O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
At 23, I got married. At 29, I was a stay-at-home mom of a 3-year-old and a newborn, going through a divorce, and suddenly homeless. But for the grace of my parents, who let the three of us stay with them temporarily, I am certain we would have landed in a shelter. Those awful circumstances were a game-changer for me. Eleanor Roosevelt said:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
I was 29, sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office, trying to figure out my life, when I first saw this quote. And I thought, YES! Yes, this is me. I wasn’t given the choice to walk away. I had two small people depending on me to go forward and raise them. I was alone and I was scared. I went back to work as a preschool teacher because this was what I had gone to school for. It was a means to an end. I could provide for the girls, but it was a really draining existence. I was spending eight hours a day working with other people’s children and 16 hours a day with my own. I was completely overwhelmed by the demands of small children 24-hours a day. I made a choice. I left teaching preschool and landed a job working for my divorce attorney (ironic, I know).
At that point, I knew that my first and most important job, beyond basic survival, was ensuring that Abby and Rachel had the best possible, fulfilling, and textbook-normal childhood as possible. I had survived a truly awful divorce, which had scared the life out of me. I was now faced with raising two lovely ladies to the best of my ability. I was privileged to experience a “model” childhood. These girls deserved the same, and more. I did all the things: museums, art, science experiments, music, culture, diversity, and giving of oneself to others less fortunate, oppressed, needing justice. These girls were being raised to be powerful women. That was my job, and I meant business.
Fast forward to middle school for Rachel, and high school for Abby. To my dismay, Spanish and Health were eliminated from the curriculum in the prior year in the middle schools because of budget cuts. This was aggravating to me. Curriculum should not be regressive; it should be progressive. Rachel was missing out on important opportunities that her sister had. I complained to those around me. Nothing happened.
Abby was very excited to begin high school. She has a natural thirst for knowledge. In front of her she held the course selection catalog. The world of learning was her oyster. She chose all her classes, one of those to include World Geography. Come the fall, Abby got her schedule and conspicuously missing from her schedule in both semesters was World Geography. That class hadn’t been offered at West High School for a number of years because there weren’t enough students looking to take the class. This was also aggravating. Why were classes offered but then not run? This time I complained to those around me and to school board member Sarah Ambrogi. She is who explained the “not enough students to make up a class” rule and encouraged me to reach out to the school administration. Instead of further complaining, I ran for school board. With all the single-mom experience I had under my belt, I knew that complaining was no longer sufficient. I had to take action. I had to face the fear and enter into the unknown to try to help solve the problem. I ran for school board. I was elected. Today, Spanish and Health are back in the curriculum at the middle school. Am I the reason they are back there? HECK no. Did my support of these curricular items help get them back to the students? Yes, they did.
So now. Today. Why alderwoman at large? Looking back on the last 19 years of my life, it is easy for me to say, WHY NOT? I was given the choice to lay back and let things happen to the girls and me, or pull myself up out of the muck and focus on raising two healthy, successful, wonderful and amazing women. The latter choice was scary as all get-out.
But it was also the only choice I could live with – the same as with the school curriculum issues. Fear got me nowhere. Floundering around and complaining got me nowhere. I chose hard work and effectuating change, both in motherhood and the school board. Now my focus is on the city as a whole. We have an amazing mayor. Every day she puts in everything she has to make Manchester better. That resonates with me. Positive thinking creates change and opportunities. I personally know this to be a fact.
Manchester has so much going for it. I was raised here. I chose to raise my girls here. The transformation I have witnessed over the years has been enormous. The millyard was once a wasted, run-down space but is now the hub of computer technology, medical technology, and secondary education. This growth has been amazing to see, and it needs to continue.
The renovation of the millyard would not have been possible if Manchester didn’t have a solid infrastructure to appeal to businesses and people to want to come here. This city is blessed with some of the hardest-working employees. From the firefighters who are always on hand to fight fires and respond to medical emergencies; to the men and women of the Manchester police department who are on the front lines fighting crime; to the members of the highway department who pave, plow, collect trash, repair potholes, maintain our beautiful city parks; to the City clerk’s office; tax collector’s office; the city welfare office; waterworks department; our beautiful city library; and the incredible Manchester School District, whose employees are some of the most dedicated people the world has ever seen.
I chose Manchester to raise my family. I chose to serve on the school board for the past three terms. Now, I am choosing to continue to serve Manchester as Alderwoman at-large. I have confidence that I can represent the city as a whole with positivity; integrity; respect for all citizens; strength; and reasonableness. For the past several years this position on the board has been vastly underserved. I am running to change that dynamic.
Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? We welcome your thoughtful submissions on topics of interest. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: The Soapbox