Monday, July 31, 2017

#ParkTV As I See Things (Four)

#ParkTV Four
As I See Things

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a child psychologist about “Orchid Children VS Dandelion Children.” I had never heard the theory before so I left his office and read up on it. You can read the link I have provided to “dig deeper” (ha) but I’ll sum it up for you: some kids thrive in any circumstances (dandelions) and some need special treatment to bloom (orchids,) Of course, as with anything, all the pressure and responsibility and reward depends on parenting and education.

No pressure.

Plants. Roots. Heritage. Where we grow. Our environment.

I just finished reading a book:

August 15, 1901

This book can’t be bought in any bookstore. It wasn’t published by a major house. It bears no ISBN number. I found it in my attic. Yes. The infamous attic. Over the 3 ½ years we have lived in this house, I have unearthed and sold/kept many an item, including but not limited to:

  1. A 48 star flag
  2. Pink China from the 1930’s, new in the box
  3. A stack of Vermont Life magazines from as early as the 1950’s
  4. A Kewpie doll
  5. An original Maxfield Parrish print
  6. Ice skates that fit
  7. Dresses that fit
  8. A photo of Lt. Cobb from the Civil War (I still don’t know who he is, but he is displayed)
  9. And so on (you get the idea)

This book was written by a man named Albert Clarke and it seems to have been prepared as a speech to be read at a celebration of “Old Home Week” on the “Common” (park) in Rochester. In other words, I found a script from an old episode of #ParkTV back before there were TVs or any way to blog about #ParkTV. Here is an excerpt:


“O, grand old hills, who saw these scenes and helped to make these people what they are, I never see or think of them without feeling that they are
                        ‘A part
Of me and of my soul, as I of them.’

and I envy those who are privileged to live here the delight of climbing them and taking in the sweetest air which they give forth and thinking the lofty thoughts which they inspire. What the 20th century may have in store for Rochester, I know not. Changes will come, of course, but while the influence of these hills remain, I cannot think the future will be less glorious than the past and I commend to every new inhabitant the heritage of the high example of the residents who have had their day and gone, a study and development of the natural resources of the region, contentment to remain here coupled with ambition to do the best and utmost for themselves and town, and, greater than all the rest, a ceaseless and reverent contemplation of the glories of Nature, which are revealed here in their perfection and which enable and exalt the soul.”

So much of what Clarke shared was fantastic and profound, but I am going to pick just one aspect to focus on: being “content” to remain here.

Last week, I spent a sunny afternoon contemplating the glories of Nature by ripping weeds out of my vegetable garden. It has been raining a lot this summer, which is great for lettuce, squash, tomatoes and corn, but also supportive of unwelcome invasives. I donned my pink rubber gloves and plopped myself at a corner next to my collection bucket. I grabbed the first weed by the stalk and yanked; it broke away leaving many tendrils behind. I went to the workshop for my hand trowel, dug around the remaining root ball and pulled again. This time I removed every last piece.

Ah. Gone for the moment, but they'd be back. Like dandelions.

Pulling at those weeds not only gave my garden the chance to thrive, I fell into a rhythm of digging, tearing, dumping as I allowed my thoughts to drift with the sounds.

The school board has announced that any of the students in grades 9-12 at Rochester High School can attend the school for the 2017-18 school year but they will be offered only online classes. If this is not a desired option for families, students can choose to attend any school on a generated list and tuition will be paid. Needless to say, our family has to make a decision about our two oldest for this year —which will begin in about a month— rather than next year. Aside from shopping around and making lists of pros and cons, I am clueless about how to facilitate making a final choice about the future of my children’s education.

I thought about the two “nearby” schools we visited a few days before, what other families have chosen to do, how small the high school had become and how while one son was part of a class of a dozen kids, my other son’s class had dwindled to only four. With the cost of education due to all the mandates, it is impossible to sustain.

“Be careful what you ask for because you just may get it,” I thought. I wanted a choice and now there is one. We HAVE to choose.

I wasn’t pro-Model One (Study Committee One Stop Shop) because my decision for school options were removed and my thinking was done for me and with this model, there was only one choice. Declining enrollment and Act 46 caused of the destruction of our school. It is terribly sad that things have come to this.

Clarke didn’t see this coming. In his book, he spoke of education: “In 1790, two years after the town was organized, a tax of 20 pounds was voted for the schooling of children, and 10 pounds for all other town expenses. This showed the importance attached to education and ever since then Rochester has been known as a town of culture.” Clarke goes on to describe the various school districts and how there grew to be 522 students and 16 school “districts” in Rochester. But now, obviously, the population has decreased.

Yes. Those of us who have chosen to live here in this place owe it to those who lived here in the past to be happy about being here and do what’s best for ourselves and for the town all while revering nature. That’s why I’m still here watching #ParkTV.

The hard part now is that I have to rip my children up by their roots and rely on another place to give them exactly what they need. 

Maybe they’re dandelions rather than orchids.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

#ParkTV As I See Things (Three)

“May you live all the days of your life.”
Jonathan Swift

Living life is the only way to live life, right? For if you’re not alive you’re obviously not living. I wonder if Swift meant “live it up” or maybe he meant to be aware of every moment. Perhaps his words slipped out or someone misquoted him.

Anything’s possible. We obviously can’t ask him what he meant since he died hundreds of years ago. We can’t question the dead. Finality is the hard part about death.

My late father John Braun (his obituary) was terrible at small talk. Once he asked someone, “When you walk to work, do you walk to work?” It was one of his most quoted quotes. He had a few good ones.

After he died, memories of him tended to wash over me almost constantly. I thought of his many funny stories and his advice a lot and now that he’s gone, I have to figure things out without him, rely upon myself and find my true voice.

My courage to stand up against the establishment came from my father. He often said, “Remember, you’re Amy Goddamn Braun. Never let them tell you otherwise.” In other words… be yourself and follow only what you know to be true.

Even though I have little control over the outcome, it’s been important to express my feelings about local politics. As verbal and unfiltered as I can be at times —like my father— no one doubts where I stand. He would be proud.

Although the town of Rochester voted “NO” to the Model One Merger in late June (read here for more information), the Study Committee (706 B) for the Supervisory Union still had to free us.

We have been under 706 B’s control (forced to be a reality because of Act 46) from the beginning and they had to VOTE to relinquish this control! If you’re not confused, that’s because you haven’t attend enough meetings.

There have been SO MANY meetings and either my husband or I have attended as many as possible to stay ahead of the curve. 706 B was formed to make decisions for the children of our town, the majority of these meetings were not held in our town and public comments were taken at the END of every meeting. 706 B members from other towns said things like: “I know this is bad for Rochester but…” or “I’m aware the travel for Rochester will be more and the hours longer for the kids but…” And then 706 B voted to make Model One our only choice.

Okay… okay… that’s in the past and I should let it go, but we still had another hurdle: Article 13 (which was later added to this document ). If you are from Rochester, please read the chart entitled Attachment C on page 31 and notice that the Bingo Property (DEEDED TO THE CHILDREN OF ROCHESTER) was to be transferred at no cost. Hmmm. Also note this language on page 18: “Note: This table is for illustration purposes only. These models are estimates and projections. Actual tax rates will vary depending on state policy decisions, actual changes in equalized pupils, and spending decisions of boards. Note also that these tax estimates do not include possible excess penalties, particularly for Rochester in the "No Mergers" scenario.”

In other words: “Resistance is futile.” We are the BORG!" Give up. We know what you need. Infuriating.

Okay. I’ll stop. It’s in the past. Or is it? Why was fear used? I am still bitter about this and at times I wonder what’s next. Seems like it is best that we maintain local control, no? Or at least make sure that the entity in control is not on the other side of a mountain.

At length on July 6th, 706 B and the public discussed what to do next. At one point a person from Bethel sitting next to me whispered, “I don’t understand what’s going on. I thought Rochester voted no. Doesn’t that mean you’re done with the merger? What is this meeting about anyway?”

I said, “They have to vote to release us and they have to vote to reject Plan B.”

She asked, “Do you know what Plan B is in the medical world?” She’s a nurse.

After I shook my head no, she told me Plan B is a code name for the abortion pill. Then she said, “Abort. Abort. Abort the mission.”

I laughed. What else was there to do but laugh? This whole thing has been exhausting and confusing. It was designed that way. Here’s another good quote I’ve been thinking about lately: “If you are not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.” Jack Welch.

Uh-huh. That about sums things up.

Before voting, 706 B summarized:
  1. An affirmative vote is negative to Article 13 so that means we are not moving forward with the plan if we affirm it.
  2. Dissolving Plan B dissolves the plan to merge with Bethel which would have been temporary anyway and is not the best solution.
  3. We will all have to go back to the drawing board.
  4. We are running out of time.

Of course there was a lot of discussion. The woman next to me raised her hand and declared, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what’s happening. What’s next?”

The head of 706 B patiently explained the situation in different terms, after which I felt even more confused. Affirmative is negative. Not moving. Voting. Dissolving. Affirmative. Ok. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

And alas, one of the members of 706 B from Bethel said, “I came here tonight with a different opinion but now I changed my mind. I don’t want Rochester to have to be attached to us anymore. I don’t want to hold anyone hostage. Rochester should be free to go off and do whatever it is that they want to do next.”

Yes! I was so relieved that she was willing to let Rochester go. But now 706 B has more work to do as they have to find another solution for Bethel and South Royalton. I am sorry 706 B members. It is not your fault. It was created this way. Designed to enmesh us. To scare us.

But letting Rochester go was the right thing to do. We have been released. I fought tears of relief. Tears of gratitude.

Lately my tears are so close to the surface because I’m also grieving the loss of my father. Time will help. Rituals help too. Help me to let go. To release him.

Just a few weeks ago, when my cousin held a memorial for my father in Georgia we had several rituals: two Marine’s folded a flag in his honor and presented it to my oldest brother, Chris. They also gave a small flag to my father’s widow. We told stories and watched a slideshow of his life. Then by the pond we set off fireworks and lit five Japanese lanterns and released them. As the glowing orbs drifted up, I thought: Bye dad. I’ll miss you. I’ll miss hearing your laugh.

But I won’t forget the things you taught me:
You taught me to question things.
You taught me to stand up for myself and others.
You taught me the value of working hard.

After the orbs disappeared from sight I noticed that a swarm of red ants had crawled from the warm Georgia soil and onto my feet. I swiped at them as they nibbled.

Yes. I’m still here. Living. Feeling pain at his loss.

Time to let go. To move on.

And yes dad, when I walk to work, I’ll walk to work. I’ll think of you sometimes and I’ll smile.

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