In last week’s post, I shared my thoughts on the decision made by the principal of my son’s high school to revert the schoolwide summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional.” I disagree with this decision.
As the past week has unfolded, and the ripple effects of the decision have expanded internationally, I have seen many reactions, often from people who will never set foot in Leon County, about what this decision means.
Status of the Decision
The decision to reverse the summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional” is apparently going to stand.
Being a “Person to Be Heard”
When I learned there was a meeting of the Leon County School Board scheduled for August 11, I decided to attend. At first, I thought I would just attend and see if the issue came up. As the date approached (and as the public opinions piled up pro and con), I decided I really had to speak about this, if allowed.
I learned that there are two ways to speak before the board. 1) You can arrive at the meeting site prior to the 6:00 meeting time and fill out a PTBH (Persons to be Heard) card and submit it to a staff member or 2) You can call the school board office in advance and provide your information over the phone. I did not learn about the two options until the Monday before the board meeting (because I did not ask earlier…), so I had to go with option #1. I was told I would be allowed to speak for 3 minutes about the matter I stated on my PTBH card.
Although this is not word-for-word what I said, this is the best recreation I can do and does follow the outline I used Tuesday night:
As a parent who has had at least one child in this school system since 2001, I am glad I attended a meeting (and sorry this was my first). I came away from the discussion with a more comprehensive view of the issue from their angle. Specifically, it was informative to hear the comparisons between this situation and issues of appropriateness of human sexuality curriculum (i.e., (and I am paraphrasing here) “as a teacher I may think [name of student] will benefit from the human sexuality curriculum, but if their parent requests to opt them out, I have to comply with that request.”).
I am grateful to the school board for giving me an opportunity to speak.
While I understand issues like this take on a life (and definition) all their own once they blow up, it has been important to me that the discussion be as accurate as possible, in order to focus on solutions.
This book has not been banned from our school system.
The parent who is quoted in most of the newspaper articles appears to have requested an alternate assignment (rather than requesting the principal revert the assignment to “optional” for the entire school).
Although there was back and forth about this assignment’s classification as “instructional materials,” at least one school board member has acknowledged that policy was not followed in response to a parent’s concern about the content of the book.
What Really Matters
First and foremost, what matters to me is: a book with clear literary merit, which ostensibly was chosen by English faculty based on that merit, should not have been the subject of one administrator’s ad-hoc action in the face of the concerns of a vocal minority of approximately 20 parents at a school of around 1800.
Secondly, although I disagree with the choice of the parent who publicly stated:
“I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong…”
…I fully support her choice to request an alternate assignment. The comments to the articles and blog posts I have read about this incident which attack her personally are the saddest to me. And I know this is how the blog world works. I know I, too, have set myself up for being the subject of personal attacks by being so public about this issue. I know if I choose to walk into the territory of public discourse that I must grow a thick skin and cultivate the good sense not to engage with those who just want to pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight.
As I said when I wrote about Drought Shaming, “distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.” In this case, I would amend that slightly to “animosity among parents does not nurture a caring school.” For all I know, the very parent in question and I may be responsible for jointly helping our students cope with a tragedy, sell concessions to support a school activity together, or (heh …) reshelve books at the media center together. It does neither of us any good to attack each other and it surely does not present a good role model to our children of civil discourse.
(I am also in full support of the school’s faculty and principal, even though there are times such as this when we will disagree.)
Thirdly, although I feel certain the school district does not propose to “ban” or “remove” this book from our library shelves or digital content, I am uneasy at the whiff of the idea that it could ever happen. I really hope my fellow Leon County parents and literature lovers are with me on this one.
Fourthly, here is why it matters to spend three minutes publicly defending one book. It is important to spend three minutes publicly defending one book because, although I believe what I said above in my third point, the erosion of intellectual freedom does not usually start by a flood, it starts by a trickle.
Erosion can begin by saying “you have to register” if you are Jewish.
Erosion can begin by saying “you have to count the soap bubbles” to vote.
Erosion can begin by saying “because you are a female, you have less right to education than a male does.”
It matters to to put one sandbag in place to make it less likely that freedom to think will wash away.
The Summer Reading assignments for the 2016-17 school year can be found here.
A few months ago, I had to do a Toastmasters project called “Speaking Under Fire.” The objective of the speech was “dispel hostility and convince them that your side has some merit.” Our instructions included, “Select a generally unpopular point of view – perhaps one that you also oppose – in order to assure opposition.” The title of my speech was “My Unvaccinated Child is Just Fine Thank You.” Since I am a Shot at Life champion, this choice was definitely a stark contrast to my true beliefs. I pretended I was a pregnant anti-vaxxer speaking to a room full of pediatricians. It was difficult but the process of being in that woman’s shoes informed my approach. It didn’t change my beliefs, but it forced me to try to understand, on a very personal level, what her fears were and how they influenced her beliefs. The most eye-opening component was the understanding that this woman felt the way she did (and bought into misinformation the way she did) out of love for her child. We all want the best for our children.
Honestly, if I tried to do the same with this incident, I would struggle. I do feel strongly that decision which was made was the wrong one, that this book has particular literary value, and that proper procedures should have been followed at the school level.
Were my three PTBH minutes enough to make a difference? I do not immediately know, but my stubborn ounces begged to be heard …
(To One Who Doubts the Worth of Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)
You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.
I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
– bonaro w. overstreet
(But Wait, You Explained “PTBH” But What is the Reference to the Epicentre?)
For all my frustration at people who don’t live here, who have commented on this issue publicly, lumping all Tallahasseeans together, even the one who lumped us all in as “Silly Americans,” I appreciate author Mark Haddon’s tweet (he did the same for another local parent’s blog).
Hundreds of commenters in an international audience have opinions. All I know from my little spot at the epicentre is precisely where my “stubborn ounces” are going to go: toward making sure the one student I have responsibility for has unfettered access to books which matter.
I observed this in the recent school newsletter (January 2016):
Because the resolution of the picture is slightly poor, here’s the text: “At our recent School Advisory Council Meeting, the committee proposed and approved new school procedures for major readings and attached assignments, with an emphasis on summer reading. These procedures outline the responsibility of the faculty to submit potential texts, accompanying assignments, and an alternative assignment to a Reading Committee. The committee will include a group of stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and students.The committee’s final recommendation will be submitted to the principal for review each year.It is our goal that these new procedures will honor the intent of reading assignments by our faculty while meeting the expectations of all stakeholders.”
When I read Curious Incident during the PBS Tallahassee Great Read, author Mark Haddon sent this tweet. It’s an important reminder (that both sides — pro censorship and anti censorship — matter to the book discussion).
March 15, 2015, was a chilly day to walk 13.1 miles as part of the United Airlines NYC Half. At about 12.5 miles, Mary Jane managed to convince me to take off my red sweatshirt so my purple Team in Training singlet (and race number) would show in the finish line pictures. I had been trying for about a mile to reposition my number from the sweatshirt to my singlet in order to make the change, but my fingers were frozen and uncooperative.
She took things under control and did the pinning duties for me (being at a different angle seemed to be part of the equation of solving this conundrum) and we were able to cross in a unified line of purple!
Team SOAR at the finish.
The road to this finish line began in November 2014, when I decided that what I wanted for my 50th birthday was for my family to send me to New York City in March 2015 to be part of Team SOAR. This would mean raising $2,500 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). (For more on how, where, and why, click here, here, here, and here.)
The road to March 15 was paved with efforts on several fronts:
A March 15 half-marathon, which I knew I would be walking or doing at a very manageable pace, fit in very well with my training plan. I kept up my training via my team, KR Endurance, which essentially boiled down to two weekday runs per week as planned out in a build/recovery model by my coach Kristie Cranford, a longer run on weekends, cross-training and/or yoga the other three days, and a rest day. (The only bump in the road was the cardiac oddness that happened throughout but I persevered!) I enjoyed representing Team in Training in several races as I prepared, including the Swamp Forest Trail Race in January and the Run for the Cookies in February with my awesome friends Suzanne and Laura.
There are so many causes out there deserving of our time, money, and support. I wish I could give to them all. In choosing to fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I chose a cause that is personal to me, because it affects a close friend, as well as acquaintances and people I will never know. Refusing to choose because there are too many options is a not a choice that sits well with me. Therefore, I will pray every deserving cause receives adequate support and I will give every ounce of time, money, and support I can to this one.
I do not find it easy to fundraise. I don’t like being told “no.” Fundraising is not something I consider my strength. However, I do admit to liking the challenge and this is one of those areas in life where I will become a better, stronger person for having ventured outside of my comfort zone. Here is how my fundraising for this event came together:
The Tequila Social
On Saturday, February 7, 2015, Madison Social hosted a Tequila Social for the cause. It was such a fun time and they paid such close attention to small details that enabled every attendee to have a good time. Madison Social donated a generous portion of each ticket sold to LLS, as well as an additional donation. I am so thankful to this local business with a big heart for its community. They deserve your patronage and enthusiasm. Thank you, Madison Social.
(I also want to thank the Tally Connection for hosting a giveaway of two tickets to The Tequila Social, and for making a donation for every comment that was made on their giveaway post.)
The placemats explaining the three tequilas.
Benefit Workout at Badass Fitness
Shannon Colavecchio, owner of Badass Fitness, hosted a “couples workout” and donated the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A fun time was had by all (not that we necessarily would have said that mid-shockwave)!
I did a Superbowl Squares event which culminated (of course!) on Superbowl Sunday. A couple of the winners donated at least a portion of their proceeds backto me! How nice was that?
I did a lot of asking/reminding/pleading via my blog and my other social media outlets. Thank you to those of you who stuck with this “One Note Paula” throughout that time.
When I was talking with Mary Jane on the way to Central Park for the start of the half marathon the morning of March 15, we were discussing our team goal of $100,000, and the fundraising process, especially how to approach corporate donors. Since her diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma a few years ago, and her subsequent choice to be involved in Team in Training (and her rapid ascendancy to mentor/superstar which surprises no one), she has, she said, learned the following:
“I ask everyone.”
Pretty good advice, I’d say.
I was already a Charity Miles user prior to committing to this event, but between my November decision to do the United Airlines NYC Half and the event itself, I did almost all of my miles for LLS. Twenty-five cents from every walked/run mile went to LLS. It didn’t go to my Team SOAR fund specifically, but it went to the greater goal of research, support, and advocacy. I also hope it raised awareness every time I posted my Charity Miles for LLS to social media.
An analysis of the donations made to LLS as part of my fundraising lists 54 entries. Fifty-four individuals/businesses who gave in order to help me achieve my goal. I appreciate Kellie, my first donor, whose sister had been diagnosed with lymphoma. I thank Jon, whose donation came in while I was out on a training run, after which I came home to an email informing me I had reached my goal. And I thank EVERYONE IN BETWEEN! All of you have a special place in my heart!
My fellow Idiots Running Club (IRC) members deserve a shout-out. The number of “Idiots” among the 54 donors is disproportionately high and that’s fine with me!
Speaking of Idiots (as in IRC), Amie of JunieBalloonie went to great lengths to make my effort bloom! Her custom-designed flowers are beautiful, and her creations for Team SOAR, LLS, and Team in Training, from which a portion of proceeds goes back to the cause, were no exception! (To inquire about purchasing a TNT or LLS flower, click here.)
I also appreciate Greg Angel and Shannon Colavecchio, who gave me some excellent late-in-the game PR advice when I was making a final push to get the word out about The Tequila Social.
WTXL also helped out tremendously by having me on their noon show the day before The Tequila Social!
I have been impressed all along with the coaching and mentoring received from Team in Training. In addition to the pre-race communication (emails and encouragement), numerous coaches checked in with Mary Jane and me throughout the race. They gave specific advice about technique, helped us find the best restroom (yay!), and kept us talking as the miles clicked by.
My family also deserves a “thank you.” Each of them sacrificed in different ways, including my husband and son who did the duties of eldercare for my father-in-law with one-third of the team missing, and my daughter who loves going to New York with me but couldn’t make this trip.
Remembering The Reason Why
In the midst of all the running, walking, fundraising, Facebooking, Tweeting, Google+ing, Instagramming, and blogging, I never want to lose sight of the actual individuals behind the efforts. So many people told me their personal stories over the course of this few months. I thank you all for informing me and helping me understand the impact of blood cancers on your lives.
Lynne is a survivor who came to The Tequila Social and quickly became a friend.
And of course Mary Jane, who was one of the first people to befriend me when I started working at Fordham University in 1989 and has remained such a treasured friend.
What is Next?
When I started this process, I viewed it as a “one and done.” I saw it as an endeavor that would allow me to support Mary Jane, combine an athletic cause with an altruistic one (as I love to do), and go to New York City (which I really, really, REALLY love to do!).
I have come to internalize in a way I did not prior to this event, though, that blood cancers are not a “one and done” for the people living with them, or for their families and friends.There are people out there “hanging on for a cure,” like Mary Jane…
….and I intend to “hang on” with them.
What This Means Exactly
While I have not decided exactly what this means, I know:
1) Team SOAR set a goal for itself of raising $100,000. We accomplished an awesome $64,643.03 and were the second-place fundraisers of the NYC Half Marathon LLS Teams. The team fundraising page will be open for a few more weeks. Feel free to get us closer to $100K!
Wow, if the title of this blog is a symbol of the way I treat my friends, they’re going to start dropping like flies!
I don’t want people to drop from my life like flies (of course) but I do want something to drop, and that is my friend the weight of my friend Greg (a/k/a Big Moose).
Greg wants his weight to drop too, and that’s why he is applying to be the Tallahassee representative in the 5th Annual Genghis Grill Health Kwest. If selected to represent Tallahassee, Greg will get a free healthy meal at Genghis Grill every day for 60 days, will track his progress on social media, and will be able to compete to win $10,000 (by accumulating the most points).
I am positive that the $10,000 prize (awesome as that would be!) is not what is motivating Greg. He is motivated by something priceless: the ability to play with his young son and see him grow up. This is what he said in his application:
My son is now almost 4 years old, and is getting to the point where he wants to go to amusement parks, play (and play HARD) at the park, and just run around like 4 year olds do. This is GREAT, my son is a very active 4 year old…I, unfortunately am not the average dad. Going on rides is out of the question as I just don’t fit, and playing at the park or running around is short lived because I just can’t keep up, and that’s just not fair to him.
Greg and I first met on Twitter (that breeding ground of many fun exchanges that sometimes leads to great friendships). We did The Color Run together in 2012 and had a blast!
Team WTF (Where’s The Finish?) September 2013
For Greg to be chosen to represent Tallahassee, Genghis Grill will be evaluating his awesome application in addition to his social media presence. There’s no reason we can’t all pitch in and help him make it into the finals!
Here are the ways to help:
1) Go to this link, comment, then pin, tweet, and share away between now and January 26!
2) Join us Tuesday night, January 20, at 7 p.m., at the Tallahassee Genghis Grill location (830 E. Lafayette Street) to dine together and show Genghis Grill that Greg has great potential to be a “loser“! Here’s a link to the event. Even if you can’t come, please share it with anyone who can!
A last note from me: I have had so much fun with Big Moose on Twitter, in person at The Color Run and (ironically considering the purpose of this post) scarfing down food at Dunkin Donuts during a promotion! Behind all that fun, I so respect his work ethic, his devotion to his family, and the fact that he’s an all around good guy….
…..an all around good guy who I want to be a loser in the best way!
Before we talk about the iPhone6 giveaway, I have a few words about Baby’s Brilliant.
When I participated in a Twitter party recently, I jokingly tweeted this:
After my babies were born, we lived in a (wait for it…..) world without apps! To find out what developmental stage was coming up, I would pull out my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. To educate or entertain a baby, I would dangle a stuffed animal in front of their face or pop in a Spanish kids’ songs tape and sing at the top of my lungs (they may still hate me for that!). There were no apps in 1996 and 1999 when my kids were little. How things have changed!
Now there’s Baby’s Brilliant, which offers a variety of short videos, music, languages, and night lights via its app which is available on iPhones and iPads. (The iTunes link is here.)
The Baby’s Brilliant app looks promising, and its creators are committed to worthy causes (for instance, they recently donated iPads to a Los Angeles Children’s Hospital). Both of those are good …
What’s also good is the fact that Baby’s Brilliant is currently conducting an iPhone6 giveaway! The Rafflecopter is below, and the giveaway ends November 4.
Besides the great prizes*, why should you do a running scavenger hunt? The RunChat scavenger hunt, sponsored by Energy Bits, is a prompt to look a little differently (and more thoroughly) at the world around us as we run. That was certainly the case for me with the original hunt as well as the 2013 Holiday Hunt.
Here’s the list for this hunt (ends July 5, 2014). You earn one entry an image from each of the ten categories (must be tweeted with the hashtag #runchathunt):
Trail path (or evidence of running on a trail). Here’s mine:
The Plantation at St. George Island
Funny road/store/church sign. Mine isn’t that funny, I know, but it puts my mind on “beach mode” which makes me happy so we’ll go with it!
Parrotdise? Yeah, I’ll run for that!
Dog (yours or someone else running with one). I encountered this guy when the hunt had first started:
Canine Company on an early run…
Someone fishing. This is actually not the one I originally submitted to RunChat but I love this pic of my brother-in-law fishing so here it is!
St. George Island, June 2014
Sunrise or sunset. Here’s mine!
Sunrises make these morning runs worth the effort.
Farm equipment. I’m sure a lot of people found farm equipment, but I wonder if anyone else got a farm equipment mailbox. Thank you, North Florida!
I think I may be on the RunChat “exclude” list after lobbying so hard for this one. But honestly, aren’t we runners candid with each other about every part of running, from bloody nipples to other issues that would normally be private? Thanks RunChat (and voters!) for including this. I’m done.
(In case you’re squeamish, I am not showing the image directly. If you have a tough constitution, here’s the link to the image.)
A great local dive bar. Another souvenir of our week at St. George Island:
A perfect place to hydrate after a run!
Pay phone. Definitely the next-to-hardest thing to find! I finally located one:
Ah, the elusive gnome. I have a friend who owns a gnome so I may have to schedule a run on her side of town but I keep hoping to find one by chance. If you’re in Tallahassee and have any suggestions, send ’em my way!
You can also get an entry by submitting a Vine or Instagram video incorporating two of the #RunChatHunt items. I shot one yesterday but I’m not happy with it so tick tock I have to get on it!
Lastly, you can get an entry for a blog post (like this!).
The contest lasts through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on July 5, 2014. That’s plenty of time to hunt down a pay phone, take in a sunrise, or track down some farm equipment. Might as well … you’ll be running anyhow, right?
I have fallen out of the habit of responding to Mama Kat prompts. Surprisingly, no search party or anything was sent to make sure I had not fallen into blogging oblivion. Oh well. Her prompts this week are irresistible and, plus, I have already written posts that sort of respond to them. Easy peasy.
For instance, number 1: Instead of a resolution, some people choose a theme word to live by for the year. Choose a word for 2013 and tell us why you chose it. I didn’t know I even had a word until I went to write a “closing out 2012” post last night. A few hundred words later, I did have a word: direction. You can read about it here.
Number 2 is: Share any blogging tips you picked up in 2012. I picked this one up before 2012, but the best piece of advice I was given was from Scott Ginsberg, The Nametag Guy. He advised me to “make a date with the page.” Pick a periodicity: twice a week, weekly, every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, every month. Write then, whether you feel like it or not. I don’t think I have missed a Sunday blog in about three years. In addition, I finally switched from BlogSpot to WordPress. That was a long overdue move and it has definitely had benefits.
Number 3 is: Do you “favorite” tweets you love? Share your favorite tweets from 2012. I do favorite tweets. I have finally given in to favoriting tweets to sort of “like” them as I would on Facebook. That means I do a lot more favoriting than I used to. But my all time favorite is the sequence below. Not to give him a big head or anything, but I think our local meteorologist, Sean Parker, rocks and I always try to give him a Twitter shout-out. So when he tweeted about a local traffic situation only miles away from me, I said, “I’ll never get this kind of personalized news from @samchampion.” (And it’s important to note that I am a HUGE Sam fan; I was just trying to point out the benefits of local news presence.) As you can see below, Sam took exception to that:
And I have been happy ever since. 🙂
Prompt #4 was: “Resolutions. Love’em? Hate’em? Tell us why. Make one? Talk about your resolutions or goals for 2013.” Mainly, I still want to achieve my 2012 (and 2011…and 2010) goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes. This will be the year.
Lastly, prompt #5 was: Share your top 10 favorite quotes from your kids in 2012. I have teenagers, so I got nothin’ here. Except this gem that was tweeted by my 16 year old daughter this fall. I can’t find the actual tweet, and she may not know I saw it, but I did. Oh yes I did. And memorized it:
“My parents made me the awkward child I am today, and I don’t know if I can ever forgive them. #SorryNotSorry”
These are the kinds of tweets that could make Sean and/or Sam predict stormy weather ahead……….
I am not proud to admit that I had forgotten that address numbers get larger the closer you get to the East River in New York City, but once a security officer pointed me in the right direction, I stopped walking around in circles and found my destination, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the East Village. I wanted to experience for myself what all the tweets from @biggayicecream had tempted me with for months.
A fun place…..
With fun toys…..
And fun boys…
Watched over by a glittery unicorn….
I got the Salty Pimp after asking, “if I only get to come here once, what should I get?” My mobile phone picture doesn’t really do it justice…
But theirs will make your mouth water:
Photo Credit: Big Gay Ice Cream
And that is how I ended up wandering the streets of New York City licking a salty pimp at midnight. A combination almost as rare as a unicorn!