Category Archives: Because it needs to be said.

I’ve been saying all week that Sunday is going to be my new blog-post day, and then I sat down to write and what I had planned to write just didn’t come out. Because my mind is on something else, and much more difficult to write about.

My mind is, in fact, about forty miles away, sitting in a choir room, watching the TV in total silence. Up until that day, I didn’t even know that the TV in that room worked. The walls are beige. The carpet is gray. I’m in a music theory class. I’m seventeen.

Today– like most of you– my mind is ten years ago.

I think about where I was, and it’s one of those moments and days that I can recall effortlessly and replay in my mind flawlessly. I was in Mr. Anderson, my drama teacher’s, room, chatting about something completely forgettable before school when the first plane hit. A girl came in and told us that she’d heard it on her car radio, and that she thought it was a prank. We turned on the TV, and there was the footage on CNN. The room got very, very quiet, and Mr. Anderson put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I should probably get to class.

I went to my music theory class, and my mind was totally blank. I told Mr. Hays, my choir director, what happened and we turned on the TV. There were only three other kids in my class that day, all boys, and we sat down together and watched.

You know what it’s like watching CNN. After awhile, they all just start reciting the same stuff they’ve all ready said, cycling back through it, and so the five of us in the music room got to talking. At that point, no one knew for sure that the plane had been hijacked. There was still speculation that there’d been some malfunction– some terrible, terrible accident. And we were talking about that– about what a horrible accident it was. We thought something must have happened to the plane’s computers– even if the pilot had a heart attack or aneurysm, wouldn’t auto-pilot take over? And as we were mulling this all over, the second plane hit.

The room was completely silent. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, but I started to cry. My friend, Gweedo, put his hand on my shoulder, but didn’t say a word. We were all thinking the same thing: no accident. This is for real.

You have to know something about me. I was raised in a small, conservative town, by hippies. I’d always been taught that peace was the answer to every conceivable problem– that no matter what a solution could be found, that there was not ever, never ever ever, a reason for violence, and I had believed that wholeheartedly. When I was very young, and the first Dessert Storm happened, my parents sat us down in front of the TV so that we could see what war looked like. And I remember being confused– who were the good guys? My dad shrugged, pointed at the screen, and said, “They’re all just guys.”

When the third plane hit the Pentagon, I honestly believed that that was it. I thought that any moment, men with semi-automatic weapons were going to come in and take over. I believed that in the next few years, I would have to learn a new language, I’d have to adopt a new religion, I’d have to wear different clothes and live in the streets. I’d seen all kinds of war documentaries about occupied countries, and I thought that was about to happen to me.

It didn’t, obviously. But while I sat there, thinking that my way of life was about to be so threatened– I was ready to go to war myself. The boys in the room agreed with me– and one of them actually did join the service and is stationed in Europe right now.

Now ten years has passed. The entirety of that ten years, my country has been at war. I haven’t had to learn any new languages, or live in fear of machine guns or having to adopt a new religion.

My new fear is a lot more realistic, though. My new fear is that my daughter, who was born almost nine years after the attacks, might never know a peaceful world. Even worse, she might never live in a time where her country is not at war.

When I went home that night, a picture frame that my mom kept on the piano struck me. It’s one of those photo frames that has three panels, and she kept the current school picture of each of us kids in it. My brother had graduated a year and a half ago, so his senior school picture was in the frame, his long blonde hair curling at his shoulders, his crooked grin, freckled nose. It occurred to me that he was exactly the right age for the army. That if they reinstated the draft, he would have to go. That maybe he would want to enlist, that maybe he would want to go. I thought about all the people who had died that day in the towers, and about all the people who were going to die if we declared war.

It’s been ten years. Ten years. And it should be said, guys– I don’t want my brother, or anyone’s brother, husband, sister, child, or parent, to go to war.

I have such a respect for our military. One of my best friends is a military wife, and I can’t imagine the stress and sacrifice that that takes. And I don’t think that it’s disrespectful to our military to say that I want them safe, and at home. I don’t see how it is un-patriotic to say that I think that our war(s) are not really solving anything, that if they could solve anything it would have happened by now.

It is true that we are not, and have not ever been, an occupied country. No one took us over that day– if that was their intent in the first place. But I don’t feel– as a citizen– that a crazy rich guy, with enough dedication and resources, couldn’t get away with it again. I don’t think that anyone wants to be honest about why the attacks happened in the first place. And I don’t think that anyone is being honest now about what we’re still fighting for.

I’m just an old hippie. But I think that it may be time to try something else.

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Filed under Because it needs to be said.

A diatribe ensues….

Something we get a lot of questions, suggestions, and criticisms about is Maren’s food habits– which always catches me off guard, because it’s one of those things that just makes sense to me.

When Maren was four months old, we started making her food at home (which you may remember). I can count on one hand the number of baby food jars we bought for her, and we never ever bought a box of that rice flake stuff (yes– we even made our own cereal AND our own yogurt). We loved it, and she loved it. We started out doing this mostly as a way to save money (and it did– bundles of it) but after we started making our own food we started being more conscious about what other ‘foods’ have in them. Those Gerber Baby TV dinners, for example. There are so many un-pronounceable ingredients in one of those boxes. It made me feel really good, whenever someone asked me what Maren was eating, to be able to say, “Broccoli and salmon.” And those really were the only two ingredients.

When she started doing solid food, her daycare (and most daycares) required that she be moved to the food program, along with all of the other kids. In our particular case, we were able to work it out and they made an exception for Maren. But when we moved daycares, we had to go through the whole process all over again.

For ease of reading, I’ll define ‘food program’ as I understand it. The USDA puts out rules about what kids (and adults) that are in care should be eating every day. I honestly don’t know what all the requirements are for toddlers, but I know there are two categories. One is food quantity, and one is food types. So like, for example, at breakfast Maren would have to have 3/4 cups of grains, accompanied by either juice or fruit, and a glass of milk. So, fruit loops, milk, and orange juice, or a breakfast fruit bar and milk. For lunch, she needs to also have a meat and vegetable component (each with respective required quantities), in addition to starch, fruit, and milk. The people who make the food fulfill these requirements in a variety of ways. For example, potatoes count as both a vegetable and a starch, but they can’t count as both in one day. But spuds are cheap. This is why, if you look at your child’s daycare menu, you will see them eating potatoes three to four times a week. Additionally, if they eat something like…. corn dogs or chicken fried steak… the breading on the meat counts as their starch. That might make perfect sense to some of you out there…… but not to me. Oh yeah, AND the fruit? Ever see a can of fruit cocktail, packed in either water or syrup? The water and syrup COUNT as part of a portion. So when they measure 3/4 of a cup, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all fruit.

Also notice: the requirements are food types and quantity….. not quality.

Additionally, there are no rules about food preparation. There are no rules about how much salt, butter, sugar, or preservatives can be added to any food. As long as food isn’t expired, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was prepared before it was served.

In order to be sure that their rules are followed– and, to be clear, I don’t really think there’s a problem with the USDA’s rules, per se– the government reimburses child cares for the amount of money that they spend on food. Then the schools go out and buy the food from outside companies– which is why we all had the same rectangle shaped pizza at school when we were kids. There are bunches of school food catering companies.

Here’s the thing: I don’t really think that schools are the enemy. With childhood obesity being such a hot topic right now, schools are getting handed a lot of crap for the food that they are providing the kids. I don’t really think that’s fair. I’ve never, ever met a public school administrator, kitchen worker, or teacher who discourages the kids from bringing their own food from home– but no one wants hungry kids, either. So if they aren’t sent with food, they need to eat something. The school does their best to keep costs down– for everyone. So they do what they can.

But day cares– for whatever reason– don’t have the same feelings, in most cases. Nearly every child care we toured for Maren required that she be on the food program. Required.

This did not make any sense to us, and we wanted to know why. We were told that if Maren had her own food, the other kids would try to steal it, and vice versa. We were also told that if we kept ‘coddling’ her she would grow up spoiled. We were even told that if we didn’t do the food program, she could get food allergies– which almost made me laugh out loud.

We were given a menu, but that didn’t make us feel better– because as an ex-child care employee and observer of school lunches by and large, I know for a fact that the meat balls they serve at lunch were NOT THE SAME as the meat balls that I made at home. The ‘salad’ was often a handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, often with ranch dressing mixed right in. There were never other vegetables in the ‘salad.’ The mac and cheese was so thick with cheese that you could shingle a roof with it– and when I asked about whole grain noodles, people wrinkled their noses and felt sorry for Maren.

Fresh fruit is almost nonexistent. Usually, bananas, apples, and oranges are it. Fresh vegetables are represented a little bit better….. but it kind of depends on your definition of ‘fresh.’

We observed a lot of lunches at a lot of child cares. We looked at our beautiful baby, who had only ever eaten food that I had made with my own hands, knowing every ingredient and exactly how it was prepared. In the end, we just couldn’t do it. So we refused.

Luckily, Maren’s in a daycare now where we can bring her food and no one says a word. It took some searching. In most places, when we mentioned that being able to bring our own food was a deal-breaker, the daycare agreed, and sent us on our way. This is shocking to me– really shocking. I can’t believe that the loss of tuition is worth participation in the food program.

We’ve been at this now for a year and a half, and like I said, we get lots of questions about our choice and our method. So I am here to tell you– you can do it! and its worth it! And your healthy happy adult child will thank you someday!

1) The hardest part: You have to actually make the food.

This was a hard adjustment for us, I won’t lie. When she was a little baby and just ate baby food, it was very easy. But once she got older and into solid foods, we had to change our eating habits, too. We’ve gotten used to that now. The hardest adjustment, I think, was switching to whole wheat pasta, and not adding salt and butter to everything (and for the record: I now completely prefer whole wheat pasta over white pasta. Sooooo much better tasting, so much more filling, and I need a lot less added stuff to make it tasty).

Every Saturday I plan our menu for the week. I have a few cookbooks that I love– my most favorite is the slow cooker book. We eat from the slow cooker at least once a week, sometimes twice, depending on our schedule. For the rest of the meals, I thumb through the books and seriously pick things that have the least amount of ingredients. I’ve gotten better at cooking this last year– but that doesn’t mean I like it.

The other night, we had tilapia baked with dill, salt and pepper. I mashed potatoes with real butter. I also steamed some broccoli without adding anything to it.

When I was dishing up, I got out a little lunch box we use for Maren. It has three compartments and a lid. We bought it at Target for like three dollars. I took out a portion of potatoes and broccoli right away for Maren to eat the next day. I baked an extra fillet of fish, and packed that up, too. So before we even sat down to dinner, Maren’s lunch for tomorrow was packed. Doing it this way means that it’s done, for one thing, but also that we won’t accidentally eat all the food and then be stuck having to find something else for Maren— which has happened before. Usually on spaghetti night.

For breakfast, we have three options. Oatmeal, which we make the morning of (takes about ten minutes on stove top), an egg with toast, or cereal. Maren loves her some generic brand organic Honey-Nut Cheerios. In the past, I used to make a loaf of banana bread (with applesauce instead of butter), or something like that, and send a piece for breakfast, but Maren didn’t eat it very well. She’s not much into sweets, I guess. Weirdo.

We also pack an afternoon snack. Maren’s favorite is a stick of string cheese and some fresh fruit– which takes zero time. Zero. We’ve also packed cottage cheese with fruit, veggie sticks (with no dressing. I’m a mean mom), or a sandwich. She also loves soy yogurt. Sometimes I pack something sweet…. but again, she’s not a big fan. Basically, we want to use things we would all ready have around the house for her.

People make a lot of different food choices for their kid– some do vegetarian, or limit carbs, limit dairy, what-have-you. For Maren, we basically just want to emphasize whole foods, organic whenever we can, local whenever we can, and prepared in a way that will keep as many nutrients intact as possible. I kind of try to alternate her proteins– so we don’t have cow eight times in a row– and try to have fish twice a week at a minimum. Mitch doesn’t like fish…. so… we do what we can. We don’t limit her calories, her sugar intake (although she is not allowed to have high fructose corn syrup), or anything like that.

Mostly we just want her to eat something real.

2) Be nice.

Having been a child care worker for many years, I know what its like to be on the other side of things. Especially in Maren’s age group, the kids are HUNGRY at lunch time. They stand at your feet and cry while you try to put their lunch together as quickly as you can. Lunch happens so quickly that by the time you have the last kid fed the first kid is done– and usually you need to get them ready for nap right away. The majority of the kids are all eating the same lunch– it’s frustrating to have to stop and remember one special lunch, especially if you have to microwave or open containers or put something together.

If you have to, pack a lunch that can just be kept cold– like a sandwich, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Get it into one container if you can. Do not demand or expect that the container will be washed before its sent home. And ask them how its working for them. Would it be better if we brought in a gallon of milk, or three sippy cups? Would it be better if we labeled the food? Would it work better if the food was as close to the other kids’ menu possible?

Try to be flexible. As long as Maren is presented with her food at the same time as the other kids, I try not to worry too much about the details. Maren has never cried for the other kid’s food, to my knowledge, or vice versa. And even if she did…. well… tough titties. She’ll thank us later. But when you’re nice and polite to the staff, they are a lot more willing to make exceptions and do the extra work for your baby.

3. Stand your ground.

Mitch is better about this than I am (shocking, I know). We try to be as courteous as we can be, but we don’t give an inch. Many people have tried to make us feel like this choice is not very important (it is). Most people have tried to convince us by saying that we’d save money (we wouldn’t).

Remember the bit about being nice? The nicer you are, the less ammunition they have. When I put Maren’s cold lunch into one container and tell them they don’t have to microwave anything, they don’t have to open anything else, they don’t have to put it on a plate, etc, then there really is no excuse. I haven’t made their job all that very difficult. And I’ve called them out, too. I’ve stayed professional, done my best to keep a cool head, but I’ve asked them, point blank– what’s the problem here? All I’m asking you to do is open a container for my kid. Is that really so hard?

Keep your eye on the prize. Remember what’s at stake here. Remember what’s at risk. Don’t let them talk you out of it.

Food is an issue that Mitch and I have kind of chosen to be our cross to crawl up on and die. Mitch and I are both overweight, and have been all our lives. Maren has never been overweight, in fact, she’s only slightly above average for her age group. She’s a very healthy toddler, and we’re hoping that these choices will train her taste buds so that she makes healthy decisions even after she’s started making some of her own choices.

Keep at it. If enough of us do this, eventually something will have to change. The reason that the food program is able to get away with making such terrible, cheap food for our kids is because we continue to eat it and pay for it. Don’t do it. Make a different choice.

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Filed under Because it needs to be said., Let's Be Besties, Occasionally, I Am Just Me

Some thoughts today….

I am sitting at Panera, where I am supposed to be working on one of four literature essays, a midterm, and a lesson plan about hockey that I am teaching tonight (I will now take a slight pause for laughter).

But I have something on my chest that I thought I should get out there before it kind of consumes me.

Yesterday, as most of the nation knows, the Casey Anthony verdict came in. She was found not guilty on all of the violent charges, but guilty of lying to law enforcement officers. Experts are saying that her sentence will likely be ‘time served’ and that by Thursday, she’ll be walking free.

I’m not an expert on the law, but to me, if a baby is missing for over a month and the mom doesn’t report it, that constitutes SOME kind of crime– be it child neglect, reckless endangerment, etc. My hunch is that a lot of the verdict rested on the testimony of George Anthony’s lover, who said that he told her that Caylee’s death was an accident. I am hoping that there will be some additional investigating, and more charges will be brought against the family– because even if her death WAS an accident, what the hell? Would it ever occur to any sane person to put duct tape over the mouth of an all ready drown little girl, put her body in a plastic bag, and dump her in a swamp?

I am not like Casey Anthony, but there are parts of her case that I identify with. We got pregnant unexpectedly, and it definitely ended my former party-girl lifestyle. I’m not single, but the first year of Maren’s life was not a great situation. We were both working and both going to school full time, and Maren wasn’t sleeping yet. I remember doing homework until nine or ten, going to bed until midnight or one, and then being awake, rocking the baby, until it was time to go to work at seven. And then, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I would come home to an empty house because Mitch was at school. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Maren would go to a sitter or Mitch would have the night off, and I’d be at school. I remember falling asleep in my car a few times. I remember power eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers because I was so stressed. I remember when Maren would start crying, just wanting to close the door to our apartment and walk away. I love my baby, yes– god more than anything. But when I got pregnant, and through most of Maren’s first year, I just kept thinking– I’m not ready! I’m not ready! I’m not ready!

The difference, of course, between my story and the story of thousands of other women is that when I reached out, I found someone reaching back. When I needed help, I could find it. A lot of times, for a lot of parents, that’s not the case. I think that our society has become so judgmental that they are kind of arguing with themselves– it’s not okay to get an abortion, but its also not okay to give a baby up for adoption. I remember when Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant I would listen to people ridicule her– and I kept thinking– you know how easy it would have been for her to get an abortion? You know how easy it would have been for her to go on a year-long ‘hiatus’ and then come back, sans baby, and the whole pregnancy would have just been a dark family secret? But instead she stood up, admitted she was pregnant, kept and had the baby– and people just skewered her.

You can’t have it both ways, people. If we are going to be a nation that is anti-abortion (and also anti-birth control, in a lot of states and religions), then we need to be a nation that is extremely PRO single mom. We need to make that an EASY choice for a mom to make, because I’ll tell you. This parenting thing turned out to be no joke.

That being said– there is so much about this case that is sickening to me.

What is so sad about the Casey Anthony case– whether or not she is guilty of murder– is that this single mom felt so powerless that she moved in with her (alleged) abuser and on several occasions left him in charge of her daughter. If the defense is correct– which has not been proven, at all– then this mother was so out of control that after her baby drown in the family pool, she completely panicked– and then went on a drinking binge.

I’m not at all defending Casey Anthony. Even if the defense is correct, I still think that what she did was disgusting. My own husband once drown in a lake. His mom performed CPR until the ambulance got there– and he lived, and is fine. It’s absolutely abhorrent to me that Casey Anthony did next to nothing to save her daughter’s life, and THEN tried to cover it up, as if her baby never existed– as if she had never shared a body with her. It took her a MONTH before she fessed up to her parents that Caylee was ‘missing.’ A MONTH. As one of my friends said yesterday, if my baby was missing for 31 SECONDS I’d be doing something about it.

I’ve worked with children and families long enough to know that someone knows what happened, and not just to Caylee. Someone knows what happened to Casey, too, and whether or not her accusations of incest are true. And if they are– and the defense is correct– and no one got Casey any help, then I feel like they are guilty, too. Complicit.

A few years ago, my state had enacted something called the ‘Safe Haven Law’ which meant that parents who were at the end of their rope could come to a hospital, police station, or fire station, and drop off their children, no questions asked. We had people flying from all over the country to come to Nebraska and drop off their children– one guy dropped off eight kids after his wife died and he just couldn’t take it anymore. I think the law lasted about eight months, and to some degree we were the laughingstock of the country. But I’ll tell you what– I was so proud of my state for that law. Who knows what kind of a situation these children were in– who knows what they’d been enduring, who knows what would have happened if the Safe Haven Law didn’t exist. If what the public is saying is true– that Casey Anthony killed her daughter in order to go back to her party-girl lifestyle (which I personally do not one hundred percent believe)– then wouldn’t a Safe Haven Law have been a MUCH MUCH MUCH better alternative for Casey? A MUCH better alternative for Caylee?

We have to get better at this, people. If you know something is fucked up, you need to TELL someone. If you see something that just doesn’t seem right, you need to DO something. And if that doesn’t work, then you need to be a beacon of light for that child, so that they know that even if we are can’t change their situation, we love and love and love them.

I’m looking at you, people without kids. We’ve become a society of extremes. It takes a village to raise a child, and most of our villages are chock-full of people who choose not to become parents– and that is no problem and is absolutely fine. But you need to get involved in making your community a better place for kids to live. If you feel like its not your problem, I’d like you to do a little research on how many criminals blame their terrible childhoods.

Whether or not the defense is correct, if someone had gotten involved in Casey Anthony’s life, Caylee Anthony might be here today, thanking you.

We need to make it hard– REAL hard– for people to think that child abuse is something they can get away with. We need to make the shame of admitting that there is a problem so much easier to bear than the risk of something terrible happening to a child.

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Filed under Because it needs to be said.

Just a speedy little thought/post tonight. A braggy little post-it, if you will.

Those of you who follow me on facebook know that I am currently fighting my way through a statistics course. To help you visualize: I want you to picture a two year old going to the doctor to get six shots. You know the spaghetti legs? The clawing at the door jams? The cornered, wild animal look? Now put that on a 26 year old who hasn’t taken a math class in 8 years– and it’s not like I was good at it then, either.

I’m in an accelerated program to finish a Bachelor’s degree. The classes are 8 weeks long, but cover the same amount of material as you would in 16 weeks. If you don’t believe me, I will kindly send you my syllabus and a regular course syllabus, and you can note how the schedule is the same content, only compacted. It’s crazy talk. Everytime I get the new syllabi, my eyes cross and my knees feel weak. 

I finished my associates degree in Early Childhood Education about a week before I got married. And then the plan was to coast, let Mitch finish culinary school, and then maybe go back to school for a Bachelor’s degree. The reasoning was that, for my CURRENT job, I don’t have to have anything more than an associates degree. And I love my job. LERV it Celine Dion style.

Then, as you know, we got pregnant, and my life was suddenly put into rather harsh perspective. I realized that, if I didn’t go back to school right now, and finish while the blastocyst currently residing in my uterus was still wee, it was just going to get harder and harder to go back. I realized that if I didn’t do it now, I might be looking at not going back until Maren was ALSO in college.

So that’s how I found myself applying for an accelerated program when I was 3 months pregnant, choosing a double major, and LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOADING up on classes. I figured… get as many out of the way before she’s born. Get as many as you can done after she’s born. Rinse. Repeat. I took 18 credits in the 6 months I had left of my pregnancy, while working a full time job.

Then she was born. I took this picture:

on my laptop when I was logging into take a Psych test and download a few notes for my world religions course. The date on it is February 17th– five days after Maren was born. Three days before this picture was taken, I was still in the hospital, trying to wake myself up enough from the pain meds to fill out a scholarship application that was due by 5 pm that day. I got the app in on time… and I got the scholarship.

I got the worst grades of my life that semester, but cleared another 12 credits.

This quarter I’m taking 12 credits, including the dreaded Stats. I found out about two weeks ago that so many education majors fail stats every year that if you enroll in the 2010 catalog, you don’t even have to freaking take it, instead you can take two algebra courses to make up for it. I’m not sure which is worse.

But. There’s two weeks left in the course, and right now I have an A. A strong A. Everytime I get a test back, I want to run through the streets holding it up high screaming, “LOOKIT! DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY GOLD STAR STICKERS??? DOES ANYONE HAVE A FRIDGE I CAN PUT THIS ON????”

And I’ll tell you what. I don’t want to do the commencement ceremony when I’m all done, oh no. The day I graduate, I want to be lying on a beach somewhere, wearing only my stats study guide and my graduation cap. The whole world may have to avert its eyes. Fair warning.

I’m writing this tonight partially because I’m feeling a little cocky. But also because I’m feeling a little frustrated.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about non-traditional students, accelerated programs, online classes, etc, and how if you are any of those things, you do not equal education. The college in my hometown closed recently because they didn’t get their accredidation for the new school year– from what I gather, this was mostly based on rumors that, to make money, the school was going to offer online classes, accept more non-traditional students, and offer more study abroad programs (or ‘semester screw around’ programs, as I’ve heard them called).

My school is a state school, it is not for-profit, so I guess I can’t really comment on whether or not a for-profit school is the Devil. But here is what I have to say.

I am above average in the smarts department. School is pretty easy for me. I got very, very lucky, and I literally have thanked God about a million times for it. I’ve attended a huge university and a small community college, and I’ll tell you what. I’ve never worked harder at school than I’m working right now, doing an accelarated program that is 50% online. Do you know what my online stats class is? They handed me the book and said, “Here you go. You have a test at the end of each week that cover2- 3 chapters. You have a final in seven weeks that covers the entire text, and if you don’t pass the final, you fail the class, no matter what your course total was prior to the exam. Have fun.”

I wish that we all had perfect opportunities to make the most out of the years between 18 and 22ish to get our college degrees the traditional way. Believe me, Mitch and I talk ALL THE TIME about what we can do to be sure that Maren is able to take full advantage of that time. When I graduate, I’ll be 28 years old, trying to find a way to make my ‘maturity’ into an asset over the 22 year olds I’ll be competing against for jobs. If I’d done things the right way, I’d be making a lot more money and have a lot more security than I do now, and would have been doing so for like, five years. Of course, of course, of course, I would have rather had that for myself. For my family.

But, since there is no such thing as a hot-tub time machine, here is my real-time big-time wish:

I wish that the people who WERE able to get their degrees done in that traditional time period would back off. I wish that it wasn’t a contest. I’m working so hard, but at the same time, feel so embarrassed. I don’t want to do graduation, I don’t want to have a party, I don’t want to be a part of any of the celebration– because I JUST FREAKING KNOW that there will be someone rolling their eyes because they graduated when they were twenty two, so what’s the big deal? Graduation is like, so six years ago. I don’t even get why people are like that– what is there to be insecure about? Me graduating doesn’t negate your degree. Don’t worry, they don’t have like, a limit for diplomas and once they get there they have to start taking away people’s who graduated a long time ago. RELAX.

Bottom line: It hurts my feelings.

I feel very wimpy to admit that: but I want to explain to you why I say that, and why I feel that way. Because in order for me to go back to school at this point in my life, double major, graduate in 27 months, I have to make some pretty huge sacrifices that no 18-22 year old I know ever had to make. It hurts me to make the sacrifices and know that other people are looking down on me for doing so, but that’s not what really hurts. Because, really, if anyone wants to condescend all up in my business, we can take things outside. 

What really hurts is that I’m not the only one.  MITCH is making those sacrifices with me.

And MAREN is making those sacrifices, too.

When I graduate next year, my degree belongs to them. That diploma will signify so much for me– it will be weekends that Maren had to entertain herself so that I could study. Late nights when she had to cry a little bit longer because Mom was taking a timed quiz and couldn’t stop to go get her. Two days a week that she doesn’t see me at all because I’m in class across town. Outings that I can’t go on with her because I just have way to much work to do.  

It will be time that Mitch took off work, so that I could attend class and study. A few months ago, Mitch decided to quit going to school himself so that I could go faster. It will be nights that I snapped at him because I was so tired. Nights that I came to bed way after he was sleeping. Two days a week that he doesn’t see his wife because I work 8-4 and then I’m in school 430-1030.

I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, because I know it isn’t– but if I had graduated when I was 21, like I was supposed to, my diploma would have just been a piece of paper. It would have opened doors for me, and provided me with security and a greater income and a job that I would probably really like, but it wouldn’t  have meant a thing. To quote Erin Brockovich, “Not PERSONAL? That’s my work–that’s my time away from my kids!”

Every parent wants to be someone that their kids will look up to. I really hope that Maren doesn’t really remember any of this part of her life, except the good stuff. I hope she doesn’t remember me being gone so much, or busy so often, or cranky….. all the time. But I hope that when she hears about this part of her life, she will be proud of the sacrifices that I made to make a better life for all of us, but also, I hope she’s proud of herself– proud enough that she will set some ground rules and make a plan. I hope that she will find something that she wants so badly that she will fight for it, and I hope she finds a partner that will support her so much that her dream becomes their’s. And I hope that she grabs on to her dream and snarls at people who try to rip it away from her because they did things the right way and at the right time.

Not to brag…. but I hope that what she takes from all this is that her mom is a BAMF, and her dad is a BAMF, and that she can be a BAMF, too. And whether or not she’s 15, 25, or 79, I will be so proud of her when her work pays off.

I wish that all the non-trads– who are putting their lives on hold to finish school, to make life better for their families– I wish that I could get a bunch of badges that say, “This here is one BAMF!” and put them on all our trapper keepers. I wish that I could walk them all to class and glare at the traditional students who think they are oh so awesome with their hackey sacks and their huge headphones– as if they are the FIRST PEOPLE EVER to have them. I’d kind of like to give an address at commencement, representing all the non-trads, and say something like, “You people looking at us and thinking, ‘oh isn’t that cute…. ‘ or ‘dude, finally’ or ‘what’s the big deal?’ I’d like you to look at my two-year-old daughter and tell her that my degree doesn’t mean as much as yours, because I’m older than you. I’d like you to tell her that the sacrifices that she made while I was in school are something that you can roll your eyes at, because you did things the right way.”

Roll with it, folks. There is no right way, anymore. There is just MY way. There is just YOUR way. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can be a BAMF, too.

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