Politics – a long view

Posted by on 01 Oct 2016 | Tagged as: editorial, Making a Difference, politics, Politics and War

I would like to know why a man who has had multiple wives and mistresses isn’t called out for trying to shame a faithful wife for her husband’s infidelities? I would like to know why the Republican party decided to nominate a man with no plan, with no demonstrated ability to interpret or even follow the law? I would like to know why any person can assert that Trump is perfect because he says what he thinks, but then doesn’t make the obvious connection between his words against religious and racial minorities (and women, and people with disabilities) and increasing hate crimes as the groups who most identify with him feel validated?

He rails against the people in power, yet wields that power for his own gain unapologetically, benefitting from his ability to hire teams of expensive legal experts, and intimidating and trampling hard-working people with no qualms. Still, he seems to be attracting the very people he despises as his “base” in this election. There is some truth to the idea that the way to keep the masses down is to tell them a Cinderella story and imply that if they support the oppressors they will work harder and accept worse treatment on the hope they might someday themselves rise to the ranks of the oppressors.

If I were to refuse to pay my taxes, declared bankruptcy to avoid paying financial obligations I had the means to meet, treated my spouse with disrespect, treated my co-workers and employees with contempt, and encouraged people to engage in violent acts against people who disagree with me I would be in jail. And rightly so. Here we are, with a person who (if not made wealthy by the labor of those he has taken advantage of) would be facing multiple prosecutions — who is potentially going to be elected president of my country.

Am I worried? Surprisingly, yes. I am a student of history. I can point to past and current events around the world and in the United States when people like Trump have held power — and the unimaginable suffering they create. I would like to know why anyone would support this man, and the party who supports him. I would appreciate insight into how a person can consider herself (or himself) a kind or thoughtful person when the candidate she or he supports demonstrates only the worst characteristics of humanity.

I used to vote almost a straight ticket from one party, but in the last 20 years have had fewer and fewer candidates I could support. This year, for the first time, I cannot find any candidate from that party, in local, state, or national elections, to support. On the national level, the party I used to support has become the party of obstructionist politics, with the legislative leaders of that party refusing to consider legislation or hold hearings on necessary appointments to keep the government operational. Meantime, the policies and politics of the “minor” parties at the local level are bizarre (which may not be true in all locations!), and the candidates those same parties are promoting on the national stage are neither articulate nor thoughtful about anything other than their few key issues. The president of the United States needs to be able to understand, make decisions about, and delegate authority to people with the intelligence and experience to help. The minor party candidates simply do not articulate coherent ideas on enough topics to make me confident in their training or intelligence.

For young people considering the minor party candidates as alternatives to the major candidates, please consider what happened when Al Gore and G.W. Bush were undermined by Ralph Nader. Because Nader took votes that might otherwise have gone to Al Gore, the election was close enough that a court decision threw the election to Bush — in the recounts later, it was determined that Gore actually had the votes to win, but by then the election had been certified. G.W. Bush and his cabinet participated in some of the more disastrous foreign policies; the world continues to reel and fall apart as the result of events set in motion by his leadership. Our world is slowly dying as a result of his party’s refusal to allow the U.S. to take a leadership role in alternatives to fossil fuels and the rape of landscapes in the pursuit of wealth.

For those who think that this is the year for a protest vote, that their vote doesn’t matter, please look toward Great Britain, where even the sponsors of “Brexit” admitted they didn’t really expect to win; where the long-term consequences of that vote will be affecting the lives of the young people, working people, for decades. They want to have a re-vote. Like people accustomed to video games, where the game can be restarted from a previously saved version and different choices made… But such opportunities, in the real world, do not exist.

I readily admit to being old — my life is on the downslope already. My bigger concern is for the world my children face, as they enter the world as adults. We have time to correct the course our nation and world are on. We can do this by being thoughtful about the actual experience and policies of the people who are running for office at all levels. There is no vote that is unimportant, there is no race or candidate that doesn’t deserve your thoughtful participation.

Yes, I will vote. I will read the voter’s pamphlets to see what the candidates took the time to write — a thoughtful, coherent articulation of important philosophies and policies, or self-aggrandizement and promotion? Or nothing at all (really — in local and state elections particularly candidates sometimes cannot figure out the deadline… do you want a person who cannot read a calendar in office?). I will look at candidate websites. I will, for races where I am unsure, look for the public record of past votes and actions (if they have held office before), or watch for publications that vetted them. I will consider what people who have worked for and with the candidates say about them.

Yes, it matters what the candidates say and do. It matters what kind of person they are.

Yes, I will vote.

Yes, it matters.

Fifteen Years

Posted by on 11 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, loss, Politics and War

For fifteen years, we have talked about, and gone to war pretending it fixes, the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, I woke suddenly from deep sleep the instant the first plane hit.

I lost a college friend that day. Other people lost so much more.

We all lost a sort of innocence that day, I think — the idea that the United States was so big, and so prosperous, that no real damage would happen outside of a war.

And suddenly we were in a war. A war with a nebulous enemy. A war with no clear targets to strike.

But we had the good will of the world behind us, a world that (for the most part) was as shocked and appalled at the targeting of civilians during a time of relative peace in the world.

And then things got muddied up by “politics” and we lost the focus. And we are still engaged in wars in a now destabilized and volatile, and expanding, region. It got very messy, very fast.

I do not think we are safer, fifteen years later, despite giving up (and having stripped from us) some of our rights. I know that the more we objectify individuals and groups the less free we are.

I also know that, historically, when a society vilifies and dehumanizes a group, stripping them of equality, requiring people to conform to a narrow band of behavior, belief and speech, that society is on the downward slope. I know that it won’t stop with one creed, one race, one person — eventually more and more people are caught up and then no one is free.

Do we wonder why it is so dangerous to speak up in some countries? It is because when those governments first said “this person/group is a security risk” and instituted small restrictions, no one spoke up. When the first group was arrested, incarcerated, eliminated, the majority stood by silently. And by the time the majority realized they were ALL in danger… that anyone at any time could accuse anyone and that the machinery that had developed no longer cared about guilt or innocence, or intent, or outcomes… only about eliminating people who “might” be a threat to the government….

It is not yet too late in the United States to speak up, to fight for the traditions that underpin the constitution — no matter how unevenly applied in some times and places, no matter that it is imperfect — that ALL are created equal, and ALL are deserving of the same protections and opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, the United States’ population allowed a handful of angry, hate-filled people to start unravelling the core of our society. We gave up our freedoms in many ways out of fear and in a desire to be “safe” which we are never going to be. In so doing, the people who planned, carried out, supported, and approved of the murder of thousands — including my friend — were allowed to win. We allowed our freedoms and optimism, the very things that make us “Americans” to be undermined. It is not too late to reverse that trend.

Are you eligible and registered to vote? If so, do you vote? Even in local elections, perhaps especially in local elections, every vote counts. We shape our nation and our future by participating in our government. This is a right and privilege still denied to many around the world. WE CAN reclaim our rights and our national pride so that those who would deny us both do not win. We can elect people who keep military “answers” as a very last resort — not weakening our defenses but being more thoughtful and intentional about when to use force, and more intentional about when not to.

We CAN make this world better. It takes WILL. It takes time. it takes heart

Don’t let the terrorists win. Don’t let hate win.

Work for love. Work for peace.

Every day something new

Posted by on 06 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade

There is never a dull day as a teacher.

I have amazing, interesting (and interested!) students this year. They are not all in the same place of course, in terms of life experiences and academic knowledge. But they are all willing to try!

I have taught kids of all ages… and the willingness to try, to stick with me, to ask for clarification? That’s the most important quality to learning.

We are normalizing the idea of not knowing. We are normalizing the idea of mistakes being okay (I do not allow erasers or erasing in my class!). We are normalizing sitting with discomfort for a while.

I am optimistic about the coming year, not because everyone will learn and excel, but because everyone will grow. How much they grow will be depend on many factors under my control (and quite a few outside my control), and this year I have a better handle on what to do, when, and how.

Yep. Going to be a GOOD year as a teacher!

An End, and a Beginning

Posted by on 03 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, education, Education Professional, good things, teaching

The summer was not “as advertised” this year. I remained ill for another few weeks, though we had a lovely visit with my grandfather in Ashland at the end of July and saw several plays (LOVED LOVED LOVED Richard II!!!). Was too exhausted, though, to try for the second silk painting session. Hoping for at least one this autumn, though!

August arrived, and my heart and brain went quickly into teaching mode. Tom took an extra week off that second week of August to help around the house and the classroom. By the end of the third week of August, the classroom was mostly in shape, and in the fourth week it was official training and a couple extra days… so that by the time the kids and parents arrived at 5:30 August 30 the room looked ready enough.

Kids in seats on August 31. By 2:43 on September 2, the room was already showing evidence of engagement and learning. I have a WONDERFUL paraeducator who comes in for 45 minutes in the afternoon to help with literacy and reading, and while we haven’t yet met to decide which few students need intensive pull-out instruction, with the in-class help every day, very few of them will have to leave. I am so happy in my teacher-heart that I will have most of them all the time!

Proof? Check out below!

A look toward the door to the restrooms.  The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

A look toward the door to the restrooms. The number chart goes up when needed, but will be stored flat for a few weeks.

The reading table on Friday-- materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

The reading table on Friday– materials to sort, collate, cut, copy, and use next week!

All ready for Tuesday!

All ready for Tuesday!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year.  Three pictures, and one word!

The students use these to show something about themselves as we are learning about the new year. Three pictures, and one word!

The purple "windsock" was a gift from a student on the second day of school!  The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The purple “windsock” was a gift from a student on the second day of school! The empty paper panels on a pulley system! will hold student work and anchor charts.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the "Two Sisters" framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction.  They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations.  These are our first two.

The I-charts are a suggestion from the “Two Sisters” framework for Daily 5 and CAFE instruction. They allow students to consider behaviors and purposes for studying in specific situations. These are our first two.

Summer finally begins for me

Posted by on 16 Jul 2016 | Tagged as: allergy, friends, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, health, seasons

I was still recovering from the allergic reaction into the middle of the first week of July. Not fun. But had energy to have a nice dinner for my parents on Sunday the third, which of course wiped me out for the next couple of days.

Then, on July 7 I had a chance to meet up with a friend from New Zealand — it was a very spontaneous visit, so we didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. But … so glad we were able to finally gives in-person hugs instead of virtual!

On July 8 we had a silk painting session at my house. LOVED it. My friends are such amazing artists. Planning another session next month.

But I pushed myself a little too hard… the following weekend was unproductive, and it wasn’t until Wednesday that I started to have some energy again. Managed to get cars swapped around so one of them could have service done. Then I figured out some ideas for school and dug in on Thursday and Friday with some thinking and planning. Not a lot of organizing going on in the physical world, but a good bit happening with setting up ideas and lessons. AND I pruned a few trees and shrubs…

And I still have a reasonable five weeks of vacation to look forward to. I am glad. I will need every minute to be ready for the upcoming school year.

Added Accountability

Posted by on 27 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, housework

I have been working through this face reaction (I don’t think I have ever felt so un-lovely!) for four days now. Every morning is a bit better, and no additional symptoms, so I am going to work today on organizing some of my office (if Grant, who stayed home ill feels better in the afternoon he can help secure the last important piece for my standing desk. I am also determined to sort some boxes I brought home from school.

And, sometimes it helps me stay on track when I am able to note progress on my blog. No deadlines… it’s summer vacation — and I am still not 100%. But, sort through boxes, upholster the seat cushion for the stool that belongs in my office (the original cushion needs replacing from the fire). And do a little more lesson planning and organization of online files. I reproducing my files from this machine in my school googleapps account so that I have some flexibility when working — work directly in google for some things, but also still using Word and Excel because the functionality in googleapps isn’t quite where I need it to be.

Organizing…. it will help me make it through this next school year!

On a lighter note…

Posted by on 25 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: fun, Gardens and Life, mid-life crisis

I am slowly getting a few things in place, and I have only been “at home” for about 4 days since school let out. I have now officially been playing the drums for a year and a half, and decided since I definitely enjoy it that I might as well bite the bullet and spring for better equipment. Today, Tom and I were able to put up the pegboard we bought a few weeks ago and I arranged my new drum set (also new cymbals!) and accoutrements in the corner of our bedroom.

finally I can put my instruments at arms length

finally I can put my instruments at arms length

Next steps include figuring out a way to better muffle the sounds of practicing until I am good enough that people can enjoy listening…


Posted by on 25 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: allergy, health

Most of the time as a child my allergies manifested as upper respiratory — sneezing and runny nose.

As I grew older, I realized the recurring intestinal discomfort was also an allergic reaction.

More recently, I began to get hives on my face and upper body (mostly, though I also get them sometimes on my legs).

Yesterday, I woke to terrible hives on my face, neck and random short occurrences on my back, arms and legs. With cool compresses, hydrocortisone cream, and LOTS of antihistamines, they began to subside.

This morning — the hives were still present but much less uncomfortable or noticeable. Instead, I have significant angioedema all over my face and down onto my neck. And, as I discovered about thirty minutes ago, mild edema everywhere else (my wedding band was a little tight).

So… Likely not continuing to react to something I ate on a trip this past week, nor a contact allergy on that trip. Instead, I think I am reacting to my own bedroom!

Angioedema noticeable below eyes and on neck.  Blotchy skin is the remnants of hives.  I hate when things like this happen!

Angioedema noticeable below eyes and on neck. Blotchy skin is the remnants of hives. I hate when things like this happen!

What do I do when things like this happen? If it were one of my children, or my darling Tom, I would be at the hospital already. They don’t generally have any sort of allergic reaction. But this is me — and I know that the hospital/urgent care doc would give me a large dose of diphenhydramine and watch me for several hours. I don’t think it’s worth a 40-minute drive to do something I can do at home. I also know that the most alarming symptoms of low blood pressure and wheezing are not present, so my airway is clear, and I can take some time. If I were wheezing, or the edema was getting worse, I would be on my way already. And, if I am not significantly improved in another hour I will at least call the consulting nurse to have this particular event recorded on my health record.

It’s not a lot of fun…

But I do know that I will recover, and once I have identified this new allergen I think this particular chapter will close. Possible candidates: a shampoo I used the night before our trip (I always wash my hair in the evening and let it air-dry overnight), the particular type of Oxyclean we picked up when our normal, unscented type ran out and Costco was closed – it wasn’t bothering me before the trip but it definitely isn’t my favorite scent which is often a clue, a food or combination of foods (not as likely), or possibly contamination of the bedroom space by an animal of some kind (bird or cat?).

If YOU have allergies, a type of hidden disability, remember that it is okay to ask for what you need, and to be clear about and reject things that you need to avoid. Remember, also, that when you are feeling poorly, it will get better. Even if, for the moment, you just want to crawl under a rock and disappear.

Grant’s senior project

Posted by on 24 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: children, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, Kid Activities

How did I manage to NOT post this in May 2014? It is rather badly overgrown now, but the patio is one of my favorite places to sit and read, or work, this time of year.

Grant had to shift gears mid-year about his senior project. He came up with a really great idea: fix up the front yard that got trashed this last year from neglect and construction.

Fish pond and lilacs, after weeding but before planting new annuals.

Fish pond and lilacs, after weeding but before planting new annuals.

He has “roped in” a couple of friends occasionally to help — Thanks Mady, Gabe, Jake and Tabitha!

Here is the progress he has made so far, pics are a little rough, but I am trying to get caught up on blogging this weekend and no time for a lot of fine-tuning.

I am actually going to post these in a gallery, with no commentary to save myself time and actually get this up (started it yesterday, here 24 hours later sitting down to finish…).

I didn’t finish the post then, either. And now I cannot find where the pictures are that I took… so this will have to be enough for now.

Schools of Thought

Posted by on 24 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional

Another unfinished post from 2012…

I just watched a very interesting TED talk by Diana Laufenberg, a teacher from Pennsylvania. She highlighted the shifting purpose of “school” away from a repository of restricted knowledge (in the days before the internet, when most homes had little more than a few books, and fewer homes owned encyclopedias) toward an environment that asks students to use the knowledge that exists in their environment to develop their own questions and answers. Although not all homes have reliable internet access, the truth is that information is more readily available to more people now than at any other time in history. From telephones to cell phones to wireless hot spots,

We have to directly and systematically teach children to make connections between different information sources; and model how to synthesize and innovate. When we do this successfully, everyone wins.

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