These are the Children in a Small Town

spuddies“Do you know everyone?” the girl asks. I shrug. “Close enough,” is the answer, as I turn to the next child on line to buy candy from the AYSO soccer concession stand.

“What would you like?” I ask, tacking on that child’s name too.

Names matter.

Remember how special it felt as a kid when an adult knew you by yours? You puffed up with pride, feeling like a grown up or a celebrity (nearly the same thing when you’re too young to drive). You felt, if just for a moment, like you mattered. [Read more…]

The Single Worst Place You Can Ask for a Discount

discountIt never fails.

You’re manning the ticket table at a fundraiser, and up walks someone looking to make a deal. “So,” they’ll usually start, “how about a discount?”

Or, “Hey, is there a discount for seniors/students/people buying a whole bunch?”

Typically the answer when rebuffed is, “oh, I was just kidding,” but there’s always something about the way they say it that makes clear they weren’t kidding at all. They really were trying to save a buck or two … at a fundraiser.

That’s not pinching pennies. That’s not being money savvy. That’s being a jerk.

It’s not that I can’t identify with a desire to save a little cash here and there. We all have bills to pay, and it’s hard to say no to a good deal.  If you want to clip your coupons and buy big when the price is low, go for it. [Read more…]

Sometimes Getting Out of Jury Duty Is Better for the Jury

wisdomIt’s not often that you find yourself standing in front of nearly 100 people and a judge is staring you in the face, asking if you can be unbiased.

I began to stutter.

I think I said something like, “Uh. Yeah. I mean, I guess I can,” before collapsing into the pew beside another woman who’d been called out of her job as a potential juror.

I guess you could say I’d volunteered myself for this, but I had no choice. When the judge read off the list of potential witnesses in the case and asked if any of us knew them, I raised my hand. As a matter of fact, I did know one of those witnesses. We’re related … by blood.

I had to be honest. It’s only fair to the defendant.

But when you’re looking a judge in the face, and he’s asking if you can be unbiased, there’s a lot that goes through your mind. Can I be? Really? And if I say I’m not, do I just sound like one of those people so desperate to get out of jury duty they’ll say anything? Shouldn’t I be sucking it up for the sake of civic duty?

I didn’t want jury duty. Most people, if they’re honest, don’t. [Read more…]

You Know You’re From Sullivan County If …

country-tractorThey say it’s a mixed up world we live in. But there are some things you can always count on. You know you’re from Sullivan County if any of the following hold true:

  • You consider the first day of deer season a holiday, even if you don’t hunt.
  • Hearing national media refer to that big festival back in 1969 in “Woodstock, New York” annoys you.
  • There’s a road named for your family (although none of your family live on it anymore).
  • You went clothes shopping at Sullivan’s.
  • You explain where you’re from to people who are out of the area by referencing the (probably defunct) hotel your house is closest to.
  • You’ve stood outside an ice cream stand licking a cone in a winter parka because goshdarnit, this is a sign of spring, and you’re going to enjoy it!
  • You preface in-car (hands-free!) cellphone calls with “I’m going to lose you in about 5 minutes, so …”
  • A cow ever made your school bus late.
  • You’ll never get used to 17 being list as I-86.
  • You’ve seen so many eagles you forget to stop and look when they fly by … but you’ve almost been in a car accident coming around a turn to find some out-of-towner stopped in the middle of the road staring at a nest.
  • You were in a car accident or other mishap, and were lucky enough to have volunteers show up to rescue you.
  • You wave to every car in the opposite lane because you know each driver.
  • Your sister leaned over to tell you that hottie you are checking out at the bar is actually another one of our cousins (and yes, you WERE embarrassed … this isn’t Deliverance country; sheesh).
  • You’re used to eating in restaurants owned by people, not corporations.
  • You graduated with 33 people. In one class.
  • You know how to drive a 4-wheeler and have since you were 5.
  • You plan for snow by filling the bathtub with extra water, pulling out the candles, and making a pile of board games because it’s going to be a long night without electric.
  • Buying a good pair of jeans means driving an hour.
  • You hear a car alarm and think, “Oh, it must be summer.”
  • You’ve gone hunting for Easter Eggs in a snow storm.
  • Birthday party entertainment was “Go outside and play, kids.”
  • You love a good tractor parade.
  • You’ve planned a weekend around a pancake breakfast or a roast beef dinner.
  • You grew up reading The Sullivan County Democrat!

Come on y’all, add to it in comments!

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Small Town Healthcare Is a Big Time Problem

smallTwo hours feels like 20 when you have a child in pain, when your arms are wrapped around her whispering, “It will be OK. We’re going to a hospital. The doctors will take care of you. I’m here.”

We had to drive two hours to find a hospital with a plastic surgeon on call on a Sunday night because that’s what her injuries required. We don’t have that here in Sullivan County. They don’t have it in neighboring Orange County either. All our options were hours away.

And so on we drove.

A month later, I can put this all in perspective. She wasn’t dying. She didn’t need to be airlifted or even transported by ambulance. We were lucky.

But perspective is lost on small children in pain, on their worried parents whose bodies are in full “hide the catastrophic freak out going on inside me and be the rock they need me to be” mode.

Nor does perspective fix the problem. We live in a beautiful area. We raise children in safe schools. We have clean air and clean water.

But our healthcare system is a disaster.

The New York State Department of Health estimates 51 percent of our county’s deaths are premature, meaning they occur before age 75. The New York State rate is closer to 40 percent. Take out New York City, and that rate drops even lower, to about 37 percent. Our hospitalization rates are higher than the state average and so is our age-adjusted mortality rate.

A quick disclaimer: This is not about the individual people in healthcare in our county. We have talented nurses and doctors and other healthcare professionals. They are educated and intelligent and they provide fantastic service.

They do the absolutely best they can with what they’ve got to work with.

It’s what they have to work with that is the problem. Rural healthcare professionals nationwide face the challenge of a typically poorer clientele with higher rates of alcohol and tobacco usage. A piece of that is on us, the patients.

But consider this: When you know that making a doctors appointment will require an hour’s drive, plus wait times that at some local healthcare facilities are hours long, how much time on the job will that cost you? In a county where the unemployment rate is higher than the state average and the median family income more than $10,000 lower (again, from the New York State Department of Health figures), it’s no surprise people delay healthcare. We can’t just pop out to have that weird growth on the side of the neck or that rash on the toe looked at by a doctor.

Even when we do follow through, when we do check in with the doctor and receive a diagnosis, receive treatment plans, the time and cost of care is astronomical. Ride 2 Survive, the fabulous non-profit that was created several years ago by local cancer survivors to help fund medical transport for locals who have to drive hundreds of miles a week for cancer care is a vital organization. But in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need such a thing. We wouldn’t need to drive hours out of the county with our sick children to find specialist care. We wouldn’t need to debate time out of work vs. going to a doctor. We wouldn’t worry that if an emergency happens, it’s time that will kill us.

It’s a juggle every small town resident in America is familiar with. How much do we value “preserving the rural character” of our area vs. meeting our own needs?

But the fact is, we need to be around to enjoy that rural character, and we won’t be if we can’t improve our healthcare.

Have you “liked” Inside Out Motherhood on Facebook yet?

Should I Buy a House in Sullivan County, New York?

Kids in fieldAny time someone begins a question with “be honest,” you know you’re in for it. For a real estate agent, maybe this would have been an easy one.

“Be honest, should I buy a house in Sullivan County?” is a no-brainer if you have properties to move. But I’m just a website editor. It wasn’t easy for me.

I had too many questions to ask. “Do you have children?” “Do you plan to live here year-round?” “Are you looking to sell in a few years, counting on casinos to turn your investment into a gold mine?”

Her answers were yes, no, and no. I breathed out. “OK,” I told her. “Yes, yes, you should buy a house in Sullivan County.” [Read more…]

You Don’t ‘Get’ Our Tractor Parade? Oh Well

Tractor parade“Tractors? You stood around and watched 100 tractors drive down the street? I don’t get it.”

How many times have I heard this, or something like it, when I bring up the Callicoon Tractor Parade? I’ve lost count. And my response is always the same.

Technically I didn’t stand. I ran. I walked. I scooted in and out between massive machines, dropping to the ground and climbing up high on nearby railings to get just the right shot off on my camera. And since we’re getting technical, it wasn’t 100. It was 246, at least this year. The number’s been higher, been lower, but yes, there are a lot of them.

To me, to the 246 drivers (plus riders), to the crowds that turn Callicoon into a hotbed of activity on the second Sunday in June, they’re beautiful. They’re a symbol of our country’s history and our town’s. They’re a part of us.

Even more beautiful: You don’t have to get it. [Read more…]

Why We’re ‘Opting Out’: Our Kids Aren’t Guinea Pigs

Common CoreIf you have a school aged child, know a school aged child or know someone with a school aged child, you’ve probably heard two words thrown about a lot lately: opting out. But what are they opting out of? And why?

The first answer is simple: the common core state tests thrown at kids in grades three through eight, day after day after day of children being stuck in a room, pencils in hand, mouths zippered shut, being forced to answer question after question after question.

The second answer is more complicated. Why would we opt our kids out of tests? Don’t tests track students’ progress? What’s so bad about that? [Read more…]

Nosy Neighbors Are Killing Childhood As We Once Knew It

Playing OUtsideThey thought their kids were walking to the park the day the cop car pulled up to their suburban home. But Danielle and Alexander Meitiv’s 10- and 6-year-old children weren’t park-bound anymore. They were in the back of the police car.

The kids were fine. Their parents were about to be very un-fine. In the months since the police pulled up to their house, the climate science consultant and the physicist have been convicted of “unsubstantiated child neglect,” a charge they’re reportedly fighting.

The charge stems, it seems, from a call placed to police by an as yet unnamed person, someone who saw the Meitiv kids walking alone to the park.

My daughter is 9. [Read more…]

Sorry, New York Times, But We Built the Catskills

Fall Leaves in the CatskillsWell,  it seems congratulations are in order. According to the New York Times, the Catskills is one of the 52 places to go in 2015. Yes, we’ve made it.

So who gets the pats on the back? The Sullivan County Visitors’ Association, perhaps, for all their hard work in reminding people that the Borscht Belt may have been tightened but has not snapped? The Chamber of Commerce, maybe? The hard-working volunteers of Sullivan Renaissance? Alan Gerry and his crew for turning the Woodstock site into more than just a field full of nostalgia? How about the local business owners who have put blood, sweat, tears, and countless man hours into building business up from the ground?

No. No. No. No. And well, sorry folks, but no.

At least you get no thanks from the Grey Lady. [Read more…]