civil case surrounding an accident. The evidence was so clearly pointing at the defendant being in the right. It was crystal clear.

However, two women on the jury were adamant that he was in the wrong. They each stood on either side of me yelling about their view. (I was foreperson again.)

I called for evidence to be brought in to show them answers to their concerns. They were angry and wanted to vote against the defendant.

There were clear biases on their part. They described accidents they had been in. They yelled about being blamed for things they didn’t do. There was a hint of racism. (The defendant was a black man.)

The rest of the jury wanted me to stop these two somehow. Remembering the gravity of the other case, I convinced them to hear the other two out.

It got heated. I asked everyone to take a minute.

After two more hours, the two women
decided to vote in favor of the defendant.

After all was said and done, the judge wanted to thank us for our service. The two women jumped at the chance to ask him what he thought. The judge said it was crystal clear that we made the correct decision. He was surprised it took us so long.

My point for sharing these stories is to show the importance of listening to all the evidence, to considering a point of view with which you may not agree and making a decision based on all the facts.

Forty-five Senators are not doing their jobs. They have clearly not listened to or considered the House Managers case at all.

I wish I had the opportunity to tell them:

Do your job. Serve as jurors should.

50 Years of Perspective

“You have a different perspective. No offense.”

With her hands dismissively waving me away… she meant offense.

See, the woman saying those words and silencing me was in the middle of complaining about another change at work, thanks to COVID-19. She, and others, were wondering how they were going to make the change.

In my sometimes irritatingly, glass-half-full way, I was offering an upside to the change.

She saw me as some inexperienced, doe-eyed optimist that had no place amongst the seasoned vets.

I immediately went into my defense mode: Make the other person feel ok about their actions towards me.

Instead of saying: “Yes I do have a different perspective. I have 20 years experience in a career that changed all the time. Many times, my plans changed within a minute, with no time to plan. I didn’t have a week to prepare. I had a minute.”

(I said none of that. I apologized instead.)

People often see each other through a narrow lens. We see each other in the moment we are in with them.

That woman saw me as a newbie. Not as someone who had been in classrooms for nine years. Not someone who had a 20-year career that demanded her 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not as someone who made huge sacrifices as a new mom, pumping in the bathroom, but getting little to nothing out because it is hour 14 at work.

She didn’t see the little girl who spent her life hiding her pain so her mom didn’t know her one babysitting option lead to my sexual abuse.

She didn’t see the girl from the trailer park, dismissed over and over as someone who didn’t have a voice.

She didn’t see the woman who faced adversity and abuse starting at the age of 4, and had one survival tool, one coping mechanism.

I coped by seeing the good.

The only way for a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 year old to keep the horrific secret of being sexually abused is to act as if the bad wasn’t happening.

The only way for a pre-teen to keep her babysitting job and not upset her own mom, is to act as if her mom’s friend’s husband didn’t try to rape her in front of his daughter. I had to ignore that he was also stalking me on my paper route.

When a teenage girl is raped, a way to cope is to act as if it didn’t happen. The shame is too much to bear. At this point, it must be my fault.

The abuses were not the only part of my life that gave me a better perspective.

Many can relate to what it is like to grow up poor. No family trips. Sometimes we had no car. Sometimes we had no heat. The trailer has holes in the floor? Put boards over the holes.

Many can relate to having a parent that was absent my entire life. Refused to send support, refused to love me.

Those dark times can affect us all differently. I count myself lucky that my 4-year old brain chose to look for the light.

So, now, as I turn 50 today, I look around and see light. Adversity comes and I try to find a way to meet it and beat it.

Don’t get me wrong. I cry. I get angry. I pity myself sometimes.

But, always, I find the light.

Everyone has a different perspective. Everyone brings their own experiences to the table. Everyone responds to life in the ways they were trained to respond.

Looking at another person and assuming they are who you see is a mistake one should never make.

You never know how their perspective could help you.

That’s all I wanted to say to her.

So Much Space

The sun was not yet up. The cats were fed. The dogs made a trip outside and then ate. The Christmas lights were all turned on. The coffee was made and a cup of it was in my hand.

I settled down to my favorite weekend morning ritual: find a documentary to watch.

This morning, the documentary was, “Bee Gees: How to Mend a Broken Heart”.

I knew I was going to love this one. The Bee Gees bring back the happy parts of my childhood. They are part of a soundtrack that brings back singing, dancing and fun. Those moments are limited, but they are loud.

As I floated into the memories and watched the Gibb brothers’ lives play out in front of me, I was reminded of their contribution to music. I learned of the work it took to get to where they landed. I discovered their evolution from the 60s to the 70s to the 80s were not as easy as I had thought. I watched in wonder as I watched obstacles thrown up in front of them and saw how they jumped, crawled under and worked around them.

Then, the documentary flowed into a moment in history I had forgotten. Maybe it is because I’m an adult and not an 8-year old, but this time it really hit me hard.

It was July 12, 1979. A Chicago radio disc jokey named Steve Dahl had been trashing Disco music for some time. He had come up with a scheme, along side White Sox owner Bill Veeck, to get people to come to Comisky Park.

The scheme had a title: “Disco Demolition Night”. His fans filled Comisky Park, paying a low admission of $0.98 and a disco album. Between the double header that night, Dahl blew up disco records. Then, the fans stormed the field, threw firecrackers and bottles and vandalized the park.

Basically, the “fun” gimmick took a bad turn. I believe in karma. I think what you put out in the universe will come back to you. This night was a good example of that happening very quickly.

However, what struck me most about reliving this part of our history is not the stupidity of the crowd and organizers. What stood out to me was the power of hate.

In the documentary, Vince Lawrence, a music industry leader, points out that many of the records brought to the park were of black R&B artists, not disco artists. Others pointed out that it was largely the gay community who found joy in disco music. Disco was a huge part of gay nightclubs. This felt like an attack on those communities.

Watching the “Disco Demolition Night” unfold before me all over again made me realize something else.

There are people in this world that believe there isn’t enough space for all of us. For those who believe the space is limited, anyone that is different needs to leave.

On the radio and at the record stores, there was plenty of space for all types of music. However, in 1979, disco was taking up the most space. It had been the most popular for a few years. Rock fans were tired of this.

Instead of buying records, finding rock stations and ignoring disco, they decided there was not enough space. So, they were going to bully disco and get it to leave.

I know the 70s were different. We had fewer ways to listen to our music. I can imagine if you didn’t like disco, you had fewer ways to avoid it.

I remember, though, sitting in my tiny bedroom in our trailer home, listening to so many records. I listened to the radio too, especially when I wanted to record a song that was coming up. However, I was able to pick a record out to listen to it if I didn’t like what was on the radio. Plus, there were several stations dedicated to different types of music. I liked the one that played the Top 40: KZ 93!

My point is: We had, and continue to have, plenty of space.

You can probably guess, I’m talking about more than music.

We have so much space for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, economic class, sexual orientation…. the list goes on.

I have never understood a hatred toward a certain group because they don’t have your color skin, or believe in the same book you do, or love the gender you think they should love.

Watching this documentary drummed that all back up. How is it people who are different in any way are a threat to you?

So, you don’t like disco. Who cares? Listen to Meatloaf if you want. No one is stopping you.

So, you are married to someone of the opposite sex. Why does it matter that another person is not? You keep being married to the person to whom you are married.

So another person has a different color skin as you. Is that really an attack on you?

You see a person who is originally from another country. What is it that makes you not want them to have opportunities for a good life?

I’ve been told my entire life that bullies are unhappy and they don’t want anyone else to be happy.

But…

There is…

So much space…..

Is This Regret?

I am having a tough night…. sitting here in a quiet house. It is past midnight. I have to be up in 4 hours to start my day in a classroom full of students.

Yet, sleep isn’t coming.

Instead, my mind is swimming through my former life. A life from which I walked away almost a decade ago.

I had agonized over that decision. I knew it was the correct one… but there is one emotion I work hard to avoid, always.

Regret.

Tonight, though, there is a feeling washing over me. It covers me in a way that I know is temporary. I know I can shake this off. All I need is time and perspective.

Boy, do I have a lot to say about perspective, but that’s for later.

Sixteen years ago, I interviewed a woman I knew was someone different. She had a drive not seen in many. I wanted to hire her.

My bosses said no. She didn’t have enough experience to be at a network. She was not ready. I disagreed.

I won. They said it was on me if it didn’t work out. She started a couple of weeks later.

To say I was right is an understatement. This w oman was going places. She had her eyes on the prize and she wasn’t stopping.

I respected that part of her. I was her, just 10 years older. I had set so many goals in my career… and I had met them all. Well, all, except one.

Anyway, watching her, I understood her focus. I didn’t have the same style and I didn’t approach the climb the way she did, but I saw her.

The thing is, I had my first child a year after hiring her. My laser focus on the prize was blurring a bit. I kept feeling a tug when I looked at my baby girl. Two years later, I had my second. This was getting tough.

To stay on the track I was on meant sacrificing time with these beautiful beings. I knew that I had a limited amount of time with them in this life. If my husband and I did this right, they would leave us one day.

Wait! I can do this. I can do both.

For six years after having my first baby, I told myself this. Tears, a severe lack of sleep, hormones while pregnant and after having babies, breastfeeding, pumping in the bathroom, other people caring for and raising my kids…

All the while that goal was going out of focus.

I started putting my family in that picture I had always had of who I was going to be.

We are in New York. I am running the news division of NBC.

Holidays are missed. Big moments are shared through video. Others are coming through for my kids.

That last paragraph was already a reality where I was. There was no reason to believe it wouldn’t be worse in that world I had dreamed about for so long.

So, I walked away. I got off the train.

I weighed all the reasons I knew I wouldn’t regret it.

My kids will be gone in 18 years. Memories are being made and I wanted to be in them.

Plus, I had no doubt that I had exceeded my expectations on who I would be as a news broadcaster. I knew that, while I am far from perfect, I had rocked that career.

It was time to find something that would let me be a more present mom.

Don’t get me wrong. Others do that balance well. I just could not. I needed to give 100% to my job. I needed to give 100% to my family. I was never a balanced person. Neither part of my life was ever turned off.

Plus, this career was a 24 /365. The news and weather did not conveniently happen during a 40 hour work week. I had to walk away to find balance.

So, tonight, I found out the woman I hired 16 years ago has made it. She took that climb, did not get off the train… and made it.

I am happy for her. I am also feeling a little pleased with myself that I was right about her.

But, there is another emotion. Is it regret? I think it might be.

What I am learning is there is no true resolution for anything. At 20, you see the world one way. At 35, your eyes may want a different prize.

Then, one day, you could be days away from 50 and wonder, What if?

You can be absolutely sure about something and change your mind later, because your perspective changed.

There is that word again.

Perspective. More on that later.

We Are Sending Our Kids to School, And We Don’t Like It

Yes, you read that correctly. We are sending our kids to school, in the middle of a pandemic.

Just writing that sentence made my eyes mist up.

It’s not like we don’t have a choice. We can send them to a new virtual academy our school district is building. 

To say my husband and I agonized over this decision is an understatement. We changed our minds often, sometimes in the span of one minute, one sentence that would stop us cold:

“Do we want to regret sending them and they get sick and end up in the hospital… or worse?”

Of course, the answer is no. Our youngest has an immune system that does not work. A cold is an infection. When she gets sick, her immune system does very little and she gets the worst of it. Name an antibiotic. I’m sure she’s taken it.

I’m am sitting here judging us. I feel confident some of you are judging us as well. That is ok. I get it.

How can parents send their kids to school in the middle of all of this?

It is weird, too. I watched hundreds in my community easily make the decision. I mean, it may not have been easy for all, but they knew pretty quickly if they were sending their kids to school or going virtual.

Not us.

Fourteen minutes before the deadline to decide virtual… hours after the girls had gone to bed… hours after we had a family meeting and listened to our girls make their case for going… my husband looked at me and said… “So, have we decided?”

It was 15 minutes before midnight. The deadline was 11:59pm. I still didn’t know. I just knew my gut was saying, LEAP! Take this leap of faith that your kids will be ok.

You may be wondering by now: If the decision was so hard, and you’re scared to send them, why are you doing it?

I have one answer for that. We LOVE our schools.

Right now, the leaders of our district are not our favorite people. They are making decisions based on voting blocks and only pleasing the loudest parents. There is no way they’ve made decisions based ONLY on the health and safety of our kids.

But…. we love our schools.

Our 8th grader will have an English teacher that will add seasoning to her life that she cannot get elsewhere. I am confident of that because our oldest also had her. I know her world will open a bit wider if she goes to school and has that teacher.

The administration at that school are some of my favorite people. Heck, that place is family to me. I’ve tried every way, including sideways, to get a full time job in there. (My license doesn’t cover middle school.) I cancel plans just to substitute teach in that building.

Our high school student is going to one of the newest, shiniest schools in our radius. There are teachers in that building who opened up worlds to her last year, her Freshman year. She walked out of school, albeit early thanks to COVID-19, a richer girl. Her horizons are so much wider.

Add to all that…. they are all supposed to wear masks all day and social distance. God help that district if there is no discipline for the kids who don’t follow those rules. 

Maybe it is the girl in me who grew up in the 70s and went to high school in the late 80s who sees schools as a magical place. The teachers inside my school took this trailer trash girl out of her abusive life and into worlds of possibilities I had never dreamed.

I know, I know… school will not be the same for our kids as they were in the 70s and 80s. They won’t be the same as it was 6 months ago!!!

I’m aware of the fact that they won’t see each other’s smiles. I’m aware that walking shoulder to shoulder won’t happen. Their giggles will be muffled by cloth over their mouths. They won’t be able to mouth things at each other or make facial expressions while the teacher is teaching them. (Sorry kids! You gotta pay attention!) The boys won’t be high-fiving over their heads, annoying all the girls trying to simply walk down the hall.

However, they will learn how to read each other’s eyes. They will figure out ways to read body language six feet apart. They will figure out ways to giggle through eyes and bodily expression. And, thank goodness, those boys will stop being so crazy in the halls. The hallways will be emptier, quieter and less fun than it usually is, but they will adapt. Our kids will adjust to our new reality.

As many of you may know, from many of my blogs, including The Choice is Clear, my childhood was riddled with abuse. I have worked hard throughout my entire time being a mom to prevent my kids from being sexually abused or raped. It is still a full-time job for me. I want to protect them from everything.

But. I can’t. I will never be able to do that, but I can teach them how to better protect themselves.

This is just where WE are. This is not a judgement on anyone else’s decision. We decided a minimum of 10 times in the past two weeks to go all virtual. We see immense value in keeping our kids out of the cesspool that is school. My heart stops at the risk we are taking. Stops. I feel sick sometimes.

So, believe me virtual parents, I salute your courage to do something completely different. I know you are making a decision based on your child’s health. I know you are making the correct decision for your family.

This has to be the hardest decision we have ever had to make as parents. I have never seen my very logical, straight-forward husband go back and forth like he has with this one. He usually can see a clear solution. This time he can’t. I can’t. I don’t know many who can. If you see a clear solution, bravo! We cannot.

To those of you without children, please know… we know. There may be some of you who feel like I’m a snowflake, believing this virus is worse than the flu like an idiot. (You’re not correct, by the way, this is far worse than the flu, but that is for another time.)

There may be some of you who cannot believe we would make the choice to send them back. Don’t worry, I can’t either.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is this: We don’t know what may happen to us at any time. We have very little control over what could happen to us on any given day.

We also have no control over the outcome. Sure, we can make decisions based on the science I so fully support. We can listen to the experts and do the best job possible.

So, on that note, that is what we are trying to do here. My husband has gone to work every day since this pandemic began. He did not work from home once. He has worn a mask and socially distanced. He does not have too many employees around him on a daily basis. He limits interaction.

We have not caught this virus yet.

So, we will hope that everyone else plays by the rules. We are scared about that because we live in a community that seems to have a majority who think this virus is no big deal for kids and that masks should not be mandatory. They let their kids go to Sonic, fill up the parking lot, hopping from car to car… WITH NO MASKS!

We have got to hope our leaders make the kids follow the rules. We have to trust that our kids will avoid situations that can expose them. We have to trust that they will grow from this and become stronger and more independent.

 

 

Parents out there: My heart goes out to you. This decision was not easy. Whatever you decided was probably not easy for you all. Just know this… I know there is no perfect answer. There is no easy way to measure the risk and say, “Aha! That’s what I should do!”

If there was, we’d all be doing the exact same thing.

 

 

The Race for Human Rights

I feel like many of us are running this ridiculous race. We are sprinting toward a space where who we are doesn’t dictate our success in life.

So, this sprint is happening… running, running…

Black people cannot use the same bathrooms as whites. They can’t sit in the same areas. They can’t go where they want. They can’t work where they are qualified.

A woman loses her job because she is now a mom. Another woman can’t go beyond the secretarial desk.

And, we gather, yell, protest…run!

The Civil Rights Law of 1964 makes these discriminations illegal.

Then, police raid a gay bar taking a woman off in a paddy wagon.

And, we gather, yell… scream… march in Gay Pride Parades.

Then, a black man is beaten by LAPD officers and another man records the entire thing.

And, we gather, yell, protest…run!

A 21 year old man is killed because some men did not like that he was gay.

Members of an extremist church protest the victim at his own funeral.

We yell, protest… SCREAM… run, run, run.

Almost 30 years after the Civil Rights Law of 1964 passed, black men and women are still being beaten, even killed, by police officers.

So, now we start to gather, yell, protest…. when will this equality promised to all ever arrive?

Today, we got a glimmer of hope. We were handed a ruling that tells us the law may end up on our side. We were told this game is too long, but we don’t always lose every inning.

Today, 6 out of 3 justices said you cannot be discriminated in the workplace just because you are LGBTQ. Your sexuality does not dictate your work ethic or performance and you can’t be judged by it.

What I find even more powerful were the words of one of the Justices, Neil Gorsuch:
“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees.”

“But, the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefits.”

ALL persons!

Are we there?

No.

We need to keep running. It’s not all done.

George Floyd’s murder has taught us that. Not only did he die under the knee of a police officer…. as he cried for help, cried for his mother… other officers and bystanders watched.

We protest and yell loudly: BLACK LIVES MATTER!

And, then, Rayshard Brooks is shot by an Atlanta officer, in the back and killed.

Run, run, run…

This race toward true human rights is too damn long. At times, it seems we will never stop running for the prize of all of us being treated equally.

I have been discriminated against in the workplace over and over and over thanks to my gender. I have been subjected to horrible sexist conversations in front of me as if it was expected that I would “man up” and think they were funny. I’ve been reminded that being a mother would make me less effective as an employee.

However, when I met Jason and fell in love and married him… that decision.. the one that made my life more livable… that one did not lead to me being fired.

I was told many, many awful things.

But… I was never fired.

I have been pulled over by police. I have received speeding tickets.

I have white skin.

I was never afraid. I was never beaten. A gun has never been pulled on me.

Today, we celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to treat group of human beings, like human beings.

But, still we need to run, run, run…..

We Need To Fix This

I have written this so many times in my head.

I will not do justice to what I feel I should say… what I feel I have the responsibility to say after another black man was killed at the hands of police. He was unarmed. He was not resisting. He was not a danger to them.

I thought I would just re-share my post from August of 2017 describing white privilege. I had written that as neo-nazi white supremacists marched through Charlottesville.

Then, a friend (who I mention later) shared a post with me. It is Dondre T. Whitfield talking about what is going on in the nation after a police officer murdered George Floyd. I felt inadequate with the above blog.

He answers the question, “What, as a white person, should I say?” He says we should say: “We need to fix this.”

So:

We need to fix this.

One of my best friend’s in the world set my husband and me up. He introduced Jason to a woman… me… who was not interested in meeting someone that night because he knew. He knew there was a chance I would find love. He wanted so badly for me to find the one… to find someone who would love me and be by my side. He wanted it because he cared enough about me to want me to be happy. He was also there for so many low moments in my life. He always supported me (and 100s of others who know him) with love and WITHOUT judgement. I owe so much of my happiness to his kindness.

Another friend I know I see every day I’m inside my kids’ school. He always has that grin on his face that tells you he is up to something that is going to make you laugh. He shows love and support to all the middle school kids… every kid of every race. He is thoughtful. He wants to hear what you have to say about anything… even if he disagrees… because he wants to understand you. I have never seen him look mad, even when those middle school kids are testing him.  He is calm and sweet and smart.

I know this other guy who will go out to eat with friends and order a salad. Then, he will wait for all of us to finish eating to ask, “You gonna eat that?”. His part of the bill is always way less, but he has probably eaten the most food. He is the first to tease you about something he has been teasing you about for decades. He is also the first to be there for you if you say you need him. He has traveled the entire world now and is back home. He went home, even though he has seen better places than where he lives… because he loves his family and friends.

I have a friend, taller than I can usually crook my head up to see. He is that friend everyone should have, but Jason and I are lucky to call him ours. He is pure joy. I kid you not. I dare anyone to try to be in a bad mood around him. It isn’t possible. I’ve been in one and he came around and took it away instantly. Every year, he sends me a text on Mother’s Day and another on my birthday. I have not seen his face in about 6 years. I have only heard his voice a couple of times. Yet, twice a year, he sends me a text. The love that pours out of that man is unbelievable.

I know a woman who faces tough challenges as a mom. Every day. Yet, every time I see her, she has a smile. She faces challenges many of my friends will never know. However, she wears a smile and gives her time to others. She is one of those friends who pop into your life every once in a while, to make sure you’re good. She has a quiet grace about her.  I aspire to handle life the way she does.

There is this other woman we all call Mama. All. Of. Us. We are her children. She owns us and she would protect us to the very end. Don’t get me wrong… she is hard on us all. She expects excellence and kindness coming from us. She does not have time for foolishness. She is crass and loud. She is equally loving and caring. When you are in her world, you are hers and she will take care of you. Sometimes when she tells me her “son” or “daughter” or “nephew” or “niece” or “brother” or “sister” did something… I ask, “Your blood or one of us.” She says there is not much difference.

Some of these are black people and some are white police officers.

I am angry as hell about what happened to George Floyd, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland… the list is outrageously long. I am mad at the police officers who did it. They deserve the maximum punishment. I want the system that has supported them brought down. Please understand, I do not want police departments brought down. I want the part of those departments that protect their own at all costs… even the cost of a human life… to be brought down. I want them revamped. I want officers retrained. No knee should push down on a person’s neck if you are sworn to protect and serve.

I once said, defeated and tired, that I don’t know what I can do as a white woman to fix this. I don’t want to put a white washed version of the story of black America out there. I don’t want to be the one to drive through Starbucks, wearing leggings and lip gloss and act like I can’t do anything. I also don’t want to do the wrong thing.

A friend of mine said: Change it from the inside. Talk. Share. Shoot down stereotypes. Raise your daughters to respect people of all colors… to respect human life. Be kind.

In this blog, I wanted to talk about police officers I know to be good people because I believe officers like them can help bring this change… from the inside…. like my friend said.

I wanted to talk about just some of the black people in my life that I love. I want to honor who they are and highlight them in a discussion that calls for empathy, kindness and listening to those affected the most.

I want to show humanity.

I want to fix this.

I’m your Sub today

I fell into substitute teaching by accident, as some may say. I walked into my 1st grade daughter’s school in Georgia and saw the principal and vice-principal on the phone, frantically trying to find a sub. As I signed in, the principal looked over at me and said jokingly, “I know you’re trying to run a business, but would you like to be a sub?”

I responded with an shrug and a, “That’s interesting.” When I came back in to sign out, I saw it was calmer in the front office. I asked what it would take to be a sub.

I was in training in a matter of weeks. The district required a teaching certification, and I didn’t have one. However, I had a principal who trusted me and needed subs…. so she got me in.

From the first day I substitute taught, I felt it. I was in love with the classroom, the kids, the role I played. I was still trying to get a business off the ground, but I began to take more and more assignments. I was completely in love.

I have moved through states and schools through the years. I even transitioned into the terrifying world of middle school. I found one constant.

I love teaching.

Where are all the substitute teachers at? I know you can feel what I’m about to say.

With a sub, many kids do their best not to listen to you. They push your patience, lie about “the way it’s always done”, and lose all sense of the class rules when you sub. They see a sub and say, “We are in charge today!”

Standing at the door, you get “YAY! We have a sub.” or “Ugh, where is Ms./Mr. so and so?”. You can either get an ego boast or a total verbal punch to the gut. “Oh, you’re the nice one!” “Oh, you are too strict!” Some kids say you are their favorite sub, others talk about that other one that lets them do what they want, and how they wish they had him.

When class starts, about five kids pull out their agendas, because they are hall passes to go to the restroom. As if they would pull that with their actual teacher. I read the sub plans… I saw their names. I knew they were going to act up.

But, then, you have those kids who always have your back. They don’t like when they see someone mistreated. They don’t like when the kids are mean. Those are my people.

For the past two years, I’ve been lucky to become more of a long-term sub. I earned a teaching certification to teach Broadcasting three years ago and it opened the door to becoming an interim substitute. My first gig was as an elementary school art teacher for three months. Then, back to middle school I went. I’ve spent most of the past two school years as a longer term sub in one middle school.

I tell you all this because…. even though I’m “just a sub” on paper… I have spent a lot of time with the same students for years, and my heart is breaking right now. Our schools decided this week to not physically return to the building.

We will not stand in the hall between class changes and interact with students and other teachers anymore this year. If you’ve never spent a day in a school and watched class change… you’ve never lived. Yes, sometimes difficult things happen… but most of the time, you hear laughter.

I will not spend 5-10 minutes walking kids to and from lunch and sushing them every ten seconds, as they loudly reply, “It wasn’t me!”.

I won’t have another opportunity this school year to allow a student to teach us a subject.

For at least several months, I won’t see their faces light up when they tell me about a new pet… a trip they are taking… or the newest game they got.

I won’t watch them school me on the latest Tik Tok. Subsequently, they won’t all let out a “WHOA!” when I nail it. (Ok, ok… there is also pure laughter when I don’t.)

I won’t stand just outside a classroom, with one arm inside as I ask the students to please stay on task and be quiet… while I try to comfort a student who is upset.

I won’t get to light up every morning as kids come in… or usher them quickly out the door every afternoon, because 7 hours of each other was enough… until tomorrow.

7 hours… what I wouldn’t give for 7 hours.

Subs get a gift many teachers don’t have. We get to teach every grade, every classroom. I have met almost all of the kids in the school.

Now, I miss every single one.

I miss the 8th graders who call me “Ms. Curry” because when they were in 6th grade, one student could never remember my real name. So, in her class, I was Ms. Curry. One of those classmates recently promoted me to Dr. Curry. I did nothing to earn it, but every day: “Good morning, Dr. Curry!”

I miss one 8th grader who hears the others call me Ms. Curry and responds with “Hi, Miss Bieber!” because she thinks it’s pretty funny that is my maiden name.

They will all graduate from middle and move on. Tears fill my eyes as I know, I will not hear “Ms. Curry!” or “Miss Bieber!” in those halls again.

Last year, I did a 3 week stint with a group of 6th graders who are now in 7th. This year, I worked 6 weeks in one 7th grade classroom and am currently in a full semester interim gig in another 7th grade classroom.

I know a lot of current 7th graders. A lot of them.

I miss them all daily. Even though many are reaching out digitally, I can’t hear their voices… or see their faces… in the hall. We don’t have moments of laughter or moments of pure frustration.

I never thought I would say this, but I miss the sound of lockers slamming. I miss telling kids to break it up at the lockers and get to class.

I miss the kids who, every day, ask to go to the bathroom. Some of them even ask right when I start the lesson. There is a moment when they know they are being rude, and we exchange a smile, and they put down that agenda.

I miss that student who spends the entire class period messing, and then comes to my desk when everyone starts working to ask how to do everything I just taught.

Ok, I’ll be honest, I really miss the reactions from students: “Seriously, so and so?!?! She JUST showed us how to do all of that!”

Oh, that last week of school! The organized chaos. The moment teachers say, “If this water bottle isn’t claimed today, it’s donated or trashed.” The trash bins full of papers kids held on to all year, but now they let go of them with the flick of the wrist.

The notes and gifts given to the teachers. The hugs, smiles, exchanges of information between students so they can stay connected with each other over the summer…

That very last day. All of you know what I mean. We’ve all had those last days. You don’t have to be a teacher or current student to remember… those last days. My kids always go on the last days. “They are the fun days. Plus, we have to say goodbye.”

Ugh. Goodbye.

The waves along the car rider line… the bus line… at the walkers and bikers as they head off the school campus. The pure adrenaline that comes with the excitement of summer.

Now, our days will blur into the next ones, and our summer will come without celebration.

Next year will come, and we’ll have it again. At some point, we will return to some sense of normalcy, but maybe the high fives will be replaced with air fives. Or, feet fives… something a student and I came up with when our school had a flu outbreak.

So, the issue isn’t that we will NEVER have another last week of school.

It is that we will NEVER have it with our current students.

That is where it is sad.

Every year, students move on. That is the beauty of life… they are growing and leaving in order to pursue their dreams. But, they move on…. and we get to say goodbye.

….except for this year.

When people outside the school see me, they don’t see me as a teacher. I get that. I chose this path late. I was so lucky to have a career I adored, and still love, for 20 years. That career defined me and I hope it continues to do so.

However, my heart tells me I am now a teacher. The tears welling up as I think of the months lost… tells me I am.

Just not a real one… yet…

My name is not outside any door.

My badge does not let me into a school.

I am always using someone else’s supplies/equipment. Before this quarantine, I was always in someone else’s classroom, at someone else’s desk.

I have been almost every student’s substitute teacher at this middle school, many of them for multiple weeks and months. Yet, I’m not their teacher.

Well, not on paper or on signs outside the classroom door or that badge in my picture… but in my heart…

…that’s a different story.