Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trip Craziness. . . .

In the last month, I have taken the following trips:

Tampa to Hartford
Hartford to Orlando

Colin's Birthday in DC:
Tampa to Baltimore
Baltimore to Tampa

Dad's Graduation in KY to Home:
Tampa to Charlotte, Charlotte to Lexington
Louisville to Baltimore (2nd time that week!), Baltimore to Hartford
NYC to Tampa.

That's a grand total of 3 trips, 8 airports, and 9 flights in just over a month.

I'm not a business traveler.

Holy frequent flier miles, Batman.

Friday, September 10, 2010

History being made (?!)


Have never played the

in football before.


along with several thousand of our closest

Will stampede into

Wish us luck!!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Restoring America

I get that Glenn Beck is a polarizing radio personality - you either love him or hate him. While I agree he is radical in some of his views, he has a lot of good things to say, too. His brainchild, the 9/12 foundation, has the goal of uniting us the way we were the day after 9/11. September 12, 2001, left the citizens of the nation (and, further, world) shaken to the core, and Americans banded together. We were proud to be Americans. We didn't care what religion our neighbor practiced, or to what political beliefs or co-workers subscribed.

Fast forward 9 years (wow, 9 years already?!) and our country is divided. We are divided by politics, religion, and, many times, skin color/ethnic background. I share his desire to have the spirit of unity, patriotism, and pride again in our nation.

Beck organized a rally in Washington, DC today to "Restore America." Yes, it was held 47 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the inspiring "I Have a Dream" speech - and in the same location. Yes, Beck said it was just a "coincidence." I really don't believe that. However, I think there are similarities to the goals of creating unity, patriotism, and pride that run deep in the reasons behind both King's speech and Beck's rally.

I found the transcript of Sarah Palin's speech from the "Restore America" rally (yes, she was there, too.) Please put all of your PalinHate aside and read this. It's well-written:

We stand today at the symbolic crossroads of our nation’s history. All around us are monuments to those who have sustained us in word or deed. There in the distance stands the monument to the father of our country. And behind me, the towering presence of the Great Emancipator who secured our union at the moment of its most perilous time and freed those whose captivity was our greatest shame. And over these grounds where we are so honored to stand today, we feel the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who on this very day, two score and seven years ago, gave voice to a dream that would challenge us to honor the sacred charters of our liberty – that all men are created equal.

Now, in honoring these giants, who were linked by a solid rock foundation of faith in the one true God of justice, we must not forget the ordinary men and women on whose shoulders they stood. The ordinary called for extraordinary bravery. I am speaking, of course, of America’s finest – our men and women in uniform, a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for.

Abraham Lincoln once spoke of the “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land.” For over 200 years, those mystic chords have bound us in gratitude to those who are willingly to sacrifice, to restrain evil, to protect God-given liberty, to sacrifice all in defense of our country.

They fought for its freedom at Bunker Hill, they fought for its survival at Gettysburg, and for the ideals on which it stands – liberty and justice for all – on a thousand battlefields far from home.

It is so humbling to get to be here with you today, patriots – you who are motivated and engaged and concerned, knowing to never retreat. I must assume that you too know that we must not fundamentally transform America as some would want. We must restore America and restore her honor!

Now, I’ve been asked to speak today, not as a politician. No, as something more – something much more. I’ve been asked to speak as the mother of a soldier, and I am proud of that distinction. You know, say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me. I’m proud of that distinction, but it is not one that I had imagined because no woman gives birth thinking that she will hand over her child to her country, but that’s what mothers have done from ancient days.

In cities and towns across our country, you’ll find monuments to brave Americans wearing the uniforms of wars from long ago, and look down at their inscriptions, you’ll see that they were so often dedicated by mothers. In distant lands across the globe, you’ll find silent fields of white markers with the names of Americans who never came home, but who showed their dedication to their country by where they died.

We honor those who served something greater than self and made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who served and did come home forever changed by the battlefield. Though this rally is about “restoring honor,” for these men and women honor was never lost! If you look for the virtues that have sustained our country, you will find them in those who wear the uniform, who take the oath, who pay the price for our freedom.

And I’d like to tell you three stories of such Americans – three patriots – who stand with us today.

The first is a man named Marcus Luttrell. His story is one of raw courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s also a story of America’s enduring quest for justice. Remember, we went to Afghanistan seeking justice for those who were killed without mercy by evil men on September 11th. And one fateful day in Afghanistan on a mountain ridge, Marcus and three of his fellow Navy SEALs confronted the issue of justice and mercy in a decision that would forever change their lives.

They were on a mission to hunt down a high-level Taliban leader, but they were faced with a terrible dilemma when some men herding goats stumbled upon their position, and they couldn’t tell if these men were friend or foe. So the question was what to do with them? Should they kill them or should they let them go and perhaps risk compromising their mission? They took a vote. They chose mercy over self-preservation. They set their prisoners free. The vote said it was the humane thing to do. It was the American thing to do. But it sealed their fate because within hours, over a hundred Taliban forces arrived on the scene. They battled the four Navy SEALs throughout the surrounding hills. A rescue helicopter came, but it was shot down. By the time the sun set on June 28, 2005, it was one of the bloodiest days for American forces in Afghanistan.

********** MANDY EDIT: One of the men aboard that Apache helicopter sent to rescue those SEALS was the son of a personal family friend from Washington, CT. His death shook the small town and there is now a memorial award in his honor given to a Shepaug Valley High School senior every year. The Parks and Recreation Commission re-named their annual 4th of July 5k in his name. Steve Reich was, by all accounts, and amazing guy whom I wish I could say I knew. You can read about him here and here. **********

19 brave, honorable men were lost that day. Marcus was the sole survivor. Alone, stranded, badly wounded, he limped and crawled for miles along that mountain side. What happened next is a testament to the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Marcus and his team showed mercy in letting their prisoners free. And later he was shown mercy by Afghan villagers who honored an ancient custom of providing hospitality to any stranger who would ask for it. They took him in. They cared for him, efused to hand him over to the Taliban. They got him back safely to our forces.

Marcus’ story teaches us that even on the worst battlefield against the most brutal enemy, we adhere to our principles. This American love of justice and mercy is what makes us a force for good in this world. Marcus is a testament to that.

Please join me in honoring retired U.S. Navy SEAL Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell.

From the time he first heard men marching to a cadence call, Eddie Wright had one dream in life, and that was to be a United States Marine. And as a Marine serving in Iraq, his company was ambushed in Fallujah. He was knocked out when a rocket propelled grenade hit his Humvee. When he came to, he saw that both his hands were gone and his leg was badly wounded.

He couldn’t fire his weapon, he could barely move, and he was bleeding to death. But he had the strength of mind to lead the men under his command, and that is exactly what he did. He kept them calm, he showed them how to stop the bleeding in his leg, he told them where to return fire, he had them call for support, and he got them out of there alive.

His composure under fire that day earned him the Bronze Star with Valor device. But if you ask him, “What did you get it for?”, he’ll tell you, “Just for doing my job.”

After a long recovery, Eddie continued to serve as a martial arts instructor. He resigned from his beloved Marine Corps a few years ago, but he still lives by the motto: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

And if you want to see the American spirit of never retreating, no matter the odds – of steady confidence and optimism, no matter the setbacks – look at Eddie’s story. No matter how tough times are, Americans always pull through. As Eddie put it himself: “We don’t really foster the attitude of I can’t. When you have an obstacle in front of you, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and focus on what you can.”

So, please join me in honoring retired Marine Sergeant James “Eddie” Wright.

Tom Kirk was an Air Force squadron commander and a combat pilot who had flown over 150 missions in Korea and Vietnam. One day on a routine mission over Hanoi, his plane was shot down. He spent the next five and a half years in that living hell known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Like his fellow prisoners, Tom endured the beatings, the torture, the hunger, the years of isolation. He described it, saying, “There was nothing to do, nothing to read, nothing to write. You had to just sit there in absolute boredom, loneliness, frustration, and fear. You had to live one day at a time, because you had no idea how long you were going to be there.”

After two years of solitary confinement, pacing back and forth in his cell — three and a half steps across, three and a half steps deep – Tom was finally moved to a larger holding cell with 45 other Americans prisoners, among them was a man named John McCain. In circumstances that defy description, this band of brothers kept each other alive, and one by one, they came home.

Tom was released on March 14, 1973. You might think that a man who had suffered so much for his country would be bitter and broken by it. But Tom’s heart was only filled with love – love for America – that special love of country that we call patriotism.

Tom wrote, “Patriotism has become, for many, a ‘corny’ thing. For me, it is more important now than at any time in my life. How wonderful it is to be an American come home!”

Friends, please join me in honoring retired Air Force Colonel Tom Kirk.

My fellow Americans, each one of these men here today faced terrible sufferings, overwhelming set-backs, and impossible odds.

And they endured! And their stories are America’s story.

We will always come through. We will never give up, and we shall endure because we live by that moral strength that we call grace. Because though we’ve often skirted a precipice, a providential hand has always guided us to a better future.

And I know that many of us today, we are worried about what we face. Sometimes our challenges, they just seem insurmountable.

But, here, together, at the crossroads of our history, may this day be the change point!

Look around you. You’re not alone. You are Americans!

You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them.

So with pride in the red, white, and blue; with gratitude to our men and women in uniform; let’s stand together! Let’s stand with honor! Let’s restore America!

God bless you! And God bless America!

I put the last lines (that I bolded) in my Facebook status today, and I know of at least one person who "liked" it that wouldn't have "liked" it if they knew Sarah Palin was the one who said it. This is a glaring example of political divisions in our country and how we automatically dislike and/or question what people have to say if we don't agree with them. This is exactly why it is important to put away our differences and have conversations with people without preconceived notions and misconceptions.

So, what's your take?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Painting!

Since I'm on SUMMER VACATION, I decided I needed something to occupy myself, since, well, everyone else has to work!

I found a place called Painting With a Twist in St. Pete that seemed right up my alley. You go there, pay a small fee, and they provide you with a canvas, paints, brushes, and instruction. You leave with a great painting and the feeling of accomplishment! The "twist" in the shop is that you can bring your own wine/beer/drink of choice to enjoy while painting. It's all very relaxed and very me!

So, in order for me to get into a class, I had to figure out which painting I wanted to complete, since you choose the class based on the painting being taught. I chose Maui Chris since it would make a great Father's Day gift for Dad. However, I wanted to see if I could make the dog a black lab, since that's the kind of dog we have.

When I got to the shop, I settled in and we got right to work. Since it was an afternoon class (and I didn't know what I was in for!) I chose NOT to bring any beverages. I also spoke to the wonderful teacher, Emily, and she helped me create a black lab instead of a mutt.

Here are some pictures, which come from their Facebook page:

Here I am with my two table mates for the day. They got a deal from Groupon *note to self, check for deals here! I could get into serious trouble at this paint store!*

He's coming along well!

Seriously, could this not be more my father!? It looks like a complete mix of Abby and Dad! I think he'll love it!

I coerced Katie into joining me for a class, and we went over the Bay once again tonight to paint Irises. I think we have a painting convert!

I totally recommend going to one of these classes! To quote my friend Melody, even "if talent is air, and you live in a vacuum" you can feel like an artist at these classes!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SB 6

Currently, in Florida, there is a measure in the State Senate and House of Representatives that radically changes how teachers are paid and assessed. Basically, to the everyday person, the bill reads like this: "Teachers will now be held accountable and earn their salaries based on student performance. If your county decides not to adopt this policy, you will have to pay A LOT more in taxes!"

Honestly, that sounds good, right?

Some of the main points of this "wonder bill," however, include:
  • elimination of tenure (aka job security)
  • basing teacher salary on student performance. A suggested model of pay includes guaranteeing teachers 1/2 of their current salary, and the other 1/2 would be based on student performance, which is from a SINGLE, HIGH-STAKES TEST. We had numerous students "Christmas tree" the exam a few weeks ago, and proceed to sleep for the remaining 40 minutes.
  • If a district decides not to adopt this pay scale, the millage rate (rate on which people are taxed, based on home value) would face a SIGNIFICANT increase.
I wrote to my state representative, as it has sadly already passed the Senate. The following is my email:

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this email.

My name is Amanda Easter and I am a 23-year-old, second-year teacher in Hillsborough County. I came to Florida to attend USF from Connecticut, and I graduated with a degree in elementary education in 2008.

I come from a long line of public servants. My father is currently a captain of a fire department in Connecticut, and he is the 3rd generation of professional firemen in our family. My brother, David, aspires to be a member of the 4th Easter generation of firemen. I truly believe I was called to the field of education when I was a child. I have always done my very best in order to achieve my goal of being an effective teacher in the classroom.

Mr. Homan, I cannot express my fear of what will happen if SB 6 passes. I completely understand why there needs to be more accountability in the classroom, but to base my pay on a single, high-stakes standardized test is completely unthinkable. I have students who "finished" each section of the FCAT this year in 20 minutes and then proceeded to nap. These students will dictate my pay for the next year?

If I wanted to have a job in a field that was based on commission, I would have gone into sales. However, I chose to go into education, because I want to open the minds of today's young people, and tomorrow's leaders. SB 6 is creating a classroom that is run on commission.

I am given 60 minutes with each of my students in my classes. I have my own high expectations of how I want to perform, and in turn how they will perform; however, I only have them 1/24th of their day. If we are talking about waking hours, I have them for 1/16th of their day, which begs the following question: where is the parental and student accountability for their performance?

Ryan Haczynski, a teacher in Durant, wrote the following piece, titled "Terrible for Teachers" that was recently featured on tbo.com: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/mar/21/co-terrible-for-teachers/ . To quote an excellent point, "in what other public-servant sector do we demand such accountability? Do we blame police officers for arriving at the scene of a crime too late? A firefighter for not saving a home from the flames?"

Mr. Homan, I beg of you: DO NOT VOTE FOR SENATE BILL 6! I don't even want to THINK of what will happen to teacher morale, teacher quality, or student performance! It is a terrible bill.

Thank you for your time.

Folks, I am SO SCARED about this! I wrote the email with tears in my eyes and on my cheeks. This is really scary and I don't know what to do! I know that I can't do anything about it, but it's a lot at stake. My job worries aside, this is going to SHAKE to the core how students are taught and the kind of people becoming teachers.

/end rant.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'm a klutz!

It's a well-known fact that my name should in fact be Amanda Grace Easter. Or, if we want to go back to my Indian heritage, Amanda Falls-on-Her-Butt Easter. If we want to get even MORE creative, it could be Amanda Falls-With-Flair Easter. Whatever my name should be, it needs to be mentioned that if there is a wrinkle in the carpet, I will find it and trip. I have also come to the conclusion that
  1. As long as no one gets hurt and
  2. no property gets damaged
watching people fall is probably the funniest thing you will ever see. Since I fall so much, I feel I have the right to that opinion.

So, in my teaching career up until now, I have prided myself on the fact that I have yet to show my acrobatic talent to my students and co-workers. This trend sadly bit the dust today. As I walked my students into the cafeteria, the rain on my shoes hit with the smooth tile and down I went. It would be my luck that today the students were being punished for behavior yesterday and it was a "silent lunch."

I ended up skinning my knee and I have a big bruise to boot! I went back to my team for lunch and AE and Lisa got a kick out of my follies....or should it be FALL-ies? Bad joke.

I posted this status on Facebook via my BlackBerry during lunch:

I just busted my ass on the wet floor in the cafeteria in front of 250 6th graders having silent lunch...now my right knee is skinned and the size of a grapefruit! FML

These were the comments that followed:

From Nicole:
Are you sure we aren't sisters?! I am SO sorry that happened, but it sounds exactly like something I would do.

From Gae (3 comments):
Just think of all the kids who are so glad to realize that it can happen to adults too! And go get a cool bandaid for that knee- like a Mickey one! And possibly some ice for it.

Writing assignment- Tella bout a time when you did something embarrassing.... okay- maybe not- might not want to hear what they say! lol

Did you have a tray of food? Then that could have been either hilarious or even worse.... Picturing fries flying through the air hitting kids like rain - hilarious. Falling forward on the tray and ending up with a huge ketchup stain with a blob of potatoes (which always can be
used as some sort of cement)- worse...

From Matt:
And this is news because? lol j/k

From Paul:
Oh snap...I promise I'm not...laughing...hard...

No really I love ya and hope you're ok!

From Katie ::
I'm sorry. :-(. Hope the rest of your day is better.

From Aunt Jackie:
Well....you'll be famous tonight. I predict about 250 sixth-graders will not tell their parents that NOTHING happened at school today!!:-)

From Emma:
hope you feel better!

From Mary:
love pauls comment!! so funny, but seriously i hope you are ok. make sure you write up an accident report, just incase it keeps bothering you. i know you have enough writing to do, but make sure you document your injury.

From Shawn:
you just need to learn to fall like a Morgan, go limp then you don't get hurt! hope you feel better!

From Melissa Allore:
Could someone pass me a tissue please! ;-) Love ya Mandy!

Oh well. I have to be positive about it, there's no use being mad or upset! Now I have a funny story to tell!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Republican Response to the 2010 State of the Union

The following is the Republican response to the 2010 State of the Union address by Barack Obama, delivered by Bob McDonnell, Governor of Virginia:

Good evening. I'm Bob McDonnell. Eleven days ago I was honored to be sworn in as the 71st governor of Virginia.

I'm standing in the historic House Chamber of Virginia's Capitol, a building designed by Virginia's second governor, Thomas Jefferson.

It’s not easy to follow the President of the United States. And my twin 18-year old boys have added to the pressure, by giving me exactly ten minutes to finish before they leave to go watch SportsCenter.

I'm joined by fellow Virginians to share a Republican perspective on how to best address the challenges facing our nation today.

We were encouraged to hear President Obama speak this evening about the need to create jobs.

All Americans should have the opportunity to find and keep meaningful work, and the dignity that comes with it.

Many of us here, and many of you watching, have family or friends who have lost their jobs.

1 in 10 American workers is unemployed. That is unacceptable.

Here in Virginia we have faced our highest unemployment rate in more than 25 years, and bringing new jobs and more opportunities to our citizens is the top priority of my administration.

Good government policy should spur economic growth, and strengthen the private sector’s ability to create new jobs.

We must enact policies that promote entrepreneurship and innovation, so America can better compete with the world.

What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation, and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class.

It was Thomas Jefferson who called for "A wise and frugal Government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry ….and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned…" He was right.

Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much.

Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs 'immediately' and hold unemployment below 8%.

In the past year, over three million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren.

The amount of this debt is on pace to double in five years, and triple in ten. The federal debt is already over $100,000 per household.

This is simply unsustainable. The President's partial freeze on discretionary spending is a laudable step, but a small one.

The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level.

Without reform, the excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and prosperity.

In recent months, the American people have made clear that they want government leaders to listen and act on the issues most important to them.

We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship.

There is much common ground.

All Americans agree, we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality.

But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.

Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.

We will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your healthcare.

And our solutions aren't thousand-page bills that no one has fully read, after being crafted behind closed doors with special interests.

In fact, many of our proposals are available online at solutions.gop.gov, and we welcome your ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

All Americans agree, this nation must become more energy independent and secure.

We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all.

Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills.

Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore.

But this Administration’s policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes.

Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices.

All Americans agree, that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy. As a kid my dad told me, "Son, to get a good job, you need a good education." That’s even more true today.

The President and I agree on expanding the number of high-quality charter schools, and rewarding teachers for excellent performance. More school choices for parents and students mean more accountability and greater achievement.

A child's educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her zip code.

All Americans agree, we must maintain a strong national defense. The courage and success of our Armed Forces is allowing us to draw down troop levels in Iraq as that government is increasingly able to step up. My oldest daughter, Jeanine, was an Army platoon leader in Iraq, so I'm personally grateful for the service and the sacrifice of all of our men and women in uniform, and a grateful nation thanks them.

We applaud President Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We agree that victory there is a national security imperative. But we have serious concerns over recent steps the Administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists.

Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence.

As Senator-elect Scott Brown says, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them.

Here at home government must help foster a society in which all our people can use their God-given talents in liberty to pursue the American Dream. Republicans know that government cannot guarantee individual outcomes, but we strongly believe that it must guarantee equality of opportunity for all.

That opportunity exists best in a democracy which promotes free enterprise, economic growth, strong families, and individual achievement.

Many Americans are concerned about this Administration's efforts to exert greater control over car companies, banks, energy and health care.

Over-regulating employers won’t create more employment; overtaxing investors won’t foster more investment.

Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our Founders clearly stated, and we Governors understand, government closest to the people governs best.

And no government program can replace the actions of caring Americans freely choosing to help one another. The Scriptures say "To whom much is given, much will be required." As the most generous and prosperous nation on Earth, it is heartwarming to see Americans giving much time and money to the people of Haiti. Thank you for your ongoing compassion.

Some people are afraid that America is no longer the great land of promise that she has always been. They should not be.

America will always blaze the trail of opportunity and prosperity.

America must always be a land where liberty and property are valued and respected, and innocent human life is protected.

Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.

Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this nation.

Now, we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and Independents--Americans all---to work together to leave this nation a better place than we found it.

God Bless you, and God Bless our great nation.