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The High School Service Project

23 Mar

My daughter Abigail is a senior in high school and had to do a mandatory service project that involved researching a societal issue. Abigail and her partner chose to do their project on foster care, and the shortage of foster parents.

One of the requirements of the project is to have a written piece published and to try to garner some feedback from the public on the subject. So, I would greatly appreciate it if you could leave a comment at the bottom with your thoughts on foster care. Thank you.

Foster Care

by Abigail Zableny

Imagine being 17 years old and moving into your 30th foster home. This is the life that real children here in Rochester have to face. There are thousands of children that are put into foster care because their parents are not equipped to take care of them. These children are often unsafe at home, abused, or neglected. If they are not properly loved and cared for as a decent family would treat them, then once they age out at around 18 years old they have to live independently without any basic skills or a family to fall back on when life throws obstacles their way. It is our job as a community to seek out these children that need our help and guide them towards bright futures that any child deserves.

As a senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School for Young Women I have found one of our own community members, gym teacher Stephanie Barbero, who took on the generous experience of opening up her home to a foster child.  Upon interviewing Stephanie, she explained the process and somewhat strenuous tasks that she and her family had to experience. A 17 year old girl approached Stephanie and asked to be a part of her family. This request was one Stephanie could not refuse. Before bringing the young woman into her home, she held a meeting with her family to inform them on what was going to happen. She described the situation as being “in it to win it” with her entire family. The Barbero family was able to accept another member into their lives and thankfully not worry about finances being strained. However, mental and emotional life was a different story. Some of Stephanie’s children were the same age as their foster child so they had to learn to share with one another which is sometimes difficult for 17 year old girls to do.

Despite the emotional toll of taking in a child with a rough background and opening up her entire life to her, Stephanie states that she would do it all over again if she was presented with the opportunity. In the future however, Stephanie would be apprehensive in how she handles another foster child. She reports that her family actually gave the foster child too much which was hard for her to deal with since she had moved around so much. She wasn’t used to having her own bedroom or other personal items and the Barberos provided her with everything she could ever need as if she was one of their own children. This ended up being too hard for her which leads Stephanie to the conclusion that next time she would ease a foster child into this new life of loving care so that they feel more comfortable with having their own personal items for possibly the very first time in their life.

Stephanie’s final thoughts on the issue of foster care touched on what are called the Core Values of Mercy, which are held by our school Our Lady of Mercy. These are basic attitudes and behaviors that when fulfilled, live out a spirited life of Mercy. Two key values that relate to foster care are hospitality and compassionate service. Regarding hospitality Stephanie states, “You need to just open up your entire world to this one person”. She agrees that you must have compassion to open up and attend to whatever their needs are and try to understand their past but accept them and treat them like a human being no matter what struggles they have gone through.

Stephanie Barbero proves the point that being a foster parent is not an easy task, however it is definitely a rewarding one. From the very moment that 17 year old girl walked into the Barbero home, many lives were changed forever. Stephanie now knows what it is like to give to a young child that needs guidance and love but hasn’t received it until almost adulthood. Any child in foster care deserves to be treated with these qualities especially since that has been a vital missing part of their lives. The Barberos are just a normal Rochester family that did an extraordinary thing for someone else that they didn’t even know. As a community, we must be more accepting towards these children that so desperately just want to be reunited with their parents or just be with a family that will love them unconditionally. If we see someone struggling and we have the resources to help and provide for them, why not help them?


The Blues = Feeling Down, The Plaids = Too Many Emotions

3 Sep

I used to love this time of year as a kid.  It was a time for renewing… new school year, new clothes (after I stopped going to Catholic school), new swim season, new kids in my class, new TV season.  I freakin’ loved it.

Remember in the 1970’s when they would have that special on Friday night that previewed all the new Saturday morning cartoons?  I lived for that shit.

In mid-August when I would first see the football players out practicing at the high school, I’d get all tingly.  No, not my naughty bits because they were boys and all, but because football would start soon and games were very exciting to me.  I loved going to the games.  I was a cheerleader.  I was briefly in the marching band… don’t laugh, we used to do all these cool elaborate half time shows, that was fun.  But then I became a cheerleader and that was the end of band.

First and foremost I was on the swim team.  I started swimming on the varsity team when I was in 7th grade.  Yea, bitches.  I got my first varsity letter when I was in the 8th grade.  See, I used to be good at something.  I couldn’t wait for that season to start in the Fall every year.  I was even really dedicated to going to two-a-day practices, 6:30am and 3:00pm.  What the hell has happened to me?

Then having my own kids, I would get all excited for Fall.  My son played football and the girls play soccer.  More fun and excitement to look forward to.  I love the hoopla of cheering for our school.

But today September 3rd, 2013…  I feel agitated.  I feel agitated, annoyed, sad, trapped, unmotivated, unhappy and I can’t even think of another word to describe this.    I hate it.

I want to feel joy again.  I want to feel excitement.  I want to feel renewed.

I don’t.

I think there are various reasons.  Maybe PMS, maybe peri-menopause, maybe because I have a possible torn achilles and the fucking doctor won’t see me until Thursday, maybe because I just lost my Dad in October and now my Mom’s health is very bad, maybe it’s because I don’t have my own place, maybe it’s because I’m having trouble getting this next project out the door.  Whatever it is, I just can’t seem to get it to go away over the past 9 or 10 months.

I’m not saying this to be like “Oh woe is me”… I just want it to GO THE FUCK AWAY!  I don’t like feeling this way.  I don’t want to feel this way.  I try to simply “choose” not to feel this way.  But none of that works.  I seriously think I need a shake up.  Or an exorcism.   Hard core drugs?  What are the closest thing to “happy pills”, uppers?  How about electroshock?

Last year I endured a long stretch of “happy”.  Woot!  I have the itch to have that again.  Damn, I want to feel something.  Have you ever just felt nothing?  Like numb? That’s also what I feel.   Is that when people start doing dumb things like cutting or sluttin’ around?  Is it possible to feel anxious, angry, and numb all at the same time?  I think that there are so many emotions, they have blended together to make me numb.  It’s like the blues… these are “the plaids”, so many colors/emotions they become almost one blur of color/emotion from far away.

Jesus Christ, will you stop with the banging around outside?!!!!!

They are digging up the street outside, replacing sewer lines.  Maybe that’s why I’m so irritated.  Shut the fuck up, already

Is this just regular middle-aged crap?  I didn’t want this blog to be a Debbie Downer but hey maybe someone else can relate.  Ladies?  Gentleman?  Bueller?

Calgon take me away…


Sports Moms I’d Like to Take a Meat Cleaver To…

22 Aug

I am proud to announce that my 16 year old daughter just made the varsity soccer team at her high school.  And I might add, it is the same all girls Catholic high school that soccer superstar Abby Wambach played for!  A fine soccer tradition, indeed.  I’m so proud!

Which brings me to a subject my dear friend Wendi has suggested a few times but I’ve stayed away from because I fear I might explode while writing the blog.  The subject is…

Sports Moms

I’m pretty sure those of us at a certain age never had a parent present ever when we played sports.  I competed in gymnastics, swimming, track, and cheerleading from about the age of 6 thru high school, was a college cheerleader (don’t laugh) and attempted swimming for a month or two in college and decided it took much time away from fraternity parties.  But I digress, I did all those sports and really don’t ever remember my parents being at any of those events.  And that’s just how it was back then.

Oh wait, I do remember my Dad being at a few events because he was a swim and track official at times.  You know, the guy with the starting gun?  But ya’ know he wasn’t allowed to cheer for us or I think even acknowledge we were his children.  Hell, he even got paid. Great, my Dad got paid to watch my sport events.  *dejected face*

Now I’m a Sports Mom.  Over the past 16 years, my kids have participated in hockey, football, rugby, soccer, tennis, softball, track, cross country, volleyball, and lacrosse.

It’s all different now, there is such peer pressure (and I believe school pressure) for parents to attend every damn event their kid has, that you begin to get a label.  And the peer pressure has had some Moms create their own bad label.  Sports Moms in particular have very specific types.

But before I reveal the types of Sports Mom can I just make a public plea to DO AWAY WITH THE FUCKING MID-GAME AND POST-GAME SNACK!  We didn’t need it, they don’t!  I survived an entire swim meet without a snack in the middle.  My brothers survived basketball and football games without a snack in the middle.  Nor did we need a snack the second the game finished, we some how survived the ride home or the ride to the burger joint.   My kids are, thank the sweet nekkid baby Jesus, past the snack age.  But when I had three kids playing 3 sports a year and I had to pay attention to a God damn snack schedule?  I wanted to gut the team Mom like a fish.

So stop it.

Ok, Types of Sports Moms…

1.  The Pitbull.  Bitch, you crazy!  She acts like her kid is playing in the NHL, when it’s an age 8-9 year old house league game.  She’s hollerin’ and screamin’ and usually has no idea of the rules of the game.  Her: “Tripping?  That wasn’t tripping!  Terrible call, Ref!”  Me (on same team):  “Yea, actually it was tripping.   We deserve the penalty.”  Also 9 times out of 10 her kid is a God-awful player.

2.  The Nursemaid.  According to her, her kid has every ailment known to mankind.  Of course the kid has asthma and peanut allergies.  Then he gets on the field and falls down, she has to have the coach pull him out and check him for a concussion.  Then she’s got the kid thinking he has every ailment, when he doesn’t so he becomes really hesitant.  “Oh look out for Jimmy’s fallen arches!”.  Might as well just put your kid in bubble wrap, lady.

3.  Pep Squad Mom.   This Mom lives vicariously through her child and becomes obsessed with their activities.  She’s the one that has the stick figure stickers on the car that portray what the kid is into.  In addition she has a plethora of  “Titan Cheer – Ashley” and “Warrior Hockey – Dylan” emblem stickers on the back of the car.  If that weren’t bad enough, she takes it upon herself to place an order for “Monarch Soccer” three-quarter zip sweatshirts that I can’t afford but now am getting pressured to get from the kid because “everyone else on the team is ordering one”.  Fuck you, lady.

4.  The Invisible Mom.  Never shows up to anything.  Kid always needs a ride home.  Never volunteers.  Kid never has necessary paperwork or equipment.

5.  The Assistant Coach.  This parent is not really a coach but sits on the sideline the entire game, yelling instructions and giving her evaluation of every position, player, and play.   Lady, you mention one more time that my kid hangs back too much, I’m going to come over and punch you in the throat.  Until they put you on the bench with the kids… STFU!

6.  The Slacker Mom.  Unfortunately this is what I’ve become.  When I was due to bring snack, I usually had to run to the corner store during the game and buy a package of Rice Krispie Treats because I never remembered my snack time.  God forbid I like, cut up orange slices or made homemade whatevers… I’m a shitty mom, I know.  I used to have my folding chair in a bag right there on the sidelines, but now… I sit in the car half the time.  Fall and Spring are still cold in NY!  I’ve been watching kids play sports for 16 years now, I deserve a comfy seat.  Hey, I keep the window partially opened, so I can cheer on my kid a little!

7.  The Twat.   She only has a select few parents on the team she will talk to.  She is far superior to you.  She is usually dressed in tennis or golf attire or Vineyard Vines.  She is not paying all that much attention to what’s going on on the field or in the pool or on the rink… but she will make sure you all overhear what’s going on in her life.  “Well Ted and I just got back from the Cayman’s.  We needed to get back to take Anna to her horse show.  Then we are taking the kids to Europe.  But making sure we have enough time afterwards to take Hunter to ski school in Vermont for the winter.”  I always want to say, “Oh I just got back from the Dept. of Social Services re-certifying for foodstamps, oh it’s just lovely there this time of year!”  But now my kids keep telling me they are going to step in and say, “My Mom wrote a book, did you?”  I admire my feisty kids.

Did I miss any type of Mom?  I’m sure I did.  Add your favorite types in the comments below…

(also don’t forget to check out my new blog for right here)

A Sharknado of Emotions

1 Aug

The human brain is really amazing.  Well the combination of the brain and body is really amazing.  Ok, no really the combination of brain, mind, body, heart, soul is just kooky.

Ya’ know how sometimes you ask a person, “What’s wrong?” and they say, “I don’t know”?  Well it can be true… or they’re an overly dramatic asswipe that just wants to milk the attention.  But let’s say it is really true.  It’s because something has triggered your brain to create an emotion of which you weren’t even aware.  You know subconscious-like.  There are also two things called “muscle memory” and “sensory memory”.  Muscle memory is just what it says, your muscles remembering repetitive movements.  You’ve heard the term “It’s like riding a bike”… you never forget.  Sensory memory is like when you smell a certain smell and memories come flooding back.  Whenever I smell cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes, I immediately think about the Chatauqua County Fair.  Ride motors and smoking carnies abound.  I know I’m strange.  Very Pavlovian of me, I want to immediately buy curly fries with vinegar.

So this weekend, all that stuff crept up on me and launched an attack of epic proportions, rivaling a Sharknado and Amanda Bynes throwing bongs at the same time.

As I said Tuesday, I went to the town I grew up in for my high school reunion.  No one in my family has lived there since 1981.  I haven’t even been to visit in 2 or 3 years and I’m only an hour and 45 minutes away.  So, at one point I decided to take a ride around looking at some old haunts, one of which was the house I grew up in.

We originally lived in a beautiful colonial house that my Grandfather built in 1908.  But when I was 3 my Dad was named Administrator of the county run nursing home and it was required that we (all 8 of us) live in this dinky ranch house adjacent to the home.  They’ve since abandoned that practice and the house has been vacant for several years.

I drove out to that house and as I drove up the driveway, completely out of the blue, completely unstoppable, I start tearing up.  I park and get out of the car to go look in the windows and I start to sob uncontrollably.  What the fuck?!  I go around looking in every window sobbing.  Jesus, I hope somebody doesn’t drive by, they would think I was hysterical and looking for a crack house or something to get my fix.

Then it dawned on me.  I missed my Dad.  It was the first time I’d been back since he died.  My Dad just passed away in October of this past year, about 2 months shy of his 90th birthday.  So it wasn’t any grand tragic unexpected loss.  We knew it was coming some time.  But nonetheless when it happened it was really sad.  I may be an adult but he’ll always be my Daddy.

So being at that house triggered everything.  The smell of the trees, the feel of the brick, the sound of the creek across the street, the visions of my Dad walking across the lawn to work.  As I looked in the windows, I saw my youth.  I saw my Mom cooking and my Dad sitting at the dining room table.  Jesus, I’m getting verklempt just writing this.  Somebody smack me!

I tend to consider myself not overly emotional.  With all I’ve been through I try to keep things in check.  But man, this just came over me like a torrential downpour of emotion.  I was sad, yet happy.  I was longing, yet content to be there.  So to further fuel my craving for all things Dad, I drove over to the home and took pictures of the fountain with the boy with the boot in front, which we used to play in.  Not like in in, but sit beside and stick our hands in.  Then I called my Mother sobbing.  I said I missed Dad, and her (she lives in AZ) and thanked her for a great childhood.  She was sad the youngest of her 6 children was crying but understood.

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It took me a while to to calm down.  Then I went to a picnic with classmates looking like the drunk girl who had been crying in the bathroom of the  bar all night.  I eventually got my shit together.  But man, how powerful was that?  I understand I am still grieving, you know how they say it’s a process and all.  And I will be for a while.  It has hit me at other unsuspecting times like seeing something he liked in a grocery store.  Oh yea, Wegmans is now like, “Here comes the crying lady again, get ready for a wet cleanup in aisle 3”.  I catch myself thinking, “Don’t be such a weenie”, but I guess I don’t have much of a chance with that mind-body connection… I’ll just have to let it takes its course.

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As the Weird Guy Gropes…

30 Jul

I have about 5,000 things I want to write about at this time but some I don’t think are fit for human consumption.  I mean I just don’t know who’s reading anymore and I don’t want to piss anybody off or divulge their criminal acts.  heh

But this weekend I went to my high school reunion.  I went to two in fact.  You see I was born and raised in a city south of Buffalo, then when I was 16 my parents moved to a town basically between Rochester and Syracuse.  That fucked me up for life, but I’ll save that for another time.  I usually attend both and this year they were on the same weekend.  So I went to one place Friday and one place Saturday.  I think I had 5 hours sleep the entire weekend.

Me and Dolly

One of the more tame pictures of me partying this weekend (with my friend Denice)

Let’s face it high school pretty much sets up the model for the rest of your life.  In life as in high school there is a certain hierarchy to things, as well as cliques, groups, and types of personalities.  And don’t forget the politics.  I believe adult life involves far more politics in the workplace,  your kids schools and athletic teams than any other rinky dink problem in high school.  A douchebag boss who favors the co-worker with the big jugs and always gets the better client list is far more detrimental than the teacher who looked the other way while athletes cut class. (or smoked pot, or sexually harassed girls, or whatever… ok maybe the sexual harassment thing is a little more detrimental)

Wait, I’m kind of veering off the road of what I wanted to talk about.  Me go off on a tangent?  Never.  It’s like I was driving down I-95 and I suddenly end up at “Al’s Alligator Farm” on a dirt road with “Private land, no hunting” signs where they dump the bodies…

So anyway, the one thing you always have throughout life are different personalities.  There are just undeniable long standing stereotypes.  I love everybody and I am nice to everybody but I get frustrated at a point with one type…

The Weird Guy.


The quintessential weird guy – Gary Busey.

I encountered a couple this weekend.  I always try and be nice to this person because I’m compassionate and I feel bad.  Everyone has good in them.  You never know, they may have a mental disability or a really fucked up home life or maybe they are a crack baby, I don’t know.  There are those select few who do outgrow weird guy status, but there are those that can’t seem to shake it to save their lives.

I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means but there are just some people (mainly guys) that are just incredibly socially awkward and end up being creepy.   Then they usually give me the “Oh I don’t know why women are so crazy and can’t date a nice guy like me”…

Dude… it’s not the wominz, it’s you.  You’re FUCKING CREEPY!

I want to help.  I really do.  I try.  I try to say things nicely.  “Maybe update your clothing, throw out your dead Grandpa’s clothes and hit Old Navy or The Gap, for Christ’s sake Target would be better than what you have on!”  Ok, I didn’t really say the last part.  I’ve said, “Don’t be so direct and “leering””  “Don’t make stupid outdated hokey jokes.”  “Learn to read body language, if she doesn’t seem interested, GO AWAY!  Save your dignity man.”  “A hug does not mean she wants to marry you… or sleep with you… or perhaps ever even talk to you again.”  “For the love of God, no unwanted touching… don’t grope!”  (I was subjected to a groper this weekend)

I don’t know, reading the above makes me consider the guys may be autistic.  I don’t mean that in a mean or funny way, it is actually a part of being autistic, not being able to interact socially in some cases.

I sometimes think the only way to get through to someone is tough love.  Like if you’ve ever seen “Millionaire Matchmaker” with Patti Stanger, she yells at them and is really blunt.  Which I sometimes find offensive but I do think it’s the only way to get through to some people.  Because if you’re nice… they think you are interested and want to date them.   See, they can’t filter properly.  So she yells, “Stop being so fucking creepy”.  Expletives bleeped out of course.

There are times that the best thing that happened to me was someone getting in my face and telling me to stop being so whiny, or bitchy, or filled with self-doubt, or fat or whatever… (there’s a list, believe me)

Maybe that’s the only way to get through to some people.  I always listen to criticism and try to change, even when it’s painful.  Holy crap, especially after putting my stuff out there with a book, I’ve been told everything from “You are hilarious and will be a best seller!” to “I just wiped my ass with your book.”  I was even told to change my picture.  But I take it all in, process, change some stuff, take inventory, and move on.  I wonder if some people just don’t have that capability.  Then there are the people that hear and don’t change a thing because they are convinced they know better.  Ummmm, how’s that been working for you so far?  Still not dating any women or getting a new job, well then by all means keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.  Keep on keepin’ on!  Stay creepy!  Try to remember… change is good.

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