Nextdoor

One never knows who lurks next door, does one?  But good lord, one needs only to belong to a neighborhood social media group to experience by proxy the very worst in human behavior lurking right out there in the open.

Earlier today I sat down to pay the bills (and I swear on all that is true in this world, eleven hours later, I’ve done a million things today except pay the bills!).  Because I’m easily distracted though mostly because I don’t enjoy paying the bills, I checked my email (but also, some of my bills arrive electronically, so checking my email wasn’t exactly a complete waste of time toward the bill paying endeavor).  Anyway. . .

Scrolling through my junk email, deleting quickly as I clicked through 50-60 junk messages, I’m stopped by an email from the Nextdoor app with this subject header: Kid at door at 8:30 Sat. Morning.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t my kid up and at ’em by 8:30 on a Saturday morning, but for some reason, I clicked.  For the uninitiated, Nextdoor is a social media app used by residents to report on neighborhood goings-on, including critical news blasts such as this:

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“I am not donating because they woke us up.” To quote my friend Maureen, “Way to take a stand.” Sorry about the picture of a screen.  Super low-res of me–bad blogger, bad blogger.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I lost my darn mind over this post.  The natural response to online garbage in 2019 is to fire back aggressively and IN ALL CAPS, which of course, I did not do myself on the app because that would expose me as this person’s equal.  Instead, I took my crabby pants show on the road to Facebook, like a responsible adult does.  Bah!!  I know, I know. . .

How do people behave in such incredibly dim-witted ways?  How does an adult post a photo of a child not of his/her own in a ranty, pissed-off, online what’s going on in the neighborhood app–the kid’s full face, you guys–and not give it even a moment’s pause?  I thought it was probably a screen grab from a video doorbell, which, unlike my tech skills here, was quite high-resolution, quite clear.

I circled back at the Nextdoor post after a couple Facebook friends responded to my post, confirming my WTH-ness.  I noted that the post had been edited.

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See I blocked out the picture of the child who is not mine from my public forum.

You can see the tone had been ratcheted down a notch.  I considered maybe replying with a somewhat, “Have you considered how much this child’s mother and father are going to flip their shit when they see this?” comment, but I chose not to, and do you know why I didn’t?  I don’t want a person who thinks this is OK to know where I live.  Fear.  This is my neighbor???  Yikes.

Shortly thereafter, a sweet and wonderful neighbor whom I actually do know (not of the misanthropic variety) informed me that the Nextdoor post had been deleted.

I marinated in my crabby juices all morning over just how gross people can be.  How insensitive, unkind, vengeful, and, and, and. . .  I felt no end to the abyss of negative adjectives I could attach to such a creeptastic post.  These are my neighbors, you guys, the “jury of my peers,” as it were, and it hurt a little bit to think that such rottenness lurks so close to home.  Literally.  After a while, I decided I had to be done with it. To assuage the icky aftertaste of meanness, I would do something good.  No, not enjoy a margarita, silly friends, it was still morning!  I’ve decided to do some trolling of my own, trolling for donations.

Rumor has it that by June 1, Wisconsinites can reasonably expect that snow will be melted and the daily average temperature be above zero.  Mother Nature’s current pattern of behavior notwithstanding, June 1 weather is expected to be lovely.  June 1 will mark our family’s fifth annual MDA Muscle Walk.  It’s the one “MDA family” family reunion I’ve attended since my son’s diagnosis, and since Team Greater Than Gravity’s inception, you’ve helped me raise nearly $10,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  You can click here to be directed to our team page.  Join us for the walk in person or by plastic–I’ll take support however you’re willing to share it.  For your preparation, I’m a total wreck the day of the walk, but I show up.  I do my best for my kid, WHO, by the way, is getting better by the day since his close encounter with black ice.  Navigating slowly, but better with appropriate medication, time, heating pads, and some kickass get well swag from Nikki, Dena, and Ann–how I love you all–has helped.  Physical therapy begins next week.  Fingers stay crossed!

And?  If some cute little Cub Scout or Boy Scout visited your door this morning, tying a plastic bag onto your door latch?  Fill it up, won’t you?  You have an entire week until those same youngsters will be roving your neighborhood to retrieve the bags, hopefully filled with non-perishables next Saturday.  Let’s show them we’re better than one bad apple.

And? No. I still haven’t paid the bills. *sigh*

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RIP

Rest in peace, Bryan Rodriguez.

I never met the man, and I arrived near the scene after he had already been transported to the hospital, but I want to acknowledge his service to the community.  Seeing a man’s blood in the street with your own eyes changes things from “some poor guy, how terrible” to “the man whose blood painted a picture that will stick with me for some time.”

Bryan Rodriguez worked for the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works.  Friday morning he was doing that day’s job, repairing potholes, following behind a truck laden with asphalt pellets, presumably with shovel in hand. At 8:15 AM, a car slammed into him.

I got to one of my schools shortly before 10:00 Friday, in advance of an IEP meeting.  An IEP (individualized education plan) meeting is a special education event where students, parents, educators–regular and special ed, and administrators convene to discuss a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and develop a plan to address the student’s identified weaknesses.  I don’t have a figure, but I estimate that by now, I’ve been part of no fewer than 5,000 kids’ lives in such a way.

I noticed a cruiser along with police tape blocking the street just beyond the school’s, but didn’t think much more of it as my supervisor and I entered school and ascended the first set of stairs up toward our meeting.  Crime and the ensuing police presence are so familiar to me that I’m not proud to admit I didn’t give it much more thought.  I hadn’t yet met this student whose needs we were to discuss, so my mind was fixed on what I had read about the student and what I was going to say.

My supervisor and I stopped at the stair landing where another teacher began cataloging for us the events unfolding in the street below, unseen to us until we reached the bank of windows overlooking Seventeenth Street.  She relayed the circumstances of the accident as she knew them.  The driver and passenger bolted after Mr. Rodriguez was hit.  I could see the car partially wedged under the city truck, the man’s reflective vest on the ground.  The car had no plates.  Speed and/or inattentiveness was a factor.  The mayor had already been on-scene.  No more needed to be said.  It was understood that the DPW worker had been killed.  There had since been a steady stream of Public Works trucks passing by the scene of the crime.  I wondered if my husband had been behind the wheel of one of them.

Last Wednesday a Milwaukee Police Department officer was shot and killed by a man at whose house a search warrant was being executed.  Officer Matthew Rittner was killed in the line of duty, and the city mourned.  Twice in two days now, the city lost one of its employees.  Like Officer Rittner, whose body was escorted to the coroner’s office by a parade of law enforcement vehicles, Bryan Rodriguez’s now lifeless body was trailed by a procession of golden-yellow DPW trucks.  I found myself oddly comforted by that.

You bet this accident hit close to home.  Not only was I a late witness to this tragedy myself, but all I could think was it could just as easily have been my husband.  A reckless driver has already caused one of his buddy’s fingers to be severed.  Some idiot has shot at guys up in the bucket trucks.

I understand accidents happen, but I am willing to bet they happen less frequently when people actually give a damn about human life.  When I tell friends and family about events such as these, a typical response is, “Wow, don’t they care if they hurt someone?”  The desperate, terrifying, fundamental truth that needs to be understood before that question even gets asked is this: They don’t care enough about their own life to consider the lives of others.

No one goes into public service for its lavish salary, and the days of what used to be a promise of benefits some-day-in-the-future in lieu of premium wage-today have long since passed.  Internet trolls have had their field days with the loss of these two men this week, asserting “coulda-shoulda-wouldas” to somehow assign a sliver of blame to the victims.  Trolls, you’re despicable.  This guy set his alarm Friday morning, probably happy to have the weekend looming, maybe he’d grab a good old Milwaukee Friday night fish fry, have a couple of beers, I don’t know.  But I’m confident he thought he’d have that weekend.  His family couldn’t possibly have thought he’d never make it home.

I do not believe he will get a formal send-off similar to what the first responders do, but I feel at the very least he should receive a thank you for his service.  Thank you, Bryan Rodriguez, may you rest in peace.

 

 

To Hell And Back

My benchmark for social media sharing is “Would I be ashamed if my grandma or the superintendent of schools read what I’ve written?”  I crack wise, gush about my kids, marvel at my dog’s behavior, beg for money to support our MDA walk team, but I almost never sprinkle politics in with my friendly middle-aged musings.

It’s not that I fear offending anyone on the other side of the fence, and I certainly expect to change no one’s mind by sharing misleading headlines or clickbait that advance my point of view.  I just don’t.  Venom is out there, as easy to inhale as the very air we breathe.  I don’t want to be part of division.  I’m an adder togetherer.  Most of the time addition is the mathematics function suits me best.

At the Tuesday evening budget meeting of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, Amy Mizialko, vice president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (VP of union thugs like myself), was told to “go to hell” by a member of the school board.  Twice.  Amy stood at the podium questioning a suggested solution to looming budget deficits, asking for solutions that benefit or impact least, I suppose, children, families, and educators.

She singled out director Michael Bonds in her testimony, responding to an earlier proposal, a proposal that in my opinion creates a false dichotomy of budget options. The proposal suggests an either/or: teacher raises or cutting bussing for specialty schools. Other places to cut are out there (of course, I’d like to see people care about education and ADD to school budgets actually), but it’s now made to seem like the greedy teachers want what they want at the expense of students.

Yes, she called him by name, and his response? “You can go to hell.”  She looked stunned for only a microsecond by his words as she backed way from the microphone, but regrouped in a heartbeat and clarified, “I should go to hell?”

“Yeah, you should go to hell, you called my name out.”

THAT is how one of my district’s elected officials responds to its families and educators. And before he walked out of the meeting, he blasted teachers for test scores.

I send my children to the district in which I work.  I haven’t decided which part of my heart hurts more–the one that represents the twenty-seven years I’ve committed to the children of my city, or the one that represents my two children I’ve committed to a district who tells their mother to go to hell.  I’ve cried–at home and at work since the news came to my attention Wednesday morning.

I called the school board member who represents my district, whom I helped elect to her seat on the board.  I didn’t know what precisely to say (I mean besides the obvious), and I couldn’t offer a solution, but I had to say something.  I couldn’t not say something. I called as a parent who was disgusted and embarrassed, a parent whose children deserve better from the highest ranking district officials.  I spoke to our children about his outburst, telling them how angry I was that he disrespected their teachers, and that their teachers deserve better. I didn’t ask for nor do I expect a call back from my director, but I wish I would have had the clarity in the moment that Amy had when she responded the next evening by saying sure, we can go to hell. We go to hell and back every day for our students.

THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOUR CHILDREN.  You want teachers willing to go to hell and back for them, to do whatever it takes to reach and teach them.  Only thirty percent of my job is direct student contact at this time, and while I sometimes miss therapy and full-time student contact, I fret that I’d feel beat-down too hard/much to be 100% at all times. 100% is what our kids deserve.

Parents, you want and your kids deserve teachers willing to go to the ends of be earth for your children. Public education is a cornerstone of enlightened society. Demonizing your community’s educators is one sure way not to attract and retain excellent, committed professionals. But I won’t even begin down the privatization of public education path here. Some other day.

For years I’ve been saying that we’ll never “fix” schools until we “fix” the problems underlying impoverished communities. If you think my job is cushy because I don’t work in July, please come spend a day on 3rd & Ring Street with me, or cruise up Atkinson Avenue en route to my office and hang for an hour or two.

This collection of paragraphs is brought to you by a potty-mouthed (but never overtly cruel in my profanity) public educator. No shame in that, is there Grandma?

Road Rage

A parent never wants to learn that two cars were shooting it up as they raced/raged past your children’s school playground via social media.

Before you chide me with the inevitable “See, I told ya! I still can’t/never did/never will understand how you send your children to a city public school and/or remain a city of Milwaukee resident when it’s the fourth poorest city in the nation” call to action: no one was hurt.

My #2 heard the gunshots from the science room, but #1 didn’t hear anything from his classroom. Curiously enough, there was no mention of the shots fired made from either of my sons. Had I not asked Saturday morning, I don’t believe either child would’ve said anything, except perhaps in afterthought. My husband spent a few minutes studying the exterior of our Lannon stone home, looking for evidence of bullet strikes yesterday, and came up empty. We joked that the miscreants behind the wheels and triggers must’ve been expert marksmen–according to social media, MPD reported no artifacts had been found. One neighbor posted the 11:44 AM audio from his garage-mounted security camera; fourteen cracks unmistakable in their clarity. They had to have hit something. Themselves? Their cars?

No one at school was injured, the loss of innocence maybe the only casualty. I don’t even know what to do with the fact that gunshots heard in school didn’t even warrant a casual mention from either of my sons.  They both were outside hanging out yesterday, because when the temps hit upper 40s in January, you go outside!  I didn’t go into full freak out mode, and I don’t know what to do with the fact that I’m not freaked out enough.

If social media is to be trusted, it wasn’t a targeted school shooting, apparently a road rage incident gone local, and thank stars the kids had just come in from recess. Saying “well, it wasn’t a school shooting” is not to excuse or minimize ANY VIOLENT act, nope, but to illustrate that gun-wielding idiots with sub-average executive functioning skills permeate our society, “safe” neighborhoods and less safe ones alike. But no one cares, because no one will admit that this shameful, inexcusable behavior could happen LITERALLY in their backyard–it’s always in “those” neighborhoods among “those” people. And apparently we need our own personal arsenals to keep ourselves safe from “them.”  Well, it happened in my neighborhood, on my street.

I grew up with guns in the house; my parents and younger brother all hunters.  My ex-husband owned two handguns (which his mother ordered him to store at her house for awhile after I announced I was leaving him), yet for all the time I’ve spent with firearms in my houses, I’ve never touched a gun.  I don’t understand the allure. I do understand that while we say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” people are less likely kill someone with their fists than with a handgun or semi-automatic.

But this isn’t a blog about weaponry.  It’s a blog about being a parent whose kid has a shit disease.  A disease that renders him slow and clumsy and an easy target.  He got lucky this time; they all did.

I started another assignment at a new school Monday. This is one of the windows in my new classroom, the one right behind my head when I’m sitting at my desk–and yes, it’s in one of “those” neighborhoods, so it’s OK, right? And sure, it’s only probably BB pellets, so whatevs, “those” people don’t mind or don’t deserve safe environs.

I sent this photo to a group of my friends, and one of the girls responded by telling me that before her office moved, she found a gun alongside a stash of cocaine in the bushes outside her workplace.   It’s not just here, and it’s not just now.  I didn’t understand it then, nor do I now, and I sure as heck have no solutions to replace violence on this earth with peace in its stead.  My little mantra, be kinder than is necessary, seems to fall short and on deaf ears.  But still, do that: be kinder than is necessary, that is.  It’s a start anyway.