Define Family: Is It Blood Or Is It Loyalty? South Amherst, Ohio

I’m from small town America, in the true sense. And I graduated from a country school…literally…in the middle of a corn field. We even had tractor day…still do. That’s where you drive your tractor to school . Generally this was and is led by FFA. Future Farmers of America, which is a credit class offered by the school.

As a kid, it was next to impossible to just go ‘next door’ and find a friend to play with. It more or less required a phone call, a scheduled play date…and even if your buddy lived three houses away….that could be several miles down the road.

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My daughter on a morning hike.

And yet even tasked with such a feat as getting to the nearest house, there was a unity. A mindset, if you will. One where given that we were all out in the middle of nowhere….it was common sense, to help thy neighbor.

Many years ago, Firelands (my district), merged with South Amherst (the neighboring district). And we became one unit. To give you an idea of how Firelands is set up, it’s one of the largest districts in the state, with the smallest amount of students. It covers over 100 square miles. But given that it’s farm country, it’s so spaced out, it brings the actual student ratio way down.

And one thing that comes with all those fields, open space, the  occasional deer carcass  and …well….that ‘fresh’ country air…is a sense of family. Blood doesn’t even have to be part of the equation. It’s the common ground that unites people.

My dad is originally from West Virginia and my mother is from a neighboring small town in the area. Neither one has ever had an itch to live in the city. Dad grew crops and he was an electrician by trade, until he retired. He was a graduate of the South Amherst District long before the merger.  My mother worked at that country school I just mentioned. She was the counselor. They both retired a few years back. My Aunt and Uncle, live right smack in the heart of it all as well.

And way back when, I didn’t really notice what was going on around me. I was caught up in trying to find a car to get me ten miles down the road to my friends house….or a tractor…either would do. Or even Cinnamon…{that blasted batty horse that would run you straight out onto the road and under branch, just to get back to the hay}. But outside  my own little teenage thoughts, I drew a blank. I failed to notice the quiet, but insanely strong  heartbeat that echoed all around me.

Smack in the heart of South Amherst, there are two pubs. They’re directly across the street from each other. Train Wreck Tavern and Whiskeyville Still & Grill (formerly Wiley’s)…..or “The Hatfields and the McCoys”…no seriously.

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The funny thing is, while there’s always been a competition….there really isn’t…and there is….I know…weird. These aren’t your ordinary pubs. In some towns, there’s so many bars and restaurants, you’ll never see the same face twice. That might be good for a night of bar hopping, but there’s no real unity to it.

In South Amherst, these two bars...are it. There’s a couple further out into the country, still within the district and but part of the original Firelands prior to the merger. Crossroads and Czech Point; but they’re not lined up like the other two are. However, they have the same heart. When I tell you there was a tractor parked at Crossroads last month, I mean there was big fricken tractor…parked out front. And while those pubs require a further drive, the locals are more then willing to make the trek, pull up a stool and catch up on old times.   When the folks  come in to Whiskeyville and TrainWreck, they park at one and walk back and forth. As a result, there’s always been competition. And of course…..the occasional prank.

(Although…the lawn chair and work boots on the roof of Train Wreck last week…well….that was done by one of the locals….I have it narrowed down to one of two…and both have a heart of gold, a never ending supply of laughs and would give you the shirt off their backs. But they’re ornery as hell!

In a place where people are so far apart, the local pubs serve as a gathering  place. To catch up, help each other out, talk about Riddler’s baby soft fricken hair (how does he get it like that?!?!) and to share both sorrow and joy. It doesn’t seem to matter what may be going on in their own personal lives….in that momenttime stands still…they will set it all aside to be a source of comfort for friend in need. If someone had a bad day, the whole pub rallies around them. If someone needs shelter…they provide it. If someone needs a ride? It doesn’t matter if the driver’s going the opposite direction, they’ll get’em home.

I’ve seen both tears and laughter emerge on any given day. Mostly …..laughter. These are people who work their fingers to the bone. They bust their ass  and they don’t quit until the job is done. The pub floors during happy hour, typically have remnants of drywall, sawdust, roofing material, dirt and sweat. It’s blue collar America through and through. Many are Ford workers, who believe ‘Made in America’ truly means something.  These aren’t people who are looking for a free ride. These are folks who know the meaning of ‘blood, sweat and tears’.

And this is so much so…..that these folks make it a damn POINT…to go to BOTH pubs…..EACH AND EVERY TIME! Why? Loyalty to all the pub workers and friends on each side of coin. I’ve seen it time and time again. “ok….I’ll be back….gotta run across the street….don’t want the barmaid to think I forgot about her”. But they actually mean EXACTLY that, when they say it. It’s not a joke! 

At Train Wreck there’s a lovely barmaid the regulars call mom. She’s a shoulder to cry on when you need one. She watches out for basically….everyone.  A few times, the barmaids have switched bars. Like the one at Whiskeyville now, used to be across the street at Train Wreck. And whenever there’s a Poker Run, both bars are on the list.

And of course…..whenever there’s a feud ….both bars are involved. Now mind you…by feud…I mean the good old fashioned kind. The kind where folks are alive and shaking hands the next day. These men aren’t cowards. Cowards fight with guns and knifes. These folks…prefer hilarious pranks and ok…the occasional ‘duke it out’ match in the parking lot. Followed by an instant replay of the cameras the next day…just for another round of laughs. And in all honestly, it’s probably one of the safest places to hang out…anywhere! Hell, if you set your wallet on the counter at either pub and walk outside…it’s got a pub full of honest townsfolk keeping an eye on it. If you set your cell phone down though…that’s a different story. You’ll get home and find a ton of ridiculous photos in your gallery. I’m not saying that happened to Jason last week…cuz I didn’t see anything…. (Bob).  But hey…at least you’ll have something for Instagram.

There was that time that one of Whiskeyville’s barmaids took off for a few days and decided to leave her jeep in the parking lot. Of course nothing was stolen, but the guys had a grand ole time filling her car with their empty Budweiser cans while she was away. Yeah…we all know who did it….but it’s like Vegas round these parts….Brad. Actually, I think they were considering renting out the jeep as a motel for a couple days there…but that’s another story entirely.  AND EVERYONE…I mean EVERYONE knows your name. It’s like “CHEERS”….but country style….times two.

Whiskeyville is the larger of the two pubs. It has two bars, a catering hall and they serve  food. Both Whiskeyville and Train Wreck,  have outdoor patios/decks. And Whiskeyville holds a Sunday liquor license. Since the bar has recently come under new ownership, it’s getting a remodel. So they’ve added games, slots etc…while keeping the old town feel.

TrainWreck is the smaller of the two, but it has a cozy atmosphere. They also serve food and just like Whiskeyville, run  decent beer prices. Both bars have a jukebox and have live musicians etc…

Of course, both pubs have the some of the best people I’ve ever met…ready to greet you with a smile. And one thing they both have in common, besides the amazingly strong group of people that frequent them….is the revenue they have the capacity, to draw to the town. And if there is one thing the townsfolk love above all else….it’s their kids. That’s everywhere…in the heart of us all.

South Amherst Middle School sits about a half mile down the road from the pubs. And while the merger with Firelands was able to keep South Amherst school district afloat, the school buildings themselves are in serious need of repair. The South Amherst building literally has holes in the floor.

“You drive by at 35 or 40 mph, it looks fine,” he said during a tour of South Amherst Middle School, 152 W. Main St. “Come inside and I can show you a couple of things.”

Von Gunten praised school custodians for their upkeep of the 81,210-square-foot middle school built in 1910, but said it’s falling apart. The school was grandfathered in to meet fire codes, but lacks a sprinkler system and smoke detectors.

Some windows don’t open or easily stick and the building lacks air conditioning, leaving students broiling on hot days. The second floor is creaky and the hallway is too narrow for the 420 students at the school.

The cafeteria kitchen is clean, but it stank Thursday from raw sewage leaking out of rusty old pipes. Von Gunten said water in the pipes over the weekend comes out discolored from the rust. He said tests show it’s safe to drink, “but I would argue otherwise.”

Von Gunten said the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission in 2006 determined renovation wasn’t cost-effective. It said renovation would cost about $13.2 million, and replacement would cost $18.7 million.

The commission made the same determination about Firelands High School, 10643 Vermilon Road, Henrietta Township. It said the 91,400-square-foot school, built in 1954, would cost nearly $16.4 million to renovate. The school, which houses about 600 students, would cost $22.3 million to replace.

“We’re talking about buildings that are pretty much at the end of their useful life,” School Treasurer Brad McCracken told about a dozen residents who took part in the tour. “We’re struggling with the middle school and the high school.”

Von Gunten said the high school would probably be demolished. He said asbestos in the middle school would be abated and school officials would discuss with South Amherst officials whether to occupy it or raze it.

http://www.chroniclet.com/education/2015/10/30/Old-Firelands-school-buildings-falling-apart.html

 

In this village, lies the answer.

A while back, Amherst had the same problem. For those who don’t know…Amherst borders South Amherst, but they are not part of the same district.

Amherst wouldn’t approve of a merger with South Amherst way back when, so Firelands agreed to do it. (That’s that beating heart I was telling you about earlier….) And when Amherst couldn’t pull the revenue from the voters for things in need of repair,  they found it another way. They may not realize it, but they did. The Park Ave strip brings in thousands of dollars of revenue daily. And the revenue from the strip, was instrumental in restoring the city to it’s former glory. So while on multiple occasions, levy’s were voted down…the people paid regardless, just by going out and having a good time.  They paid into their own town businesses,  thereby returning money to the town.

The same idea holds true for the pubs in South Amherst. While the competition and feuds come and go….the people are a constant. They’re a given and the life’s blood of both pubs. Just like Amherst was able to do, South Amherst has the building blocks to do the same. The owners of both pubs, could in all reality, join together and create something incredible. And just like Amherst was able to do with their yearly ‘Dancing In the Street’ event, South Amherst could potentially bring in a massive revenue, by simply working together and paying back into their own town. They have the main ingredient at their disposal….the hearts and minds of some of the best people you’d ever meet….(yes…even the crazy ones….Clow…cough, cough…Seth…excuse me…had to clear my throat…lovable bastards)…in spades! 

And I use the pubs as the catalyst for the revenue, because quite simply….it’s where people gather. And I’d tack the gas station smack in the middle of town in there….if they ever actually had gas! (Could someone tell them to actually put gas…in the ground….so that fuel….can actually be pumped into the vehicles past say…3pm? ….yeah…that’d be great.) And there’s the town pizza parlor, the Karate Studio, Piggy’s and a few other places scattered throughout downtown. Of course further out, you hit all the produce stands. Homegrown and priced just right.

Over the past few months, I’ve met some extraordinary human beings. What started out as  just another simple chapter in a book….became so much more. I’ve seen true unbreakable bonds…..Sisters at heart….Faye and Sharon.  Shattered stereotypesWayne Strength through great sorrowT-Bone. A gentle soul beneath a father’s voice...Frank.  Dedication through charitable work (Don’t let him catch you throwing out those beer tabs. Those are funding Ronald McDonald House.) ….Gallagher. CommitmentLarry. Courage in the face of the unknown….Ray.  That ornery smile at just the right time...Mark……and so many more.

If just a handful, can radiate that much compassion…what can the voices of many accomplish?

It’s time pull up our big boy panties, pull together and get’er done. And….if someone could stop throwing rolls of paper towels in the toilets …yeah…that’d be great. And where are the rest of the lawn chairs from Whiskeyville?!?! Do I even want to know?

 

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etc. special things for special people

For the next month or so, I’ll be showcasing family-owned businesses and small business owners.

This is an effort to show the amazing creativity thought up and fully executed by some incredibly talented individuals. Owning a small business requires an artistic streak and a beautiful imagination. A small business holds the owner’s heart and soul. They’re giving us full access into their creative thought process every time we walk in the door.

Whether it’s a chef, a bar owner,  a photographer, a painter or a farmer, by owning a small business, they’re showing the world their canvas.

Small businesses tend to produce better products. Their name is on the business and they know it. They know the vast majority of the people who walk through the door. They maintain ongoing long lasting friendships with many of them. The sense of community in a family-owned business is very telling.

PLUS: Shopping local greatly increases town revenue which =more local jobs=local manufacturing=higher wages=more money for the consumer. 

The owners of local businesses are more likely to make darn sure they’re handing you a great meal, great service or strong long lasting products. 

Large corporation owned businesses, generally don’t have the same mindset. Just ask a cashier at a chain store (if you can find one), what a certain item does or where it’s made. Ask how long that item is said to last and who you can call when it breaks. Will the phone-call  require you to have your phone not only charged, but plugged in so it can outlast the wait time? Remember…  we get what we pay for. Saving to buy a sturdy item from a local business, is obviously better for our wallets. Being pulled in by dollar delights, means we generally just bought more junk. In no time at all, we’ll be running back to replace that same junk.

 So without further delay, let’s talk gift shops! 

 etc. 

Yes. That’s the name! etc. is a quaint family-owned gift shop, located in the heart of downtown Amherst, Ohio.

At first glance, this little shop is full of color and vibrancy. From clothing and accessories, to cards, gifts and decor, it’s honestly just chuck-full of fun! Personally, I’m rather fond of the jewelry. There are just so many unique and genuinely  creative items to choose from. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find a one-of-a-kind gift. And the vintage lovelies? Oh my! Of course, my readers know,  I have a thing for vintage decor and old-world style. And this place has plenty.

For those of us who love visuals, I’ve included some photos below:

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For more information on etc. or to browse their products:  www.shopatetc.net , stop in at 215 Park Ave. Amherst OH 44001 or call: (440) 985-1999.

And a big thank you to the owner, Erin Link, for allowing me to photograph her wonderfully creative brain child. (And I think I left my coffee on a shelf).


 

 

 

 

Lorain, Ohio : Let’s Play the Blame Game

Lorain, Ohio

The city of Lorain is in a $3 million dollar deficit. Yesterday 20 police and firefighter jobs were on the line. Last night the city came to an agreement  which will allow  the police and firefighters  of Lorain, to keep their jobs. However, the real problem is far from over. So let’s play the blame game. Who is at fault for the fragile state of Lorain’s economy? What does the future hold for Lorain?

Just last month I wrote an article on the lack of jobs in America: Where did all the people go?  For the photos, I didn’t need too look far. To be honest, the photos were initially intended to show the beauty in Lorain. But after about three photos, I realized the town center was deserted.  Mind you, there is still a powerful beauty beneath the emptiness. And on the outskirts, there’s no shortage of people in the suburbs. They just aren’t shopping in Lorain. There are a few exceptions, such as: Fligner’s . Their meat and produce draw plenty of traffic.

 

I hear a lot of folks passing around blame directed at local government officials, welfare recipients, the IRS, etc…

How about we look at the blatantly obvious, just for giggles. A majority of Lorain’s  original business and factory owners are long gone.

Let me explain what I mean.

I was around 9 years old when my father was laid off from the shipyard.

“Cleveland Shipbuilding was started in 1886 by Henry Coffinberry and Robert Wallace on the site of the Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company, which was roughly where Detroit Avenue meets Center Street.  In 1897 they built a new shipyard in Lorain and relocated there, closing the Cleveland yard.  The company was acquired by The American Ship Building Company in 1899 and eventually became their Lorain Division.  It continued as a leading builder of lakers until the late 1970s but closed in 1983.  The site was sold to Spitzers as a steel scrap processing facility but is now a marina: see it from the air on Google here.  shipbuildinghistory.com

I’ll never forget that day. He looked as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. It took four long years for him to find another job. My father was/is a Navy man. He’s worked hard all of his life. An electrician by trade, he’s a true blue hardworking American. As a matter of fact, most of the folks around here are! The problem arises, when these hardworking men and women have nowhere to work.

So who do we blame? The mayor? That’s absurd! I’m fairly certain he’s my age or even younger. So I’m going to go out on a limb and bet my life savings that he did not close the shipyard.

How about the retired folks? Must have been them right? Except, most of them were blue collar workers like my dad. Now in their old age, they’re fighting to get by just like the rest of us.

And what about the rest of us? Do me a favor. It’s just a quick test. You don’t have to tell me the answer. Take a look around your house. Pick up a few items and make a mental note of where those things are made.

How many of those items say: Made In The USA? 

I know what you’re thinking. I’m guilty of it to. It’s virtually impossible not to be guilty of owning outsourced products. Fact is: the products outsourced from China are cheaper!  Given the lack of decent jobs, it’s all any of us can afford. The Dollar Tree is completely outsourced. Given the choice between a plate for $1 or a plate for $5 (and they are identicalmost will go for the $1.  The other problem is a humanitarian one: Who is building all of that stuff in China? And how many hours are they being forced to work. It’s everywhere, not just in China. They’re working 60-70 hour work weeks,  for pennies on the dollar.   I recently had reason to look into it and quickly became jaded. Once I really started digging, I did manage to find a few US suppliers. So if you look, they do exist.

Moving onto those with a college career, the problem stays the same.

Let’s say we manage to squeeze out enough for a college degree in medicine. We will spend years paying back those loans and the rest of our career paying an insanely high medical malpractice insurance. We are after all, a nation of sue crazy individuals. We can’t wipe our own rears without a lawyer these days. (Our outsourced/rebranded toilet paper may cause a rash). 

Maybe a teaching degree is the way to go? If we love the Common Core  <- insert sarcasm here, then we’ll go for it. Just know that anything we say to delicate little Johnny, may result in job loss or a lawsuit or both. So let’s leave those poor little kids be. They’re always truthful and teachers are  just mean. 

Small business owners are suffering as well. Given the choice between a McDonald’s $1 rubber patty, or the local ‘mom and pop’ shop’s homemade one; we go for the rubber. Ironically, in order to save a buck on a burger, we will spend thousands in medical costs down the road. Yes…I know…right?!?!  

Here’s the thing though: If we go ahead and spend that extra buck on our local businesses, we are putting money back into our city. Imagine that? You don’t say??? And small business owners will be able to employ more locals. Wow!  And pay them more! Wow….really?!?!?! 

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Or we could just keep feeding the McDonalds CEOs. It’s entirely up to you and me. In the case that we do continue feeding the McDonalds Corporation, I suppose we really have nobody to blame then do we? I sure hope we have decent health insurance. (I don’t know about you, but my deductibles are insane!)

Here’s the reality: Yeah, currently things suck a little.

Can we fix it? The good news is YES!

Instead of taking daily trips to McDonalds, we can eat at home and save up for a nice meal at one of the family owned diners. Stop being all consuming. Let’s face it, we all buy a whole lot of crap we don’t need! If the demand is gone, so is the supply. Start DEMANDING American made products. March into Walmart and ask them for their made in the USA products. If they don’t have any then leave. Do it everywhere and do it often!

Trust me, we can all live without that $1 pink plastic storage container. Part of the problem is that we’ve become a nation of instant gratification addicts.   It’s become so easy to go for the quicker option.

And it shows in our children. They’re entitled now. We break our backs to pay in the hundreds for some stupid shoes. SHOES!  We are buying a NAME! Some of the shoes are the cost of a house payment. But children have learned from us that we should hide our real ‘status’. Nobody wants to admit they’re struggling. Nobody wants to admit their total debt. ( Just because you are not in default, does not mean you are not in debt. If you have a credit card…guess what? You’re in debt! ) But we do it anyway! Why?

Because “Mom…all my friends have them! Do you want me to get picked on?” 

    Well…no…of course not.

We don’t want our kids to have to deal with adversity…cuz…wait…

   WHY THE HECK NOT?

The real world will tell them NO! The real world will chew them up and spit them out! And when they find out it’s not as easy as ‘the mommy who always said yes’, said it was…well…I suppose there’s always Prozac. There are plenty of ‘Big Pharma’ companies ready and willing to parent our kids for us.

In the end, who should we blame?

Us…we  should blame us…as a whole…as a unit. We should blame ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did all the people go?

Somewhere between the rich and the poor, there was once a group of humans known as the middle. They were the balance between the other two, often feeding both.  But still …there was a balance. And as a general rule, they would fly their children off to faraway states. Occasionally   they took long trips traveling the country while their  children boxed it out in the backseat of the family station wagon. Think…Chevy Chase.

Education was largely coveted and revered. It wasn’t ruled by the ‘pay me for the ignorant ramblings’ group up on Capital Hill. You know….the arseholes who blather on and on about bill changes, policies, test scores and blah blah …vomit.

The government didn’t parent the children…or attempt to drug them in hopes of bringing  up those highly prized  test scores…(Ironically, creating a generation bent on substance addiction, because their little brains no longer produce what they need…without a damn drug).   The teachers having paid for and attended college, were presumed to already know what the hell they were doing…so it was a non-issue. Play was a given. Recess gave teachers a much needed time out, while the children got to run and stretch their little legs.

Guns were for cops, the free folk and the assorted bad guys. Problems between kids however, were solved with a boxing match behind the school. Zero bullets required, and  the children lived to see round two the following morning.

Food was actually …food. It could be easily pronounced. Human immune systems were pretty  decent…mainly because antibiotics…worked. They worked because people were not being fed antibiotic loaded meat. Antibiotic resistance, was almost unheard of. Actually….people didn’t take antibiotics for every little NAMBY PAMBY BOOHOO illness! Docs didn’t pass out drugs like candy, in hopes of competing with the madness of today’s giant clinics.

There was no excuse for bad behavior. A brat was a brat. They weren’t drugged and told it wasn’t their fault. They weren’t given free run out of pity for their mental conditions. (Which oddly enough… have grown exponentially with the growth of Big Pharma, single family homes, increased divorce rates, the need of some parents to work multiple jobs….ironically…to be able to afford the daycare…so they can work multiple jobs...which …probably contributes to the increased divorce rate...go figure).

People actually had decent paying jobs, paid by companies who actually built decent products. Of course, this also meant that stuff held up better. Oak was oak…not prefabricated half plastic/ half wood shavings….well….garbage. Dressers and tables were built to last. Unlike the Walmart specials of today with cardboard backing. Workers now are  being paid less or entirely outsourced, in order to build product quicker for the all consuming American public….. just to see it fall apart. At which point, a phone call is usually made to the company…and surprise surprise…the operator is located somewhere on a faraway continent and you have no idea ...I mean none...as to what they are saying. Of course, it would be NON PC of me, if I didn’t finish that sentence with….”It’s not their fault, they just needed a job” and “It’s the lazy Americans fault for not being willing to work for 3$ a day”…oh and “We surely can’t blame the CEO’s…because who doesn’t need a swimming pool in their living room?”

I’m sure I was going somewhere with this…oh right…..

Where did all the people go?

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The PARCC: Well, that was rather unexpected..

The PARCC..yeah. The abbreviation we’ve all come to know and love ~ yes, that would be sarcasm. Yesterday was my daughter’s turn. You know, the one I wrote about in the post just prior to this one. 13 with the weight of the world on her shoulders, never one to make waves, she pulled a mind scramble on me and created her own little tsunami yesterday.

Yesterday morning, I woke her at the usual time. 5:30 am… I know…rather early isn’t it? Anyway, she had to catch the bus by 6:30 am. Upon glancing at her disheveled appearance, I naturally asked what the problem was. And true to her empathetic nature, she unleashed a whirlwind. She explained that the PARCC was to be given that morning. As a studious pupil…and she is (we’re talking tears over a B on a test, hours of pondering over one single algebra problem and multiple trips to library in any given week…She  has never  NOT been present at an honor roll ceremony and her principal informs me, she won’t be present for her senior year, because she will have graduated prior to) this child of mine, she had concerns for her teachers. She said she knew the PARCC wasn’t a test for her, but for them. And while she’s always scored well above average on state tests, this test  was different. Now she had reached the age of understanding. She knew the meaning behind it. With the pressure she puts on herself (I swear…it’s not me. I BEG her to put down the homework and go to sleep!), she was feeling even more pressure to do PERFECT...no errors… for if she did, she felt her teachers whom she adores, would lose pay or even their jobs.

What?!?!

I was floored. Here’s a girl who at the ripe old age of 13, knows work ethic, has dreams of an ivy league college, has thrown the word ‘memorization’ to the wind and actually bothers to LEARN her subjects…she never goes against the grain and as middle children everywhere do….her race to perfection…to stand out, has always prevented her from voicing an opposing opinion to an authority in any way, shape or form.

While I knew that as some point, her heart would finally collide with her brain, I didn’t expect it to be at age 13. Although, truly, I was hoping it would happen sooner, rather than later. An education is pointless, if you don’t have the courage to use it.

We discussed the test for a bit, as she rushed around trying to get herself together. Finally, after the tears started to flow out of fears of not doing well enough, I said “Lil Miss, there are times in life when you need to make a judgement call. I see your struggle and in this moment I’m so very proud of you. I see you. I see who you are and I’ve caught a glimpse of who you will become. You aren’t an unruly kid looking for a way out of a test. For a mini-vacation or just anti-authority. And it’s children like you, who will grow to change the world for the better. The choice is yours. I trust you to make the best possible decision for you. Ask yourself…what do you want YOUR world to be like, when you have children?”

She asked what would happen if she just refused to take it. The question sort of stunned me. I hadn’t filled out an opt-out form. I hadn’t filled one out, because doing so would imply that I needed to get the states permission to exempt her from a test, that I hadn’t given permission for her to take in the first place.  The state uses HER hard work on the PARCC to do what is supposed to be THEIR jobs…which in turn = free child labor…hey…isn’t that illegal? oh…my bad. Hypocrisy is perfectly legal now.  And  I don’t recall voting in yet another way to add pressure to an already overflowing pile of bureaucratic bullshit , to begin with. Why? Because we only vote in the people (after listening to their endless charade of fairy tales, and  promises of goodness and light), not the load of horse-dung they produce after the fact. I mean sure…there are lots of bills and nonsense put before the heads, however, a vast majority never see the light of day.

I told her she basically had several options. Don’t lift pencil to paper, fail it…on purpose or just take the test. Whatever her choice, I’d back her up. I even gave her my work number and told her, if there was any sort of trouble, give the paper to the teacher.

Now here’s where it get’s…interesting. Actually, I didn’t even believe her! When she said she was going to refuse it, honestly… I laughed. I said “You?!? You who never makes even a ripple? You’re going to refuse it???”....I just KNEW I would never get a phone call, because I KNEW she wouldn’t do it.

And WOW, was I wrong….

So yesterday, I get home from work and my husband (who was completely in the dark as to our earlier conversation) says to me “Ummmm…so, you know what I never expected?”  Me: “No…what?!”  He replies “A phone call from the principal about C~~~~~~  …….   WTF did I MISS????

Here’s the point where I dropped everything and my jaw hit the floor. And honestly, I just started laughing. I was absolutely floored! LIL MIss??? Are you kidding me? She actually did something ‘wrong’???

Naturally that flipped over real quick to “Oh no! What did you say? Did you back her up???”

To which he said “I’m so confused. I have no idea what’s going on here!  ( Wise decision) The principal called and said C~~~~ had filled in EVERY SINGLE CIRCLE on the PARCC, and while the school was not angry, they had concerns, because it was so unlike her and that she had been sweating and shaking so badly in class…..they had to send her to the restroom!”

Again….my jaw….yeah…at this point, it had made it’s way to the basement. Followed quickly by…”I better call the school”…

After a wonderful chat with the school principal, who again, was not angry in anyway….was very cordial  and made it clear that he knew C~~~~~  had never been any sort of trouble maker… was a fabulous student and he’d only wanted to verify  what C~~~ had said. And what C~~~ had said was that I had told her she had my permission.

About 10 minutes later, Lil Miss walked in the door. She had never even been confronted by any school staff, so she didn’t even know about the phone call. So I  asked her…”how did it go?”. She said she filled in all the dots…I asked why she filled in ALL the dots and didn’t just mark random answers. She said “By filling in all the dots, I don’t throw my teachers into the frying pan. They’ll know I did it on purpose. They won’t think I simply didn’t know the answers, thereby…my teachers don’t look like bad educators.” 

ummm….ok….I really can’t argue that. Then she said, she did however do the essay portion. But instead of the writing what was expected, she wrote the reason for her behavior. She wrote, she wouldn’t participate in the PARCC, because it wasn’t the states job to judge her teachers, based on the scores of the masses. It was her job and her parents…and she and her parents,  thought  her teachers were great. ( I removed awesome here, because I can’t recall if she’d written the word awesome or said it. It could have been ‘great’…she’s at school now, so I can’t ask)

I suppose…I really can’t argue that. Funny thing is, she still took a test…just not the PARCC. This was a test that I hadn’t expected. I can’t even decide if it was hers or mine? I suppose for her, it was a test to see if she had the courage to stand up for herself and those around her (although again…no child should be put in a position, where they have the pressure of knowing, that THEIR own abilities, may or may not cost an adult…a raise, a dip or their jobs altogether. An adult that they respect and care about. That’s not a child’s job! SHAME ON YOU BIG BROTHER!)

And I guess for me…the test was one of conviction….was I raising sheep or human beings? Amazing, articulate, logical and yet curious to the point of breaking through boundaries, empathetic, compassionate and with a wealth of knowledge and zero indoctrination…knowing that a beautiful mind can only  thrive in an open one. Learning all sides prior to making an informed decision, regardless of the subject matter. From religion, to politics, to education, to expression….from the emotional need to override our brains, to shutting off the hysteria and letting a cooler head prevail. Sure…reaching perfection is a goal, just like any other….but knowing when to let it go, when to screw up, when to color outside the lines…that’s simply flawless.

PS: How did she find out what the PARCC was for?  We hear the words ‘critical thinking’ on a daily basis. We say we want them to use it. We preach about it’s importance and slam anything that goes against it. However, critical thinking requires not only the written resources, but the ability to research, understand and put to use all that we have learned. Taking the knowledge you have gained and using it to create an informed opinion, is at it’s very core. Her teachers have never mentioned the  purpose of this test, only asking that they eat a good breakfast and focus. And if it’s believed in anyway, that this child was swayed, know this….critical thinking is not the goal, if the idea is to raise a follower….critical thinking, in it’s true form, raises leaders. We shouldn’t  tell our children they need to be brilliant and score high…and then tell them to shut-up when they tell us  all they’ve learned.  My child’s teacher’s,  don’t require the PARCC to prove that they’ve succeeded. They’ve already proven that in spades. So how did she find out about the true meaning behind the test? Her teachers did their jobs….they taught her to read…

Olde Town Pizza in Small Town America : Amherst, Ohio

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~image courtesy of mainstreetamherst.org


One Word: Amazing


We  took the kids to Olde Town Pizza House tonight. It’s been a while for me, actually since before the add on. The remodel is incredible. Everything from the marbled design on the floor, to the full mural enveloping the outside walls,  is loaded with both fine and rustic charm. (I think one of my favorite decor elements is the sliding wooden ladder…although the tricycle wine rack is pretty nifty). With the fireplace and rather large beer menu, it’s rather hard not to feel at home.  Our waitress was vibrant, kind and prompt…all of those things are extremely welcome when seated at a table chalk full of kids.

Cleanliness is huge in my book. I mean HUGE! Yes…I look at everything from the windows to the doorknobs. It’s flu season and we’ve already had our share, thank you very much! This place was spotless and that’s hard to do in the slushy winter landscape.

The food? We ordered the family size chicken fold-over and the pepperoni/sausage pizza. (We’re a family of five and we have more than enough for lunch tomorrow). The crust was moist, the chicken was tender, the lettuce and tomato were crisp and the pepperoni/sausage pizza….I could go on for ages. And one beverage in the this place?… It’s actually enough No tiny cups in this establishment.

As far as the view…perfect. From the window we could watch the busy bustle of small town America. From friends and neighbors headed out for a Friday night at Ziggy’s,  to tiny fish keepers out for their first goldfish at Neptune’s Cellar. Only a stones throw from the Park Ave/Church Street intersection:  ‘Dancing On Main Street’ must be rather fun to watch from there.

Will we return? You betcha!

All-In-All: Two thumbs up...and maybe a big toe or two…

Ways to SAVE at Cedar Point

Summers at the amusement park!

We’re on our fourth year of season passes to Cedar Point. There are days it can get a little tiresome with all the kids in toe. But every now and then we have a smooth kinda day.

This year, we finally discovered grilling! In the past I packed a couple sandwiches and off we went. Meanwhile, we’d smell the food all throughout the park and walk away due to there ridiculously high prices.

My pass is platinum. and it’s the ONLY way to go, for at least one of the drivers. Parking is free with a platinum pass. Otherwise, parking prices are off the hook! The kids get a regular pass. And it’s usually easier to do the payment plan. The days can get downright ‘SAUNA’ conditions! Hot cement, 90 degrees, crowds and chaos. However, Cedar Point does have a few other options for beating the heat, besides soak city.

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Breaker’s Beach is FREE to pass holders, so take advantage of it! They also have jet ski rentals, para-sailing, boats and more.

Food prices, as I stated earlier, can be overwhelming. For platinum pass holders, there are a few places to eat with food discounts. Otherwise, if you have a big family, bring a cooler and lots of charcoal.

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On especially hot days, we love to take in the FREE shows!

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Frontier Land always has something going on…

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All Wheels Extreme is Fabulous!

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Or check out the museum!

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There’s also a Petting Zoo….although, I’m not to thrilled about this one. It was so hot the day I took these pics. I can’t imagine what the animals felt.

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And of course…Roller Coasters abound!

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I have thousands of pics, way too many to upload for the purposes of this blog, but you get the idea. And so far  I’ve listed a lot of Pros. So how about the Cons? Well…

1. They need to have multiple pavilions throughout the park. They have one you pay to use…only feet from the entrance. And one that’s free, right outside the entrance. That means a long walk whenever the kids get hungry. But that’s the idea…right??? They want you to buy their over priced food.

2. MOST of the ride workers are utterly clueless about what’s going on in the rest of the park. They can basically answer yes and no questions and repeat only one they are trained to for that ride.

3. Some of the rides have gotten stuck for long periods of time in 90 degree heat. Been there…done that!

4. Those people who shove a camera in your face the MOMENT you step foot in the park??? EXCUSE YOU! Why would I pay you for a pic I can take myself, edit and print out on my own for PENNIES! It’s like being bombarded by telemarketers, only in PERSON! Knock it off!

5. PUT SOME CLOTHES ON! Some of the guests feel the need to flaunt what they clearly DO NOT have. Cover that crap up!

As the year goes on, I’ll update. For now I have to go pick up my son at his buddies house;)

The Oberlin Chalk Walk!

AWESOME!!!

My car’s a little colorful from the drive home; but we had a blast.

Every year, Oberlin hosts a fabulous chalk walk. Folks get together for some messy street art. Image

My daughter loved this guy! He’s a very talented street artist who happened to be drawing dogs…C loves dogs;)Image

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C and T poured out pretty much every single thing that came to mind.

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C literally became her art.

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Oberlin was part of the Underground Railroad.

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Lil T went through at least 5 cups of chalk.

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As the day progressed, this guys art took off….and C…well…she’d really become one with her art.

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There were so many creative displays, all around town.

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And TONS of vendors and FREE samples;) Everything from drinks, organic and not. Candies, popcorn, granolas…you name it!

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Photographers were everywhere….so I photographed them;)

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This one was inspired by the movie “Gravity”.

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The ‘Rainbow Haired Lass’, is C’s, as well as the storm clouds below. My friend Charlene did the Quote.

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Little R, Charlene’s daughter, had many close encounters with the color blue.

Oberlin Chalk Walk, 2014….flawless…

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