Sunday, May 16, 2010

To work or not to work

For most mom’s, isn’t this one of the questions that we struggle with the most?

I have struggled with this decision for quite awhile now. I have struggled with both sides of this question and cannot seem to come to any conclusion that is win/win for all involved.

Being a mother of three, I always wanted to be able to stay at home with my children. I was lucky enough to be a stay at home mom until 2002. In 2002, I had to make a hard decision to go back to work. Actually, it was not that hard of a decision as my husband was working approximately 100 hours a week. He was never home. He was losing all relationships with his children and me for that matter. So the decision was easy.

When faced with going back to work, I did some soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do. I decided that if I had to go back to work, I was going to do what I truly liked doing and possibly carve out a career. During my adult life, I have worked in many fields. I have worked in an office for various different kinds businesses and I have worked in retail at all levels. I decided that retail was the area in which I wanted to go. I love retail. Every day is different, every customer is different and it offers a diverse work force. So I got a job in retail.

After 18 months in that position, I left and went to my current employer. When I first started working for them, I absolutely loved my job. It became a career. Within 18 months I was promoted to Manager.

Life was good for quite awhile. Actually, it was very good until everything went downhill in 2008. As with every retailer and any major corporation in this country, job cuts happened dramatically. There was a major reorganization within my employer and many people lost their jobs. At the store level, not many lost jobs, just lost hours. Our company decided that we could work just as effectively on few allotted hours. At first, the struggle to adjust wasn’t that bad. As a manager, I realized how much labor hours we were actually wasting.

We became more efficient on less people and less hours. Piece of cake. Well, that was not enough. Over the last 2 years, more and more hours have been taken away from the store and yet more and more tasks have been added to complete.

As a manager, I was given a full administration day to analyze the business. I could process payroll, create schedules, adjust orders, place orders, do inventory counts, and work on the financials. As of today, I am only given 3 hours a week of my 40 hours to do these tasks. As a manager, I am only allowed to schedule myself 40 hours a week, but I am expected to work as many hours as it takes to finish all the required work in a week. Don’t get me wrong, there were many times that I was not always able to finish my work in just 40 hours a week, but I never had to work more than about 45 hours.

We move forward to present day. I have been told that I am expected to work 50 hours a week on the same pay and an ever increasing work load. In actuality, I usually put in about 60 hours a week, if you do not include the phone calls and text messages during my off time. (Time off=after I have gone home or on a day off) Oh, one more thing before I move on. On top of the 60+ hours I work a week, I have an hour drive to and from work. That is an additional 10 hours a week gone.

Now, as I said I have 3 kids. A 19 year old, a 17 year old and an 11 year old and I have been struggling with the fact that I am never home. My wonderful husband has become Mr. Mom. He takes care of the kids, cooks dinner, does the shopping and does the majority of my chores around the house.

My 19 year old is not really a concern as he has already graduated high school, working full time and only still living at home until he can get his feet under him.

My 17 year old is going to be a high school senior in the fall. As I learned with my oldest, there is a lot that goes into the senior year and it has already begun. We have been looking up schools, scholarships and making plans to visit colleges as he wants to go out of state to school. In June, we are headed to Washington DC to visit George Washington University, but that will be for a later post.

Since this is going to be a busy year for him, it is hard for me to tell him that he has to work around my work schedule as I have to work around the schedules of my employee’s and my boss. Being in retail, it is difficult for me to get weekends off as I am required to work 5 weekend days a month and there are many days that I just am unable to take off. Working 10 and 12 hour day also make it difficult for me to even plan events in the evenings.

Not only am I going to have a busy year with my son and his college plans, but I also have an 11 year old daughter who has already started to quest into the “teenage” years and all that come with that. Most days I have to leave for work shortly after she get out of bed, I am home just long enough to make sure she is moving and then my 17 year old takes over to make sure she has breakfast and gets on the bus. However, there are many days that I have to leave before she even wakes up. Either my mother or my husband has to get her up and going for school.

Although my husband loves her very much, he is not always sure what needs to be done with girls. Many a day I come home from work and take one look at my daughter and the first question I have for her is….”Is that what you wore to school?” Poor little thing looks like a rag-a-muffin. Hair a mess, clothes mismatched, just a real mess.

So what do I do? Many a person has told me that I am lucky to have a job during this tough time and I do feel luck, but at what expense?

I have frequently asked my husband; “When did our priorities get so screwed up?” “When did money become the driving force in our live?”

He has no answer.

I have a tough decision to make. My husband and I bring home approximately the same income, so if I am no longer working; our income is cut in half. How can I tell my son that I can’t afford to buy him a car? How can I tell my daughter that I can’t buy her that “totally hip” outfit right now?

As a mother, I am struggling with making sure that my family is well taken care of financially. Not that my kids get anything and everything they want, but on the other hand, they don’t want for much right now. The other side of that struggle is that my children also need me to have more time available to devote to them. I have determined that my time is much more valuable to them than whether I can buy them “stuff”.

We had a family meeting a few weeks back and I asked each child to tell me what they wanted most. I explained what I wanted to do and what it would me to us as a family.

It was a majority rule that I needed to be home more. So, now I am working on an “exit” plan. I have put my family on a budget, which we have never really had before and we are doing quite well. I am putting aside as much money as I can right now to get us through the lean months ahead.

I am in the process of trying to find a part-time job just to cover the short fall until I can find a better job with fewer hours. I am not afraid of hard work or even long hours; however, I will NOT let my job get in the way of my family again.

Stay tuned for updates on my exit plan.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Standardized Testing…..does it really tell us how smart our kids are?

So I got a phone call from my daughter’s principle yesterday, she wanted to make me aware that there was a problem with my daughter’s math CRCT test.

Let me back up and give a bit more detail to the point of the phone call.

My daughter is in 5th grade, she took the CRCT back in April, and this is a crucial year for her regarding the CRCT. Every elementary school student has to take the CRCT, but there are two crucial grades. These grades must pass the CRCT in order to move up to the next grade. These are the 3rd and 5th grades. After elementary school, 8th grade students also have to pass this test in order to enter high school.

Now, back to the phone call….there is a problem with my daughter’s math CRCT test.

I was up doing laundry, the phone rang and Becca answered. All I could hear her say was, “my mom is home”. She brought me the phone; her principle identified herself and began telling me about “our problem”.

She told me that Becca received and “invalid” on her math CRCT test.

“Invalid, what does that mean?” I asked.

Her response: “We don’t really know”.

We don’t know? How is it that we don’t know? She went on to explain to me that Becca and only one other student in the school received this mark. She stated that they were working with the local school board to find out what this mark meant and how it was going to be handled. This is being taken all the way up to the State Board of Education to see how this was going to be dealt with.

Okay a little bit more background information for those of you who either don’t live in Georgia or don’t watch the news. The state is investigating several counties in the state for cheating on the CRCT for 2009. The state has gotten very strict on the procedures for the CRCT.

So, we or I should say they have come up with a plan. Plan A: The state pulls the two score sheets and reviews them for possible stray pencil marks, then rescans them to see if the students passed or Plan B: These two students have to retake the math section of the CRCT. Now, Plan A seems to be the only fair solution for these children.

Of course, we will do whatever it is that the state decides and we will do our best and just deal with it. However, the next part of this story is the part that just about broke my heart. Do I or do I not tell Becca……the principle left that decision up to me. Great!

I finished my phone conversation, came back downstairs, sat down and tried to decide what to do.

The answer was made easy for me. Becca was waiting to hear what her principle had to say.

I asked Becca is she really wanted to know what her principle and I talked about. She stated that she already knew. She failed the CRCT. I asked her why she thought that and she told me that the general consensus (my word not hers) was that if you received a phone call from the school, you failed and if there was not a phone call, then you passed.

At that point I had to explain the whole situation to her. I told her about the “invalid” mark, which she did not understand what invalid was, I tried to tell her that there was a malfunction with the scoring machine, she didn’t understand that either. It was difficult for me to explain it in terms she would understand and get her past the point where she thought she had failed.

I had to even give her the history of what was going on in the state with the suspected cheating that was happening with the CRCT. She began to understand and she really got her first lesson on how a few “bad” people could ruin it for everyone.

I know that I am taking this a bit personally and we tend not to worry about this stuff whether we agree or not with standardized testing until it hits home and it has hit home. However, I have a sweet, smart and now disillusioned 11 year old that is struggling with her own self esteem. We are now three weeks from school being out and plans are being made for the 5th grade graduation, children entering into middle school and my daughter isn’t sure she is a part of the plan. If she has to retake the math section of the CRCT, we will be half way to the next school year before she finds out if she can go to 6th grade or she has to repeat the 5th grade.

My daughter’s grades in school are pretty good. She is not at the top of her class, but she is not at the bottom either. Her grades range from 75 to 95 percent in all her subjects.

How can we tell a child that even though they are passing all of their classes/subjects that they cannot promote to the next grade because they did not do well on a standardized test? Do standardized tests really tell us what a child knows or does not know?

When I was in school at the beginning of time, all we had was the IOWA standardized test and your success or failure in school was not the end all be all of that test. The results of that test were used to gauge was the areas of weakness were in the school system. The results were used to develop plans on how best to teach subjects in school.

Actually until we came to Georgia, I had never heard of the CRCT and I had never heard of any test being the deciding factor on whether you past a class or grade or not. Also, in the state of Georgia, there is a high school graduation test. If a high school student does not pass this test, they only get a certificate of completion instead of a diploma. At that point their only options are…to keep taking the test until they pass or they have to get their GED.

Have we taught our kids that there is no reason for them to apply themselves in school because it all comes down to a test? Is that why we have fallen behind in the world with regards to our children’s education? Or is it really because we have breed laziness and stupidity into our children? (that is probably a topic for another post)

I would love to hear any thoughts you may have.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Wonders of Childhood

The Wonders of Childhood

Even with all of the corruption in today’s world, the most exciting time in life is still to watch a child grow into a young adult. The transitions that these young human beings go through are just amazing. In fact, these changes can be seen from the day that a child is born, the searching that an infant will do looking for his mother, the first steps, first words and getting ready for that first day at school. However, this progress does not just limit itself to childhood; it goes all the way through adulthood. The most amazing time of them all has to be when a child enters into his school age years, especially the first year, Kindergarten. Tears will roll down a parent’s face the first time the child talks or walks, when the eyes sparkle because it is his birthday or because Santa Claus is on his way. The way a child will grab the leg of a parent who is just returning home. The joy that a child feels just to be held and have a story read to him. Also, to recite the alphabet successfully and to be told that he is now a big boy and off to kindergarten he goes.

Consequently, a kindergartner, with his joy for learning and exploring is to be considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The gleam that is present in his eye to arrive at school each and everyday is delightful to see, almost heartwarming and yet, the constant chatter when he arrives home at the end of the day can be so annoying that his delight is so easily overshadowed. His struggle for independence, but yet, the fear of going to far are obvious on his face, and then the loss of his first tooth and the introduction of the tooth fairy makes his world seem to be all right again. The responsibilities that he takes on without any probing, such as for a younger sibling or trying to be helpful and prove how much of a big boy he is for mom and dad.

The struggle that a parent goes through to retain some control is fought for every inch of the way. A child learns to make his own decisions and a parent struggles between excitement and fear. First, the excitement for playing such a large role in the development of another human being and enjoying what the outcome has been. A parent is also excited that some of the weight has been taken off from the child’s own decision making. Second, the fear of losing the child that has been a life line for so many years. The fear of what the child may that to encounter when he finally is on his own. Finally, the fear that something was missing in the teaching of the child to survive in society. This is all looked upon by a parent with amazement and wonder. Also, it is a little sobering to realize that this little child will very soon be a grown adult, ready to be an active part of his society.

This was a paper that I wrote after my oldest son started Kindergarten. In June of this year he graduated High School. After re-reading this paper, I found that I have had all the same excitement and fears over the years that spanned the time of the original writing and today.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to watch him grown into his own person/personality. He has formed his own opinions, even if some of them have been very extreme and illogical, he created them and they were his own. I have watched him make decisions that I have thought were the wrong choice and watched him struggle through the consequences of those decisions.

In essence, I have watched him become an active part of society and the world in which he lives.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

44 Days and counting

So, I was just looking at the calendar and there is only 44 days left of this current year....2008! I can't wait. I am looking forward to 2009 being a much better year. Just as a disclaimer though, I am not looking forward to 2009 for political reasons...all I have to say about politics, is, it is over, we have a new President and regardless of your views, get over it and/or get on with your life. (why do I feel I must preface every thought with "it is not about who or who is not President?)

Now, back to 44 days and counting. I have started a count at home for 2009. This year has probably been one of the most stressful, uncertain, and definitely only the 2nd year of my life that has aged me 10 years. I guess I would have to say that this year actually started for me in Aug. 2007. At this time, my oldest son enter his Senior year of High School. (Oh, my baby is really growing up!) As I stated, it started in Aug. 2007 when we had "Senior Night" at his school. Basically a ruse for PTSA meeting, however, there was some useful information that we were going to get as to how his Senior year would play out. Oh, did I mention also this is the first graduating class of South Paulding High School? History in the making, this year would be.

Anyway, Senior Night found me blubbering like a baby as I was having to come to grips with my oldest son finishing his childhood and becoming a man. (Wonder if this is how my mother felt about me, my Senior year...Well not the man part). Oct. 2007 found me cringing when it was time to order his cap and gown, tassel and invitations. No crying yet....wait that was a large check I had to write *sniff sniff*. After which point everything went smoothly at least with him for quite awhile. January exciting new year, right?

No. Shifting gears brings me to my job. Corporate unrest bring many exciting changes. Not necessarily good, easy or timely changes, but it was definitely an exciting time. Starbucks had a new CEO and everyday we waited with baited breath for the next change, next word from our fearless leader, next training meeting and the next shoe to drop. I will have to say that with the turmoil going on at home...okay maybe not at home but definitely within myself...I struggled to keep up, keep my head above water, and deal with time management issues. Was this ever going to end. I thought so.

Things were finally calming down at work, probably about mid-April, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a baby boy in a man's body hold a box for his mommy. What is in this box you ask? Hmmm.....Graduation invitations. A pile of blubbering hysteria I became. They were so beautiful. His name plates, a tassel just for mom and yes Senior pictures soon to follow. Every time someone would come over, I would have to open the sacred box and show off the treasures inside and....tissue...anyone have tissue? My son threatened to take them away from me if I was going to cry every time I looked at them. I crossed my heart (crossed my fingers) and promised not to cry when we looked at them again.

Two weeks before graduation, my son came home to let me know he was graduation with of 13 in his graduating class and that he had won the Presidential Academic Achievement Award! Can you guess what I did? Okay, Okay, you are partially right, however, I was on the phone with my mother when he told me. The phone went flying across the room, I grabbed his neck with a big hug, and you guessed it, cried like a baby. At graduation, all I can say is I am extremely grateful for family or I would have not one picture of his graduation. I barely saw it myself through the water world I was living. One of the proudest days of my life.

Finally, with family life settled back into a routine and the kids vegging on the summer break, I focus again on work.

July 1, 2008, Starbucks announces the closing of over 600 stores nation wide.

July 17, 2008, I am notified that my store is one of the 600 stores. My partners and I were crushed, my store had not yet even celebrated it's one year anniversary.

I think by this time I have already aged 10 years. I am not sure how much more I can handle, when in early Oct 2008, I received an email discussing a 25 year High School reunion...25 year! It can't be, I am not old enough to have done anything 25 years ago. I will not ask how much more I can handle as I still have 44 days to finish this year and I will not tempt fate.

2009 will be a better year as I have not one child graduating High School, Middle School or Elementary School. I will already know the close date for my store or be closed, and I will be on another career path, whether with Starbucks or not. 2009 will be the "take a break" year before my 25th year out of High School and two years before the next Senior in my house.


This was a post that I had on another one of my blogs. The orginal posting date was 11/08.  However, don't we all feel this way most of the time about how fast time passes (especially as we get older)? For me dates and events have changed, but I am still looking forward to either resting between major events or looking forward to another major event.  Since this post, I am now one school year from another High School graduation....stay tuned for more on that graduation.