There is something about government that I have always liked. The important buildings full of people doing important things. I’m sure that if I looked behind the curtain it would be a lot like any other business, but, a business that is GIANT and dysfunctional full of rules on top of rules and nobody is actually in charge.
In school, I learned plenty about how government worked and while I learned plenty from my text books, I learned as much from my professors. One said that elected officials absolutely love to see the people that elected them rather than a paid lobbiest, not only do they hear a more genuine opinion, they have the ability to directly do something for someone that will return votes. Just like in business, the best advertising is positive word of mouth. Not that the world does not need lobbyists – they actually know all the players and get more done overall, could not get anything done without them.
So when my school district had to find 2 million dollars to cut for the 7th year in a row I decided it was time for me personally to be that parent/voter that goes and shows up and says that we need help. Our Forest Lake district has a few things working against it;
- It is geographically giant! to pay the bus costs for this area exceeds the transportation allowance by 1 million dollars. So, we start with a million in the hole.
- Not as many bigger businesses to contribute, and, medium income housing overall contributing property taxes
- The state asked to freeze for a couple of the really bad years, but, then they didn’t cover that debt later so it’s snowballed. The per pupil ratio is fairly sad now.
I woke up early, put on a suit and heels and makeup and went with a group to visit all the people possible. We ran all over, we accidently (sorry-notsorry) blocked hallways, we skipped lunch to maximize time and I think we actually did some good. I had a feeling lunch would not happen so I packed food, I was not alone, the business manager for the district had cheese sticks in his suit pocket – score one for women, pocketbooks hold more and better food.
The day was interesting in general. The capital is grand and large and a mix of beautifully old and oddly outdated. It is full of people in suits, every person in a suit. It is mostly full of men, mostly white men, but there were plenty of women too and in positions of influence, 2 of the 6 elected people we talked to were women. Just as interesting was that the secretary/assistant/aid crew seemed to be a mix of men and women too. I fit in there with my mask of makeup and costume suit but I’m not sure I would want to become a person who needs to go often. Visiting was fun though!
To make the most of the day I used every scrap of knowledge I had about influence. I stood up when someone came in, I shook hands, I sat at the table or in the front row. Eye contact, lean in, speak in the ‘compliment sandwich’, speaking in general; something not many people actually did. I told them I was a parent, I am a voter, I am someone who wants to help but needs help. I was respectful and also straightforward. I’m proud that after every meeting I got the business suit high-five (a nod and a ‘good job’/thanks’)
Unsurprisingly I learned tons from the day. I went in with a decent understanding of our problem and left knowing what was in the works from various people. Some people are working on things I didn’t know even existed as issues, others were looking at it a totally different way. There is no perfect formula but I have more of a concept of the whole picture now, of all the pressing things that are crying out for attention. On the bright side, I left more confident in the fact that education does seem to be on everyone’s mind and they are at least saying they are working to help. I also heard that they need suggestions on what would honestly help – there were times whey they flat out said “tell me what to do specifically”
My next step will be to follow up with the people we met to thank them for their time because they were all listening and present. I will also send the info on to the parents in my groups so they can send notes on specific bills to specific people so they know that the parent sitting in front of them was representative, not just a lone voice. …I have a feeling this is how lobbyist begins…
Looking past my short term follow up I have no idea what is next but I’m open and hopeful.
This year, I’m not sure if because it is a Tuesday or what, I’m not doing as much as usual. I’m actually not even going to see Lars because tonight is the SCA kids practice and also my PTO meeting so we will be in opposite directions until about 8:30. After that we plan on a nice take out sushi dinner but really, I don’t doubt his love in general.
I did have fun with valentines for the kids. I took a cue from all the cute photo strips we have as favors from recent weddings and decided to DIY one. The internet is full of other people who thought of this first but this is how I did it;
- Took a ton of pictures of each girl holding a dry erase board where they wrote each part of the message. Take A LOT because half of them will be too silly or full of frowns
- cropped them to be square in my computer
- used the collage option to line up the 4 pictures in a strip. I choose to have white borders on a pink background. You can also do this in excel, sometimes it is easier in excel!
- Sent the image to our local UPS store and then talked to them so they knew what I wanted, and, printing is one of those things personal attention is worth doing.
- Paid a whole $10 for 35 strips (2×8 if you are looking for dimensions) for each of the kids. That is $10 for 105 strips total.
- Cut up some pretty washi tape so the kids could tape on pencils (totally optional)
- They wrote names and taped pencils no problem and it only took about 20min
I love that getting them printed is so economical because I figure I would have spent $3 per ‘kit’ at walmart and I would have needed 4 at least since they are usually only 24 so I’m saving money, and, it is something I get to keep and love. I know, there is a ton of time involved between taking pictures and edits but for me, that is the fun part. This didn’t even need hot glue so I consider it an easy one.
Finally, I must add a new addition to the valentines traditions. Apparently, as they get older, the valentines box becomes homework, and Niamh had her heart set on a Giraffe valentines mailbox. It is a STEM school and I like that they described this as a building project and include the design-refine-spend time method. I talked her out of having the mouth be the mail slot because… engineering… but I do like the final result. It could be better but she procrastinated until yesterday afternoon to even start and I refused to do it without her (because I wanted her to do it over the weekend when we had time).
So I hope you all have nice days and nights and a pleasant February 14th in general.
This weekend I had the most random of lists of things to bring to the SCA event;
- 200 boxes of girl scout cookies, and, 2 girls to sell them, and all the ‘stuff’ that goes with selling cookies
- A tunic I made for a friend
- A set of flower girl dresses, and, 2 girls to wear them
- A form someone needed
I also brought all the normal stuff like lunch and outfits etc but it was a very multifunctional day.
The most odd item is the flower girl dresses, because, SCA events tend to focus on an era where brides didn’t even wear white and there were no such notions as flower girls HOWEVER a photographer friend is launching his site and does NOT want to do wedding photography. He did want a cute way to say that though, cute and also very clear, because brides to get rather persistent… Anyway, his vision was cute flower girls being a little sassy and holding signs that said ‘nope’ and ‘sorry’. We did this mini photoshoot in the end of a hallway by the bathroom with his studio lights and a backdrop all set up in less time than it took for me to put the girls into their dresses. He also provided props and I just love the results!
The funny side of this, beyond the pictures, is that they were posted on facebook, so I could see them, but, that meant that all my other friends could see them and the ‘why’ of the situation is not very clear. I started thinking from an outside point of view and my brain started churning out ideas for these images beyond their real purpose.
- They could be a very simple meme – like when I just don’t wanna anymore I will just post the ‘nope’ picture
- We can also launch a line of demented cards for when you can’t figure out how to decline a proposal – send a nice ‘nope’ card.
3. Finally, if you miss declining early and need to leave someone at the alter – just post this ‘Nope’ plus ‘sorry’ picture and all thats left is the crying. Adding the sorry is just polite at that point.
Since last June when the Y was opened locally, I had to re-do my fitness routine. There were plenty of other wrenches in that machine too: summer is always crazy, kids needing different things, new school schedules, clients that I need to take care of etc. I think I have found a decent balance and, at least right now, I’ve got a pretty good handle on things.
For my record to look back on, and, if you would like to know what a stay at home mom/freelancer does to not devolve into a pile of fat here are some notes/thoughts
- FitBit. I have worn it for a year (and gone through 3, but, they replaced under warranty so I’m not too mad). I like the tracker, it tells me many cool stats even if it won’t acknowledge some workout classes as ‘workouts’ but the added interaction with a few friends in groups, and, challenges to myself to meet the goals has helped. I average over 50k steps a week these days
- Kids. So kids at home definitely HELP my step count because I’m going going going. With 3 in school 3 days a week I notice the days I need to motivate myself to not just sit at the computer. Warning to office workers! you probably don’t move around enough. I know if I do a sit and work day I hardly get 2k steps and that is mostly before and after work time doing stuff with the kids.
- Classes. In Shoreview I didn’t do classes because I didn’t want to rush to get there on time, they were an extra fee, and, they didn’t assure child care so I just contented myself with ‘doing my own thing’ and that was a good start. I got confidence on heavy squats and on the machines etc. BUT classes are way better. They push me to work longer, harder and different. When the Y opened and included classes (although the price of the Y reflects that!) I wanted to make sure I got my money worth and actually went to a class a week. I’m up to 2 regular classes and I try to get in a 3rd.
- ‘Date’ night. At Shoreview, Lars seldom went with me and usually only went with the kids swimming. He could also use more exercise in his life so we started picking a class *together* one night a week. Finding something we both like and can do/is challenged by is not easy but right now we are doing an ab class on Thursday nights. It is something we do together and working out with another person always makes it better (and you are less likely to blow it off). Lars also found another evening class he likes and I plan on joining it too once swim lessons are over because the timing just won’t work right now.
- Swim lessons. Speaking of those lessons, I still say that Lars teaching the girls was way better but Fiona needed a jump start and Niamh and Zoe needed some refining so we sprung for lessons this season. The hidden benefit is that 2x a week I am at the Y for an extra time and I can use that time well by working out. I do want to watch them learn so my options are more limited, but, I’ve found that there is a spin bike right at the window so I get a great view of classes and earn a few thousand steps.
- Older kids. I’ve had an elliptical for at least 10 years now and some years it is more like a towel rack but in the past 2, I’ve gotten good at setting them up for dinner, or, after dinner with a show and getting a solid 45min on days I don’t get to the gym. I like that I can leave them for a bit and I don’t (usually) have constant interruptions.
I think the key for me is accountability. Between the Fitbit and the company in classes, I do better. Classes push me to go longer too. The only real negatives right now are things I’m not sure how to solve; I have sold many hours a week to work, I also feel I need to clean since I’m home and between the two sometimes the workout gets skipped. I know that I’m the only one that cares if the house is clean but that is just something I can’t ever win on because I feel guilty for not doing the thing I’m not doing…
After all this I don’t think I’ve lost a pound, but, I do feel fitter and I am certainly stronger. No troubles carrying even my biggest girl. I think I’m also setting a decent example because I’ve heard all three parrot that we need to work out to be healthy and live a long time.
In my life revolving around trying to not have the house fall down around us, I try and make time for some fun photo projects. I know it seems a bit over the top to do personalized cards for the kids, but, really they are for me. It is a good yearly chance to take pictures of them as they grow.
This weekend we have 2 photo goals;
- a ‘Thank You’ card for selling cookies. I think people enjoy getting a token from the kids they are supporting. Girl Scout Cookies are more or less their own reward, but, the fact you are helping kids should make you feel good too. I also like that I have a picture per year of them in their vests and it also gives me a deadline to sew on all the patches.
- Valentines card pictures. Again, I know, the 2.99 box from WalMart would be fine and that is all they are going to get in return (worse then christmas cards) BUT I seriously love the cards from last year and have had them by my bed for the past year.
However! My kids are not models and I’m not a real photographer. I end up getting frustrated and my lighting semi stinks and I hear myself getting mad that they won’t smile ‘right’ for me and so I end up just trying to ‘go with it’.
And so here is what you get when you let a cranky 4 year old pick how she will hold the sign…
part of me thinks I should use it anyway, but, I did get a more traditional one too. I’ll be working on it today and see how it looks. The inspiration this year is like a photobooth strip, it will be 4 square pictures in a strip that say ‘happy’-valentine’s-‘day’-‘name’ so this is just 1 of 4… She does have cute feet.
So that is my plan for this SuperBowl Sunday. I’m going to go workout like normal, come home and feed kids, put them to bed and then make cute cards.
You know how when you WANT to talk about something but know you can’t, talking about other things are just hard?
Nope, I’m not pregnant or moving or doing anything special and nobody is sick or anything bad. What I can’t talk about is what is going on in the US.
I can’t talk about it because I don’t exactly know what to say…
On the one hand, nothing in my world is changed in the ‘vast’ 11 days we have had a new president. There is however, a much higher level of political talk around me and that is different. People are excited and activated and looking to pounce on either side of the line.
The optimist side of me is wondering if this new awareness and watchfulness is a GOOD thing because either nothing happened for 8 years or we just didn’t watch and I lean toward the later…. However, the swing to hyper vigilance has the cynic in me wondering if we are now suddenly scared of our shadow.
I spent my college years studying history and political science. I ended up focusing on Nazi Germany, half because one of the best professors taught many classes in the area, and half because it was an interesting system to study. In addition to the Nazi era classes, I took an entire class on the US constitution, another class on the Federal Justice system, another entire class specifically focused on US political parties and movements. ( I also took the normal general Europen history, a diversity class called “African American History”, and plenty more to round out my double major). What I’m saying is that politics are complex. There is more to ‘drain the swamp’ than a slogan – I’m all for getting some of the crony politics out BUT sometimes those cronies are the only ones that know where the budget for bullets is on the share drive (I joke.. I hope…) When I look at the political circus right now I wonder if it is a big LOOK OVER HERE while something worse is going on over there. Or maybe it is an honest hot mess and nobody knows what is going on anymore. Or possibly, the news is short on murders so to the bag of political adjectives and hyperbole we go.
In the light of all that, I can’t say what I think on any given political situation because I know I only know the smallest percent of fact surrounded by a giant elephant snot of opinion and spin.
Now back to the Nazi thing. The Nazis, with a capital N, were a specific group of people who were in the 1920-45 National-Socialists party, led predominantly by Hitler, and on a mission to pull Germany out of WWI depression. Their uber-nationalist message was easy for Germans to believe in because they told the Germans they were great and that the blame for their trouble rested squarely on these specific ethnic people, and, anyone not pure in general so they could also lump in gay or handicapped, or anyone who objected etc. I don’t believe there are any Nazi’s left, if they are, they are very very very old. I’ve gotten in trouble for ‘defending’ Nazis in the past because I contest that there were quite likely people in that political party that were simply career buracrats that were not actually acting one way or another and to hold every person responsible for what a core group did/orderd seems equally unfair. Small n nazi is still a thing, it is using a rhetoric of xenophobia and nationalism and that shoe does seem to fit a certain group.
However. Those Nazi career paper pushers were guilty of not standing up. That is clear. That is what we are all taught as a lesson in history. Is that what is happening now? Are we in the beginning? I know a lot of people feel that way and are marching and shouting and protesting and calling and doing everything to make sure that they are not seen as guilty to a future generation. I’m proud of the people trying but I also see that they are going in 105 different directions and working from vague information and could be just as easily being manipulated to burn themselves out early so in 2 years they will be back to discussing reality stars or football.
I can only control my own self and I will be keeping track of what is going on. I’m not going to waste energy over reaction BUT I am not sitting complacent. My hope is that I’m not alone realizing that we all need to be more watchful but we also need to get good information and not feed into the hysteria at every turn. Then I wonder if a little more hysteria might have saved a few lives in history.
There is no ‘in conclusion’ here. We are living through the history of 2017. I’m conflicted between not wanting to be a reactionary squid of anger, and, not wanting to be the slowly boiled frog. When I write about kids and crafts and household things I don’t want people to think I’m without knowledge of the world around me but I am choosing to publish something positive because I at least know my home to be true and I can share that with those who want to read.